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International MERGE Technologies Conference

3rd IMTC 2017

When Saxony’s most international university invites the experts of lightweight engineering, the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE has a chance to show off its enormous range. More than 200 leading scientists as well as representatives of companies and politics attended the 3rd International Merge Technologies Conference (IMTC) at Chemnitz University of Technology from 21 to 22 September 2017. The professional exchange within the sessions on interdisciplinary research issues from lightweight design via nano technology, chemistry and mathematical modelling has proven to be scientifically advanced. At the same time, the Federal Cluster‘s Scientific Advisory Board assembled for a meeting. Its members assessed the conference and the performance of the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE favourably. “Chemnitz is not only the lightweight centre of Germany but also of Europe and beyond”, said Prof. Antonio Lanzotti, Head of the Mechanical Engineering Committee at University of Naples Federico II in Italy.

The Special Session on “Internationalisation” has been an ample forum for discussions of the research community in Saxony and Chemnitz as well as of MERGE as a global networker. But these topics arose all over the conference. “The competence in lightweight engineering that the Cluster of Excellence MERGE shows is of immense importance for research and development worldwide. MERGE is a role model for us and its international work has influence all over the world. Climate protection, saving of resources and sustainability are a global challenge, especially for future generations, and we will gladly face them along with our partners in Chemnitz”, explained Prof. Suchart Siengchin, President of King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok (KMUTNB), Thailand.

Representatives from the KMUTNB in Bangkok, where MERGE has recently helped found the “Lightweight Structure Technologies Collaborative Centre” (LiST), intensified their personal contacts in Germany during the conference and discussed the next collaborative steps. First results of the ongoing research were presented by Prof. Arisara Chaikittiratana from KMUTNB, who is also a member of the MERGE Scientific Advisory Board.

Conference programme

Opening: Praise and Support for MERGE

All attendants of the conference were welcomed by Prof. Lothar Kroll, the coordinator of MERGE, and University President Prof. Gerd Strohmeier. He stated: “MERGE is a lighthouse project of Chemnitz University and the IMTC is a very important part of it.” The University’s President emphasised MERGE’s success in the “Internationalisation of Leading-Edge Clusters” programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research: “MERGE is the only Federal Cluster of Excellence which successfully applied for this programme and receives funding from it”, said the President. The internationalisation concept MERGEurope unites over 400 partners in science and industry from Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Strohmeier added: “I am convinced that MERGE is not only an outstanding flagship for Chemnitz University of Technology but also for the Free State of Saxony and the Federal Republic of Germany.“

Uwe Gaul, State Secretary of the Saxon State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts, emphasised the outstanding importance of the Chemnitz Federal Cluster: “MERGE as a Federal Cluster of Excellence provides an important contribution for fundamental research in the field of lightweight engineering and the development of novel technologies for lightweight structures on a large scale. Saxony’s and Chemnitz’ locational advantage arises from the ideal merging and mutual support of competences in mechanical engineering, production engineering, textile and plastics engineering.” Gaul added: “With regard to this progress and these innovations it is very important to me to reiterate, that the State government will continue to invest in the future of the research location Chemnitz - on a high level and reliably as always.”

Sören Uhle, representing the Economic Development Corporation (CWE) and the City of Chemnitz, gave an equally positive assessment: “The most important competitive factors of Chemnitz are strengthened by MERGE. We are looking forward to accompanying MERGE and the IMTC as your strategic partner.” All speakers also optimistically referred to the second project phase of the Federal Cluster of Excellence, MERGE II, and their wish that it be granted.

Voices from the Conference: MERGE Topics in Industry and Research

Olaf Täger represented Volkswagen and spoke about automotive engineering building an arc from the ecological framework over economic challenges towards required research of fibre-reinforced plastics in lightweight engineering, which is exactly the field of research in MERGE and the focal point of the IMTC. Keynote Speaker Uwe Scharf from Rittal took the economic point of view and advised the mostly scientific audience: “It’s the only way to stay competitive: bring your research to the market and make it happen.”

Jason Fernandes, who is a globally active consultant for Toyota Motor Europe, is always trying to find novel research approaches and technologies. During the conference, he said: “We look to the market, but first of all to universities and research institutes in order to find solutions for our problems. Of course we know MERGE, Chemnitz University and the Fraunhofer Institutes - and we are in close contact with each other.” Carlo Rüger from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology praised the manifold opportunities for scientific and personal exchange at the conference. Dr. Elaine Matsubara from the University of Sao Paulo was especially looking for new contacts with industry representatives: “In Brazil we don’t have so close relations between science and industry as you do here. Actually creating commercial products happens too rarely.”

Awards at the Conference Dinner

At the IMTC conference dinner, the Saxon State Minister for Environment and Agriculture, Thomas Schmidt, used his speech to emphasise the competences for the future and innovative strength of the Cluster of Excellence: “Lightweight engineering is the science of the future with the technology of the future. Here in Chemnitz common conversations between people lead to great ideas. An age of opportunities is beginning and Chemnitz can play an integral part in it.” Frank Heinrich, Member of the German Bundestag, voiced the same aspect in his dinner speech: “The technology of the future and the future of technology are both developed here in Chemnitz.”

The presented scientific papers and posters had been reviewed by the attending specialists and during the festive conference dinner the “Best Paper Award” and the “Best Poster Award” were presented. Carola Mende and her co-authors from Chemnitz University were awarded 1st place for their poster on adhesion promoting agents based on twin polymers developing especially good bonding during injection moulding of metal-plastic composites. The Best Paper was written by Michael Holzinger from the BMW Group and investigated a “New additive manufacturing technology for fibre-reinforced plastics in skeleton structure.”

Strengthening International Networks, supporting regional SMEs

Along with the “StrategyWorkshop: Industry of the FUTURE” initiated by the State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport, Prof. Lothar Kroll’s team organised the very first MERGE Entrepreneur Forum with a World Café as a part of the cluster’s internationalisation strategy, called “MERGEurope”. Participants from regional SMEs and associations took this opportunity to discuss means and strategies for internationalisation and networking in their fields. A special focus lay on the cooperation with Eastern European partners. “Mutual trust and personal contacts between the partners are the foundation for successful cooperation. Active cooperation is not only exchange of knowledge, but also the striving for a common goal. That has been our motto for a successful collaboration with many partners in MERGEurope for years now,” summarised Anja Bochmann, project coordinator of MERGEurope.

“Work on the Future”

For a practical view of the daily research at Chemnitz University the attendants had the chance to take a guided tour of the MERGE Technology Centre - as did a small group of guests from across the Atlantic. Prof. Lothar Kroll guided the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development of Chemnitz’ twin city Akron/Ohio, Samuel DeShazior, the Representative of the City Partnership between Chemnitz and Akron, Stephen J. Kidder, Chemnitz University’s Chancellor Eberhard Alles and Timothy Eydelnant, the new Consul General of the US based in Leipzig. “This connection between Akron and Chemnitz has existed since 2010”, explained Stephen Kidder. “Right from the beginning Chemnitz University - and later MERGE as well - and Fraunhofer have cooperated closely with each other and the industry. Now would be a great moment to bring new momentum to our endeavours.” Samuel DeShazior had praise for the IMTC, which he had been attending since its inception. “Akron is the birth place of the polymer industry in the US. There we have a kind of intellectual gymnasium, a place for proof of concept for new ideas. MERGE works the same way. We have many interesting interfaces for our scientific communities and will solidify our commitment to work together.” Timothy Eydelnant, Consul General from the USA, was also thrilled by the research performance: The work conducted here is amazing and work on the future, in the best possible sense.” Just as many of the other attendants of the IMTC he promised: “I can assure you, I’ll be coming back.”