ZF develops lightweight plastic passenger car engine mount
Shortly after the production start, it is already being produced in 6 model-specific versions for small and compact cars, as well as electric cars of Renault-Nissan – they are made-to-measure in the housing, rubber interior part, and support arm engine mount components respectively. "Our objective was to increase the maximum lightweight construction potential of standard engine mounts and to further optimize both functionality and reliability," explains Dr. Torsten Bremer, Head of the Rubber & Plastics business unit of the Chassis Technology division. The ZF engineers took on this challenge by implementing the engine mount housing using fibre-glass reinforced polyamide instead of aluminium continuous casting as was previously the case. A total weight reduction of 25 percent is achieved, thanks to the use of the plastic housing. However, it is crucial that the component remains just as efficient and stable as its predecessor. Furthermore, the part is also completely insensitive to corrosion and 100 percent recyclable.
Thanks to its modular construction, the ZF plastic engine mount can also be designed for various types of engines and vehicles at anytime. "In the automotive industry, we are currently noticing a marked trend towards plastic lightweight construction or downsizing and, as a result, we are also seeing a trend towards increased measures for environmental protection. Moreover, other vehicle manufacturers are intensively testing our innovation for their passenger car models," Dr. Torsten Bremer reveals. Engine mounts perform important as well as diverse tasks in vehicles: As a joining element between the engine and the vehicle, they prevent undesired vibrations from the unit and driveline being transfered to the rest of the vehicle and, at the same time, they also ensure that noises are insulated. Above all, they must also be strong enough to keep the engine stable within the vehicle, even when traveling on poor roads or in the event of collisions.
In order to develop a polyamide design with these characteristics, the automotive supplier uses its outstanding lightweight construction expertise in conjunction with innovative calculation and manufacturing processes: First of all, complex CAD models are created and, based on the latest integrative simulation tools, the ideal solutions are worked out within the context of comprehensive examinations. For this purpose, topological, flow, and strength simulations are performed. As a result, ZF is in the position to provide close-to-production components without prototype trials and drastically reduce development cycles. That saves both time and money when it comes to development. With the help of the anisotropic simulation, the weight proportion and the alignment of the glass fibers are determined and used as needed. Being able to ‘read’ these simulations requires a high level of ‘know-how’ when it comes to plastic and the understanding of lightweight construction.
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