Teaming Up to Tackle Automotive Lightweighting

Lightweighting is a key initiative in the industry, as automakers are under pressure to reduce weight to achieve the optimum fuel efficiency. But reaching all the new industry standards is certainly easier said than done.

  "For lightweighting to be a success, it has to be a truly joint effort. The whole value chain has to work together and approach it holistically," said Rob Lyons.  

Mass reduction efforts are not without challenges. With creativity and collaboration, there is a great opportunity for the automotive industry to rise to the occasion.

"For lightweighting to be a success, it has to be a truly joint effort. The whole value chain has to work together and approach it holistically," said Rob Lyons, senior manager of Lightweight Composite Technologies at BASF. "The OEMs, the material suppliers, the Tier 1 suppliers and the tooling and equipment suppliers, we all have to adapt and co-develop projects."

Thanks to Coalition for Automotive Lightweighting Materials (CALM) run through the Center of Automotive Research (CAR), there is a third-party source dedicated to increasing collaborative efforts between the material sectors and automotive manufacturers to achieve significant reductions in mass. CALM's objective is to help foster better communication and address some of the implementation constraints such as available technologies, safety and reliability risks, and supply chain and infrastructure costs and changes.

BASF, a material supplier in this case, has innovations launching that help address some of these constraints. The three key technologies include:

  • Thermoplastic Composites - the Ultracom package includes continuous fiber reinforced semi-finished products, adapted overmolding compounds and the complementing engineering support.
  • Thermoset Technologies - BASF is working to increase the speed and minimize the complexity of both the polyurethane and epoxy systems for the current Resin-Transfer Molding process. In addition, by developing chemistries for innovative wet pressing processes, BASF is hoping to achieve a one minute part-to-part cycle time as opposed to the typical four to five minutes. There is also an epoxy-based sheet molding compound (SMC) in the works, which will reduce emissions and improve the physical qualities of the part.
  • Non-Traditional Matrix Materials - the supplier is also looking to other matrix materials that could be significant benefits to the industry.

In addition to several solutions being developed at the material level, OEMs are also making bold moves in the lightweighting space. This year, Ford Motor Company and BMW took huge, revolutionary strides by bringing reduced weight vehicles featuring new technology to market. The aluminum F-150 and the carbon fiber i3 are the consumers' first introductions to significantly lighter-weight vehicles.

With CAR Management Briefing Seminars happening this week, conversations and developments in lightweighting technologies and collaboration will be a focus.