Ford Motor Company is conducting research and development on structural composite suspension elements for commercial vehicle applications. Part of what Ford is doing with its R&D efforts is trying to quantify weight savings, emissions reduction, and performance benefits of hybrid structural composite suspension parts. The Ford research project is underway at the Ford Dunton facility in Gestamp UK and is known as CHASSIS. CHASSIS stands for Composite Hybrid Automotive Suspension System Innovative Structure.
The CHASSIS program is partially funded by Innovate UK and is investigating composite hybrid structures for suspension crossmembers and lower controls arms. The program is also investigating solid axles that are made of metal, carbon fiber, and glass fiber with different matrices to suit loading conditions. A Ford engineer working on the project, Alice Swallow, says that the innovations of each of the components are tailored to ensure that the part can meet the design requirements of the metallic part it replaces.
The CHASSIS program is using manufacturing methods that are still under review but could include overmolding, pultrusion, and compression molding. Advanced joining techniques will be used to meet volume production cycle times. The hybrid components accommodate all clevis requirements for attaching parts to current hard point locations and comply with Ford NVH requirements. The end goal for the Ford CHASSIS program is to develop components that can be ready for full production at a rate of about 500,000 composite suspension components per year.
Ford’s Alan Banks says that the project is facilitated by the consortium’s expertise in finite element analysis and the experience of the team has allowed them to identify the correct material and manufacturing methods for each component. The choices the team has made have been able to reduce the weight of the new components by an average of 40 percent compared to standard components, according to Banks. Ford’s CHASSIS project has pulled knowledge from other projects operated with Innovate UK. Ford Motor Company funds numerous research projects to investigate improved components for future vehicles, this summer it was funding a project looking to build safer EV batteries.
Source: Composites World