Group advances concept of composite car floor

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: February 1, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Automotive, Materials, Suppliers

SAN ANTONIO (Feb. 1, 4:30 p.m. ET) — Making a concept composite floor structure for sedans is one thing, but the engineers and companies involved with the Automotive Composites Consortium also wanted to make sure the concept could fit into existing auto-manufacturing lines.

“Our goal is to develop manufacturing methodologies that each [automaker] would then take forward for their use,” said Libby Berger, a staff researcher in General Motors LLC’s research and development center.

So as part of the nearly six-year project to develop a structural composite automotive underbody, the members of the consortium also developed a process to attach it to a steel body structure.

Berger discussed the underbody project during the Society of Plastics Engineers Thermoset TopCon conference Jan. 24-25 in San Antonio. Detroit-based GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC were all part of the cooperative investigation along with Continental Structural Plastics Inc., Multimatic Inc. and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge, Tenn., laboratory, as part of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research program to investigate new technology.

The consortium and USCAR have cooperated on other auto-production concept projects in the past, including lightweight vehicle bodies and recycling initiatives. With the composite underbody, the group focused on one part of the body, rather than the entire vehicle — the center flooring structure of a current-model large sedan.

The current center underbody, or floorpan, is made of 14-16 individual steel components. ACC focused on replacing that with one composite part that could be produced in a 2½-minute cycle. Berger admitted the team did not quite hit the cycle target, but the final component reduced weight by more than 20 pounds and still meet extensive crash and structure requirements.

The team looked at a variety of processes and materials for the composite part before landing on a multilayer, sheet molded compound fabric, using long-glass-fiber reinforcement for most of the part and a chopped structural SMC for reinforcing ribs.

Coming up with the material and the design was only part of the work, though. The researchers had to determine how to install the system in an existing auto assembly line, which normally relies on spot welding to attach the underbody to the frame.

Their solution was to attach two narrow strips of steel to the composite with adhesives, then weld the steel connections to the frame, Berger said.

There is no guarantee that the concept will ever make it into production, although there is interest. The coalition focuses on developing projects to a pre-production state. It is then up to individual automakers to decide whether to take the project further. If the concept does move forward, though, Berger warned it could take three to five more years of development.

“If you’re going to develop a new material, you’ve got to plan on it taking a long time,” she warned. “At this point, the technology has gone back to the [carmakers] and it’s up to them to take it further.”


Comments

Group advances concept of composite car floor

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: February 1, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Formosa to be compensated for Vietnam riot

July 28, 2014 1:44 pm ET

Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group will receive $2.39 million from the Vietnamese government and insurance companies for damages suffered during the...    More

Magna hiring at two Michigan locations

July 28, 2014 11:43 am ET

Magna Interior Trim Components is adding a total of 169 jobs to two of its Michigan manufacturing facilities.    More

Image

Ukraine's Group DF may be forced to sell Crimea-based additives plant

July 28, 2014 10:12 am ET

Group DF, the industrial business of Ukrainian tycoon Dmitry Firtash, may be forced to sell off Eastern Europe's biggest producer of titanium oxide,...    More

Image

Gear pump maker Witte expands in Germany and USA

July 25, 2014 2:15 pm ET

Witte Pumps & Technology GmbH, the German maker of gear pumps for extrusion, has moved into a new headquarters factory in the Hamburg area, and the...    More

Image

Austrian mold maker seeking North American manufacturing partner

July 25, 2014 1:49 pm ET

An Austrian mold maker is looking for a manufacturing location in North America.    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recyclers Data Report & Directory

This exclusive MS Excel database contains all the companies from Plastics News' ranking of top North American Recyclers and Brokers by reprocessed volume and also includes a directory with materials processes, services offered and company contact information. Data is based on primary research by PN editorial staff.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events