If all measurements are within the tolerance range, the processing machine seals the edges with a liquid lacquer cured with ultraviolet light, and the component is ready. The system isn’t just limited to CFRP projects — it can also mill, finish and paint wood, aluminum or metal components.
Looking to the future
Unsurprisingly perhaps, more and more international companies are investing in German engineering. In November, Elon Musk announced plans to locate Tesla’s fourth Gigafactory for producing its electric cars, batteries and motors in Grünheide, Brandenburg, an hour southeast of Berlin. The multi-billion-euro Gigafactory should create 3,000 new jobs when the facility opens in 2021, and up to 8,000 when it is fully operational.
Musk had been searching for a European location for Tesla for years. Analysts suspected that it might end up in Germany because of its strong auto supply chain. “Germany builds great cars,” Tesla’s CEO Musk said at an awards ceremony in Berlin shortly before the Gigafactory was announced.
Tesla already had a German connection – it has sourced parts from ElringKlinger, an automotive supplier specializing in lightweight components, for years. Now ElringKlinger will also supply the cockpit cross-car beams for Tesla’s new SUV Y series produced in California. The company uses hydroforming and injection molding in a single step to produce lightweight, hybrid, plastic-metal components with both high dimensional accuracy and structural strength.
Lightweight construction solutions could also determine Germany’s future competitiveness when it comes to wind power. Most windmill rotor blades are currently made of fiberglass composites. The bigger the blades, the greater the energy output. Wind turbines have become a major product for carbon fiber-reinforced plastics manufacturers, with rotor blades measuring up to 90m being made. They need to be lightweight – not only to achieve maximum performance and aerodynamic efficiency but to make transportation and installation easier as well.