18th April 2016 by Richard Yen
This year marks the fourth annual Altair Enlighten Award, the only award dedicated to recognizing achievements in automotive lightweighting. As we begin our countdown to this year’s award ceremony in August. Join us for the next few weeks as we revisit the innovative nominations we received for the 2015 Enlighten Award. To start things off we will review the first of VE Commercial Vehicles’ (a Volvo Group and Eicher Motors Joint Venture) four entries.
For the commercial sector, a lighter vehicle can not only benefit from improved fuel efficiency compared to a heavier alternative, but crucially, can carry a heavier payload as it is hauling less of its own weight. VE Commercial Vehicles’ (VECV) first entry focused on the weight reduction of the powertrain, a system which we’ve seen become a key area for weight saving exploration within many companies. The entry concerned the transmission housing, which has traditionally been made of FC25 (Ferro Cast Iron). VECV had explored the potential to replace the heavy iron component with a much lighter aluminium ADC10 alternative.
However this entry wasn’t just a story of a straight material swap, VECV used the material switch process as an opportunity to optimize the design of the transmission housing to ensure that it maximized the potential of the new die casting.
To achieve same stiffness of the existing and proven cast iron housing, the company utilized topology optimization techniques with the help of Altair’s OptiStruct solution. By allowing simulation technology to define where material within the housing could be safely removed, VECV were able to create a new structure which actually improved upon the reliability, durability and safety performance of the baseline design under severe environmental conditions but without an increase in cost or change in stiffness.
The final design achieved a 30% weight saving compared to the original housing, a significant amount of weight when considering the size of the powertrain systems within commercial vehicles. Although this entry focused on the transmission housing itself, the nomination is also a good example of why the powertrain is becoming an area of interest for car and commercial vehicle makers. A lighter powertrain can lead to additional ‘secondary’ weight savings that can be achieved in the system’s supporting structure. As such, in future nominations, we expect to see more and more companies emphasizing the full weight saving potential that can be realized as part of their weight reduction efforts.