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15th March 2017, Sailauf

Magna brings carbon fibre composites into vehicle structure

Grahame Burrow, President of Magna Exteriors, speaking at JEC World 2017 in Paris. In pursuit of lower vehicle weight to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency, Magna International, in cooperation with Ford Motor Company, has developed a prototype carbon fibre composite subframe, which is said to reduce mass by 34%, compared to making a stamped steel equivalent.

By replacing 45 steel parts with two moulded and four metallic parts, the prototype subframe achieves a dramatic 87% reduction in the number of parts, according to the company. The mouldings are joined by adhesive bonding and structural rivets.

Carbon fibre subframe

The carbon fibre subframe is the result of a R&D project between Magna and Ford to investigate potential mass-reduction benefits and technical challenges of using carbon fibre-reinforced composites in chassis applications.

“When we are able to work in close partnership with a customer at the beginning of their design and engineering processes, it’s an opportunity to bring our full Magna capabilities to bear,” said Grahame Burrow, President of Magna Exteriors, speaking at JEC World 2017 in Paris.

“We are able to take a clean-sheet approach with design, materials and processing, collaborate with the customer and within our product groups, and deliver a solution with the potential to really move the needle in terms of aggressive lightweighting without sacrificing styling or performance.”

Reducing weight

Magna’s engineering team combined its full-vehicle knowledge on the design, materials and processing to address the challenge of reducing weight using composite materials and manufacturing processes.

The design has passed all performance requirements based on computer-aided engineering (CAE) analyses. The prototype subframes are now being produced by Magna for component and vehicle-level testing at Ford.

“Collaboration is the key to success in designing lightweight components that can give our customers fuel economy improvements without compromising ride and handling, durability or safety. We must continue to work hard to achieve these lightweight solutions at the most affordable costs. Magna and Ford working together on this carbon fibre composite subframe is a great example of collaboration on advanced materials,” said Mike Whitens, Director of Vehicle Enterprise Systems within Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

Testing phase

The testing phase will evaluate corrosion, stone chipping and bolt load retention, which aren’t currently measured by CAE. The project team will also develop a recommended design, manufacturing and assembly process with the experience gained during the prototype build and subsequent testing.

“We’ve been a pioneer in the use of lightweight materials for many years now,” added Burrow. “First, we launched the CF hood for the Cadillac CTS/ATS-V series, followed by a carbon fibre grille opening reinforcement for the Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500. Applying our expertise now to a structural component like the subframe is another step forward as we continue to help our OEM partners meet their goals.”

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