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Lightweighting Solutions for Automobiles

Posted 11/24/2016 by Stephen Neuman, Senior Business Development Manager, Transportation

There is a growing trend in the automotive industry—lightweighting—and H.B. Fuller, along with the technologies from recently-acquired TONSAN and Cyberbond, are ready to help you realize its benefits.

Demands on automakers are increasing as regulators, in addition to consumers, want better resource efficiency and reduction of CO2 emissions. Consequently, there is a call for new and improved product designs in all motor vehicles.

Lightweighting Solutions for Automobiles

H.B. Fuller’s lightweighting solutions for motor vehicles enable manufacturers to respond to current market trends and demands, enhancing the driving experience, providing greater comfort and safety to vehicle occupants, and addressing the sustainability issues of better fuel efficiency and reduction of CO2 emissions.

Fuel consumption regulations are more stringent year after year. In China, fuel consumption was 6.9L/100km in 2015, and is estimated to drop to 5.0L/100km by 2020 (from GB27999-2014: Fuel Consumption Evaluation Methods and Targets for Passenger Cars). In the United States, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard estimate is as high as 61.1 mpg by the year 2025. Manufacturers are looking for solutions to reduce fuel consumption such as electric drives, small displacement engines, and hybrid technology. Lightweighting solutions, which affect all vehicle types, have proven to be one of the most promising. In this context, lightweight materials have become a crucial element for product design in the automotive market. Below are four advantages of using lightweight materials and composites in vehicle design.

  • Improved fuel efficiency: fuel efficiency can be increased by 6-8 percent and fuel consumption will reduce 0.3~0.6L/100km by reducing vehicle weight by 10 percent.
  • Improved driving experience: acceleration, handling and control will be improved while noise, vibration and harshness are reduced.
  • Increased comfort: internal space of the vehicle can increase.
  • Increased safety: less weight and higher stiffness will reduce braking distance.

Lightweight Considerations

There are a few important aspects of lightweighting to consider, including the integration of components and functions, access to the most innovative materials and production technologies, and cost-weight optimization. There are four specific areas of the vehicle that are the focus of “lightweighting”: the chassis, the powertrain, body structures, and trim—both interior and exterior.

  • Lightweighting for the chassis (the base frame of a motor vehicle plus steering, suspension, etc.) requires light alloys and the integration of dissimilar materials. Optimization of these designs requires joining materials in new ways. H.B. Fuller provides a vast portfolio of structural epoxy, polyurethane, and acrylate materials that can enable unique designs to move forward.
  • Lightweighting for powertrain (the mechanism that transmits the drive from the engine of a vehicle to its axle) requires light alloys, plastics, and the reduction of casting weights. In powertrain, a silicone sealant is typically used for flange sealing, creating a durable seal for engine oil, coolant, and transmission fluid regardless of the operating environments. H.B. Fuller offers a series of silicone products which can bond and seal various materials like aluminum, steel, and plastic, ensuring reliable, leak-free seals between same and multi-material assemblies.
  • Lightweighting for body structures requires use of high-strength steel, magnesium/aluminum alloy, plastic, and composite materials. Aluminum is widely used in this stage of vehicle production, and more and more new models use aluminum plates in the roof, engine compartment cover, and door sheet in addition to the body of the vehicle. Structural adhesives can improve stiffness and prevent electrochemical corrosion when dissimilar metals such as aluminum and steel come into contact. Following surface treatment of PP/ABS/PC, structural adhesives can bond these plastics as well.
  • Lightweighting for trim/final assembly requires attention to both interior and exterior solutions. In the vehicle interior, lightweight design often means polypropylene, a low surface energy (LSE) plastic that, with conventional adhesives, requires pretreatment before lamination with a decorative covering. H.B. Fuller offers a growing number of interior trim adhesives such as Swift®Lock 2003 and Swift®Lock 2900 designed to bond LSE materials without a costly, time-consuming surface treatment process. Unique combinations of performance properties mean that manufacturing ease performance need not be comprised. For example, H.B. Fuller 2K polyurethanes provide a five-minute open time and can reach 0.5MPa strength in 80℃ in 100 seconds. Furthermore, these products offer more than 200 percent elongation and are very suitable for plastic covering parts bonding.

An excellent illustration of the practical challenges of lightweighting and the utility of H.B. Fuller adhesive solutions can be found in the production of electric buses. Because the battery pack is so heavy, the viability of the vehicle depends on weight reduction elsewhere, specifically the body. The traditional bus exterior is constructed of steel cover plate welded to a steel frame. Changing these materials to aluminum reduces the bus weight by up to 40 percent. Adhesives enable this vitally important change. The inherent difficulties of aluminum welding would make it otherwise impractical. The success of this evolution in the electric bus is confirmed in the 600 percent increase of the market in 2015 alone. H.B. Fuller offers adhesive solutions enabling lightweighting in all types of electric vehicles, whether the design challenge is in the chassis, body, powertrain or trim.

In summary, lightweighting in the automobile industry is the future. Take advantage now of the opportunity to enlist the help of H.B. Fuller to implement high performance, weight-saving designs. Contact H.B. Fuller to learn more!

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