Hydroformed Pillars Save Vehicle Weight for Ford

26th September 2012

An article on SAE Vehicle Engineering describes how Ford is making use of hydroformed components to save significant amounts of weight from its new range of vehicles. For example, Ford’s 2013 Fusion uses hydroformed steel tubes for its B-pillars and A-pillar roof rail saving several kilograms compared to a traditional stamped steel alternative.

Hydroforming is a specialized type of die forming and an alternative to traditional metal stamping.  The process uses a high pressure hydraulic fluid to press material into a die. It is often used in the high end sports car market where lightweight materials such as aluminum are more common but is increasingly being used in high volume vehicle applications.

According to the article:

Using hydroforming instead of hot-stamped welded sheet to create the car’s roof-pillar structure reduced mass, saved cost, reduced the bill of material, and helped improve the new Fusion’s crash performance, said Shawn Morgans, Ford’s Technical Leader and Global Core Manager, Body Structure, Closures, and Body CAE.

“The benefits we’re getting from using a closed continuous section, including giving us better structural continuity throughout the pillars, are driving big improvements to our body structures,” Morgans told AEI. He said in developing the Fusion pillars, his team uncovered no other similar production applications featuring hydroformed tubes.

Ford is driving increased use of hydroformed components across its global body structures going forward, Morgans said. The new C/D-segment Fusion sedan is built on Ford’s new CD4 architecture developed by Ford Europe. It replaces the seven-year-old Mazda G-derived CD3 platform used on the previous-generation Fusion. The CD4, which also underpins Lincoln’s new MKZ, is a predominantly steel structure featuring a high level of high- and ultrahigh-strength alloy content. It is claimed to be stiffer in torsion and bending and more mass-efficient than the former platform.

The hydroforming process has led to a 4 kg (8.8 lb) saving on the Fusion compared with a hot-stamped design.

Read the full article on SAE Vehicle Engineering Online