Seeking to lower vehicle weight, reduce emissions, and improve fuel efficiency, Magna International Inc., a global automotive supplier, in cooperation with Ford Motor Co., has developed a prototype carbon fiber composite subframe which reduces vehicle mass by 34 percent, compared to a standard stamped steel equivalent.
The carbon fiber subframe, a key part of the vehicle’s structure, is the result of a research and development project between Magna and Ford to investigate potential mass-reduction benefits and technical challenges of using carbon fiber-reinforced composites in chassis applications. By replacing 45 steel parts with two modeled and four metallic parts, the prototype subframe achieves an 87 percent reduction in the number of parts, and the moldings are joined by adhesive bonding and structural rivets.
“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,” says Grahame Burrow, president of Magna Exteriors. “We are able to take a clean-sheet approach with design, materials, and processing, collaborate with the customer 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.”
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.
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.
Magna currently operates 317 manufacturing facilities and 102 product development, engineering, and sales centers in 29 countries, employing 155,000 people.