Sustainability, efficiency and the conservation of resources are some of the key topics driving social and political debate right now—and justifiably so. In this context, the spotlight has increasingly turned toward plastics. Yet daily life would be unthinkable without plastics. Likewise, it is a material that is set to play a key role in future manufacturing and industry. At this year’s “K” trade fair—which is running under the slogan “Plastics for Future”—institutes from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft will be showcasing their latest technological innovations, which are designed to help make tomorrow’s plastics industry more sustainable and more efficient in terms of both energy and resources. Among the topics addressed on the Fraunhofer booth are plastics with new properties; new approaches to the production, recycling and reuse of plastics; and optimizing processes.

The aim of modern production methods should be to reduce consumption of resources while preserving a high level of product functionality. This not only increases the profitability of the product in question; it also makes a decisive contribution toward boosting the sustainability of industrial production and thereby increasing its acceptance.

This is the path followed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS with its development of lightweight structures made of organo-sandwich semifinished products. Fraunhofer IMWS has shown that it is possible to produce lightweight, ready-for-use thermoplastic sandwich structures both cheaply and efficiently in an innovative process that is suitable for mass production.

Lightweight design is likewise the field in which the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP is presenting a new development. Using a new type of furnace that generates temperatures of up to 2850 °C, researchers from Fraunhofer IAP have succeeding in producing biobased carbon fibers from renewable materials, the properties of which partially surpass those of conventional carbon fibers. In addition, this new process yields a substantial reduction in production costs.

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