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Material Challenges


Tooling Up for Lightweighting


While aluminum-bodied light vehicles are much in the news now as a contem- porary innovation, their history stretches back nearly 70 years. In manufacturing terms the past is not prolog to the present or future, however. While current and future models will rely on aluminum to improve fuel efficiency, the early efforts were attempted for other reasons entirely. No matter if you consider past, present or future vehicles, the switch from work-


ing with steel to aluminum poses new challenges to companies that are making the transition from steel. Te original Land Rover of 1948 used aluminum because steel was in short sup-


ply in postwar Great Britain while aircraſt-grade aluminum was abundant. In 1989 Honda introduced the Acura NSX midengined sports car, what can argu-


ably be called the first series-built passenger car (as opposed to a truck) to feature an all-aluminum body and suspension. Using aluminum rather than steel for the body reduced the car’s weight by 200 kg. Te aluminum suspension provided a weight reduction of a further 20 kg. Te net result—and Honda’s goal—was that the V6-powered Honda was competitive in performance with its Ital- ian contemporary, the V8-powered Ferrari 348. Te low-volume exotic two-seat sports car


remained in production through 2005. Audi, too, turned to aluminum to reduce


the weight and improve the performance of its top-of-the-line A8 sedan in 1994. Te German automaker also made the move as a means of touting its engineering expertise. Considered to be the first mass-production car with an aluminum chassis, the Audi A8 continues in production to this day.


Aluminum Trend Continues and Expands Te automotive lightweighting trend has obvious utility


in the present, but also carries long-view implications. In the near term, vehicle weight is one of a few key variables in the great fuel-efficiency equation. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards dictate that passenger cars will be surpassing 50 mpg in fuel efficiency (on average) as soon as


Each pocket of a BF Cutter is milled into the body, which is engineered for a specified feed rate, so that each cutter is tailored for a specific application.


The lessons of the past may not be enough to meet the challenge of machining aluminum for the cars of today and in the future.


Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing 55


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