Growing safety demands and increased comfort requirements present the industry with major challenges. Among other things, vehicle weights have to be reduced further. For this reason, the subject of lightweight design is gaining momentum and lets the mobile world go round. On land, at sea and in the air: All over intelligent lightweight constructions from REHAU today already help to offer especially material and resource-conserving alternatives to conventional designs. We understand lightweight construction to be a design philosophy, and as a polymer specialist we deal with efficient manufacture and the sustainable use of synthetic materials in a variety of ways.
“How light may the future get ?”, we ask ourselves for that reason. Dr. Ahmad Al-Sheyyab, REHAU employee and Manager of the Composite Technologies Department, looks precisely into this significant question being a graduated lightweight expert. In 2001, the Jordanian came to the University of Erlangen for his master program, and established first contacts to REHAU within the framework of his doctorate. Ever since then, the 41-year-old has been attending to this “fascinating field of activities”.
But, is the plastics industry the lightweight branch as such at all? By means of the composite technology, it is possible to set up a component adequate to handle the load by combining different properties. The advantages of both components combine in the process and produce something new. This call for novel lightweight solutions is being louder and louder in many branches - the versatility of our company is profiting from this: “REHAU has a very broad range of products. The potential which permits us to develop into several different directions and to offer lightweight solutions for various branches is great: from the aircraft industry to the furniture industry.”
Together with his team Dr. Al-Sheyyab has been developing technologies which could revolutionize the material-based lightweight design: “Our task in the field of Research and Development is to sensibly use the available synergies. We are the interface to the branch specialists and check every new idea for relevance and possible applications of materials or processes for respective alternatives.” Many of the highly modern developments however still meet with skepticism in the market, which in parts does not seem ready for them yet.
The lightweight potential of composite materials has been brought forward decisively, however, especially under the aspect of energy efficiency. On account of the newly developed high-performance extrusion profile, it is possible to replace aluminum profiles by thermoplastic materials and to introduce an endless fiber reinforced stiffener by employing a special process. In the end, the component does not only fulfill the high mechanical requirements, but convinces also by optimized thermal insulation properties. Thus the REHAU profile increases the energy efficiency of air-conditioning systems many times over, for example.
“How can simple things be upgraded and designed lighter?” is one of the thoughts which Dr. Al-Sheyyab sometimes has in everyday life. However, the lightweight design expert is sure about one thing definitely: “The field for new composite approaches is vast, and most certainly has a good future.”