For more than 15 years now, Henkel has been putting adhesive bonds to the test at the Global Engineering Center in Garching near Munich. Customers from all branches of industry benefit enormously from the know-how of the adhesive experts there.
The Global Engineering Center in Garching is the heart of Henkel’s development of innovative adhesives solutions for industrial applications. Dr. Wolfgang Fleischmann and his team simulate states of emergency on a daily basis. They carry out engineering measurements on bonded components under real loading conditions, enabling them to obtain valuable data material for the industrial customers of Henkel. “This information enables us to offer our customers solutions to structural issues involving bonded components right at the pre-production design process,” Fleischmann explains. “The problem is that many customers are not familiar with the finer details of adhesive chemistry. Our task is to build a bridge between user and chemical science. This often leads us into genuine pioneering work.”
Automobile constructors, for example, are still nowhere near to fully utilizing the potential that adhesives technology affords. While welding has been the subject of decades of testing and can be regarded as a highly developed engineering discipline, the proponents of adhesives technology still have plenty to do in order to convince designers of the virtues of their science. Yet bonding is able to offer one enormous advantage over spot welding: bonded joints are more durable and therefore are able to withstand every-day load stresses for longer. Bonded seams could almost completely replace classic spot-welded joints – perhaps with just a few welded spots to fix the connected metal sheets of the bodyshell until the adhesive has cured. Fleischmann again: “There is still some genuine innovation potential waiting to be uncovered in this field.”
Felix Kleiner, responsible in Garching for the technology platform simulation and modeling processes, explains why: “Nowadays it’s standard practice for automotive engineers to develop new autobodies at the computer, with the mechanical properties of their designs being simulated using computer-aided models. This gives rise to a specific problem in that there is a lack of cogent material data enabling the behavior of bonded joints to be accurately predicted. This is where we come in.” In Garching, adhesive-bonded components are examined under practical, service-similar conditions in a variety of complex test programs. The measurement data thus obtained can then be utilized in order to precisely calculate component durability.
The test equipment is both extensive and sophisticated: there are conditioning chambers for examining resistance to temperature, moisture and humidity; also part of the repertoire are complex material tests – e.g. multi-axial loading tests – as are application simulations and so-called stress field analyses. Here, it is possible to simulate not only the vibration of an engine, but also almost every load situation to which a component might be exposed under operating conditions. Kleiner again: “We are generalists in adhesive engineering, but are able to adapt our know-how to the specific requirements of different markets as and when the need arises.” And this flexibility is invaluable when it comes to translating complex customer demands into practical solutions.