Fields of Research and the Triad of Lightweight Design


The scientific work of the Institute of Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Structures focuses on the component in detail and the supporting structure as a whole. We research the modeling, optimization, and digitization of these structures integrated into the context of the surrounding technical system.



Icon modeling Copyright: © SLA

The critical decisions in lightweight design are made at the beginning of the product development process (PEP). However, this phase is characterized by a variety of solution variants along with a simultaneous lack of information. Here, efficient structural models help to acquire this information. The SLA develops reduced models for new designs and loads. We describe models analytically and validate them experimentally. We integrate nonlinear geometry, material, and failure models into the reduced formulations. We make the reduced models usable for numerical calculations. As a result, the SLA has the unique ability to efficiently and quantifiably apply typical lightweight designs such as sandwich, shear webs, and lattice structures in preliminary designs, thus contributing to the dissemination of new lightweight designs.



Icon optimization Copyright: © SLA

Lightweight design is structural optimization. But today optimization takes place on many levels: Weight, cost, and sustainability. The SLA develops the objective functions and constraints of non-static functions of structures. We are thus able to formulate optimization problems for multifunctional structures. We formulate the objective functions and constraints for new construction methods and loads, and we develop numerical optimization algorithms on this basis. Thus, the SLA can optimize structures in new designs and under consideration of multi-physical aspects. We can handle multifunctional structures that have more degrees of freedom than geometric dimensions.



Icon digitization Copyright: © SLA

Structures transform into systems. In the future, structures will be digitally linked and embedded in the surrounding technical system. The SLA rethinks structures as hierarchical data structures. We develop a data model consistent throughout the entire phases of the PEP and filled with data as the level of detail increases. We develop classes and objects of structures. We transform structures into systems through sensor integration, giving the digital world access to the real world. The SLA is working on the vision of consistently mapping structures to digital throughout the entire product lifecycle. We code structures and develop the digital twin of structures.


Spacecraft and satellites

Impacted structure Copyright: © SLA

Extreme speeds, extreme temperature loads, and extreme weight saving - these features characterize structural design for space. In the field of spacecraft and satellites, the institute's research is being reassessed under these new constraints and integrated into overall spacecraft systems.


The Triad of Lightweight Design

The Triad of Lightweight Design Copyright: © SLA

The sizing and optimization of components in lightweight structures require the synchronization of testing, numerics, and analytics. Only a holistic approach brings efficient solutions that make their way into the application.

In our research approaches, we therefore always try to base our scientific work on these three pillars. The test shows us which phenomena we have to deal with. However, experiments are time-consuming and expensive. Their number is therefore limited and we only get access to a small part of possible configurations. This is where numerics comes in: computations with models validated in experiments allow us to expand the parameter range and see their interaction. However, in order to understand the structural behavior, we need the analytical model. In this model, the interactions of the parameters are described mathematically. Only from this starting point a targeted optimization of the structure becomes possible. And, in the end, the analytical models have to be validated with tests. The loop is closed.