COMPOSITES EUROPE 2018 – the Lightweight Path to Success

Glass and carbon fibre reinforced plastics are in demand when lightweight and forward-looking solutions are called for.

  • Trade fair focuses on big advances in manufacturing processes
  • Lightweight construction a key technology for the industrial location
  • From 2019 co-located with “Foam Expo Europe” in Stuttgart

Glass and carbon fibre reinforced plastics are in demand when lightweight and forward-looking solutions are called for. This trend towards lightweight construction is currently one of the strongest drivers for the composites industry. Just as strong are the impulses generated by the composites sector itself: the major technological advances in the manufacturing and processing chain enables this sector of industry to increasingly automate and shorten manufacturing processes.

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Both developments dominated this year’s edition of COMPOSITES EUROPE, held for the 13th time with 365 exhibitors from 30 nations. Event organiser Reed Exhibitions registered 8,148 visitors from 71 countries (2017: 63). The COMPOSITES EUROPE trade fair held in Stuttgart in an even year for the first time, followed on from the previous year’s results (8,342). With these figures it underlined its importance as an international industry get-together. This is also reflected by the slightly higher share of international trade visitors (46% over last year’s 42%). Also striking is the list of companies that came to Stuttgart: nearly the entire automotive industry – from Audi, BMW, Bugatti, Daimler through Ford, Honda and Mitsubishi to Opel, Porsche, Toyota, and Volkswagen – was represented here.

It was a similar picture for the aerospace industry. One in four visitors represented an enterprise active on this market as an OEM or upstream supplier. “This is a proof of quality underlining that the decision to hold the event annually in Stuttgart was driven by the market,” says Hans-Joachim Erbel, CEO Reed Exhibitions Deutschland GmbH as the organiser of COMPOSITES EUROPE.

Growth of the European composites industry goes on

At present, the market for glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) is growing by 2% against the previous year to a volume of 1.141 million tonnes. This is the result found by the annual market report of the industry association AVK – Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe, which was presented at the beginning of COMPOSITES EUROPE in Stuttgart. This means the composites industry is following overall economic developments.

“The outlook for the composites industry as a whole is good, the potential is enormous,” says Dr. Elmar Witten, General Manager of AVK. The automotive sector, which is the most important market for selling fibre reinforced plastics in Europe today, is currently undergoing a fundamental change. In addition to higher requirements made on exhaust gas and emission values new drive concepts such as e-mobility are contributing to a restructuring of the sector and opening up new perspectives.

Big response to Lightweight Technologies Forum (LTF)

The lightweight construction theme plays a central role here, as Werner Lohscheider from the German Ministry of Economics and Energy stressed on the occasion of the opening of the “Lightweight Technologies Forum”: “To us lightweight construction is a key technology we use to modernise and strengthen Germany as an industrial location – in a sustainable manner. After all, this is a broad and strong basis for adding value and creating jobs, also for today’s and tomorrow’s markets.”

Fibre reinforced composites bring their strengths to bear especially in multi-material lightweight construction. After all, the requirements of modern lightweight construction can be met less and less with a single material while hybrid lightweight construction is becoming increasingly important instead. An approach that underlies the Lightweight Technologies Forum: “With this cross-material forum, we have created a format that brings together the composites industry and the application industries for integrative and hybrid lightweight construction,” says Olaf Freier, Event Director of COMPOSITES EUROPE. The forum celebrated its premiere in 2016 and has developed very successfully since then. A total of 26 companies presented materials, tools and exhibits this year – from fillers, bonding agents and presses for laminating different materials to hybrid semi-finished products. One highlight was the feasibility study of a car seat that will weigh as little as eight kilograms.

“Process Live” moves manufacturing chain centre-stage

The new “Process live” exhibition area showed that the industry is becoming increasingly successful in automating and shortening production processes with technological advances in the manufacturing and processing chain. Here, companies from mechanical and plant engineering industries presented coordinated processing and manufacturing processes. An example of this was the live demonstration by cutting specialist Gunnar (Switzerland), composite automation expert Airborne (Netherlands) and gripping system supplier Schmalz (Germany), who jointly presented the entire production and processing chain with reliable processes from the roll material to the finished layer structure of a fibre composite component in a combined production cell. The interlocking hardware components are completely interconnected on the software side. “Cooperation between processors is becoming ever closer. These cooperations within the process chain are accelerating the growth of the composites industry. We want to make this clear with our new ‘Process live’ format,” says Olaf Freier, Event Director of COMPOSITES EUROPE.

In future COMPOSITES EUROPE will be jointly located with Foam Expo Europe

From 2019 Foam Expo Europe, the trade fair and conference for the supply chain for industrial foam production, and COMPOSITES EUROPE, the European Trade Fair and Forum for Composites, Technology and Applications, will take place concurrently in Stuttgart. This was announced by the two organisers – Smarter Shows and Reed Exhibitions.

Together, the two fairs combine the technologies and applications of composite materials with the entire foam production supply chain. The concurrent trade fair dates at the Stuttgart location offer synergies above all for the joint application industries such as automotive, aviation, the construction sector and the sports and leisure industry. Visitors will find a wide range of lightweight construction materials and processing technologies.

Starting in 2019, Foam Expo Europe will be held in parallel with COMPOSITES EUROPE for the first time. Foam Expo Europe, which celebrated its premiere this year, presents the entire foam supply chain and is the marketplace for manufacturers and buyers of industrial foams, foam products and services. The exhibition will focus on moulded, rigid and flexible foam solutions, including raw materials, chemicals, equipment and machinery.

Together, the two trade fairs will link the technologies and applications of composite materials with the entire foam production supply chain. After all, many materials from both worlds are based on polyurethane (PUR). The concurrent dates in Stuttgart offer great synergy potential, especially for joint application industries such as automotive, aviation, construction and the sports and leisure industries.

International Composites Congress (ICC) to sport new concept from 2019

From 2019, the International Composites Congress (ICC) will also feature a new concept. The ICC, which had traditionally been the opening event of COMPOSITES EUROPE, will in future be organised jointly by Reed Exhibitions and the Composites Germany trade association. As a result of this, there will be an integrative overall concept that will bring the trade fair and congress closer together.