ZF Friedrichshafen picks Dieffenbacher system for tech center

Automotive parts maker ZF Friedsrichshafen will use Dieffenbacher and KraussMaffei equipment for the development of RTM, SMC, LFT-D and organic sheet metal forming technologies in its new tech center.

Dieffenbacher (Eppingen, Germany) reports that automotive parts manufacturer ZF Friedrichshafen AG (Friedsrichhafen, Germany) has chosen to equip its new development center with composites manufacturing technology from Dieffenbacher and KraussMaffei (Munich, Germany). The application will feature light and high-strength structural components made from composite materials with a duroplastic or thermoplastic matrix.

As a general contractor, Dieffenbacher supplies the total machinery to ZF Friedrichshafen. The key component is a Dieffenbacher 1,000-ton press from the DCL series. This height-optimized and energy efficient upstroke press is designed for batch production of vehicle components made from long and continuous fiber-reinforced plastics. The installation provides the option for implementing high-pessure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM), sheet molding compound (SMC) processing, direct long-fiber thermoplastic (LFT-D) molding and organic sheet metal forming. The integration of control technology in the KraussMaffei metering system produces optimum fiber impregnation, especially when processing fast-reacting resin systems.

Dieffenbacher guarantees close-to-production development through its automation expertise. Preforms made from fabric carbon fibers are inserted into the press using special Dieffenbacher gripper technology. The same process is used to place "organic sheet" materials into a Dieffenbacher infrared oven for rapid and homogeneous heating.

ZF is one of the world's leading automotive suppliers and is accelerating lightweight construction with fiber composite materials. The new technology center at the Schweinfurt, Germany, site is equipped with cutting-edge mechanical engineering technology and offers the potential to drive forward development projects and produce complex, prototype-ready parts in small quantities, as well as conduct basic research. According to the company, ZF has attained significant fundamental knowledge and experience of lightweight constructions in recent years, including technologies for processing fiber composite materials. The focus here is on wheel carriers and transverse leaf springs in car chassis, and on four-point links in trucks. Its aim is to achieve a weight saving of between 15 percent and 50 percent for the specified components.