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

Small is beautiful in Nissei's newest press

November 21, 2014 2:14 pm ET

Responding to customer demand for flexibility, Japanese plastics-equipment manufacturer Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd. is demoing a caster-...    More

Image

Three advancements have driven injection molding technology

November 21, 2014 6:00 am ET

Injection molding technology has made major advances in the last 25 years, from largely a world of shoot-and-ship to doing as much as possible at the ...    More

Image

Renners leaving Sumitomo (SHI) Demag

November 21, 2014 10:01 am ET

Christian Renners is leaving injection molding press manufacturer Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH, the company announced Nov. 21.    More

Image

Dow reaches agreement with Third Point

November 21, 2014 9:11 am ET

Dow Chemical Co. has reached an agreement with the investment firm that has been trying to force the company to sell off some assets.More

Image

Ineos making its UK shale play

November 21, 2014 9:29 am ET

Chemical giant Ineos Group AG is planning to be the biggest player in the United Kingdom's shale gas industry.    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

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

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events