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Magna and Ford produce future lightweight subframe

Save the weight: Carbon-fibre subframe construction will reduce weight by a third compared with the traditional steel methods.

Vehicle weight saving taken to extremes with Ford and Magna’s carbon-fibre subframe

17 Mar 2017

GLOBAL automotive parts manufacturer Magna has teamed with Ford to produce a prototype carbon-fibre front subframe which will reduce weight without an adverse effect on structural strength or safety.

The cutting-edge subframe – which usually houses the engine and some steering, suspension and transmission components – will reduce mass by 34 per cent compared to its traditional steel equivalent, according to Magna, and will also substitute 45 steel parts with two moulded and four metallic parts that are bonded by structural rivets and adhesives.

Weight reduction is universally regarded as beneficial in a vehicle as it improves both fuel economy and performance, but, carbon-fibre materials can be expensive to manufacture and are often reserved for low-production exotic supercars or small components such as spoilers and interior trim pieces.

The cost and production complexity of a carbon-fibre subframe likely means the first commercial application for Ford will be in a high-tech performance car – possible its GT supercar or a tuned Mustang variant.

Ford’s Mustang GT350R and flagship GT already make use of carbon-fibre wheels, produced by Aussie firm Carbon Revolution, and the latter features liberal use of the lightweight material through its construction.

According to Magna, “the design has passed all performance requirements based on computer-aided engineering (CAE) analyses” and will now move to the vehicle-testing phase with Ford where extensive corrosion, stone chipping and bolt load retention testing can take place.

Ford research and advanced engineering director of vehicle enterprise systems Mike Whitens said “we must continue to work hard to achieve these lightweight solutions at the most affordable costs”.

“Collaboration is the key to success in designing lightweight components that can give our customers fuel economy improvements without compromising ride and handling, durability or safety,” he said.

Magna exteriors president Grahame Burrow added that the carbon-fibre subframe technology “is another step forward as we continue to help our OEM partners meet their goals”.

“We are able to take a clean-sheet approach with design, materials and processing, collaborate with the customer and within our product groups, and deliver a solution with the potential to really move the needle in terms of aggressive lightweighting without sacrificing styling or performance,” he said.

Magna’s customers include a long list of car-makers from the around the world such as BMW, Daimler AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company, Geely, General Motors, Great Wall Auto, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Mahindra, Mazda, Mitsubishi, PSA, Renault-Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, Tata Motors, Tesla Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen AG and Volvo.

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