11th May 2017 by Richard Yen
This year’s Altair Enlighten Award is well underway. In fact, there’s just over one week left to enter so if you’re thinking about nominating your company there’s not much time left! In the run up to the 2017 award presentation at the end of July, I wanted to take a look back at our previous entries and make a few personal comments on last year’s entries. To kick off the series, let’s take a look at Meridian’s work with Fiat-Chrysler.
Meridian’s 2016 nomination concerned the liftgate inner of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and represented an impressive use of alternative, lightweight materials.
The vehicle’s incumbent design for the liftgate used seven steel stampings and two plastic pieces that were welded and/or joined together including steel reinforcements in the hinge and latch areas. Working alongside Chrysler, Meridian successfully replaced this design with a magnesium alloy die-casting which provided sufficient structure and stiffness to allow for replacement of steel outer panels with lightweight aluminum sheet. The Magnesium casting forms part of a four piece assembly with an Aluminum sheet outer (Upper & Lower) and Aluminum stamping wiper reinforcement to reduce weight of the entire assembly by 40% from the previous generation.
In addition to the weight save, the casting also improves noise, harshness and vibration (NVH) in bending and prevents cavitation from idle boom and road boom by local ribbing, integrated gussets and thickness additions.
Meridian’s nomination was significant as it demonstrated the practical use of lightweight magnesium on a high volume vehicle. In fact, the use of magnesium in this way represented the first time a vehicle of more than 250,000 annual volume had adopted this approach anywhere in the industry. What’s even more impressive is that this application alone accounted a significant amount of the overall vehicle weight reduction. Meridian are pioneering the use of magnesium technologies in the automotive industry and I expect that we will see more manufacturers adopting this approach after proving that that material can be used cost effectively on high-volume vehicles. It will be interesting to see if we receive more nominations that feature magnesium this year.