ZF has inaugurated the ZF Composites Tech Centre in Schweinfurt, Germany, where it will develop manufacturing processes for the volume production of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) products. Ignacio Lobo Casanova is managing the facility, which will initially be run by four engineers.
The Centre will focus on further development of specific ZF lightweight design concepts. Its suspension strut and knuckle, as well as its wheel-guiding transverse spring are some of the lightweight products it already produces. The knuckle weighs half as much as its steel counterpart and the transverse spring saves up to 15% weight over the corresponding steel construction. Developing a 4-point link for truck chassis’ with potential weight savings of 25% compared to the current cast version will be a potential project for the engineers.
Housed there will be a press that can be used to produce components from duroplastic materials according to the RTM process (Resin Transfer Molding) as well as a high-pressure injection unit for various resin hardener systems, and systems for further processing, including a robot and an infrared and tempering furnace. ZF will also be able to produce small quantities of complex FRP parts that are suitable for prototypes. Since the beginning of 2012, investments in equipment for the facility have totaled €3.1m.
Michael Hankel, member of the ZF Board of Management, stated, “In the past few years, we have established vast basic knowledge and gained experience in lightweight design and we have increasingly been using fiber-reinforced plastics for this purpose. With the ZF Composites Tech Centre, we are now focusing specifically on the process technologies for volume production using these materials and we want to make this knowledge available throughout the group.”