Plymouth Township’s Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center to Unveil Lightweight Vehicle Frame at SAE


The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth today announced it will unveil a lightweight replica car, military, and specialty vehicle frame this week at the World Congress Experience (WCX) event, hosted by SAE International. The event will be held April 10-12 at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

The frame is made of aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber, and advanced high-strength steel to provide a light-weight, high-stretch, and cost-effective frame. The frame is joined together using a variety of techniques, including structural adhesives and mechanical fasteners with inert washers, to account for each material. The frame offers 450 percent stiffer bending, 150 percent stiffer torsion, and a 33 percent lighter weight.

The center collaborated with Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, and the University of Tennessee-Center for Industrial Services Institute for Public Service. Gregg Peterson, the center’s principal materials engineer, conceived and led the project.

“Knowing there was a strong demand, we wanted to design a frame that could satisfy the needs and requirements of our customers, while incorporating innovative lightweight materials and practices,” says Elliot Forsyth, vice president of business operations at the center. “We have filed a patent application and look forward to showcasing the frame, which will be on display at WCX, as an example of Gregg’s experience and expertise with engineering design and material selection.”

The assembly of the frame takes less than two hours of work by two technicians. Steel aftermarket frames can require more than 40 hours of work by highly skilled welders using dedicated fixtures. All-steel frames also must be primed or powder-coated.

The center selected the 1963-1967 Corvette body frame because of its popularity around the world and the desirable body style among aficionados. Due to the demand for lightweight frames, the goal was to make a frame that could be easily morphed into any wheelbase, vehicle length and width without requiring additional tooling. For this project, two frames with key structural parts were developed – one for the Corvette design and one for heavy-duty military trucks.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is an organization dedicated to supporting Michigan manufacturers. It offers personalized consulting services for businesses.

Register for the WCX event here.

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