LIGHTest – A test bed where material development meets the lightweight production of the future
LIGHTest aims to provide a live test and demonstration facility for products and systems made in new materials, with a focus on end-to-end solutions that have a sustainable life cycle. Our test beds are ideal for the future production of lightweight products using smart material solutions.
Increasing demands are being placed on products both now and for the future. A lower weight, longer service life and better recycling are all needed for sustainable development and increased competitiveness. New materials play a crucial role in achieving these goals.
In order to verify new solutions before they are scaled up in high-volume production, Swedish industry needs a test environment that is independent of the traditional supply chains, one where quality-assured testing can be carried out confidentially. This is what the LIGHTest test bed intends to offer.
Its purpose is to help industry test material properties for products and system solutions. The test bed should be a node that provides expertise and infrastructure within advanced materials, manufacturing methods and recycling technologies. Small and large companies will also get the chance to collaborate around pre-development and verification projects.
The test bed virtually connects multiple stakeholders and currently consists of two nodes:
• The RISE facility in Olofström, which offers metal forming and joining of separate materials into a composite structure. Here, experts can help you with sheet metal forming, multimaterials, measurement methods, answering tool questions and simulations.
• The composite development environment at the RISE plant in Piteå, for the high-rate production of fibre composite and multimaterial solutions. Here, experts can assist you with composite materials, simulations, manufacturing methods and test methods.
The project has brought together a broad project team consisting of the following partners:
• ABB Composites
• Enviro Systems
• Gestamp Hardtech
• GKN Aerospace
• Lamera AB
• Volvo Cars
• Techtank Olofström
• Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan
• Luleå Tekniska Universitet
• Blekinge Tekniska Högskola
• RISE SICOMP
• RISE IVF
The test bed’s construction is funded by Vinnova through the government’s strategic partnership programme “Uppkopplad industri och nya material” (“Networked industry and new materials”) and runs from 2017 to 2020. It is coordinated by Jernkontoret, and the steering committee includes programme managers in the strategic innovation areas Metalliska Material, SIP LIGHTer, SIO Grafen and Innovair, together with Volvo Cars, SSAB and Scania. Boel Wadman from RISE IVF is project manager.
The project’s vision closely links to two of the goals prioritised by the government’s partnership team within “Networked industry and new materials”:
• New materials and material development – Strengthening the ties between materials research and industrial users of new materials
• Collaboration between large and small companies – Develop partnerships between large and small companies to accelerate innovation
Test and demo facilities
In the government’s strategy for reindustrialisation, Testbed Sweden is one of four focus areas. The strategy calls on Sweden to promote collaboration among higher education institutions and industry within research. For the lightweight area, a larger and more comprehensive investment in testing and demo facilities is essential so that Swedish industry can keep pace with advances beyond its borders.
The global trend is for more and more technology development and verification to take place in test and demo environments prior to start-up of a company’s business-related product development. This offers a way to minimise business risks and create synergies along the entire value chain and across industries. Both the UK and Germany have built up an extensive testing and demo capacity at research institutes and universities. Sweden, too, must attempt to near this level of investment with significantly increased resources for production-like verifications of technologies and solutions.
Several of our industry-based projects have successfully developed demonstrators in existing facilities and have demonstrated the value of working all the way up to testing in a relevant environment. But it has been difficult to scale up lightweight test and demo facilities in Sweden, since both resources and the right methods for establishment and operation have been lacking. Ties between research practitioners and industry must be strengthened, and efforts need to be systematic rather than fragmented – in other words, a collaboration ranging from low TRL levels to verification and testing (TRL5-6). This would open up completely new commercialisation potential for new technologies and streamline Swedish innovation flows in earnest.
So, in the next few years we will ramp up our efforts by developing demonstrators in more projects as well as the test and demo facilities needed for Swedish lightweight development. We also need to step up our international collaboration and discover how to best exchange knowledge in the advanced testing and demo facilities that are available in market-leading countries. More qualitative test and demo environments also increase the potential for collaboration among Sweden’s strategic innovation areas and for creating a positive development environment for PhDs and other students.