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Material

Selection in
Automobiles

A Case Study

Jasleen Singh Malhi, 13108044


Nupur Arora, 13108046
Jasmine Wadhwa, 13108054

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MATERIAL SELECTION

HISTORY

WOOD
For many years Wood was the most favourable choice for construction of Vehicle-bodies in the
transportation sector.

Let us look at the reasons behind this choice:


Traditionally wood was used in the transportation sector for building Chariots, Animal
drawn Carts, Palanquins etc hence it became the natural choice for building bodies of
the automobiles, omnibuses etc. at the first phase of industrial revolution.
Wood has impressive mechanical properties. The elastic modulus of wood is in the range
of 8-20 GPa which is as good as materials like PMMA and GFRP. The density of wood is
about 0.6-75 Mg/m3 lighter than most of the polymers except polymeric foams. The
strength of the wood is about 30 MPa which is again comparable to high-performance
polymers.
Other advantages of wood are recyclability, ease of machining and aesthetically pleasing
quality.
With the advent of mass-scale production and automation in car-industry, it became necessary
to replace wood by metals and metallic alloys. Typical metal shaping technologies like sheet

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forming which can handle large batch size (105 to 106 units per batch) became very much suitable
for the massscale production of vehicles.

STEEL

The main factors of selecting material specially for body is wide variety of characteristics such
as thermal, chemical or mechanical resistance, ease of manufacture and durability. So if we want
to choose a material with these characteristics, Steel is the first choice. There was many
developments in irons and steels over the past couple decades that made the steel more light-
weight, stronger, stiffer and improving other performance characteristics. Applications include
not only vehicle bodies, but also engine, chassis, wheels and many other parts. Iron and steel
form the critical elements of structre for the vast majority of vehicles, and are low-cost materials.
The past several years have seen steady increases in the use of high-strength steels that are
referred to as high-strength, low-alloy steels. These materials formed the basis of Ultralight Steel
Auto Body (ULSAB). The ULSAB car body demonstrated a 19% mass reduction in a body
structure that had superior strength and structural performance. Comparable mass reductions nad
othere benefits were achieved for doors, hoods, decklids, and the hatchbacks.
The prime reason for using steel in the body structre is its inherent capability to absorb impact
energy in a crash situation.

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CHARACTERISTICS OF MATERIALS USED IN AUTOMOBILES

1. Lightweight
As there is a high emphasis on greenhouse gas reductions, reduction of emission and improving
fuel efficiency this criterion is most important one for an automotive company. Lightweight
materials can improve fuel efficiency more than other factors. Experiments reveal that 10 percent
of weight reduction can lead to 6 to 8 percent improvement in fuel usage. Weight reduction can
be obtained by three ways:
Replacing materials of high specific weight with lower density materials without
reducing rigidity and durability. For example replacement of steel with aluminium,
magnesium, composites and foams.
Optimizing the design of load-carrying elements and exterior attachments so as to reduce
their weight without any loss in rigidity or functionality.
Optimizing the production process, such as reducing spot welding and replacing new
joining techniques.
But the single main obstacle in application of lightweight materials is their high cost. Yet the
weight reduction is still the most cost-effective means to reduce fuel consumption. The weight
reduction versus the price increase by replacing steel by aluminium or magnesium for some of
the parts is reported in Table.

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2. Economic effectiveness
One of the most important consumer driven factors in automotive industry is the cost, that
determines whether any new material has an oppotrunity to be selected for a vehicle component.
Cost includes three components: actual cost of raw materials, manufacturing value added, and
the cost to design and test the product.
Aluminium and magnesium alloys are cerainly more costly than the currently used steel and cast
irons. Since cost may be higher, decisions to select light metals must be justified on the basis of
improved functionality. Meanwhile the high cost is one of the major obstacles in use of the
composite materials.

3. Safety
The ability to absorb impact energy and be survivable for the passengers is called
crashworthiness of the structure in vehicle. At first two concepts in automotive industry should
be considered: crashworthiness and penetration resistance. In the more accurate definition of
crashworthiness, it is the potential of absorption of energy through controlled failure modes and
mechanisms. However, penetration resistance is concerned with the total absorption without
allowing projectile or fragment penetration.

4. Recycling
The most important concerns in industeries such as automotive, are protection of resources,
reduction of CO2 emissions, and recycling. There are some guidelines in European Union and
Asian countries about this issue. While the United States has not issued any regulations
concerning automotive end-of-life requirements.
For example, in the UK, around two million vehicles reach the end of their life each year and
these vehicles are concidered as hazardous waste untill they have been fully treated. When a
consumer decides not to use a vehicle anymore, there are following options available :
1. Sell the whole vehicle to another user.
2. Disassemble the vehicle.
3. Remanufacture the vehicle.
4. Recycle the vehicle for materials.
5. Dispose the vehicle to a landfill.

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FUTURE OF AUTOMOBILE MATERIALS : LIGHT WEIGHT MATERIALS

NEED FOR LIGHT WEIGHT MATERIALS:-


Regulatory constraints on energy consumption have influenced vehicle development for over
three decades. With recent rises in oil prices due to increasing demand and unrest in the Middle
East, and the increased prominence of global warming and other environmental concerns in the
popular press, technological advances to improve vehicle efficiency are becoming increasingly
important to competitiveness in the global automobile market. One key technical design strategy
for improving vehicle efficiency is the reduction of vehicle mass, or light-weighting. Vehicle
light-weighting not only enhances fuel efficiency, but also lowers vehicle emissions and
improves driving performance. Light-weight subsystems such as hoods and decklids are already
employed throughout the industry to achieve small weight savings. However, significant
improvements in vehicle efficiency will require larger changes in mass. A primary target for this
mass reduction is the body-in-white, whose standard steel version comprises 2025% of total
vehicle curb weight. The two main strategic approaches for reducing weight in the body-in-white
are architectural changes and material substitution. Among architecture alternatives, the unibody
is most mass efficient and is already ubiquitous. Consequently, the primary mechanism available
for further reducing the weight of the body-in-white is the use of alternative materials.

PRESENT DAY MATERIALS AVAILABLE

1. Aluminium
There are a wide variaty of aluminium usage in automotive powertrain, chassis and body
structure. Use of aluminium can potentially reduce the weight of the vehicle body. Its low
density and high specific energy absorption performance and good specific stregth are its most
important properties.

Aluminium is also resistance to corrosion. But according to its low modulus of elasticity, it
cannot substitute steel parts and therefore those parts need to be re-engineered to achieve the
same mechanical strength, but still aluminium offers weight reduction.

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Aluminium usage in automotive industry has grown within past years. In automotive powertrain,
aluminim castings have been used for almost 100% of pistons, about 75% of cylinder heads,
85% of intake manifolds and transmission. For chassis applications, aluminium castings are used
for about 40% of wheels, and for brackets, brake components, suspension, steering components
and unstriment panels. Aluminium is used for body structures, closures and exterior attachments
such as crossbeams, doors or bonnets.

Recent developments have shown that up to 50% weight saving for the body in white (BIW) can
be achieved by the substitiution of steel by aluminium. This can result in a 20-30% total vehicle
weight reduction.
The cost of aluminium and price stability is its biggest obstacle for its application.

2. Magnesium
Magnesium is another light metal that is becoming increasingly common in automotive
engineering. It is 33% ligher than aluminium and 75% lighter than steel/cast iron components.
Magnesium components have many mechanical/physical property disadvantage that require
unique design for application to automotive products. Although its tensile yield strength is about
the same, magnesium has lower ultimate tensile strength fatigue strength, and creep strength

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compared to Aluminium. The modulus and hardness of magnesium alloys is lower than
aluminium and the thermal expansion coefficient is greater.
Magnesium alloys have distinct advantages over aluminium that include better
manufacturability, longer die life and faster solidification. Also magnesium components have
higher machinability.

Because of its too low mechanical strength, pure magnesium must be alloyed with other
elements. The most common alloying elements for room temperature applications is Mg-Al-Zn
group that contains aluminium, manganese, and zinc.

3. Advanced composite materials


Fibre reinforced composites offer a wide range of advantages to the automotive industry. It has
the potential for saving weight offered by their low density. Component designs can be such that
the fibres lie in the direction of the principal stresses, and amount of fibre used is sufficient to
withstand the stress, thus optimising materials usage.

4. Carbon-fibre epoxy composite

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Most recently, the most of the racing car companies much more rely on composites form whether
it would be plastic composites, Kevlar and most importantly carbon-fibre epoxy composition. It
is because the composite structures is the high strength/low weight ratio. The most common
materials used for racing cars are carbon (graphite), Kevlar and glass fibres. Epoxy composites
have been the first choice in Formula 1 car industeries and other race cars.

5. Glass-fibre composites
Glass fibre is being used mostly for the sports car which includes Formula 1 cars. It is lighter
than steel and aluminium, easy to be shaped and rust-proof. And more important factor is that it
is cheap to be produced in small quantity.

INCORPORATED LIGHT WEIGHT MATERIALS:-


As a result of more stringent requirements for improved fuel economy and emissions, there is a
growing trend to substitute Al and Mg for conventional steel and cast irons in vehicles. The
following table shows the recent changes brought about in the various mentioned parts of an
automobile body.

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WHY ARE PRESENT DAY CARS MADE OF ALUMINIUM?

Advantages of using Aluminium in automobiles:-


There is a marked increase in the use of aluminum in automobiles over the years. Following the
report of the Aluminum Association in the 2002 North American Light Vehicle Aluminum
Content Study, for 2002, the average aluminum content for passenger cars and light trucks
combined is about 125 Kg while the average for all vehicles sold in 1999 was about 113 Kg.
It is also noted that lower energy consumption and gas emissions is possible through
reduced weight, for example, extensive use of aluminium can result in up to 300 kg
weight reduction in a medium size vehicle (1400kg).
For every 100 kg reduction in the automotive sector, there is a cut of 20% lower exhaust
gas emissions and proportionally reduced operating costs.

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One of the major challenges in Aluminium industry is to machine complex components
out of thick plate replacing parts previously machined from die forgings or fabricated
from sheet and extrusions. This would reduce the cost of manufacturing as well as
enhance the application of complex shapes.
The picture below shows a Jaguar Car which is having almost complete body and frame
made out of Aluminium.

PROS AND CONS OF ADVANCED LIGHTWEIGT MATERIALS

MAGNESIUM (MG)
Description: With the lowest density of all
structural metals, magnesium alloys have the
potential to reduce component weight up to
70 percent. Magnesium is presently used as
castings for powertrains or sub-assembly
closures. The increased use of magnesium for
automotive applications is limited by several
technical challenges.
Pros: High stiffness and strength, compatible with existing infrastructure for stamping.

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Cons: Expensive, lack of availability from U.S. manufacturers in large quantities to meet
automotive needs. Other challenges include ductility, joining and corrosion. Rare earth additives
may also be needed to improve energy absorption to meet crash requirements by automotive
markets.

CARBON FIBER COMPOSITES


Description: Despite being half the weight
of steel, carbon fiber composites are four
times stronger and have the potential to
reduce vehicle weight by up to 70 percent.
Pros: High stiffness, high strength, enables
the manufacture of highly complex shapes,
and offers tremendous weight savings.
Cons: High production cost of carbon fiber, difficulty joining into vehicles, along with
associated challenges in modeling performance, infrastructure, and sufficient amounts of fiber to
meet automotive needs.

ALUMINUM
Description: A lighter, more expensive
alternative to steel, aluminum is increasingly
being utilized for hoods, trunk lids, and
doors and has the potential to reduce weight
by up to 60 percent.
Pros: Technology is fairly mature, good stiffness, strength and energy absorption.
Cons: Higher cost than steel, joining to other materials, and limited formability issues.

TITANIUM

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Description: High temperature metals used
in powertrain systems that can reduce weight
by up to 55 percent.
Pros: High strength to weight ratio, can
withstand high temperatures.
Cons: High cost of materials, formability
challenges.

ADVANCED HIGH STRENGTH STEEL


(AHSS)
Description: Higher performance family of
steels that enable greater weight reduction.
AHSS has the potential to reduce component
weight by up to 25 percent, particularly in
strength-limited designs such as pillars and
door rings.
Pros: High strength, stiffness and formability, corrosion performance, low cost.
Cons: Cost, wears out stamping molds faster than for lesser grades. Ductility decreases as
strength increases adding issues in forming and joining. Challenges also include design,
component processing, and behavior in harsh environments.

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MATERIAL INDICES OF CAR BODY MATERIALS

There were two-choices in terms of use of metals and metallic alloys: Steel and Aluminium
Alloys. Why these materials became so popular for Car-design?

It is observed that three most significant issues in car-body design are:


i. Stiffness of the sheets which is expressed as an objective to minimise mass against a
specified deflection limit. Minimisation of mass directly implies the use of less amount of
material and hence less cost per unit. Also, mass minimisation would increase fuel
efficiency of the vehicle. For a flat panel of size (LxB), thickness t, modulus of elasticity
E and density , this would involve the search for a material having maximum value of
an index (E1/3/). Later we will discuss about the origin of such indices.
ii. Another important consideration is dent resistance. A similar study would indicate that
this requires the maximisation of an index (y t4/k), where y is the yield strength and k is
the stiffness of the panel.

iii. The third important issue is the resistance against crack propagation. This is indicated by
the parameter called fracture toughness or KIC (MPa-m1/2)

Now, let us look at the values of these parameters for four materials: Carbon Steel, Stainless
Steel, Aluminium Alloy, PMMA and GRFP (Glass Fibre Reinforced Plastic).

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The Table above clearly explains why Carbon steel was tolerated for a long time in Car-body
construction. It was the cheapest among all available materials having reasonably good material
indices. However, the massive growth of automobile use in the Europe and USA caused
tremendous environmental problems. As a result in 1975 a new rule was established by CAFE
(Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations, which set a target of fuel economy up to 27.5
miles per Gallon of fuel). The average fuel efficiency of steel based Cars at that time was only 14
mpg. The new rules have shifted the favour towards Aluminium. In terms of specific stiffness it
is even placed better than steel. The Table also shows that from all round consideration GFRP is
even better than Aluminium. However, the cost of GFRP is still much higher than Aluminum
prohibiting its use in mass-scale manufacturing of automobiles.

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