Automotive lightweighting innovators honoured with awards

31st July 2018
Alex Lynn

The winners of the sixth annual Altair Enlighten Award were announced by Altair and the Centre for Automotive Research (CAR), at the 2018 CAR Management Briefing Seminars (MBS) in Traverse City, Michigan. The Altair Enlighten Award honours achievements in vehicle weight savings each year. 

Inspiring interest from industry, policymakers, educators, students and the public, the award incentivises automotive lightweighting advancements and provides a global platform to recognise and share technological achievements. The award is judged by an independent panel of automotive industry experts, academia and the engineering media who selected six winners from a field of 57 finalists this year.

Judging Chair Carla Bailo, President and CEO of CAR, stated: “It was impressive to see the high quality of this year’s Altair Enlighten Award applications. Nominations from OEMs, suppliers, materials technology companies, startups and academia demonstrate the tremendous and varied weight reduction effort being achieved across the global automotive industry. We were also thrilled at the response to the new Future of Lightweighting category introduced this year, which highlighted some highly innovative solutions holding great promise to advance fuel efficiency and automotive sustainability.”

The General Motors team applied a multi-disciplinary optimisation CAE approach, a higher percentage of advanced high strength steels, and new assembly methods in the development of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado cab and frame to win the Full Vehicle award. In addition to the 450lbs ( overall weight savings, General Motors achieved 23% more storage space, greater dynamic stiffness, improved corrosion prevention, better NVH performance, and increased impact protection on the 2019 Silverado.

The Module category, which focuses on vehicle systems, subsystems and components, was claimed by BMW Group for its 2018 BMW i8 Roadster metal 3D printed convertible roof bracket. This innovative component marks the first time a metal 3D-printed part has been used in a series production vehicle. Produced with Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology without needing any support structures, it was also the first time a topology-optimised design has been translated nearly 1:1 into a series production vehicle to capture a 44% weight savings and tenfold stiffness increase.

Maximilian Meixlsperger, Head of Additive Manufacturing Metal at BMW Group, explained: “We were honoured to receive the Altair Enlighten Award this year and would like to thank the judges for recognising the efforts of the team that worked on the i8. It’s clear that additive manufacturing has huge lightweight potential for vehicle designers when combined with the power of optimisation technologies. Getting a 3D printed part onto a mass produced vehicle would have been unheard of until very recently but with this success, we have an opportunity to make the process part of our standard design and manufacturing approach.”

For the Enabling Technology category, which focuses on technological advances enabling manufacturers to save weight, the independent judging panel found the competition too tight and elected to recognise three category award winners: Asahi Kasei Corporation and Mazda Corporation, Sika Automotive, and United States Steel Corporation. 

Asahi Kasei Corporation’s winning entry was a novel production brake pedal bracket for the Mazda MX-5 that was designed using glass fibre reinforced polyamide 66. The new injection moulded design required the Asahi Kasei and Mazda team to withdraw from conventional thinking allowing for the removal of unnecessary metal parts to realise a weight savings of 83%.

Sika Automotive’s winning entry was an ultra lightweight constrained layer material system for structure-borne noise damping. Typical materials for structure-borne noise damping have an area weight of 5kg/sqm, which was reduced by up to 80% in midsized sedans, such as the BMW i8, Audi Q7, and Daimler A-Class, when using Sika’s new ultra lightweight material system. 

U.S. Steel’s winning entry of Martensitic Advanced High Strength Steels for Low Mass Structural Components, Mart-Ten 1500 have recently been introduced to the automotive market with ultimate tensile strengths exceeding 1,500MPa. U.S. Steel’s advances in continuous annealing technology have enabled the Gigapascal strength to be achieved consistently and repeatedly in mass production to offer more than 10% in weight savings. 

The Future of Lightweighting category was introduced this year to recognise innovative ideas, processes, materials and technologies that have significant potential to support lightweighting initiatives, but have yet to be leveraged on a production vehicle platform. American Axle & Manufacturing was the inaugural award winner in this category for its Quantum Driveline Architecture. Quantum is a unique integration of proven materials and technologies to radically reduce the mass of light duty pickup rear axle systems by 35%, increase transmitted power efficiency, and deliver robust NVH performance.

Richard Yen, Senior Vice President of Global Automotive and Industry Verticals at Altair, concluded: “Our judging panel had a very difficult task selecting this year’s award winners among so many high quality entries. I would like to personally congratulate our award winners and thank all of our finalists and applicants for participating. It’s a rewarding experience each year to witness how simulation-driven design strategies, new materials and advanced manufacturing processes are advancing automotive lightweighting by offering new opportunities to innovate weight efficient products from the start.”

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