Prof. Dr.-Ing. Axel Herrmann: The network for success through innovation in composite technology

The CFK-Valley Stade e.V. was founded in 2004 and has since established itself as a competence network for carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). Today, the net­­work includes more than 100 national and international companies and research institutes who are focussing on driving the industrial manufacturing technology forward and expanding the spectrum of CFRP applications. AIRBUS Operations GmbH, one of the world’s most experienced processors of CFRP components, contributes 30 years of experience to the competence network. The network in particular is home to many highly inno­­vative small and medium-sized com­­panies, specialists from large-scale in­­dus­­trial re­­search, universities as well as renowned world market leaders. The con­­centration of expert knowledge covering the entire value chain – from teaching, research, de­­­­velopment and production right through to recycling – is unique in Europe and is exemplary for other networks in this con­­stellation. Companies and research insti­­tutes take advantage of the membership in the CFK-Valley Stade e.V. to jointly drive innovations ahead. New members have access to an established network and benefit from the combined expertise.

Of all future materials, carbon fibre re­­inforced plastic (CFRP) offers fascinating possibilities which can be used in many industrial sectors. The high-tech material is not only characterised by its unique mech­­anical properties, such as high ten­­sile strength, rigidity and elasticity, but also above all by its excellent fatigue behaviour and its corrosion resistance. In addition, carbon reinforced plastic possesses ex­­treme­­ly dynamic resilience. Its very low thermal expansion, as well as outstanding damping capacity, com­­bined with a dens­ity of just 1.55 kg/dm3 (2/3 of aluminium, 1/5 of steel), make this material very interesting to engineers and design engin­eers in many fields of application in various industrial sectors. In addition, the ma­­terial can be tailored depending on its in­­ten­­d­­ed use. The total market growth for CFRP is estimated to reach up to 15 per cent annually by the year 2015.

In summary, CFRP offers the greatest lightweight construction potential when compared to steel and aluminium and is of importance to all sectors in which large masses must be moved and weight saved. Such sectors are in particular aerospace, automobile, railway vehicles, shipbuilding and mechanical engineering, and wind power plant construction. The transition to industrial production must be success­­ful in order for CFRP to establish itself in the above-mentioned sectors.

The establishment of Europe’s largest re­­search centre, the CFK NORD, which was launched in a ceremony by the Min­­ister President of Niedersachsen, David McAllister in 2010, marked the creation of a further milestone for research acti­­v­­­­­ities in CFRP technology. CFK NORD is part of the CFK-Valley Stade e.V. In this showcase for the state of Niedersachsen, scientists are dedicated to researching industrial production processes for large CFRP components without having to deal with scaling effects. The team of around 100 specialists have 18,600 square me­­tres available to them at CFK NORD for re­­searching sustainable solutions for pro­­cessing CFRP. The research work will con­­tribute significantly to increasing the share of CFRP and make it more cost-effective through process-optimised work steps.

Das CFK NORD in Stade ist ein hoch-­­ modernes Forschungszentrum für die  Produktion von Bauteilen aus  carbonfaserverstärktem Kunststoff.

Das CFK NORD in Stade ist ein hochmodernes Forschungszentrum für die
Produktion von Bauteilen aus carbonfaserverstärktem Kunststoff.

Among others, the Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR – German Aero­­space Center) with its Center for Light­­weight-Production-Technology (ZLP), the Fraunhofer Institute project group Fügen und Montieren FFM, Dow Deutschland Anlagengesellschaft mbH, EADS Deutsch­­land GmbH, Invent GmbH, the Faser­­institut Bremen e.V. and the Premium AEROTEC GmbH, the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg and other university research facilities and institutions work hand in hand in the CFK NORD on indus­­­trialisable solutions for the production of large-scale CFRP structures. The paths are short, efficiency is high and the close cooperation allows theory and practice to be closely linked with one another.

To support the development of innovations in CFRP, the CFK-Valley Stade e.V. initiates regular opportunities to exchange ideas and expertise for its members, such as the biannual INNOVATION DAY, which focuses on the different sector requirements. An international trade congress with exhibition is held every year in which over 40 exhibitors and 400 renowned national and international trade professionals participate. The international fo­­rum of experts on the subject of CFRP lightweight construction provides a com­­prehensive overview of current and future developments in CFRP technologies with its target group-specific and attractive expert presentations – and spanning mul­­tiple sectors.

The coveted Composite Innovations Award is presented during the event. This special award for outstanding and innovative pro­­d­­ucts and processes in the CFRP segment is endowed with a Masters studies course “Composites” at the CFK-Valley Stade Campus and valued at 18,000 eu­­ros. This award is sponsored each year by the CFK-Valley Stade, the Hanseatic City of Stade and the PFH Private Uni­­versity of Applied Science Göttingen.


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The annual trade event has established itself as a central platform for professional exchange in the future field of lightweight carbon fibre composite construction.

The PFH is in charge of focusing on the next generation of professionals and the qualification of specialist composite workers and engineers at the Campus Stade, founded in 2006. Education and further training of highly qualified CFRP workers is an extremely important component in the overall strategy of CFK VALLEY STADE. The special properties of CFRP can only be fully utilised if and when new thinking and construction processes are applied. Research institutes, universities and acad­­emies educate and train our partners’ employees.

The CFK VALLEY STADE CAMPUS works in close cooperation with the Airbus edu­­cation and training centre and the Air­­bus plant in Stade. It provides ideal con­­ditions for requirement-specific education and training in by providing more than 20 years of practical experience which is applied to the practical and academic education.

The CFRP Campus features almost 3,000 square metres of space, housing an audi­­torium for 140 students, several seminar rooms and laboratories equipped with state of the art facilities and meeting rooms for professors and university lec­­turers, as well as a cafeteria.

The PFH Private University of Applied Science Göttingen, as a sponsor of the CFK Campus, with its branch office in Stade and in cooperation with the CFK-Valley Stade e.V and additional partners, has established Europe’s first “Bachelor of Engineering” and “Master of Science” course of studies with a focus on composites. The courses have an international focus.

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Vor allem die Automobilindustrie profitiert von den besonderen Eigenschaften der Carbonfaser.

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In addition, a comprehensive and re­­quire­­ment-oriented offer for further training and instruction of employees has been established as part of an education and training catalogue. The training workshop provides the fitting infrastructure for practical qualification.

The CFK-Valley Stade e. V. also takes a holistic approach: from the first idea to the process-oriented, fully automatic recy­­cling of CFRP structures. The increasing use of CFRP fibres requires new methods for the sustainable recycling of pro­­­d­­­uct residue containing carbon fibres and end-of-life components. CFK-Valley Stade Re­­cyc­­ling GmbH & Co. KG is a subsidiary of Karl Meyer AG, a certified waste disposal company with many years of expe­­rience. Its know-how provides the secur­ity of sustainable recycling of production residue and components containing carbon fibres. A state of the art recycling plant with a capacity of 1,500 tonnes was put into operation in February 2011 for the recycling and manufacture of high-­­quality carbon short fibres. The high-performance plant represents the final link in the materials loop for all CFRP materials produced in Europe.

 The demand for CFRP components will continue to increase in the coming years and the use of the material will become increasingly important for other sectors besides aerospace. The CFRP market is expected to experience above-average growth with a worldwide demand of 67,000 tonnes of carbon fibres up to the year 2015. Europe could require 52 per cent, or over half of the world’s de­­mand, Asia 18 per cent and the United States and Japan 15 per cent each. A doubling of the market volume to 14 bil­­lion euros is thus possible by 2015 (Source: Positive forecast for the carbon-fibre market. JEC Composites Magazine 56/2010 and World Carbon Fiber Com­­posite Market Acmite Market Intelli­­gence July2010). The strong demand for CFRP components will also increase the need for skilled CFRP workers, whereby companies’ demand for qualified personnel already far exceeds the availability of skilled workers today.

The CFK-Valley Stade e.V. is the first point of contact when it comes to the further de­­velopment of lightweight CFRP con­­struc­­­­­­tion and it provides the members of the interdisciplinary network with a platform offering a multitude of synergy options.

NEU-2012-KopieThe author, born in 1958, studied Gen­­eral Mechanical Engineering at the Tech­ni­­cal University of Clausthal and completed his doctorate studies at the Insti­­tute für Technical Mechanics. He is Professor for Production Technology at the University of Bremen, managing director of the Air­­bus subsidiary CTC GmbH and has been CEO of the CFK Valley Stade e.V. since 2004.