Lightweight technology offers machine manufacturers a vital competitive advantage



The machine manufacturing sector faces increasing global competition. Cost reduction plays a key part in maintaining an edge in the competitive market. Lightweight technology can make a significant impact by reducing material requirements and the associated costs. A recent German study has shown that the production costs of a static component can be reduced by up to seven percent by using topology optimization.

Required manufacturing costs fell by seven percent The subject of the study was the standard design of a static heavy machine component, namely a needle bed in an industrial flat knitting machine. A topology optimization study was carried out on the needle bed to evaluate the part through a linear static and modal analysis. By using topology optimization, the amount of original material used could be reduced by about 30 percent. This amounts to a weight reduction from 251.2 kilograms down to 173.8 kilograms. The required manufacturing costs fell as a result by approximately seven percent. Costs for material are much bigger than for energy Material reduction through lightweighting has a strong potential to reduce production costs in many sectors. The costs for resources and materials make up about 46 percent of the gross production value in the manufacturing and industrial sector in Germany according to the Federal Statistical Office. In comparison, energy costs accounted for only 2.1 percent. The study showed that the material costs had the greatest influence on cost reduction during the manufacturing process of the knitting machine. By reducing weight, the manufacturer was also able to reduce transportation costs marginally as a positive secondary effect. Break even after eight months The implementation of a lightweighting solution would incur one-off costs for development. An investment in weight reduction would break even after about eight months with otherwise equivalent production output, resulting in positive returns over the medium term. Other possible effects of investing in material reduction include shorter post-processing times and increased revenue enabled through the total weight reduction of the machine. The study was carried out by the flat knitting machine manufacturer H. Stoll AG & Co. KG based near Stuttgart at the initiation of Development Agency for Lightweighting Baden-Wuerttemberg and with the cooperation of wbk Institute of Production Science in Karlsruhe and the DLR Institute of Vehicle Concepts in Stuttgart.