The cluster was able to cut costs significantly, especially in the final stage – the finishing of fiber composites. To make this happen, six cluster members – cutting expert Hufschmied Zerspanungssysteme, Airbus Helicopters, BMW, The Institute of Structures and Design, The Corporation for Diamond Products and carbon specialist Schunk Kohlenstofftechnik – worked on the MAI ProCut project for three years. With funding of €2.1m, they created a milling head that is of high quality and economically efficient.
Whereas traditional milling heads consist of hundreds of small diamond pieces that work like sandpaper, the newly-developed technology has a diamond-coated defined cutting edge that cuts as sharp as a knife due
to its special geometry. This not only cuts costs but also saves energy. “Fiber production needs a lot of energy.
We therefore aim to reduce cycle times to improve our ecological footprint as we go,” says von Reden. “With MAI Enviro, we conducted our own studies that showed the MAI Carbon projects reduce the ecological impact significantly.”
Asian members take an active role
The pace of progress is impressive: as soon as one project is finished, the next starts straight away – there are currently 35 projects underway. Furthermore, the cluster is growing: about 20 companies join each year.
One of the latest additions to the network is Chinese automotive specialist KDX, a subsidiary of the Beijing-based carbon specialist Kangde. In 2016, KDX invested in the MAI Carbon-region and opened an R&D site just south of Munich. Since the summer of 2017, it has been an active member of the cluster.
“KDX made it very clear that they see high potential in the region,” says von Reden. “We are bringing about innovation constantly. So it is only logical for carbon specialists such as KDX and Kangde to want to be part of it.”
KDX may be the first Asian member but it is not the only foreign company to play an active role in MAI Carbon. In August 2018, Japanese chemical company Toray Industries will open a research facility close to Munich. U.S. companies such as Boeing and European businesses such as Faurecia are also part of the cluster and operate subsidiaries in Munich and Augsburg respectively.