Lightweight vehicle design: how low can you go?


That is the question automakers everywhere are wrestling with, as was amply demonstrated at last week's VDI Engineering Plastics Conference. Aesthetics, safety, economics, and material availability were just a few of the concerns that were raised in connection with lightweighting, during the discussion on the best strategies to employ. Just how light can vehicles become, and how to achieve this, without compromising on quality? One strategy is the use of innovative materials and material solutions, such as those developed by specialized material manufacturers specifically for the automotive industry. Some examples are discussed below.

At the Lanxess stand, for example, the advantages of the Tepex line of continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic performance composites developed by its subsidiary company Bond-Laminates were being extolled with the display of a prototype infotainment bracket containing two back-injected Tepex inlays, designed for mounting an amplifier and a TV control unit in an Audi A6.

Formerly made from steel with two screwed-on amplifiers, the new design offers simpler mounting, using clips, in addition to cost and weight advantages through the use of Tepex organic sheet. Lanxess' new Durethan BKV 55 TPX with 55% short glass reinforcement, which has been optimized for processing with Tepex, was used as the matrix material. The improved flowability of this grade ensures good bonding between the ribbing and the Tepex, and thus good mechanical properties of the component. This hybrid technology is particularly suitable for thin-walled lightweight composite parts with large flow length/wall-thickness ratios.
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