INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Carmakers Drive Innovation with Lightweighting, Powertrains

Auto fact #1: About 50 percent of a modern car’s volume is plastic yet it only accounts for 10 percent of its weight

Auto fact #2: 43-year-old men purchase more cars than anyone else.

Stats like this bring to life the changes taking place in the evolution of the automotive industry, as research and development move at a pace faster than ever.

Two major factors are driving these changes: regulations and market demands. We are all familiar with automobile safety regulations, but may be less familiar with CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards. These standards set mileage requirements for an automaker’s fleet. The 2025 target is 54.5 miles per gallon.

Now think of the 40-something guy that represents the largest demographic who are purchasing cars. Is this individual willing to give up performance, e.g., acceleration or leather seats or integrated entertainment systems, so that his new ride meets mileage and safety requirements. Probably not. Innovation is often times driven by necessity and the automotive industry is responding.

BMW started using magnesium for its N52 six-cylinder crankcases and cylinder head covers in 2005.

In recent years, there has been a major push around lightweighting to help address mileage requirements. Weight reduction is one proven method to improve fuel economy and minimize the impact on performance. This can achieved through the use of engineering-grade resins that possess physical properties well beyond what the average consumer thinks is possible.

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TIPS WITH TONY: Lessen the Load with Lightweighting

Is weight a concern in your product’s design or functionality? If so, there are a number of ways we can help you reduce component weight by looking at material selection and the method(s) of manufacturing used to produce the parts. You might even save some production dollars.

To learn more about rapid manufacturing’s role in lightweighting for automotive applications, download our free white paper today.

As you probably know, weight reduction is extremely valuable in every industry but more so in automotive, aerospace and electronics industries. The carbon footprint that vehicles of all sizes leave behind is being closely regulated by CAFE Standards — a reduction of 110 lbs., for example, can improve fuel efficiency by 2 percent. With increasingly more electronics becoming mobile, product needs to become lighter while providing the same performance, or improved performance, as their predecessors. Once-heavy laptops or cellphones would not be in their current lightweight, mobile state without advanced materials and technology advancements.

Magnesium
Magnesium offers a weight reduction of 65 percent over steel and 25 percent over aluminum, which seems pretty huge — and it is. This is large reason why automotive and aerospace industries are beginning to introduce magnesium into assemblies. Besides reducing weight, magnesium is non-magnetic, electrically and thermally conductivity, and offers EMI/RFI shielding.

You can either have magnesium parts CNC machined or injection molded at Proto Labs to cover all of your prototyping and low-volume production needs — 1 to 5,000+ parts in 15 days or less.

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TIPS WITH TONY: Machining Versus Molding for Magnesium Parts

In our latest tip, we’re talking about magnesium, and how to use it in product design for metal parts that need to be lightweight yet strong.

Magnesium works well for reducing component weight in place of steel or aluminum as it’s the lightest structural metal currently available. This lends itself well to a range of applications in the automotive, aerospace and electronics industries.

It’s heavily used in vehicle lightweighting to lower fuel consumption, reducing automakers overall carbon footprint. It’s also used to create lighter and thinner electronics or simply whenever a lightweight yet strong backbone material is needed in a part. Be sure to test and review magnesium’s material properties closely as it’s not always the proper substitute for other metal or plastic materials.

Magnesium versus

Steel

Aluminum

Plastic

75% lighter

33% lighter

Greater stiffness

Thinner walls

Similar or greater mechanical properties

Improved strength and wear resistance

Consolidation of parts

Consolidation of parts

Higher temperature

Machines faster

Machines faster

Creep resistant

Reduced tooling costs

Improved corrosion resistance

Fewer supports needed

What manufacturing methods are there for magnesium? Proto Labs offers both CNC machining and injection molding for prototype and low-volume mag parts, though magnesium die casting also used in the industry.

How do I choose the right manufacturing method? Quantity, lead time, size and material properties will greatly impact which manufacturing method to use.

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