With aluminum on the way to the "Light Society"

With approximately 300 participants, the Congress held in Düsseldorf in late November of 2017 served as the industry meeting point of the year for the international aluminium industry's experts. The guiding theme of this year's EAC was "Aluminium in Automotive Engineering—Challenges and Solutions".

EAC 2017 Results

EAC 2017

The automobile market is and continues to be a driver of growth and innovation for the aluminium industry and is one of the greatest drivers for aluminium material and process development. This is something the participants of the EAC European Aluminium Congress 2017 could agree on. With approximately 300 participants, the Congress held in Düsseldorf in late November of 2017 served as the industry meeting point of the year for the international aluminium industry's experts. The EAC 2017 was organized as part of the German-Austrian-Swiss aluminium alliance "D-A-CH, Allianz für Aluminium" by the GDA Gesamtverband der Aluminiumindustrie, Düsseldorf, in cooperation with the Swiss aluminium association "alu.ch" and the Austrian Economic Chamber WKO, “Fachverband NE-Metallindustrie”. These three countries represent by far the largest European economic area with a common language.

The European Aluminium Congress developed into an international industry meeting point and a technical-scientific flagship event for the aluminium industry. The Congress combines theoretically oriented contributions with practical reports, offers overview presentations and creates room for the exchange of experiences beyond industry borders. The meeting of developers, practitioners and users of aluminium applications and representatives from research and education serves as an ideal platform for crucial networking and exchange of information. "Pioneering in trends and innovation, the European Aluminium Congress has become indispensible for various client industries of the aluminium industry", says Christian Wellner, Executive Member of the Managing Board of the GDA at the EAC's opening.

The guiding theme of this year's EAC was "Aluminium in Automotive Engineering—Challenges and Solutions". The Congress emphasized both the various applications of aluminium in vehicle construction and its potential further development that will make vehicles of the future lighter and more energy efficient. More than 300 experts from the industry and client industries as well as scientists and politicians discussed the opportunities and challenges of the mega trends lightweight construction, electromobility, new mobility concepts and additive manufacturing for aluminium and its application in vehicle construction. All of these changes require producers to make significant efforts to remain competitive.

"Lightweight construction will continue to play an important role in the automobile industry; the opportunities for aluminium therefore remain auspicious - due to its many cost-effective qualities and its reusability," predicts GDA President Dr. Hinrich Mählmann about aluminium's future potential during his keynote address at the EAC 2017. Aluminium has not only become an innovative material of the future in vehicle construction. Other mobility applications, such as aircraft and ship building or railway vehicles, have also witnessed increases in demand. "Aluminium is the future, and the future is lightweight. We are on the way to becoming a 'lightweight society,' a world in which nothing is possible without lightweight construction. And aluminium is one of the important solutions for lightweight construction," Dr. Mählmann explains.

Peter Sander, Vice President; Manager Emerging Technologies & Concepts Germany at the Airbus Operations GmbH Hamburg discussed aluminium's future opportunities in additive manufacturing. "Additive manufacturing - or industrial 3D-printing -definitively emerged from the shadows of prototype production. It is becoming a technology for serial production," notes Peter Sander. For example, selective laser beam melting proves promising. Who risked getting involved early is already enjoying considerable competitive advantages. According to Peter Sander, the reason for this sudden boom in 3D-printing is because 3D-printing allows new kinds of products to be created with minimal resources, both for production and operation. "Additive manufacturing is likely to establish itself in most industries, primarily for all types of means of transportation. The desired electromobility, in particular, will have to utilize lightweight construction's additional potential," says Peter Sander.

During the third keynote address, Fabian Krauß, Business Development Manager of the EOS GmbH, highlighted additive manufacturing's special opportunities for the automotive sector. "Paired with aluminium, additive manufacturing's potential can be used for external lightweight construction to develop completely new products," says Fabian Krauß. Its advantages, such as design flexibility, fast and easy product individualization, potential for lightweight construction and functional integration, additive manufacturing or industrial 3D-printing offer great opportunities for vehicle construction. Krauß presented the project NextGenAM through which Premium Aerotec, Daimler and EOS want to integrate 3D-printing of aluminium into the large-scale industrial serial production. The automation of 3D-printing from the dosing of the metal powder to the processing after printing promises to provide great cost advantages. In addition to further developed system technologies, the project also aims to qualify aluminium for use in industrial 3D-printing. The overall economic and aluminium-based system to be jointly developed through NextGenAM is set to be used in both vehicle construction and - if accordingly adapted - in aviation.

At the six sessions of the EAC 2017, industry and research experts discussed the topics "Markets," "Surface, Corrosion, Recycling," "Body Structure and e-Mobility I+II" and "Processes and Joining Technologies I+II." "EAC 2017 showed impressively how aluminium will make our future more 'lightweight'," concluded Christian Wellner. "Aluminium is at the top of the competition for lightweight construction materials and convinces those who use it with its positive substantive qualities." Aliminium's importance in vehicle construction is set to continue to increase over the coming years—whether for vehicles with classic types of drive or electromobility. This is what EAC 2017 demonstrated convincingly.