Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

'Plastic wings' lighten the load

An innovative truck body system called Wingliner, which is manufactured from an advanced plastic composite, will make trucks lighter and more economical, and loading operations easier and faster.

Background

The Austrian Innovation Relay Centre (IRC) SalzburgAgentur had bee...
An innovative truck body system called Wingliner, which is manufactured from an advanced plastic composite, will make trucks lighter and more economical, and loading operations easier and faster.

Background

The Austrian Innovation Relay Centre (IRC) SalzburgAgentur had been approached by two local SMEs looking for help and guidance in the transport and engineering sectors. The first was a small family-owned engineering company, Karosseriebau Johann Strasser, which had had the bright idea of inventing an innovative `wide-door' system for trucks, known as Wingliner, to make the loading and unloading of goods easier and faster.

The other firm was Hightech Produktions GmbH, a ski equipment manufacturer which was losing market-share and its technology-base to competitors as a result of the downturn in the Asian economy and the knock-on effect of that on the travel and leisure industries.

Description, impact and results

Following advice from the Austrian IRC to gain knowledge of state-of-the-art material composites to get ahead of their competitors, Hightech investigated a new material technology which had been invented in the US - expanding and shaping thermoplastic polymers, such as polypropylene and polystyrene, to form a rigid foam-like material. This `honeycomb' material acted as a core and was sandwiched between two sheets of polypropylene to form a strong but lightweight rigid panel composite.

The IRC then helped to draw up the business plan, find the necessary funding, and negotiate the signing of two joint venture agreements: `PepCore' will manufacture the core material in Europe under licence, while the other joint venture will make and market the composite products in the form of panels. Their main application will be in trucks where the plastic composite can replace metal panels in the bodywork - the new panels maintain the physical properties required for such applications but at a reduced weight and cost. An average-size truck made with the new composite will be around 300kg lighter than one made with aluminium panels, and will have lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

In the Wingliner system, both sides of the truck become folding doors that open horizontally. Pneumatic rams, cleverly concealed in the truck body superstructure, operate external arms that lift the doors like a bird opening and closing its wings. These `wing' doors open completely in just ten seconds and fold neatly away on the hard top of the truck. SalzburgAgentur assisted Strasser in the signing of an exclusive licensing deal for Europe with a subsidiary of Germany's Krupp Hoesch International Group. Now licensing deals world-wide are opening up the global market for the Wingliner system, while maintaining the company's influence in its continued development.

Through technology transfer, facilitated by the IRC network, the SMEs have been able to capitalise on the advantages of both the material and its application. By replacing the aluminium panels normally used to make the Wingliner system with the new plastic composite, lighter and cheaper trucks can be produced and loading operations made easier and faster.

A new company, Wingliner Produktions und Vertriebs GmbH has now been set up in Mittersill, Austria to manufacture the Wingliner system using this new material. Other outlets for the advanced composite currently include construction panels for walls in the house building industry, and in the manufacture of ski and other sports and leisure equipment.


Source: European Commission, DG XIII/D.4 - Information and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge
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