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KUNSTSTOFF-DIA(hr)LOG at AKRO-PLASTIC: Quo vadis – automotive industry?

Articles

AKRO-PLASTIC GmbH – the specialist for innovative and application-orientated plastics compounds – invited guests to Niederzissen, Germany, to participate in the eleventh KUNSTSTOFF-DIA(hr)LOG® conference on 9 and 10 May 2017. On the theme of "Quo vadis – automotive industry?" the company again hosted a number of national and international guests at its plant this year.

Following his welcome address, Andreas Stuber, Managing Director of AKRO-PLASTIC, gave a vivid demonstration of the company's development in recent years. The company now has four production sites around the world. AKRO-PLASTIC has two locations in Niederzissen, Germany, since masterbatches are produced at its branch AF-COLOR. The compounder also has a production plant in China and in Brazil, providing a global production capacity of over 100 000 tonnes/year using identical production technology. A particularly noteworthy development is the innovation rate, which has grown steadily to over 29 percent.

The interesting topics, which invited stimulating discussions, all revolved around the question of where the automotive industry is headed in future and what part the plastics industry can, and will, play. And one thing became clear: Due to the elimination of the three main pillars in this sector, the automotive industry is in a state of transition, as Prof. Dr. Stefan Bratzel from the Center of Automotive Management explained. The first of these pillars is the internal combustion engine, which will be increasingly replaced by the electric motor in future. The second is that vehicle ownership is no longer desirable for everyone, and concepts such as car sharing, which focus solely on utilization, are becoming increasingly popular. The third, and not least, is that driving itself will soon be a thing of the past, as autonomous systems gradually take over this industry.

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Presentation of Plasma-SealTight® technology

Until now, the OEMs have determined the rules of this market; but other companies – primarily from "big data" – are now taking a look at mobility, and these are equal players and strong financial partners. "It's not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but rather those who can respond most quickly to changes", concluded Prof. Dr. Bratzel, paraphrasing Darwin.
We must therefore adopt new parameters; this seems unavoidable. And that was the focus of the next group of topics. First Edgar Düvel from Plasmatreat GmbH, which has entered into a systems partnership for hybrid technology with AKRO-PLASTIC, presented Plasma-SealTight® technology on behalf of the plasma systems manufacturer. He differentiated the two most important areas of application, composite technology and sealing technology, for which the method is suitable. "Tests are always necessary to achieve the optimal strength and leak-tightness," said Düvel. Thilo Stier, Head of Sales & Innovation, then explained the Niederzissen-based company's role in the development. Using selected test results, he highlighted the plastics-related aspects of the cooperation between the two companies. Before the visitors had the opportunity to see the process live in the company's own Competence Center, he briefly touched upon the latest trends in material development.

The next morning began with a presentation from Mr Stephan Oberle from IMS Gear. He explained to the audience how his company is preparing for the transition in the automotive industry, stating in conclusion that gearboxes form an ideal symbiosis with e-mobility, in every facet.

This was followed by a talk presented by Dr. Philippe Tonneguzzo from the French company Plastivaloire on the classic future-orientated topic relating to plastics in automotive manufacturing: lightweight construction. His presentation showcased the ways in which plastic will continue to adapt to this parameter and foster its development – independently of the engine and mobility concept.

Mr Auerswald from Frimo Technology GmbH then gave the listeners an introduction to joining technology by means of various welding techniques. Joining of parts will continue to be necessary in future. Requirements for quality, materials, etc., will be more stringent, however, but the solutions already exist and are being developed further.

In the same group of topics, the joining of two materials – and particularly materials used in lightweight technology – Mr Dieter Kittel from Ejot GmbH & Co. KG presented the thermal adhesive bonding boss (TSSD®), a market-ready system that is suitable for use in a variety of applications. Both presentations showcased solutions for the automotive industry that are required here to ensure the future – wherever it may go.

The last lecture addressed the topic of e-mobility from the side of the assembly lines, since plastic offers solutions in this field as well. Mr Johannes Strasser from Festo AG & Co. KG underlined here the influence of Asian battery manufacturers as the new most important suppliers to the automotive industry. Plastics also help his company to achieve a significant reduction in manufacturing costs.

Even by the end of the symposium, a definitive answer could not be given to the question "Quo vadis automotive industry?" But the question "Quo vadis plastics industry?" was not posed, since it became clear that solutions in plastics exist or are currently being developed in every area discussed. "We are in an exciting time that we can help to shape because we were all extremely active in the run-up" noted Leander Bergmann in concluding the event.

He announced the dates for the next DIA(hr)LOG, which have already been set for 15 and 16 May 2018.

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