The lighter side
Due to global targets for reducing CO2 emissions and the trend towards higher efficiency, lightweight design now plays a crucial role in the automotive industry. Brose uses innovative materials to build lighter components and systems in vehicle engineering. Fabric-reinforced thermoplastics, also known as “organo sheets”, are used here. Initial series orders are already in place for door and seat products made from the material. Our Brose experts see a great deal of potential here in the future, especially with premium-equipped product variants.
Brose has been working with this promising material since 2008. “Continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics have never been used in the mass market, so the first thing we had to do was work on the basics,” reports Christina Hack, Head of Advanced Development Brose Group, who is responsible for activities across business divisions. This includes our own standard for fiber fabric-reinforced thermoplastics, which serves as a basis and guideline for development and quality assurance.
Door system with more features and less weight
Brose’s intelligent material mix made it possible to develop an innovative door system that sets new benchmarks in terms of lightweight construction, functionality and freedom of design. “Compared to traditional products we can save up to five kilograms – that’s 40 percent of the product’s weight – while still ensuring crash safety. Moreover, we achieved a wall thickness of just 0.6 millimeters,” underscores Michael Thienel. He works for Advanced Development at Brose and is an expert for door concepts.
Brose thus not only capitalizes on its development expertise and process skills in industrialization but also benefits from collaboration with development partners. This is how we create products made from continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics for high-volume production. The first such project for doors was with Ford. We have delivered a million modules to them annually since 2018.
Folding rear seat load-through 40 percent lighter
“Organo sheets demonstrate tremendous strength and damage tolerance. This is an advantage, particularly for parts that must withstand crash test stress,” explains Andrea Bauersachs. The expert for seat concepts works in Advanced Development at Brose. She has worked for our family-owned company for 24 years. Now her daily work involves making the vehicle seats of tomorrow lighter than ever.
“Using this material instead of a conventional steel variant enables us to save around 1.5 kilograms, cutting weight by about 40 percent,” she explained. Additional costs for manufacturers: none. This is because the intelligent design enables Brose to integrate twelve component parts into the organo sheet load-through, thereby eliminating three welding processes and lowering tooling expenses. Series production started in late 2016 in Coburg – just 21 months following the order placed by our customer Jaguar Land Rover. “This is the first series production of a safety-critical structural component made from this lightweight material,” says Andrea Bauersachs, visibly proud of her team’s incredible performance.
What are the next steps on the organo sheet’s career path?
Further advancements will be possible through the use of a material mix, the Brose specialists are certain. Brose will be showcasing the technical and economic potential of door modules made of organo sheets in a preliminary study at the IAA 2019. The product’s weight will decrease by another 1.2 kilograms at the same or at a lower price. The next step will then be a 100 percent plastic frame in conventional doors. Sound boring? Not at all, says Michael Thienel: “For this to work, multiple organo sheets of varying thicknesses must be shaped and joined together in a single workstep.” Brose developed the first series-ready process together with injection molding machine manufacturer Engel.
With an eye toward autonomous driving and flexible vehicle interiors, Andrea Bauersachs is sure: “New features in the interior will enable us to completely rethink how we design many of our products. We will be able to leverage the potential of lightweight materials more fully in the process. Using these materials allows us to integrate more elements in our products. These include bracing wires for covers or trim on seat structures, for instance. Many of the interfaces we see today will then no longer be necessary. This, in turn, reduces testing expenditure and assembly costs.”
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