R&D project established to make fibre-reinforced composite material for chassis parts - UPDATED

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Thanks to its good material properties, recyclability and worldwide availability, steel is still often the material of choice in the automotive and mobility industry.

However, the trend is also towards new materials that expand the range of materials and fulfill the motto ‘the right material in the right place’. Fibre-reinforced composites offer excellent lightweight construction potential and safety features. The use of recyclable materials leads to a good balance between energy consumption, profitability and sustainability.

Fibre-reinforced materials are currently used in large numbers for body parts, but not for chassis components in the automotive or aerospace industry. The Eco Dynamic SMC project, including Gestamp, Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT and project partners, addresses this issue by innovating to develop a closed engineering loop for an automotive chassis control arm, based on an existing high volume production part, and a suspension part of a motor glider.

The project substitutes aluminium with fibre-reinforced material with the aim to implement the CF-SMC Technology for dynamic and safety-relevant chassis components in high volume production.

Initiated in October 2021 and funded by the German Ministry of Energy and Climate Protection, Eco Dynamic SMC will address the problem of developing a comprehensive continuous engineering process for fibre composite-reinforced components that meet OEM approval procedures. The broad Eco Dynamic SMC consortium brings together expertise from the aerospace, automotive and scientific industries. Gestamp is the head of the consortium of Eco Dynamic SMC project.

Today, a continuous development process is established for metals and the procedure is defined based on available material data for manufacturing, product simulations and specific material parameters addressing for example formability, durability, stiffness, strain rate behaviour or weldability.

The design starts with the development of a digital twin from the raw material manufacturing to be aware about the fibre content and weight of the material stack before the transfer into the tool. Substantial material characterisation will be the groundwork for the integration of the material properties and fibre orientation from manufacturing process into the product development simulation. At the end of the development, a prototype will be manufactured and tested as component and on a test vehicle to evaluate the mechanical and acoustic behaviour.

In the second project stream, a suspension part for a motor glider will be developed by following the same strategy of the closed loop of process and product engineering.

In addition to the development cycle, the Eco Dynamic SMC project is dedicated to other core aspects such as a good CO2 balance, a recycling concept, optimised use of materials, reduced energy consumption and the careful use of resources.

UPDATED 3 May 2022 11:50am: The original version of the article incorrectly referred to steel as the material substituted with fibre-reinforced material; this has been corrected.