How ARTS supports Airbus at the Centre of Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL)

Hamburg’s answer to Silicon Valley for the aeronautical sector – ZAL – and Airbus Operations don’t just work together on projects financed by the aerospace industry, but also on some publicly-financed projects. ARTS expert, Gunnar Zawistowski, is supporting Airbus in those projects with his expertise in controlling, reporting, and securing research funding.

copyright ZAL

The ZAL Centre of Applied Aeronautical Research in Hamburg

The technical network for the aeronautical sector, ZAL (German: Zentrum für Angewandte Luftfahrtforschung), is located directly opposite the ARTS’ Hamburg office and brings together the region’s research and development activities for the sector under one roof. The ZAL Centre has grown significantly since it first opened in January 2016, with countless researchers from a variety of different businesses and institutes working together with the aim of strengthening the aeronautical sector with innovative ideas and, above all, to carve out a role for Hamburg as a driving force for the future. The ZAL Centre is what is known as a Public Private Partnership, combining expertise from industry, business, and scientific fields. Twenty-five partners work in an area of 26,000 square metres, including the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Airbus Operations GmbH, Lufthansa Technik AG, DLR (the German Space Agency, the Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V), the Hamburg-Harburg Technical University, the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Helmut Schmidt Military University, and the University of Hamburg.

Rear View of the ZAL TechCeter

Rear View of the ZAL TechCeter - copyright ZAL

For six core research and development themes:

  • Fuel Cell Lab,

  • Cabin Innovation & Technology,

  • Air & Power Systems,

  • Aerospace Production & Fuselage Engineering,

  • Acoustics & Vibration and

  • General Processes & Support Topics,

the ZAL Centre provides the research platform, cutting-edge infrastructure, networking opportunities, advice on research funding and patents, and access to the Hamburg aviation cluster.

Airbus and its multi-faceted R&D projects at the ZAL Centre

Three hundred experts work at the Airbus Research and Development Department in the ZAL Centre, working jointly on developing innovative methodologies and technologies for the aviation sector, with the aim of introducing them into Airbus’s production facilities in the near future. The ZAL Centre offers the benefit of working and engaging in direct dialogue with first-tier suppliers, startups, and scientific institutions while working together to research a common goal, and roadmaps for the ZAL Centre’s core research topics are constantly reviewed and defined with Airbus, Lufthansa Technik, and the other partners.

Airbus is involved in the most diverse range of projects at the ZAL Centre. For example, the consortium carries out research at its acoustic laboratory (which is unique anywhere in the world) with a view to minimising cabin noise during flight. By using 128 controllable speakers, it’s possible to replicate engine noise during flight exactly, with structural modifications being undertaken and new materials such as vibration insulation being tested in the laboratory. The size of the laboratory makes it possible to test fuselages from short, medium or long-range aircraft, and it currently hosts an 8.5m segment of fuselage from an A320. The ZAL Centre’s acoustic laboratory enables Airbus to minimise costly in-flight testing and reduce the development time required by new products.

ZAL Acoustics Lab with a fuselage in it

Acoustics Lab with a fuselage - copyright Lindnerfotografie


Airbus is not just active in testing noise levels at the ZAL Centre: they are also researching a new kind of “printing” process. Taking its inspiration from bus and truck painting in Japan, Europe’s largest aircraft manufacturer is now exploring the direct printing process, with a giant inkjet printer covering an area of 7m × 7m. Unlike established wrapping, airbrush and stencil printing processes, direct printing saves both time and resources, including a weight saving of up to five kilos. Inkjet printing was used for the first time on a Thomas Cook aircraft with the side panel being taking fifteen hours to print. Aviation experts at the ZAL Centre are now researching process optimisations to deploy the technology more efficiently in mass production.

The FAMOS Project, a joint undertaking between Lufthansa Technik and Airbus, is concerned with the surface structure of wings, taking its inspiration from nature in the form of shark scales. The ‘riblet’ structure is used to reduce air resistance, thereby reducing fuel consumption by approximately one per cent. If this were applied to the annual jet fuel consumption of the entire Lufthansa fleet, the savings would amount to approximately 55 million euro. At the ZAL centre, a robotic system is coating wings with the shark skin structure. The German government also supports climate-friendly projects such as this: in this case, the German Federal Ministry of the Economy and Industry (BMWi).

ARTS supports Airbus at the ZAL Centre

The above is just a small selection of the many research activities that Airbus is undertaking with its other partners at the ZAL centre. The ZAL centre is also highly committed to domestic and European research into aeronautics-specific research activities, both in theory and in practice. The main sources of support and funding are the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Industry and the European Commission, with German federal authorities providing around €152 million of funding for 2017. The aviation and space sectors invest twice as much in research and development as other industries, with 11% of the sectors’ revenues being reinvested in research, giving a total of €4 billion in 2016.

In addition to its engineering teams, Airbus also has a six-member finance team on site at the ZAL Centre, which is responsible for national and EU research projects for Airbus Deutschland. The topics that they cover include:

  • Financing aircraft programmes;

  • Contract negotiations and contract management for all research projects;

  • Financial control of projects;

  • Securing research funding; and

  • Provision of reporting to internal and external stakeholders.

Since 2016, the finance team is also being supported by ARTS engineer Gunnar Zawistowski who is a trained construction and industrial engineer and who is jointly responsible for European research projects.

ARTS Expert Gunnar Zawistowski in front of the ZAL TechCenterGunnar in front of the ZAL TEchCenter 

Gunnar is currently looking after eight projects at the ZAL Centre with varying durations. “On average,” Gunnar explains, “European-funded projects run for between four and eight years.” Airbus’s aim with his project team is primarily to ensure that there is sufficient transparency, both within the project and across multiple projects. For this reason, Gunnar was also responsible for developing and implementing a project-based EU reporting system and a reporting dashboard. The system not only shows a consolidated display that includes KPIs (key performance indicators) for all of Airbus Deutschland’s EU-funded projects but also displays the available project funding alongside current cost and budget progressions. Naturally, Gunnar also supports the new evaluation system in his day-to-day work, from generating reports for the EU Commission to preparing internal quarterly management reports. In addition, the reporting system helps to assess relevant data for EU-funded projects during external audits.

Gunnar joined ARTS back in 2012 and, before being deployed at the ZAL Centre, he was controller at the Airbus Long Range Fuselage Specific Design department. “ARTS gave me the chance to get my foot in the door in the aerospace and aviation industry, and I am grateful for the experience that I have gained with ARTS and Airbus so far.” Experts like Gunnar Zawistowski are what makes ARTS’ success possible, and we are grateful in turn for his years of service and always look forward to new project stories from the ZAL Centre!

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