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Lightweight Vehicle Structures-The Road Ahead
Published July 02, 1997 by Associazione Tecnica Dell'Automobile in Italy
Advanced composites, as a family of materials, appear to offer the designer of lightweight structures almost unlimited potential, and all the indications are that we are at the very beginning of the process of exploiting this. Where once we simply selected a suitable material for the job in hand, we now have the ability to configure variables such as particle size or fiber orientation to give precisely the properties we require. Soon, we may be able to create detailed structures at a microscopic level in order to achieve the kind of performance previously only seen in biological materials such as wood and bone.
Considering the most familiar present-day composite materials, namely the glass, carbon or aramid-fiber thermoplastics, these have been used with great success for structural purposes in the aeronautical, marine, sports goods and competition car fields, as well as in more exotic applications. Despite this, however, structural applications in the mass-production automobile field are still rare. This is surprisi considering the popularity of glass-fiber material in cars for non-structural purposes.
As pressure mounts for cars to become more and more energy-efficient, it seems almost inevitable that the use of com in structural parts will increase. This paper examines the potential benefits which might stimulate this use, along with the limitations which have tended to stifle it.