Groz-Beckert KG

Newsletter 4 | 2013

One innovator meets another –
successful joint venture develops lightweight elements with soundproofing

"Shaping the textile future together" – that's the slogan of the Groz-Beckert Technology and Development Center (TEZ). Among its partners are institutes and universities. Now, the experts from the TEZ are cooperating with the "Institute of Lightweight Design and Construction" (or the ILEK for short) in Stuttgart to develop lightweight elements which, thanks to textile insulation, also master something that until now posed a tricky challenge: using an external envelope on a building to protect its interior from environmental noise.

The ILEK – A long tradition of research

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The ILEK Institute building: this lightweight structure was originally erected as a prototype for the German pavilion at EXPO 1967 in Montreal. Source: ILEK, photo: G. Metzger

Lightweight construction is a form of architecture that enables entirely new building techniques and constructions thanks to highly diverse materials. The topic has been a subject of research since the beginning of the 20th century. The "Institute of Lightweight Design and Construction" (ILEK) at Stuttgart University also sees itself as a part of this tradition. Alongside teaching it also has numerous research projects, some of them public-funded. The Institute focuses primarily on concept-based and cross-material development for all kinds of architectures and weight-bearing structures.

Research activities at the Institute cover a broad range of sectors, from modern construction with textiles and glass to the new potential provided by classic steel-reinforced concrete. One major focus at the ILEK is the development of innovative lightweight materials for the building sector. This includes the development of especially sophisticated design solutions for the building construction sector. As in many other research sectors, there is a powerful focus on joint ventures together with industry and users. The "ARAKO" project is one such example – the acronym stands for "Adaptive room acoustics and acoustic conditioning in construction" – and one of the project partners here was the TEZ.

ARAKO – Soundproofing for lightweight building envelopes

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The Technology and Development Center (TEZ).

The aim of the interdisciplinary, state-funded project involving architecture, acoustics and textile technology was the development of an acoustically effective textile module for use as a building envelope. One of the core properties of this module was to be a sound insulation effect – because however modern and formally diverse the solutions provided by lightweight design can be, their environmental noise insulation potential is generally far lower than with conventional materials.

It was clear that the textile components should consist of several textile layers, in order to achieve the desired acoustic properties. Once the parameters were settled on, the team of specialists from the TEZ set to work. The fact that the TEZ combines expertise in textile surface creation, surface joining and textile construction under one roof made it the perfect partner for this project.

Diverse challenges – and the TEZ as an ideal partner

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Stadiums with sound-insulating external envelopes are one of the many potential applications of the ARAKO modules.
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For buildings that are sound-intensive, such as railway stations (e.g. the central railway station in Liège, Belgium, pictured here), lightweight soundproofing modules would be ideal.

The following tasks had to be solved:

  • Development of the acoustically effective, multi-layered textile surface for the lightweight module, for use in a new adaptive building envelope
  • Definition and testing of an automated surface joining technology for creating the acoustically effective layer
  • Manufacture of prototypes for testing at the ILEK

The challenge here was to develop the required textile surface with the relevant acoustic properties, and then connect sections of it together permanently for the building envelope application.

And it was here that the Technology and Development Center turned out to be the ideal development environment: Manufacture of the individual textile layers (fabric and nonwovens) as well as stable connection of the layers both took place at the TEZ. Textile-physical characterization was also carried out on-site.

A successful combination – impressive prototypes

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Textile module: Nonwoven composite, sectional view.
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Textile module: Nonwoven composite, side-view.
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Textile module: Nonwoven composite with filled fabric, sectional view.
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Textile module: Nonwoven composite with filled fabric, side view.

The result was a textile system consisting of polyester fabrics and acoustically effective nonwovens. In order to assess its suitability for use in the construction sector, various physical tests were needed. The required textile-physical properties were successfully tested directly in the TEZ, and delivered the desired values.

The acoustic properties of the textiles in the module, too, had to be tested under real-life conditions. The analyses that were necessary here were carried out by the ILEK in an external laboratory. These parameters also look highly promising.

If the system can be successfully transferred to industrial-scale use, textile building envelopes may represent a highly promising product for the construction sector in the future. The potential applications would be highly diverse: Sound-intensive public buildings such as rail stations or sports stadiums, for instance, could be erected or converted more rapidly and at lower cost. Other structures too, such as schools or office buildings, would also profit from building envelopes like these. The result of this cooperation project can be inspected in the form of completed demonstration models at the ILEK in Stuttgart.

All are delighted with the project

This partnership between the ILEK and the TEZ has met with a highly positive response from both sides: "The TEZ is an inspiring place and offers all kinds of opportunities to successfully implement shared, interdisciplinary project development", says Fabian Schmid, responsible project manager at the ILEK. "With the TEZ, Groz-Beckert was a first-class and expert cooperation partner," says Dr.-Ing. Walter Haase, head of research at the ILEK.

For the textile and process experts at the TEZ, too, cooperation projects like these are always a welcome challenge. Whether it's know-how transfer, training, services, experiments, co-development and co-innovation, the TEZ has a lot to offer! If you feel like shaping the future of textiles together with Groz-Beckert at the Technology and Development Center as well, just contact the TEZ experts – they look forward to hearing from you!