Prototyping Supplies and Processes for Automotive Lightweighting – Material selection is the key factor for making vehicles lighter. Here’s a quick look at the best options which also lend themselves to quick-turn, fully functional prototypes.
Everybody inside the auto market is searching for ways to shed some weight. Well, make that many pounds. You can find myriad material options to make it work. The question is, how can you make the best choices and obtain them into test quickly? The Automotive Prototype available today are a real boon towards the early stages of the product development process. But there’s still a necessity for physical, functional prototypes to prove out design assumptions. Which needs to be fast too.
Protolabs focuses on rapid prototyping for exactly this requirement. Most of the time, you can upload a good model to the website and literally obtain a part back the very next day. They don’t just know materials; they also know manufacturing processes including 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding. Here are some ideas from Protolabs on how to reach lighter parts faster.
Reducing Component Weight for Automotive Applications – Magnesium Rather than Steel
Something to remember before embarking on any lightweighting project is always to take small bites. Shaving ounces and also fractions of ounces away from each component will wind up creating a significantly lighter car. The key is always to develop products which fulfill cost and duty requirements but use alternate materials and clever designs to lessen weight. Fortunately for designers and engineers, today’s array of prototyping materials and advanced manufacturing technologies are coming up with new opportunities for iterative, even parallel-path design testing.
Magnesium is a good place to start. With a density of 106 lb. per cubic foot, magnesium will be the lightest of structural metals, and it has the best strength-to-weight ratio also. It carries a established track record within the automotive, aerospace, medical and electronics industries, and it is found in everything from fuel tanks to gearboxes. As an example, BMW started using magnesium for its N52 six-cylinder crankcases and cylinder head covers in 2005.
BMW started using magnesium for the N52 six-cylinder crankcases and cylinder head covers in 2005. Magnesium is routinely milled into a variety of prototype parts. Compared to aluminum, the lightweighting runner-up, it is actually more expensive per pound, but that cost delta is offset somewhat by magnesium’s 33-percent lighter weight and comparable strength. It’s also easily machined, however some care should be come to control fine chips and metal particles, because these could be flammable in oxygen-rich environments.
The AZ31 and AZ91 grades of magnesium alloy used at Protolabs are even weldable with melting points of roughly 900° F (482°C). Unless you’re designing a lightweight furnace liner, magnesium is a wonderful option for many different components.
Plastic Rather than Metal – Magnesium and aluminum are great alternatives to steel for Automotive Molding, but thermoplastic and thermoset materials are robust possibilities too. An extensive selection ion of glass-, metal- or, ceramic-filled polymers along with liquid silicone rubber (LSR) may also be used to replace metal parts, thus reducing product cost and weight while improving durability. Some of the best alternatives include: Polypropylene is actually a flexible, fatigue resistant group of thermoplastics commonly used in automotive interiors, battery cases, boat hulls, prosthetics along with other products requiring toughness and lightweight weight. They have superior strength-to-weight ratios and good impact resistance even at cold temperatures.
Polyethylene has mechanical properties comparable to polypropylene but is more rigid and offers greater resistance to warping. Because of its inexpensive and relatively high strength, polyethylene is well suited for the interior of a glove box, perhaps, or even a cold air intake. ABS is an additional thermoplastic with exceptional impact resistance and toughness. This is a lightweight alternative to metal used in dashboard trim, electronics enclosures, hubcap covers along with other such automotive applications. Injection-molded ABS is also offered in either flame-retardant or anti-static grades in a rainbow of colours. Chrome-plated ABS is utilized on hubcaps, grills and fender flares.
A comprehensive collection of glass-, metal- or, ceramic-filled polymers as well as liquid silicone rubber (LSR) could also be used to switch metal parts. Polycarbonate is really a transparent material often employed for thermoformed parts where glass is unsuitable, because of weight or breakage concerns. It offers 250 times the impact resistance but only half the weight of regular glass, which explains why “bulletproof glass” and aircraft windows are actually made from polycarbonate or its a little more flexible cousin, acrylic. Protolabs 3D prints this material with 10-percent glass-filled polycarbonate for functional prototypes. Another grade can be used high-temp applications. Similar grades of polycarbonate are available for machining or injection molding.
Nylon is among the strongest plastics offered by Protolabs and is an excellent candidate for sprockets, fan blades, gears, latches, manifolds and bearing surfaces. It’s extremely light, with 15-percent the load of steel and 40-percent of aluminum. Protolabs offers selective laser sintering (SLS) of various engineering-grade nylons, which can be used as functional testing of prototypes before machining or injection molding. One of these brilliant is Nylon 11, a material that can be useful for living hinge designs as utilized in hose and wire clips, washer fluid caps, and other automobile components.
Acetal, more commonly known by its trade name Delrin, is actually a regular go-to material for machined prototypes. It is actually strong and stiff and regularly called upon to replace precision metal parts in a variety of industrial and consumer products. Electrical and fuel system components, power transmission parts including gears, bushings, and bearings, as well as other high-performance parts could be milled or injection molded from different grades of acetal copolymer or homopolymers stocked at Protolabs.
Liquid silicone rubber (LSR), is really a versatile material for many molding applications. Upon curing, LSR becomes strong yet flexible, and it is ideal for gaskets, lenses, connectors, as well as other parts that require excellent thermal, chemical and electrical resistance. Wiring harnesses, panel buttons, spark plug boots-these are but of few of the places LSR are available in modern vehicles.
Liquid silicone rubber is strong but flexible. A whole new material at Protolabs worthy of mention is CoolPoly, a unique polymer moldable in hardness levels which range from Shore A 40 (soft as an eraser) to Shore D 80 (hard just like a bowling ball). It was created as a replacement for heatsinks, lighting shrouds along with other thermally conductive parts normally manufactured from aluminum.
Sorting through all of the different possibilities is among the biggest challenges with China Plastic Molding. That’s because improving product design in the automotive world isn’t a point of grabbing whatever material weighs the very least and replacing the legacy steel or iron used previously. For example, plastic parts which will eventually be mass-produced via injection molding has to be created with the right draft angles and wall thicknesses in advance. Ejector pins must be considered, as should areas hbvpyy undercuts, tight internal radii, and numerous other details that could make or break your lightweight part.
In addition to design, rapid prototyping can also be speeding up test tracks and also on-road evaluations. Engineers can produce multiple versions of the identical part, then have a skilled auto technician with auto technician training replace the various components on a production model for every test run. This flexibility can also allow engineers to evaluate elements like driver comfort, including, for instance, having production vehicles designed with different variations of interior parts.
Due to simulation environments and rapid prototyping, the design of components just like the cooling systems are kept in much earlier inside the overall process. This implies fewer prototypes of the full vehicle are essential, allowing vehicles to travel from concept to production a lot more quickly and smoothly. There is also a better correlation of air-flow measurements in between the test part and also the full vehicles, meaning fewer expensive changes are required late during this process.