Metropolregion Hamburg

Hamburg is expanding its international competence in aeronautics research

10.11.2017Companies and Organisations

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is opening two institutes at the ZAL.

Two institutes by the German Aerospace Center DLR are being established in Hamburg, highlighting the Hanseatic city's national and international claim to excellence in the area of aeronautics research. The new research institutes at the Center of Applied Aeronautical Research ZAL in Finkenwerder were launched in the presence of numerous guests of honour, including Hamburg's First Mayor Olaf Scholz. The Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics is going to focus in particular on digital development of future types of aircraft as well as on transferring innovative production processes ("digital aircraft"). The Institute of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul is going to concentrate on research regarding aircraft operation, specialising in the development of new maintenance and data processing methods ("digital twin"). Planning provides for the two institutes to have 80 staff members each at the ZAL. The Federal State of Hamburg is going to become an official base of the DLR as a result.  Hamburg's Aeronautical Research Center with 600 work places, which is among the most advanced in the world and was opened only two years ago, is now fully let. More than 40,000 highly qualified staff members in more than 300 companies and institutions make Hamburg the third biggest civil aviation hub worldwide. The aeronautical industry is among the region's most important economic factors. Hamburg's decisive advantage is the fact that know-how of global acclaim is pooled in the area, regarding all stages of an aircraft's life cycle - from pre-development through to recycling.

Hamburg's First Mayor Olaf Scholz says: "We are pleased that the DLR decided to establish a branch in Hamburg. The close cooperation of science and the business world is going to give rise to innovations that will be trend-setting for the entire industry. The ZAL is a place of innovative ideas that result in new products for the aviation industry."

"We are delighted that we are now represented in Hamburg, one of the biggest hubs of civil aviation world-wide, with two newly established DLR institutes and to closely cooperate in the ZAL with our industry partners, in the field of application-oriented research," says Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund on the occasion of the opening ceremony.

In the years ahead, the new institutes are going to receive an annual ten million euros of joint funding from the German federal and state governments. As the institutes' home state, Hamburg is going to contribute around 1.6 million euros per year. Furthermore, the City of Hamburg is going to provide another two million euros for investments during the set-up phase until the end of 2018.

Industry-oriented research requires very close cooperation with the relevant industrial and medium-sized companies. This is why the institute is based in the ZAL, where the DLR has the opportunity to perform research in the same building and using shared large-scale testing facilities, with a large number of industrial partners from the aviation industry, including Airbus and Lufthansa Technik as well as suppliers and start-up companies.


Digital design and digital twinning

The main research focus at the Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics is the area of digital design and how it connects with digital production, in order to be able to perfect the design and manufacturing of aircraft with the help of digitalised processes (digital aircraft). Researchers are also looking into the interplay between different system levels, since the complex aviation system is made up of many different areas that must be perfectly aligned with one another – from the air transport system as a whole down to the individual aircraft and the manufacturing of all its separate components.

The Institute of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul deals with aircraft operation, notably the further development of maintenance processes and technologies, and lifecycle management (digital twinning). This will initially cover the entire maintenance process, from inspection and monitoring of a structure through to determining what measures to take and, finally, the implementation of those measures. The focus will be on innovative technologies such as augmented reality and 3D printing.

The work of both Hamburg institutes will be complemented with ideas and developments in the areas of high-performance computing, simulation environments and software methods developed by the Institute of Software Methods for Product Virtualization in Dresden. The Institute of Test and Simulation for Gas Turbines, recently established in Augsburg, completes the portfolio with the ‘virtual engine’ – the most complex component of an aircraft – which in turn relies on software methods from Dresden, and will be integrated into the work of the Institutes of System Architectures in Aeronautics and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul.

"By supporting research institutions such as the DLR institutes of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul and of System Architectures in Aeronautics, we are providing our economy with an efficient research infrastructure," says Dirk Wiese, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. "In this way, we want to create a high-tech focus for digitalisation here in Hamburg – a topic that is increasingly penetrating all sectors of the economy. Not only do we not want to be left behind, but we want Germany to play a leading role in digitalisation. I am sure that the two DLR institutes will make a major contribution to this."


Activities of the new institutes

The Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics will initially have three departments, which is intended to be staffed by approximately 80 employees in the coming years. The Aircraft Design and System Integration Department will be studying development processes for virtual products in the overall aviation system. Good opportunities for innovative and potentially revolutionary solutions are offered by digital consistency, and the consequent potential for dissolving the boundaries between individual systems. The Automation, Energy and Safety Department builds on this work, studying the integration of new technologies which promise significant improvements. A common factor in these technologies is that they require extensive changes in the way that the individual systems in aviation, the so-called system architecture, will interact. The Cabin and Payload Systems Department will focus on systemic issues relating to the fuselage – a key industrial area in Germany, and Hamburg in particular. The synergy between these three departments will lead to research into aircraft incorporating intelligent technologies, driven by the demands of future passengers, that can be manufactured efficiently in the factories of the future, while at the same time achieving both maximum ecological compatibility and maximum safety in future operation.

The Institute of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul is also intended to have three departments employing around 80 staff members. The Process Optimisation and Digitalisation Department will study how the condition of an aircraft can be continuously and comprehensively represented, tracked and predicted in a digital twin. In addition, maintenance processes will be optimised so that they can interact effectively with this digital twin. The Maintenance and Repair Technologies Department will primarily study how these optimised processes can be smoothly incorporated into a modular process chain with information-sharing, and how a digital twin can be configured as a process interface. It will also study how additive manufacturing methods for repair and retrofitting can in the future be integrated into aircraft maintenance. The research work of the Product Lifecycle Management Department will focus on consistency in the approach to aircraft lifecycle management. In particular, the long-term economic and ecological consequences of new maintenance concepts, measures and technologies, and of product modifications and retrofits, are to be monitored and predicted by means of digital twinning.                                       

Close coordination of the required research competence that needs to be established to allow for research results to be used by the industrial partners as effectively as possible, has already begun. In addition to the regional network, the institutes are planning to form research partnerships with various German and international companies.

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