Gestamp is studying new production methods to reduce weight. The company is looking at 3D laser cladding, which melts powder or wire and builds up material “ex- actly where you need it to be,” Belanger said. That’s not yet ready for production, he said. Safety requirements “keep going up and

up,” which make it harder to reduce vehicle weight, Belanger said. “That’s why you have to utilize innovations.” Lacks Enterprises Inc. (Grand Rapids, MI)

developed an automotive wheel that the firm estimates is 10 lb (4.5 kg) lighter than a typical 40 lb (18-kg) wheel. Lacks cut the weight by designing a lighter aluminum inner structure. Foam is then injected between the interior structure and the composite surface. The foam ensures there aren’t openings in the wheel, said James Ardern, general manager of Lacks Wheel Trim Systems.

Lacks had concentrated on finishes for automotive grilles and trim. “From 1998 to 2012, our product was used pre- dominantly for how it looked,” Ardern said. “Then we started to realize in 2010, when we saw the

lightweighting push, fundamentally our approach was very good for delivering lightweighting…. If there hadn’t been this (fuel efficiency) target out there, we could still be heavily focused on finishes.” Ardern said Lacks’ lighter wheel currently is on the Ram 1500 Big Horn truck. Rassini Frenos (Mexico City), a producer of brake rotors, has been working with customers on lightweighting issues. The company’s “first wave” of lightweighting was to have a ductile iron brake hat, said Mauricio Gonzalez, engineer- ing director for advanced brakes at Rassini’s Plymouth, MI, product development office. The next phase, “that needs to happen around 2020,” in-

volves reducing the weight of the braking surfaces with new composite materials that Rassini is trying to develop, he said.

Marathon metaphor fits NanoSteel (Providence, RI) designs alloys and licenses

them to steel companies. NanoSteel-designed steels for automotive applications are being tested for metal fatigue and welding. “We’re very encouraged by the tests,” said Craig Parsons, president of automotive for NanoSteel. “People have talked about this high-strength and high- formability material for a long time.”

A coil of NanoSteel-designed high-strength steel. It will still take years before such steel shows up in

production vehicles. In a follow-up e-mail, he said, “We are excited to work with the OEMs over the next several years to design the material into production vehicles.” LIFT is beginning to gain momentum. The manufactur-

ing innovation institute is acquiring about $10 million in equipment to be used for lightweighting projects, Brown, the executive director, said. The electrical system of LIFT’s Detroit headquarters is being improved to ensure it can handle the load for the new equipment. “We’re talking about equipment to do pilot-scale devel-

opment,” Brown said. Another one of the NNMI groups, the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innova- tion (Knoxville, TN) has a satellite office at LIFT. Both will work together on lightweighting-related projects. Industry groups for steel and aluminum say their mem- bers will be involved in lightweighting far beyond 2025. “I don’t think there’s going to be an end” to the light-

weighting drive, said Jody Hall, vice president for automo- tive market of the Steel Market Development Institute. The industry faces “the never-ending quest for better,” said Doug Richman, chairman of the aluminum transporta- tion technology committee of the Aluminum Association. “The brilliant breakthrough five years ago is now the indus- try norm and five years from now will be obsolete.” Indeed, lightweighting increasingly is seen as a marathon,

rather than a sprint to meet the 2025 model year standards. “The technologies that get us to 2025 are different than the ones that get us to 2050,” CAR’s Jay Baron said. “It is clearly a marathon.”


Fall 2016

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