Collaborative venture seeks affordable composite high-volume route for automotive structures

The initiative is part of the Collaborative Research and Development (CR&D) programme, ‘Low Carbon Vehicles, Integrated Delivery Platform Competition 9 (IDP9)’.

The £3 million project led by Far-UK Ltd aims to develop a novel end-to-end process for manufacturing high-volume and low-cost lightweight structural components for the automotive industry.

As part of the project consortium, TATA Motors European Technical Centre plc (TMETC) representing a major international automotive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is providing the technical design specification for a structural component concept as a case study. The approach is to develop a composite version of the automotive part focusing on three specific aspects: design optimisation, effective selection of material and efficient process definition.

The project, which started in March 2014, is to define a glide-path to achieve a 30% weight reduction on the existing steel component and a 40% reduction in costs from traditional composite materials and processing. The other key deliverables are to establish design guidelines to apply ‘right materials in the right place’ principle in the future and to ascertain recommendations to enable the assembly of dissimilar materials. A validated Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) model will be built against the results of real-world component tests.

The consortium includes Far-UK Ltd as Lead Partner, Expert Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, the National Composites Centre (NCC), TMETC and WMG.

The project will also provide additional benefits as follows:

  • Lower use-phase emissions achieved by the 30% targeted weight reduction for an equivalent component
  • High temperature capability to enable integration with existing paint shop processes, together with in use operation
  • Technology can be implemented on existing vehicle manufacturing techniques and novel vehicle architectures including, hybrid and electric vehicles
  • Materials and processing technologies anchored in the UK
  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of components and processing routes
  • End-to-end cost analysis of finished parts and vehicle integration

Dr S. Cozien-Cazuc, Technical Programme Manager at Far-UK, explains: “Far-UK is thrilled to be leading a collaborative research project, working with a strong consortium involving a major automotive OEM, TATA Motors, which will enable delivery of an affordable technology for the manufacturing of composite structural components for the high-volume automotive industry. The HiLiTe project will offer technical solutions enabling car manufacturers to seriously consider fibre-reinforced plastic materials for their future platform programmes”.

Dr O. Hadded, Commercial Vice President at TMETC adds: “This project is typical of the significant contribution the Innovate UK IDP programmes are making to UK automotive R&D. TMETC is committed to developing cost effective lightweight technology for Tata Motors’ future global vehicles and the quality and strength of the partners in this project will deliver excellent results.”

The HiLiTe project will help the development of UK automotive manufacturing towards lower weight vehicles, which in turn will help reduce transport greenhouse gas emissions.