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Altair Enlighten Award honors lightweighting efforts

By: Rhoda Miel

August 20, 2013

TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — When Altair Engineering Inc. decided to sponsor an award for automotive lightweighting efforts, it hoped the competition would draw attention from throughout the industry.

The inaugural Altair Enlighten Award did just that, said David Mason, vice president global automotive, with parts on cars made throughout the world and representing everything from structural metal to high performance composites.

"It's further validated the need to look at the entire vehicle program," Mason said during an interview at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City Aug. 5, shortly after BASF AG was named winner of the 2013 award. "I was excited when we looked back across the nominees and saw that it went across the supply chain, across multiple materials, to powertrain and structure and exterior parts."

Check out this PN video of Martin Jung of BASF details his firm's award-winning efforts develop a composite seat pan used by General Motors Co.'s Opel Astra.

Judges for the competition named two runners up parts from the group of 10 finalists — the carbon fiber exterior panels on Chrysler Group LLC's Viper sports car, made by Plasan Carbon Composites of Bennington, Vt., and a hot stamped door ring produced by Honda Motor Co. Ltd., ArcelorMittal and Magna International Inc.'s Cosma group.

BASF worked with four different German companies — seat suppliers SeaTcon AG, SedisTec UG, molder Reinert Kuntstofftechnik and mold maker Maier Formenbau, both of Bissingen, Germany — to develop a composite seat pan used by General Motors Co.'s Opel Astra on its OPC sports car.

The seat pan uses BASF's Ultramid polyamide and its Ultracom laminate product in a combined process with compression molding and overmolding. It comes in 45 percent lighter than the previous part, but still meets all safety standards in crash tests.

BASF hopes to bring similar production to North America, said Martin Jung, senior vice president polymer research structural materials for BASF of Ludwigshafen, Germany. To make that happen, though, requires cooperation throughout the supply chain.

For the seat project, Opel worked with BASF as the material supplier as well as molder Reinert and mold maker Maier and the final seat suppliers. Computer simulations also allowed the companies to continue to refine the part and trim weight throughout the development process.

Altair will host another Enlighten award next year, and expects to get another range of parts and processes, Mason said.