Application Center for Wood Fiber Research HOFZET®

Research project

Development of a future-oriented small load carrier (SLC)

In our project, we are developing a new generation of small load carriers (SLC) by order of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). We are thereby focusing on the application of renewable raw materials in order to expand the field of lightweight construction within the transportation sector of automotive suppliers. Through the improvement of the material properties and adaptation of the design, we want to obtain a greater internal volume whilst retaining the outer dimensions, as well as achieving a reduction of the tare weight. 

© Fraunhofer WKI | Carsten Aßhoff
Individual project stages in the development of a new SLC generation
© Fraunhofer WKI | Hasan Mezdegi
SLC and vegetable containers from polypropylene and wood fibres

In order to optimize the logistics chain between automotive manufacturers, suppliers and service providers, a small load carrier-system (SLC system, German: KLT) is utilized in industry. The small load carrier represents a uniform, poolable, cross-manufacturer system which can be handled both mechanically and manually and which is suitable for the automatic filling, emptying and transportation of goods. In conformity with the content of the VDA recommendations 4500, we are working on a sustainable development of the SLC system. One aspect which requires attention and innovation is the production of a new generation of SLC in which all VDA small load carriers are furnished with Auto-ID technology (RFID tags) for process optimization.

The current SLC generation is produced from polypropylene (PP). We have continued its use as a base polymer in our project. However, we replace a large proportion of the polypropylene with wood fibers or cellulose fibers. In addition to economic and ecological advantages, such as the lower price and the utilization of renewable raw materials, these fibers also have a significant strengthening and stiffening effect. This consequently improves the material properties of the small load carrier. Amongst other things, the wall thicknesses of the SLC can be reduced, thereby creating savings in weight. In order to achieve optimal material performance, requirement-specific additives are introduced during the material manufacturing process.

In addition to the material development, we are also optimizing the design of the SLC using the latest simulation tools. The simulation of injection molding and stability is thereby an important companion tool in the redesigning of the SLC.

Following the constructive and simulative design, we build a variable SLC experimental tool which unites established technologies, such as foams or 2-components, and new research approaches, for example organic sheet lining.

The SLC are subsequently produced using the in-house SLC experimental tool and the 2C injection molding machine on the premises of the Application Center for Wood Fiber Research HOFZET®, after which they are subjected to the container tests stipulated in accordance with the VDA directives.

Client: German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA)

Duration: 1.7.2017 to 1.7.2019