2nd April 2015 by David Mason
Following from last week’s review of SABIC’s entry to the 2014 Altair Enlighten Award, this week I will review Multimatic’s entry which took a slightly different approach to reducing vehicle weight.
In the automotive industry there is a lot of talk about swapping heavier materials for lighter weight alternatives with some very high profile examples where manufacturers have used aluminium as a replacement for traditional steels.In its entry, Multimatic focused less on material substitution and more on material removal through optimization.
Multimatic utilized design optimization technology to a steel front lower control arm, allowing its engineers to discover where material was required to meet the performance criteria set and removing it from areas where it was not needed.
Topology optimization was used to define a very organic material layout, which was then interpreted by the engineering team to something that could be feasibly manufactured through stamping. The team then used shape optimization to refine the design details focusing on radii and fillets, lightening holes, and joint configurations where the predicted fatigue life was sensitive.
The resulting design was 30% lighter than a steel equivalent and mass neutral relative to a forged aluminum design implemented on other platform variants. Crucially however, the component was estimated to be just 34% the cost of a forged aluminum design.
Multimatic’s entry received praise from the judging panel for using next generation design technologies to create a lightweight steel design that met all performance requirements at a significantly lower cost. Transitioning to lighter but more costly material is a common path to achieving lightweight designs, but not the only approach. More and more companies are aggressively using design optimization to drive the most efficient use of existing materials. As cost targets are extremely important to a companies top line, this approach in many cases can be cost neutral or even a cost save without changing manufacturing processes. Design optimization technology is becoming key for companies wanting to achieve the ideal balance between weight, performance and cost.