Automotive Industry

The automobile sector is currently in a state of upheaval, with e-mobility and autonomous driving dominating the public and business debates. At the same time, the question remains as to how fuel consumption and weight, especially for hybrid vehicles, can be further reduced. Fraunhofer ILT has been working with partners from the automotive industry for decades and can provide attractive solutions in the production as well as equipping of new motor vehicles. For lightweight construction, the institute has developed many manufacturing processes, such as the welding of ultra-high-strength steels and composite materials, the laser-assisted local softening of cold-pressed steels to optimize forming technology, the cutting of CFRP components or the joining of dissimilar lightweight materials.

Vehicle engineering requires individual metallic and non-metallic components for new approaches in designing prototypes and developing process chains in series production, all in a very short period time. For this purpose, Fraunhofer ILT has been developing high-performance 3D printing processes for many years, such as Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF). Its developments range from material technology and process development to the design of production lines.

Furthermore, Fraunhofer ILT is developing new concepts of packaging power electronics and battery technology for the prospective e-mobility market. These range from packaging individual cells to designing modules all the way to manufacturing complete batteries. Key areas in which ILT’s scientists are supporting automotive engineering can be found in design, process development, and design of battery manufacturing and power module manufacturing systems. In addition, Fraunhofer ILT has been commissioned, in the field of lighting technology, with modeling new optical systems for car headlights and developing compact LIDAR systems.

Flexible battery design through high-rate laser ablation

Fast, gentle and reliable:  The Fraunhofer ILT has come up with a process tailor-made to ablate anode material from very thin copper foils at up to 1760 mm³/min. It uses a powerful USP laser to expose surfaces for electrical contacts.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.
Fast, gentle and reliable: The Fraunhofer ILT has come up with a process tailor-made to ablate anode material from very thin copper foils at up to 1760 mm³/min. It uses a powerful USP laser to expose surfaces for electrical contacts.

As battery-powered electronic devices increasingly penetrate markets and as new areas of application are developed for them, there is a constant demand for lithium-ion batteries with different geometrical shapes. The coating of the metallic carrier film, which is only a few micrometers thick, with the so-called active material constitutes a central production step. Since the electrodes are subsequently contacted via so-called tabs, parts of the metal foil must remain uncoated.

What is needed, therefore, is not only a faster, but also a more flexible electrode production. One approach to solving this problem is to coat the entire surface of the film instead of coating it partially, which is technically very complex, and then use a powerful ultrashort pulse (USP) laser to selectively expose the areas required for electrical contacts. The process developed by Fraunhofer ILT can remove graphite-based anode material from a 10-micrometer-thin copper foil at a rate of up to 1,760 mm³/min without damaging it. With today's common active-material layer thicknesses, this corresponds to an area rate of about 4 cm2/s.

High-productivity USP laser ablation is particularly attractive for battery cell manufacturers. This flexible manufacturing process allows non-standard cell formats to be produced in an extremely productive manner. Such batteries are predominantly used in portable electronic end devices, where the lithium-ion battery must be adapted to the device design, which often has minimal space for the battery. 

Reusable plastic-metal hybrid joints

Wiederverwendbares Elektronikgehäuse aus Aluminiumdruckguss mit PA6-Kunststoffdeckel.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen.
Wiederverwendbares Elektronikgehäuse aus Aluminiumdruckguss mit PA6-Kunststoffdeckel.

Joining dissimilar materials poses major challenges for almost all sectors of the manufacturing industry. By combining the use of different materials in a hybrid compound, such as plastics with metals, manufacturers can not only add functional enhancements, but also save weight. While plastics are particularly light, inexpensive and easy to shape, metals can be subjected to significantly higher mechanical loads thanks to their mechanical properties. However, a direct material bond between the two materials has so far failed due to their chemical and physical differences. A connection by positive locking or the use of filler materials is, therefore, necessary.

Fraunhofer ILT has developed a process chain for joining plastic to metal in which laser radiation is first used to generate microstructures in the metallic joining partner. In the subsequent laser joining process, the plastic is plasticized and positively bonded by allowing it to claw into the microstructures. This connection can be easily released again with local heating, so that an assembly can be separated by type or a part can easily be exchanged. The laser-based joint can also be dissolved and rejoined several times without loss of strength. Furthermore, it offers great potential in terms of sustainability and reusability – for example for applications in the automotive or aerospace industries.

A Selection of Project Results 2020

Projects with participation of the Fraunhofer ILT

Strategic Fraunhofer Projects

A selection of strategic projects involving the Fraunhofer ILT can be found on our cluster website.

Current Collaborative Projects

Here you will find a selection of current collaborative projects in which Fraunhofer ILT is involved.

Completed Collaborative Projects

Here you will find a selection of completed collaborative projects in which Fraunhofer ILT is involved.

Annual Report

In our current annual report you will find a selection of further project results.

Contact Research & Development

Dr. Achim Lenenbach (acting)

“Measurement Technology
and EUV Sources”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-124
-> Send E-Mail

Dipl.-Ing. Hans-Dieter Hoffmann

“Lasers and Laser Optics”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-206
-> Send E-Mail

 

Prof. Arnold Gillner

“Ablation and Joining”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-148
-> Send E-Mail

Jasmin Saewe M.Sc.

“Laser Powder Bed Fusion”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-135
-> Send E-Mail

Dr. Thomas Schopphoven

“Laser Material Deposition”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-8107
-> Send E-Mail

Dr. Jochen Stollenwerk (acting)

“Functional Layers and Surfaces”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-398
-> Send E-Mail