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What Lightweighting Technologies Are Making CAFE Standards Attainable?

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Technologies like microcellular injection molding and 3D printing have increased the lightweighting options available to manufacturers, but how do design engineers adjust?


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3D printers generate honeycomb pockets that reduce the weight of the structure, but also evenly distribute the stress on the part. This technique enables the user to create mechanically strong parts at significantly reduced weights in a wide variety of printable materials.

Newer technologies are rapidly changing the landscape of automotive manufacturing as companies race to meet standards for emissions and fuel efficiency. One of the most reliable ways to improve fuel efficiency is through lightweighting, often using hollowing techniques. For example, additive manufacturing enables manufacturers to 3D print parts with internal honeycomb structures that reduce weight while minimizing the impact on strength. In a similar vein, microcellular injection molding incorporates gas infusions in the molten plastic that expand on release into the mold, reducing weight between 20 and 40 percent.

To successfully use these technologies to the greatest effect, many designers are turning to simulation software. Because hollowing a part impacts its strength and durability, it becomes necessary to test product designs through techniques such as topology optimization and generative design.

Topology optimization can identify areas of a part that contribute the least to strength, flagging them for removal. This simplifies the design steps needed to create strong, lightweight parts. Generative design provides inputs in which the user sets the parameters and constraints of part, then uses an algorithm to generate over 100 possible design solutions using nonstandard shapes and geometries. The designer can then select the design that best meets the needs of the part… READ MORE