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25 years of IMA Dresden – from particle to complete vehicle, the world is on the test stand

It is said that people can look younger than they actually are. At first glance, the same is true of IMA Dresden. IMA Dresden is now 25 years young. Back then, in May 1993, leading engineers took their future into their own hands and formed IMA Materialforschung und Anwendungstechnik GmbH, IMA Dresden for short, via a management buyout. However, the young IMA can draw on significantly greater life experience than that. The roots of IMA Dresden reach right back to 1955, when aircraft construction began in Dresden. This was in many ways the moment of birth of testing halls, test devices, methods and technical knowledge, everything that has been developed and built up since then – and what is IMA Dresden today.

That’s how IMA Dresden is celebrating its 25th birthday and, at the same time, 56 years of exciting testing tasks in 2018. As Saxony is known for being a region of inventors and, at the same time, the birthplace of IMA Dresden, our calender will accompany you through 2018 with Saxon innovations and our history. Always at the beginning of the month we publish here the respective calendar page.

DecembeR: Colourful variety of IMA Dresden

The motives for inventions are limitless – over 160 years ago in Central Germany, a Lauscha glass blower created the now world famous Christmas bauble. The idea apparently came to him when he didn’t have enough apples and nuts, which were what was used to decorate Christmas trees back then. So, he creates fruits and nuts from colourfully painted glass. Today, the glass tree ornaments are available in all shapes and sizes. And like a properly decorated Christmas tree, the test tasks and industrial projects at IMA Dresden are colourful, varied and numerous. Every industry sector is continuously creating new innovations and is comprehensively supported by the IMA engineers. We have shown you a small part of this with this calendar.

From material testing to major aerospace and vehicle structures in topics such as lightweight construction and electric mobility – IMA Dresden is your reliable partner in Saxony for theoretical and experimental testing, approval and analysis. Be it aerospace, commercial or railway vehicles, construction or medical products, electrical components or software solutions – we accompany every industry sector with the same dedication and passion, as this is our world – the IMA testing world. Whatever you devise in the future – with the expertise and long-standing experience of IMA Dresden, every product development becomes a Festival.

November: Electrical tests – When a spark is created

Northern lights have a fascinating effect. An electric arc, however, is a fascinatingly dangerous matter. It is created in the separating and connecting of two electrically charged contacts. In the case of major currents, such as in a high voltage or transformer station, an unchecked electric arc can cause explosions and fires. In the early days of electricity, the connections of high-voltage Systems were stored in 8-metre tanks, which were filled with 20 tonnes of oil for cooling, insulation and discharging. Sachsenwerk Dresden developed an environmentally friendly flow switch in the 1930s, which discharged the electric arc with just one litre of oil. The oil was sprayed into the electric arc, causing it to cool and, at the same time, be blown out. Even in the low voltage area, circuit breakers are necessary – however, today they are significantly smaller and have other functional principles. The majority of electricity consumers from commercial and private households are connected to the low voltage grid.

The tasks for the development of new switching devices and switching device combinations is constantly rising thanks to Automation and digitisation, as part of Industry 4.0 and the demand for ecological efficiency. The IMA Dresden is there all the way from development to type approval. Short circuit, service life, operating behaviour and surge voltage – with its own transformers, IMA Dresden can properly heat up the switches, fuse units, relays and control cabinets with test currents of up to 25,000 amps and create voltage, if necessary until overloading. In modern, spacious test fields, IMA engineers control the current flow and continuously record data on temperatures and voltages. Highly explosive, but controlled – we create the electric arc in the IMA testing world, so that our customers’ fuses don’t blow.

October: Plastic and composite tests – The cradle of lightweight construction

An old hat learns to fly – our organisation has been dealing with plastics and reinforced plastics, also known as composites, since 1961. The non-metallic materials became important back then and fibre-reinforced plastics were used more and more by engineers. The “IfL” institute for leightweight construction and economic use of materials, the predecessor organisation of the IMA, filled in the gaps in knowledge regarding the young materials, made material data available to the industry and tested the new materials and components. Even back then tests were done on laminating resins, adhesives, fibres as well as inspections on the fatigue strength and dynamic stress as well as weathering.

A much noticed result of this time in the world of sport was the bobsled construction and development for the GDR’s winter sports. Tests were carried out in the wind tunnel that belonged to the company back then. Beneficial material properties, versatile areas of use and flexible dimensions gave the plastic and composite market a renewed boost. Today, it is above all the wind energy, automotive and aerospace industries, along with the rail vehicle industry, continuously advancing innovation with its demands. The IMA Dresden still accompanies its customers from the Basic material, to production technology, to approval of the finished product. The material tests for the dynamic and static tests are made in house with various manufacturing technologies. In the IMA testing world, manufacturing processes and applicationrelated technologies are developed until prototyping and customers are advised on which materials to use.

September: Rail vehicle test – Saxony‘s “Star-light Express“

Tinkering and inventing has a long tradition in Saxony. 170 years ago, a professor from Dresden began the development and construction of a locomotive. The”SAXONIA” was the star amongst the steam engines. It was the first functional, German steam locomotive and its engineer, Johann Andreas Schubert, drove it personally for the opening of the first German inter-city railway route between Leipzig and Dresden on 7 April 1839. Today, IMA Dresden still tinkers, invents and develops together with the manufacturers of railway technology. The engineers in our organisation have been supporting engineers for 57 years in proving the strength of the stars of the rail. Every year, bogies and railcar bodies fill the IMA test halls. They come to Saxony from Europe, America and Asia for experimental tests and approval tests. They are in good company here, with many further rail vehicle components such as axle bearing housings, springs, swing arms, stabilizers, interior components and so on and so forth. The rail vehicles of tomorrow run through many stations at IMA Dresden, alongside the actual test, they also go through the many necessary tests with magnetic powder or ultrasonic technology, for example, which make structural damages visible, as well as the virtual analysis of stressed points and the strength and Service life calculation. And whenever anything is done, it starts again from the beginning – for 170 years in Saxony. There is no final stop for the rail vehicles in the IMA testing world.

August: Information Systems – Complete material knowledge – find, not search

Many inventions and worldwide innovations come from Saxony – the filing clip was developed in 1939 by Carl Kohl from Chemnitz. He registered a “device for lining up collections of sheets with springy central part” as a patent. In the “IfL” institute for lightweight construction and economic use of materials there was a lot to do for the lining clip: vast quantities of material specifications, calculation data, IfL notifications and test reports had to be kept together. As a central point of contact, the IfL provided the entire industry of the state with material information, standards, guidelines and test results from the area of materials, lightweight construction and testing. Where previously all manually recorded data was held together by the filing clip, today there are the information systems of the WIAM® family, developed by the IMA. This database family was designed to manage data, find information and network knowledge. Here, data from various sources is combined so that knowledge can be called up completely and centrally. An important component in the data management solutions is the internal material data pool of IMA Dresden, which comprises more than 6,000 materials, 180,000 modifications and more than four million entries. The WIAM® family also includes the WIAM® fatigue RIFEST calculation programme. This software allows a user-friendly strength calculation as per the recognised FKM guideline and supports the construction process as well as component stress analysis.

JULY: MEDIcal Product Testing – Always a step ahead

For centuries, prostheses replaced above all outer limbs until, 150 years ago, Berlin surgeon Themistocles Glück got the endoprosthetics ball rolling as father of the hip replacement. In 1986, the “IfL” institute for lightweight construction, the predecessor company of the IMA, had the privilege to develop a new testing method and the corresponding test stand for the world’s first artificial spinal disc. The medical innovation was invented by two-time Olympic champion at the 1972 Olympic Games Karin Bütner-Janz, who made history not only as German’s most successful gymnast, but also as a physician. This task was the starting signal for a new line of business: the strength and service life testing of joint endoprostheses. Today, 219,000 Germans alone receive an artificial hip joint and around 149,000 receive a knee implant. Materials and models are comprehensively tested in order to prevent infections due to material abrasion and bone loss in the body.

In the IMA Dresden laboratories the joint implants are moved and stressed under life-like conditions at least 5 million times in the anatomically correct position, simulating the service life of an implant. Alongside knee and hip joint implants, the testing spectrum now covers all joints such as feet, hands, shoulders and osteosynthesis products such as bone screws, plates and skin adhesives. Artificial ageing, particulate measurement, strength calculations and damage analysis enhance the range of services. And just as medical research never stops, IMA Dresden is also always on the move: IMA engineers are currently researching at high pressure new testing methods for ankles, elbows and surgical instruments, so that you can keep pace in future, too.

JUNE: Automotive testing – Tested mobility? Run!!!

What goes dingadingadingadinga? That’s right, the most successful export hit of the GDR, the Trabant. Coveted, famous, mocked. 60 years ago, the first Trabant rolled off the production line in Zwickau, Saxony. There, where once the first German car with a 4-cylinder engine and luxury models such as Horch and Audi left the line, the „Rennpappe (racing cardboard)” of the East was produced. Directly from the production line to our test hall for material testing and operating load simulation. Of course, it was also tested to make sure the “Trabi” would be able to withstand the road conditions of the time with its innovative lightweight construction. Today, Saxony is an international research and development centre for the automotive industry. Embedded in a network of five manufacturers as well as around 780 suppliers to the sector, IMA Dresden supports its engineers, developers and calculators.

At IMA Dresden, hp meets kilonewtons, where engines, bodies, frames, axles and stabilizers are put through their paces. When IMA Dresden accelerates bodies, seats and exhaust systems on the vibration table, then even Formula One race cars are left for dust. Minus temperatures, road salt, pot holes – the road is put in the lab and operating loads are simulated. In explosion-proof laboratories tanks and pipe systems are tested with every real liquid, be it AdBlue, kerosene, coolants or oils. Big fields, big harvesters, big excavators, big forces – no problem for the flexible testing labs and modern measurement and control engineering. Modern materials, alternative drive systems and new vehicle concepts are the Topics of today’s IMA testing world.

May: Technologies of the future – IMA Dresden and it works

Technologies of the future – IMA Dresden and it works (c) Marcel Kläber

The future is full of challenges, and developments are moving forward rapidly. “It is not a question of predicting the future, but of being prepared for it.”

What was once said by the Greek philosopher Pericles is more valid than ever before in our global, highly mechanised world. Even though many products and technologies of the future pass through the testing halls and laboratories of IMA Dresden, we cannot predict the future either.

However, we meet the tasks of our customers every day and the changes of our environment. We do not hold onto what there is and what we have achieved in this. Together with our innovative customers IMA Dresden is in the best company. Across every sector we meet the innovators and trendsetters every day, who are developing the future with creative drive and vision. We look forward to seeing which inventions and innovations by our customers we will accompany with our ideas and methods over the next 25 years. Whatever is invented in the future – with IMA Dresden as a partner it will work!

April: Engineering Services – Measuring the world

Engineering Services – Measuring the world (c) Marcel Kläber

1930: The world looks to the “Großer Hecht” in Dresden. This tram railcar with its many technical innovations revolutionised the entire tram construction and still holds the official speed record for trams to this day: 98 km/h was recorded back then in test runs on the Königsbrücker Landstraße.

Trams have been running on Dresden’s streets for more than 140 years now and data is continuously required for the research and further development of rail vehicles. Together with the Dresden transport companies, TU Dresden, IMA Dresden and further industrial partners, a special project was implemented – the measuring tram. It has been collecting data on Dresden’s rails about the actual structural loads every day since 2009. This long-term Information provides an insight into how railways can become more comfortable and energy efficient, but also how components can be better and more safely designed in future.

Be it in Helsinki, Melbourne or Düsseldorf – IMA engineers also record loads in the real use of measured journeys and long-term measurements outside of Saxony. Based on this data they then create test programmes for virtual simulations or experimental inspections. As early as in the development phase of rail vehicles we support our customers in the dimensioning of components and offer constructors the opportunity to compare various versions. IMA Dresden calculates and assesses the service life in advance as well as the remaining service life of existing vehicle systems.

Over the course of the real vehicle service life IMA Dresden also takes on the monitoring and analysis of the structures with maintenance and testing with non-destructive testing methods. Beginning with the vortex and ultrasonic test to magnetic test to visual inspection and use of picture and video measurement systems. IMA Dresden misses no tear and no irregularity, so that you always get to your destination quickly and safely.

March: Construction products and piping system testing – Giving shape to visions

Construction products and piping system testing – Giving shape to visions (c) Marcel Kläber

Saxony has the reputation of a region of inventors and engineers – and it is therefore no surprise that an innovation was created even in the crossing of the Elbe. In 1893, Dresden received an iron Bridge with a span of 141.50 m without pillars in the river bed, the first of its kind. Due to its unique construction and its blue colour, it is called “Blaues Wunder (Blue Wonder)” and connects Loschwitz with Blasewitz. As there was no reliable calculation process for static behaviour at that time, the endurance test was of great importance. On 11 July 1893 it was time. A lot was thrown at the “Blue Wonder” for the test: three steamrollers, three further horsedrawn road rollers, three tram cars, which were loaded with ship anchors and rocks, three fire engines, including water and drawing animals, a fully occupied two-horse rail wagon, several coaches as well as pedestrians. With a load weight of 157 tonnes, the Maximum deflection was just 9 mm.

Industrially produced construction products made from modern materials allow architects and engineers to rethink the tried and tested and to make the visionary a reality. They create ever more abstract structural shapes with impressive geometries around the world. Innovative and high-performance supporting systems form the basis for this and industrial standards allow safety and reliability. And it is precisely here that the IMA Dresden itself plays a vital role. As an inspection and certification agency it monitors and certifies construction products, product groups or components made from plastic as well as pipes and piping systems for water and gas supply and waste water disposal. Many sandwich façade elements, supporting structures, pipes, moulded parts, fitting and profiles pass through our dynamic, static and physical testing laboratories.

Furthermore, IMA engineers are responsible for components in production for quality assurance or processing at building sites, for example, Godwanaland in Leipzig, the Allianz Arena in Munich and many bridges and power plants. In many standards committees for reliable and safe components, such as DIN, IMA Dresden is helping form the standards of the future.

February: Metals material testing – Long live lightweight construction

Metals material testing – Long live lightweight construction (c) Marcel Kläber

No future technology without the right material – long live lightweight construction!
The founding mission of the “IfL” institute for lightweight construction in 1961 was the economical use of materials, here the use of the smallest possible quantity of the technically most suitable material. With this motivation, an intense cooperation between the IfL and numerous industry sectors was quickly developed, whose products became more efficient thanks to lightweight construction. The tasks of the 700 employees under the stewardship of Brunolf Baade comprised the selection of materials and the development of new lightweight construction technologies, consultation in questions of construction, theoretical and experimental inspections of static strength and operational stability as well as physical inspections. Many TGL standards for lightweight construction, strength calculations and materials were created from these fields of research. The technical standards, quality regulations and delivery conditions (TGL) were the equivalent to the West German DIN standards until 1990. With the reunification of Germany, the TGLs were superseded by DIN and the IfL became the successor company IMA Dresden. Proven standards were, and are, combined with state-of-the-art technology at IMA Dresden.

Today IMA engineers work with the latest trends and, with their work, continue to advance lightweight construction. This also includes the testing and evaluation of metallic materials, calculations and proof of strength and Determination of material data. IMA Dresden is continuously developing new test processes and test regulations and, with its work in standards committees, is continuously contributing towards the Standardisation of lightweight construction. The metals, the FKM guideline for “analytical strength assessment of mechanical components” recognised across Europe was significantly created at IMA Dresden – a guideline by which engineers, architects and calculators calculate the strength of steel components today.
IMA Dresden supports customers with testing and Engineering services on a daily basis with questions regarding extremely strong steels for high-performance use (aeroplane turbines), for example, or ultra-light metals for weight-saving in lightweight construction. Plus, questions regarding new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing. Dresden fulfils a mission that has existed since 1961: the use of the smallest possible quantity of the technically most suitable material.

January: Aviation structure test – Where it all began – take off

Aviation structure test – Where it all began – take off (c) Marcel Kläber

25 years of IMA Dresden and yet our roots reach right back to the 1950s at the start of aircraft development in Dresden. The founding of the VEB Flugzeugwerke Dresden in 1955 was the starting signal of aircraft construction in Saxony. With Brunolf Baade as chief designer, who had previously worked for Fokker, Goodyear and Junkers, the first German passenger aeroplane was developed in Dresden – the „152“ or „Baade 152“.

The testing halls built specifically for it are still a part of the IMA plant premises today. From 1958, the passenger jet „152” was statically tested for fatigue there and, from 1960, in a water tank as well.

These test facilities, with what was then state-of-the-art testing facilities, and the development engineers formed the foundation for the „IfL“ Institut für Leichtbau und ökonomische Verwendung (institute for lightweight construction and economic use of materials), the predecessor organisation of the IMA Dresden.

Today the testing hall building symbolises the industrial culture of that time and the inside of the hall pulsates with modernity. The latest test technologies and test rigs have accompanied the development of structures and entire aeroplanes for the entire Airbus family. Many international aeroplane manufacturers of passenger aeroplanes, freight aeroplanes and private jets are now also among their ranks. The IMA engineers support the development departments of the manufacturers and suppliers, test, simulate and calculate every construction group of an aeroplane, such as fuselages, support structures, tail units, landing gear and engines as well as interior components.

Today new sharklets, bearings, belly fairings, fuselage panels, flaps, tails, wings, pylons … are constantly passing through the IMA testing world and the testing hall where it all began in the 1950s.