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LIGHTWEIGHTING


ContiTech was the supplier winner for its polyamide


rear cross beam for the 2016 Mercedes S-Class. Lightweighting’s impact, however, goes beyond awards.


Automakers are having to work with suppliers earlier in the design process as the industry seeks to cut vehicle weight to meet stringent fuel economy standards. The auto industry has been dominated by steel. Now,


the word most often used for lightweighting is “mixed materials,” in which new types of steels, aluminum, magne- sium and other materials come into play. So-called “mixed materials” vehicles will cause changes on


the factory floor, Peter Busuttil, director of technology, KUKA Systems North America (Sterling Heights, MI), said at the conference. KUKA supplies assembly and welding systems. For example, he said, “Joints are as diverse as the ma-


terials themselves.” In KUKA’s case, the company worked with Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI) on the aluminum F-150 pickup “five years before production,” he said. “We’re in the design studio now.” Lightweighting has become part of marketing for new


vehicles. Automakers routinely detail how much less mod- els weigh than their predecessors. GM, for example, has said a range of its vehicles is anywhere from almost 250 lb (112.5 kg) to 700 lb (315 kg) lighter. Included in the list are the Chevrolet Volt on the low end of this weight-loss range to the 2017 GMC Acadia on the high end. Despite that, lightweighting efforts are still in their


early stages.


Automakers and suppliers are still far from meeting


stringent fuel efficiency standards scheduled for 2025. Lightweighting is only part of achieving those standards. In addition, lightweighting strategies vary by size and type of vehicle. “We’re all looking for the perfect recipe,” Charlie Klein,


GM executive director of global CO2 strategy, said in an


interview before the CAR conference. “I think everyone is embracing this concept of light-


weighting,” said Larry Brown, executive director of Light- weight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT; Detroit), part of the Obama administration’s National Network for Manufac- turing Innovation. LIFT is intended to provide companies and universities with the opportunity to collaborate on developing new lightweighting technology. Automakers and suppliers, Brown said, “recognize time is short…. They’re all driving to lightweighting solutions.” Lightweighting also is driving changes in the ways ve-


hicles are developed. In North America, there traditionally was a divide be-


tween designers and manufacturing personnel, said Jay Baron, president and CEO of CAR. The designers decided how vehicles would look while manufacturing staff figured out how to build them. With lightweighting, there are multiple materials, which


heat up and expand at different rates. That means more em- phasis of designing models “for manufacturability,” Baron said. “I think we have to head in that direction,” he said.


A worker at a Honda Motor Co. facility in Marysville, OH, completes instal- lation of equipment on an Acura NSX.


56


Fall 2016


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