Mixed-metals and lightweight materials have made the possibility of a lighter, stiffer and cost-equivalent aftermarket automobile frame closer to reality. Magnesium, aluminum, ultra-high-strength steel and carbon fiber are the component elements of a model of the customizable frame unveiled recently by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center at the 2017 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show.
Perhaps of greater interest to car restorers and customizers at this stage, the frame does illustrate the increasing feasibility of mixed-material structural design for commercialization and wider auto industry use.
“The frame’s construction is not only strong and cost-efficient, it’s nearly 90 pounds lighter than the C2 Corvette baseline,” Gregg Peterson, Principle Materials Engineer said. The scale model frame is based on a 1963-67 C2 Corvette frame, but the Center aimed for it to be “150 percent stiffer in torsion and 450 percent stiffer in bending than the. . .C2 production frame.” Torsionally, the design is stiffer than a Ferrari F430 and Lotus Evora, according to the Center. “We look forward to bringing this innovative design to specialty car manufacturers and restorers in the future. . .” said Mr. Peterson.
“Although multiple lightweight materials are integrated into the frame’s design, the engineering and design team was able to keep the cost comparable to current production steel frames,” according to the Center’s news release. “This frame uses a holistic design approach that reduces material weight by >30%, uses the most cost effective lightweight materials for each part, eliminates primer/paint, replaces destructive spot welds with high performance and continuous bonds, uses inexpensive tooling and minimizes the number of tools required, is self-fixturing, minimizes the parts count, and is engineered to minimize assembly labor,” the Center further explained in response to how the frame could be competitively priced versus a steel frame.
The frame “requires no welding so the parent material is not weakened during assembly and allows for thinner section material, reducing material cost,” the Center wrote. “The frame is joined using structural adhesives and mechanical fasteners; the adhesive bonds 100 percent of the flange which spreads the loads out over a larger area than a typical spot weld. This uniformly distributes the forces and reduces local stresses, meaning thinner wall materials, further reducing material weight and cost.”
According to the Technology Center, the frame can be made to “fit virtually any body width and length.” The frame design factors in crashworthiness, using “energy absorbing front and rear modules similar to those used on the Lotus Evora and the C7 Corvette to help protect the occupants.”
For more information visit:
“Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center To Unveil New Lightweight Frame for Specialty Cars at 2017 SEMA Show”
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (established 1991, U.S.) is “dedicated to supporting Michigan manufacturers to work smarter, to compete and to prosper.”
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