University of Western Ontario and Fraunhofer team-up for a new composites research center in Canada

23 Sep 2011 | News
European research giant Fraunhofer to work with Western on developing and processing composite materials for lightweight vehicles

The Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT, Europe's largest application-oriented research organization, and The University of Western Ontario (Western) in London, Ontario will work together on developing and  processing composite materials for lightweight vehicles in the joint Fraunhofer Project Center for Composites Research @ Western – the world’s latest state-of-the-art equipped press centre in full industrial scale.

Lightweight construction is a globally significant research field, in which Germany has assumed a leading role. Fibre composites are finding increasing application, particularly in the automotive sector, as these composites offer not only a low density but also the possibility of integrated functions. Over the past few years, the Fraunhofer ICT in Pfinztal has distinguished itself as a world leader in material and process research and development work for the lightweight sector.

The main focus of research at the Fraunhofer Project Center for Composites Research @ Western will therefore be fibre composites for lightweight construction in various markets and especially the automotive sector. Work will be oriented particularly towards the needs of the regional North American market. The FPC will be equipped with a hydraulic press with a maximum clamping force of 2500 tons suitable for research on parts in full industrial scale.

Material and process research will be carried out in processing technologies such as Direct – Sheet Moulding Compounds (D-SMC), Long Fiber Reinforced Thermoplastics (LFT) and High Pressure Resin Transfer Moulding (HP RTM). The aim is the accelerated adoption of these high volume composite technologies in industrial sectors such as the automotive and other transportation, machines and equipment supply, renewable energy, construction materials and aviation. Equipped with this full industrial scale processing equipment and as a part of The University of Western Ontario, the FPC offers collaboration from bilateral private sector projects up to multilateral public funded research projects.

 The service portfolio of the FPC contains:

  • Research in the fields materials, simulation, design
  • Optimizing of existing processes and materials
  • Development of new processes and materials as well as transition of lab scale basic research results into industrial applications
  • Part, process, material and tooling innovations
  • Competence along the whole value chain from product engineering up to manufacturing of demonstrator parts

“We are very pleased to be able to partner with a leading North American university such as Western to offer an independent research platform for North American industry to investigate the potential and adoption of lightweight materials and technologies,” says Dr. Frank Henning, Director, Fraunhofer Project Center. “Western and the City of London have been ideal partners in the start-up of a large-scale research institute dedicated to the advancement of advanced manufacturing technologies.”

Western will contribute its scientific excellence in the field of surface technologies and material sciences. The clear strategic orientation of the University towards modern manufacturing systems is also a key aspect within the cooperation. An additional factor is that London is located at the heart of the Canadian automobile industry, and only a short distance away from the major North American automotive assembly and R&D centers in Detroit.

“Our ability to attract one of the world's top research and development organizations to London is testament to both Western's longstanding strengths in materials and biomaterials research and to the city's forward-thinking vision,” says Dr. Ted Hewitt, Western’s Vice-President (Research & International Relations). “This unique project will make London the leading site for advanced composite materials research and testing at the manufacturing scale in North America, and promises to create jobs throughout the region.”

The City of London’s significant financial support to the University for this cooperation was instrumental in allowing the Fraunhofer Project Center to proceed.  The joint Project Center will run for an initial period of five years.

“The City of London understands the benefit of investing in solid and inventive partnerships,” says London Mayor Joe Fontana. “This is one of those collaborations and it is poised to deliver remarkable advancements in composite technology, and distribute materials to an expanded marketplace. Congratulations to all involved in bringing us to this day.”

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