Drivers could be the big winners in this new study released by NCMS, BMW, and the University of Delaware-Center for Composite Materials (UD-CCM). The team has completed research proving the accuracy of high-speed computing for modeling and simulation to predict the quality and effectiveness of a material that is both lightweight and safety-tested. This effort has demonstrated design, materials, manufacturing, and joining methods for continuous carbon fiber thermoplastics to meet automotive, industry, and government safety specifications.
This two-year program is a successful government-industry-university partnership that involved regulatory agencies, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and material suppliers from the composite industry. The objective of this study was to investigate the computational tools for the design, optimization, and manufacture of carbon fiber materials for vehicle side-frame structures (in this case, B-pillar) subjected to high-velocity side-impact crash loading and to investigate and demonstrate the appropriateness of simulation methods and tools to adequately predict behavior relevant for the assessment of vehicle safety.
A specific continuous fiber thermoplastic material, Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP), is a preferred solution for reducing weight while maintaining safety requirements for vehicles. The team used this material to successfully design and impact test a lightweight, all-thermoplastic, continuous carbon fiber composite B-Pillar for automotive applications.
The B-pillar design was spatially optimized for energy absorption, stiffness, and strength while maintaining part producibility and vehicle integration. The resulting B-pillar is 60% lighter than the existing metallic design while meeting BMW safety requirements for the NHTSA FMVSS214 side impact crash test.
Benefits discovered include:
- Validation of state-of-the-art Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) simulation tools for full vehicle to component impact data. CAE simulations mirrored practical test scenarios.
- Development and demonstration of innovative production methods for multi-material parts including infusion and thermoforming tailored blanks with 3 min cycle times.
- Development and automation of adhesive bonding methods for dissimilar thermoplastic and steel interfaces.
- Achievement of energy savings through a 100% recyclable infusion system with full recovery of the resin and continuous carbon fiber preform possible.
Five (5) full-scale B-pillar assemblies were successfully impact tested under 100% equivalent energy of the side impact crash test scenario at the University of Delaware – Center for Composite Materials demonstrating composite behavior. All B-pillar test subject performance metrics met or exceeded BMW safety requirements for NHTSA FMVSS214 side impact crash.
Results of this program will be disseminated widely to the automotive industry and the technologies are being evaluated by BMW for future platforms.
Click here to download Executive Summary