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Voith and the Fraunhofer Institute present lightweight construction and manufacturing concept for a high speed train

How much weight can be saved in a train with alternative materials and manufacturing processes without negative impacts on its producibility? How the traction unit of such a weight-optimized high speed train might look is shown by Voith and the Fraunhofer Institut für Werkzeugmaschinen und Umformtechnik (IWU) in a study to be presented at the Chemnitz Trade Fair. The conceptual model assumes weight savings of up to 20 percent compared to standard vehicle designs.
“We have worked for years with our customers in the automotive and rail vehicle industry on solutions for designing components and vehicles that are lighter and thus more efficient,” says Jens Pohl, CEO of Voith Engineering Services. “With this project, we had the rare opportunity to be proactive and work together with our project partners on alternative designs for a light high speed train.”

The innovation and research project was supported as part of the European Regional Development fund (ERDF) and with funds from the Free State of Saxony.

It was important to the Voith engineers to study the entire process chain, from design to construction and calculation to the manufacturing processes. The group of project partners was rounded out by MFPA Leipzig, responsible for material characterization, and KUKA Systems, which provided the expertise for forming technology and the corresponding tool design construction.

When selecting the materials, the manufacturing advantages of fiberglass and aluminum foam are combined. The forward bow nose of the 6.80 m long model is made from GFRP, a material which is often used today. However, the engineers have taken a new tack in the traction unit. There, they work with aluminum foam in a sandwich construction. Along with weight advantages, this procedure also has the necessary properties with regard to stiffness and temperature resistance.

“We reacted primarily to the wishes of our Asian customers from China and Taiwan. They particularly want simple solutions which do not later lead to high costs and processes which are difficult to control in production,” explains Frank Salzwedel, who is responsible for rail vehicle development at Voith Engineering Services.

The experts of Fraunhofer IWU were responsible for the technology and tool development of the foam within the project. “We decided on aluminum foam as material, because with the sandwich structure we can achieve weight savings of 20 percent compared to conventional manufacturing with GFRP or aluminum – with the same stiffness,” explains Dr. Thomas Hipke, Head of the Department Composite Design at the Fraunhofer IWU. One special challenge was in the development of a suitable technology for forming. Until now, it was not possible to form the material economically and in accordance with the needs of the target industry. The solution: The scientists decided to use embossing tools instead of conventional deep drawing. The final contour is set during the foaming process. “As a result, we have not only developed an economical process for forming the aluminum foam,” says Dr. Hipke. “We also save approximately 60 percent on tool costs.”

A very exclusive look at the project will be available at the Chemnitz Trade Fair from 14 to 16 May. The 1:1 model of the high speed train will be exhibited there. Visitors and interested parties are invited to take a look in Hall 1 at Booth D8. Voith will also be presenting its development, training, and maintenance solutions at Booth G3 in Hall 1.

About Voith Engineering Services:

Voith Engineering Services is an engineering partner for customers in the fields of rail, automotive, and aerospace. Depending on the customer’s needs, the company serves the entire product creation process, from design and prototype construction to series development and on to production planning and control. It sets trends in lightweight construction using innovative materials and in product optimization. The engineering service provider is one of the market leaders in the development of rail vehicles.

About the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU:

For over 20 years, the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU has successfully conducted research and development in the field of production technology for automotive and machine construction. As a leading institution for resource-efficient production, it works together with partners from industry and the sciences to develop solutions for improving energy and material efficiency. With over 580 highly qualified employees, the Institute is one of the most important research and development facilities in the world for production technology. The research fields at its locations in Chemnitz, Dresden, Zittau, and Augsburg range from machine tools, forming, joining, and assembly technology, to precision technology and mechatronics, to production management and virtual reality. Lightweight structures and the use of innovative materials are key factors in its success.

Contact Voith:
Voith Engineering Services
Jörn Hüggelmeier
Am Wallgraben 129
70565 Stuttgart, Germany
Phone +49 711 7841 154

Contact Fraunhofer IWU:
Hendrik Schneider
Public Relations Department
Reichenhainer Strasse 88
09126 Chemnitz, Germany
Phone +49 371 5397 1454


Julia Schreiber

Head of Communications


t +49 711 7841 174