Some of you may be exhausted by the use of this phrase, “…let’s put the right material in the right place.” Given the history of materials applications, especially when it comes to the question of lightweighting, it is often a statement made by a disrupter looking to displace an incumbent material. The exhaustion or, exasperation, is usually triggered by the thought of how much work must be done to displace an incumbent technology. At times the exasperation is heightened by a general lack of sensitivity to the gaps that must be closed to successfully realize these new applications.

In previous columns we have touched on some of the barriers to the adoption of new materials, not the least of which is the importance of Material Cards to support design simulation. What is clear, following our return from the JEC Paris, is that we are seeing the emergence of new and exciting commercial and series development applications of mixed material designs. These examples continue to prove that the market sees value in filling the gaps and overcoming the barriers to mixed material solutions to deliver reduction in mass, cost and the potential for improved safety and overall customer satisfaction.

The vehicle structure (aka Body in White – BIW) is an area in which advances in metal grades should naturally converge with that of plastics and composites. For example, as new grades of steel are developed and commercialized, and the gauge of the material used in these applications is reduced in search of weight reduction, new challenges for managing bending/twisting forces, crash energy absorption and other application factors must be considered. When combined with Plastics, Composites and Adhesives, component solutions utilizing advanced grades of steel can provide attractive solutions delivering exceptional stiffness, strength and component integration.

Examples of this are interesting for a number of reasons. A commercial solution combining Steel, Cast Light Metal and Structural (Fiber Reinforced) Thermoplastics provides a highly integrated lightweight high performance cross car beam system. Another solution incorporates a multi-laminate fiber reinforced molded insert bonded to a steel B Pillar stamping using an elastomeric adhesive.

Depending on your perspective, although maybe not obvious at first, these examples highlight different materials WORKING TOGETHER. Rather than a wholesale replacement of one material for another, these applications leverage the unique attributes of each material; stiffness where it is needed, toughness and dampening where it is needed, part consolidation where it adds value and so on. Looking closely at each of these applications you will find that although very different, in each case appropriate and capable joining techniques were developed and employed to enable realization of these advanced solutions.

These are just two of the many mixed material metal-plastic hybrid examples that were on display, ranging from pure concept development through to commercial series production. Based on what was shown and the conversations with upstream and midstream solutions providers, we are confident that when the right stakeholders join together, the industry is capable of delivering amazing mixed material lightweight solutions that meet and exceed our customers’ expectations.

Adam Harms – Managing Partner, Ruhl Strategic Partners

As appeared in Lightweighting World.

For those of our readers yet to join, come join the growing list of professionals around the world all focused on overcoming barriers to Lightweighting, please join the Lightweighting Barriers Group on LinkedIn. Your participation and unique perspective on the barriers you are facing are of great importance to the group. We are looking forward to your participation as new members and engaging future discussions from all members.

With over 300 members ranging from material suppliers to key influencers at Global OEMs, we are consistently looking for new members and this group offers a great way to stay up to date on the latest developments around Lightweighting, industry news, and to connect with industry colleagues also are facing challenges with the introduction of new materials and technology in the space of mobility.