Lightweight construction

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Lightweight construction is a design principle that aims to create a product with the lowest possible weight and acceptable stability. It is an interdisciplinary approach that is used in many industries.

Basic principles of lightweight construction

Lightweight construction pursues two goals:

  1. Weight saving
  2. Resource efficiency

In the case of vehicles, saving weight serves to reduce fuel consumption. The lighter a vehicle is, the less energy is needed to move it. Aircraft are typical examples of extreme lightweight construction. Weight saving is also interesting in building technology. The less a building weighs, the smaller the required foundation can be designed. In addition, lightweight materials can be used to build higher, which makes larger building volumes possible.

Lightweight materials are characterised by a low consumption of resources. This is achieved through thin-walled, filigree or porous materials. As a side effect, the materials with cavities often have an interesting thermal insulation value.

Materials for lightweight construction

Typical lightweight materials are various light metals, porous ceramics and plastics. Combinations of lightweight materials are also possible. For example, sandwich panels or Dibond panels consist of two layers of light metal with a plastic or ceramic core on the inside. Examples of lightweight materials are as follows:

  • Aluminium sheets
  • Steel sheets
  • Steel profiles
  • Composite materials
  • Sandwich panels
  • Gas concrete blocks

Aluminium is a light metal which can also be rolled out very thinly. It is also corrosion-resistant and non-magnetic. Aluminium is therefore often used in aircraft construction.

Steel sheets are heavier than aluminium. But they have a higher strength. Sheet steel is used for a variety of products. It plays an important role in vehicle construction as well as in building construction.

Steel profiles are used to absorb static loads in lightweight construction. In hall construction, they form the basic framework, which is then covered with steel sheets or sandwich panels. The result is high-strength buildings with a maximum interior space.

Composite materials such as GRP or CFRP are distinctly lightweight materials. They are rustproof and have a long service life. GRP and CFRP consist of glass or carbon fibres that are impregnated with a resin. These materials have an extremely high tensile strength. A typical application is, for example, the rotor blades of wind turbines.

Sandwich panels are three-layer semi-finished products made of steel or aluminium sheet with a core of rigid foam or fibre insulation materials. They combine high flexural strength with thermal insulation properties.

Gas concrete blocks are voluminous building blocks with a large hollow portion. With this material, an additional thermal insulation composite system is not required.