Research and Technology at ZAL
Centers of Competence

In the field of research & technology, ZAL’s competencies are concentrated on three areas. The orientation of these so-called Centers of Competence (CoC) represents an important aspect of the technology focus within Hamburg’s aviation sector. At the same time, it forms the basis for the development of the aviation research network within the metropolitan region. The subject areas are initially being coordinated in northern German technology centers, later progressing to national technology centres.

The subject areas covered in the CoCs are determined in agreement with industrial partners, primarily Airbus and Lufthansa Technik. Accordingly, Zal is establishing competencies within the CoCs, focussed on complementary, subject-specific technical niches.

These competencies will be further developed and then offered to interested partners as R&T services. Furthermore, ZAL makes various test infrastructure facilities available for research and technology activities, tailored to the CoC subject Areas. The CoCs are classified as follows:  CoC Aircraft Manufacturing & MRO, CoC Cabin & Systems and CoC Digitalization Technologies. 

Center of Competence
Aircraft Manufacturing & MRO

Additive Manufacturing

  • Hybrid manufacturing: Hybrid manufacturing, on the one hand, refers to a combination of various processes, such as in robot-controlled printing, which is a combination of additive manufacturing and robotics. On the other hand, it can refer to the further processing of conventionally manufactured products using additive manufacturing. This combines the benefits of cost-efficient conventional manufacturing processes with the advantages of additive manufacturing.
  • Function integration: Additive manufacturing not only offers new possibilities for redesigning existing components; it also presents the option of merging multiple functions in a single component. This is even possible within the additive manufacturing process itself, as the process is embedded within a long process chain. The fusion of different processes plays a major role here in accelerating the manufacturing process.


Robotic & Automation Technology

  • Human-Machine-Interaction: The latest developments in the field of human-machine cooperation make it possible for operator and robot to work together in the same space, carrying out tasks hand-in-hand. For the aviation industry in particular, where for the most part manual manufacturing and montage processes are used, this technology represents a milestone in terms of increased automation technology.
  • Lightweight robotics & support systems: Lightweight robots are characterised by high levels of flexibility with low costs. Simple and intuitive programming and operation mean that very rapid automation solutions can be implemented and the field of application for classical robotic technology can be extended. Due to the lightweight construction and the integrated safety and security mechanisms, new safety concepts can be applied and manufacturing scenarios can be reevaluated..


Laser Shock Peening

  • Residual Stress Engineering: Laser shock peening, or LSP for short, is an innovative process for improving the operational durability of components. Internal stresses are introduced to the component in a targeted way, as the impact they have on the lightweight structures is suitable for both the design phase and for subsequent improvements and repairs.
  • Laser Peen Forming: Laser peen forming uses plastic elongation, introduced by means of laser, to deliberately remodel components in complex free-form surfaces. No shaping tool is necessary. This is already familiar from shot peen forming, but the LPF process can achieve deeper plastic elongations, so that even 2-centimeter aluminium sheets can be reshaped.
Center of Competence
Cabin & Systems

Passenger Experience

  • Acoustics & Vibration: In the acoustics & vibration competency area, we develop acoustic cabin concepts in the ZAL Acoustic Lab, a unique facility worldwide, and in the Acoustic Flight Lab Demonstrator. This work includes, for example, sound and vibration measurement for new materials along with the integration of electro-acoustic systems in the aircraft cabin.
  • Lighting & Projection: Today, lighting and light projections are important elements in the differentiation of aircraft cabins. In this competency area, we and our partners conduct research into innovative solutions for tomorrow's cabin.



  • Air & Power Systems: In this competency area, we develop new heat management solutions for avionics and power electronics. Using our own test rig, we validate, for example, two-phase cooling concepts.
  • Cabin Sensor Integration: The digitalisation of cabin processes requires the integration of an ever-increasing number of sensors in the aircraft cabin. Within this research area, we are focussed on the study of high-performance, robust and cost-efficient cabin sensors.



  • Data & Power Net: Technological trends such as the "More Electric Aircraft" and connectivity are making higher and higher demands on data and electricity network architectures. In this area we are pushing ahead with the network architectures and technologies of the future.
  • Fuel Cell Technology: Fuel cells offer an environmentally friendly, self-sufficient source of energy. In this competency area, we test fuel cells at the Fuel Cell Test Lab and, together with our partners, develop fuel cell systems for aviation.


Future Cabin Architecture

  • Cabin Flexibility & New Seating Areas: One way to achieve further efficiency improvements in aviation is by exploiting hitherto unused reserves within the aircraft. Partners of the ZAL TechCenter are conducting joint research on the development of innovative cabin concepts, such as innovative cargo hold solutions. 



Center of Competence
Digitalization Technologies

Monitoring, Diagnostics & Prognostics

  • Business Understanding: Everybody is talking about digitalisation - but what does it actually mean? Digitalisation that creates added value depends on placing the business process in the focus of all that is done, and understanding this business process at a detailed level. In this area, we make use of our experience in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance to analyse, together with our customers and research partners, diverse processes and to recommend solutions.
  • Data Acquisition: Big Data has become a common buzzword. The generation of data and merging of data from various sources, however, often involves major effort. We are developing approaches to generate data using sensors and, with the aid of big data tools, combine the data to create a unified data pool. We are also researching in the field of producing synthetic data on the basis of realistic simulation.
  • Predictive Data Modelling: Often, complex problems cannot be solved with classical, rule-based programming. In recent years, self-learning systems have proven in practice that they can produce effective and flexible solutions. We use machine learning and deep learning algorithms to develop models from multidimensional datasets, enabling us to optimise and/or automate the underlying business processes.



  • Model Deployment: For the efficient usage of models we have developed, we work together with our partners on practical implementation. We pay particular attention to the infrastructural requirements and the usability of the solutions we develop.


Digital Transformation

  • Digital Products & Services: Together with our partners at the ZAL TechCenter, we are working on projects to develop and implement innovative digital products and services.
  • Digital Processes: Digital processes are capable of achieving fundamental optimisation of many business processes. Here, we are working together with our customers from the aircraft manufacturing and MRO industries to generate new approaches for process digitalisation, using the latest technologies.
  • New Business Models & Cultures: Many companies at the ZAL TechCenter are researching new business models and the accompanying cultural transformation. We support and advise our partners on the basis of our expertise in these fields.