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Lightweight Design

Competencies of the focus group Lightweight Design

The sustainable use of scarcely available raw material and energy resources as well as more demanding economic framework conditions require ever lighter and for their application optimized systems. The focus group Lightweight Design at IMES specializes in developing and analyzing weight-optimized and highly stressed structures, building them as prototypes and to test them. In addition, the group has extensive and closely interlinked competencies in conceptual development, design, computer-aided simulation and optimization as well as in the testing of light structures. The projects carried out in cooperation with the industry are traditionally found in aircraft and vehicle construction, e.g. drones, transport, special or rail vehicles, but also increasingly in the machine industry. Newer fields of activity are highly dynamic mechanisms and unmanned, moving platforms that operate both air- and ground-based. The necessary use and the research of tools to optimize the structures on the institute's own computing cluster is therefore another focus. As a specialty, the focus group is also active in the field of aeroelasticity, i.e. the interaction between aerodynamic excitation and structural vibrations, thereby examining multidisciplinary optimization methods.

Lightweight Structures

Here, the focus of the group is on heavily loaded and partly safety-relevant structures in vehicle and aircraft construction but also on mobile measuring and work platforms on land and in the air. Classical mechanical engineering is another focus, where components have to be weight-optimized for reducing wear, tear and energy consumption. The activities range from the definition of the design loads, construction and strength calculation to static and dynamic tests on prototypes, including a  professional project management. Another specialty is the preparation of expert opinions with regard to the strength (static, operational and durable) of highly stressed, also welded metallic structures, e.g. for railway vehicles.

Highly Dynamic Kinematic Mechanisms

Quick-acting drives and mechanisms as e.g. occurring in production and driven machines cause high inertia forces and therefore, amongst other things, they have to be designed weight-optimized in order to reduce bearing loads and energy consumption. The focus group Lightweight Design has profound know-how in the application of multi-body as well as implicit and explicit finite element methods (FEM) in order to simulate, design and optimize highly dynamic mechanisms. In addition, the necessary material parameters of non-metallic materials can be determined in the institute's own drop tower by means of  high-speed tensile or compression tests.


Aeroelastic calculations allow a more precise determination of the loads and displacements of structures moving in a fluid such as a wing in the airflow or the impeller of a pump. The static and dynamic stability of these structures can also be assessed thus enabling a more reliable weight and function-optimized dimensioning of these structures.

Collision-proof Structural design and Personal Protection

Increased safety awareness among consumers and stricter approval regulations are increasingly leading to the development of deformable structures and energy-absorbing padding. These are designed for better protecting people from injuries in the event of vehicle collisions, crash landings of aircraft or impacts on car fronts or barriers (e.g. ice hockey boards).

Thanks to several years of work in this area, IMES has extensive experience in the design of such security-relevant structures. Dynamic component test systems allow the verification of simulation results in case of fast deformation processes as well as the validation of material models. In addition, the proper functioning of finished components or body pads can be tested and certified.