AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—A composite steering knuckle made of chopped carbon fiber via an advanced sheet compression molding process recently earned a 2020 Altair Enlighten Award for the automotive supplier Marelli, the company said in a release.
The global technology company, Altair, and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) named Marelli a winner in the Future of Lightweighting category—reserved for innovations that are not yet in production. Marelli won for its Advanced Sheet Compression Molded Suspension Steering Knuckle.
The Altair Enlighten Awards program was created in 2013 to acknowledge innovations in vehicle lightweighting, which plays a fundamental role in helping to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. The 2020 award ceremony was held online on August 4 as part of the CAR Management Briefing Seminars, an event focused on the future of the global automotive industry.
Marelli’s winning entry is the result of years of research conducted by the company’s Ride Dynamics team, the business unit responsible for design, engineering, and production of shock absorbers and suspension components. The team developed a steering knuckle—the part that contains the wheel and attaches to the suspension and steering components—made from chopped carbon fiber.
The composite material is reported to be as strong as traditional carbon fiber and more resistant to cracking. It is also said to be 25 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than cast iron. What makes it viable for automotive production is the manufacturing process: Advanced Sheet Molding Compression (ASMC) is a high-volume, high-pressure method suitable for molding complex, high-strength materials, the release said.
Marelli’s Ride Dynamics team has performed extensive testing, analysis, and validation to ensure the feasibility of the suspension knuckle. Prototypes were developed using a 1,500-ton press. By combining chopped carbon fiber with ASMC, the team can produce complex structural parts that meet performance requirements via a one-shot, net shape process. Cycle times are suitable for automotive production, the release said.
“We are honored to receive the 2020 Altair Enlighten Award and would like to thank the judges for recognizing our innovation,” said Antonio Ferrara, CEO of Marelli’s Ride Dynamics business unit, in the release. “This award is further validation that the combination of lightweight materials with high-volume advanced manufacturing methods can disrupt the industry. Through extensive testing and analysis, our team has proven that significant mass savings can be realized without compromising cost, performance, or volume targets.”