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City of Hamburg Invests in the Future of Aerospace with State of the Art Research Centre

The Hanseatic city of Hamburg has invested in the future of aviation by opening a state of the art aeronautical research centre which will foster new technologies to improve the aerospace industry.

The new 26,000 square metre ZAL TechCenter of Applied Aeronautical Research will house up to 600 specialising in fields of research such as fuel cells, aircraft cabin technology, 3D printing, Industry 4.0/Internet of Things (IoT), acoustics, and virtual reality.

“What makes the ZAL TechCenter so special is the fact that the partners are all equal and work together without hierarchical issues—universities, research institutions, and SMEs along with suppliers and major industrial players. Creative potential has free rein here.”–Dr. Johannes Bussmann, Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Technik AG.

The research centre represents a total investment of nearly 100 million euros and was a joint project by the City of Hamburg, Airbus, Lufthansa Technik, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), four universities, and twelve other partners, all committed to keeping Hamburg at the cutting-edge of tomorrow’s aerospace technologies.

“The ZAL TechCenter is a boost to Hamburg’s international research and development profile, well beyond the boundaries of the aviation industry. ZAL is more than an aeronautical research centre. It is a pioneering example of a sustainable and successful concept for cooperation between the commercial and academic sectors,” says Olaf Scholz, Hamburg’s Governing Mayor.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus, suppliers, universities and private institutions will come together in one site for the first time, facilitating the exchange of expertise and creative collaboration.

“Research and development are optimally tuned to one another, so that innovations can reach the market more quickly.”– Dr. Klaus Richter, Chief Procurement Officer for the Airbus Group and Chairman of the Executive Board of Airbus in Germany.

Research at ZAL concentrates on six focal points or “Technical Domains” (TD), matching the core competencies of Hamburg’s aviation sector.

TD1, the Fuel Cell Lab, focuses on secure civilian applications for hydrogen, both in aviation and in other transport segments such as local public transport and the automotive industry.

TD2, Cabin Innovation & Technology, looks at research related to aircraft cabins improvements. At its core is a 20-meter wide, 11-meter high ZAL Cabin & Cargo Test Rig, in which fuselage cross sections common aircraft models can be installed to test new cabin configurations.

TD3, Air & Power Systems, looks into improving electricity supply and air conditioning systems in the aircraft cabin.

TD4, Aerospace Production & Fuselage Engineering, has a production focus. It will serve research programs into future manufacturing methods, for example ALM (Additive Layer Manufacturing) process, commonly known as “3D printing”. TD4 will also look into process automation through technology: IoT and Industry 4.0.

TD5, Testing & Safety, includes the ZAL Acoustics Lab. It can fit a complete fuselage section from an Airbus A320 in the acoustic test chamber—one of the largest in Europe—to research noise and vibration on the ground, as an alternative to today’s airborne testing.

TD6, General Processes & Support Topics, will focus applications of virtual reality. It will house a 6 x 3.5 meters screen in a dedicated room with capacity for approximately 30 people.

“The ZAL TechCenter provides the umbrella, under which the commercial and academic sectors will work together on the future of aviation. Our modern research and test infrastructure provides the ideal environment, and the first application-oriented products will be entering into service in just a few years,” Roland Gerhards, CEO of the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research explains.

ZAL will also serve as an event location. In addition to a 200-seat auditorium, there are 12 conference rooms, an open innovation marketplace, and a large in-house restaurant.


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