As industries move toward electrification and hybridization, leading metal powder manufacturer and AM service provider GKN is partnering with organizations such as Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) to keep a progressive edge on the future market. GKN Sinter Metal Lightweight Technology recently attended LIFT’s annual member meeting, where companies with a focus on lightweight metals develop future technology roadmaps and proposals for market-leading projects.
As reported on the company’s official blog, Alan Taylor, GKN Sinter Metals Lightweight Technology spoke with GKN’s Kayla Varicalli on the partnership with LIFT and the future of lightweight technology in an evolving market.
First, can you provide some background on LIFT and GKN’s role with the organization?
LIFT is a US public-private organization with the goal to develop advanced lightweight materials and apply training programs to prepare the incoming workforce. Members range from aerospace and automotive supply companies to government-run agencies and universities.
As a member, GKN utilizes LIFT as a hub to partner with those members. We have been a voting member of LIFT with GKN Aerospace since February 2016.
How does LIFT’s proposal process work? Does GKN have any proposals in progress?
Each year, LIFT reviews a new round of project proposals from their partners and works with government agencies to match projects and obtain grants for cost-sharing. The organization works as a facilitator for companies like us – LIFT is a coordinator team for member’s projects by allocating workloads and managing program operations.
Since joining, we have a number of projects running, partnered with various companies. Both GKN Powder Metallurgy and Aerospace are working on new potential projects and seeing the opportunity for strong partnerships with other organizations and universities to push lightweight technology forward.
What excites you about GKN partnering with a company like LIFT?
I’m glad that we are working with academia and businesses that we are not typically associated with. These partnerships bring a diverse set of skills, and you get to see different points of view. Working with universities brings a theoretical point of view, for example, where GKN is usually more of a manufacturing company.
The ability to partner with customers and competition as peer relationships is also an advantage. LIFT targets projects that take technology from laboratory to new production products, which allows us to collaborate with companies that we normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with.
How do organizations like LIFT challenge GKN?
LIFT challenges us to think outside the box: we can look at fundamental materials and develop them as a lighter, higher strength product. We always want to look at these technologies but have finite resources; this allows us to leverage external resources and grants.
What role does lightweight technology play in the future?
In my opinion, lightweight is a market-driver– everything in transportation needs to be lighter to reduce our global CO2 footprint and lightweight reduces energy requirements. It really speaks to our corporate tag line of “Engineering that moves the world,” but more efficiently!
Lightweight is a result of our technology. This is starting to resonate with customers’ advanced engineering teams – lighter technology is now the third aspect of purchase decisions together with functionality and cost.
You have been with GKN for many years – what do you think the company is doing right in terms of creating a sustainable future?
To stay an industry leader, you have break the “we always do it that way” philosophy and you have to be brave. We’re going after new technologies in lightweight and additive manufacturing, and we aren’t solely focused on maintaining the present.
At GKN, we need to continue to ask ourselves “Are we moving fast enough?”