DEVELOPMENT OF LIGHTWEIGHT STRUCTURAL
COMPONENTS BASED ON LOW COST PROCESSES FOR APPLICATION IN ECO-EFFICIENT MEANS OF TRANSPORT
The main objective of the LIGHTRANS project is the design and development of lightweight multi-material structures, through the development of optimised and low-cost manufacturing and joining processes that allow their application in eco-efficient road transport vehicles. Specifically, it will be redesigned a superstructure of an eco-efficient bus and three-wheel electronic vehicle.
The need for initiatives such as LIGHTRANS is based on the search for efficient solutions at a global level for the reduction of CO2 emissions caused by means of transport, the fight agains the deterioration of air quality in cities, the objective of minimizing the effect on basic ecosystems for life on the planet and to achieve less dependance on oil reserves in the automotive field.
In this sense, the project is aligned with the 2 most common areas of research and development in the transport sector to solve to a certain extent these factors: action on electrified transport systems and development of light solutions (both for internal combustion vehicles and new electric vehicles). In the same way, it also seeks to provide solutions to the barriers that prevent the most extensive use of polymer matrix composite materials (MCMP) in the transport sector (limited manufacturing rate, high cost of materials and processes when seeking to maximise mechanical performance or recycling /repairing difficulties.
Based on this background, LIGHTRANS proposes to combine, in a strategic way and certain elements, materials of different nature (thermoset and thermoplastic composites, cellular polymers and steel), in such a way that weight of the structures developed for an electric vehicle of three wheels and for an eco-efficient bus is minimal, its structural performance is maximal, there is a good economic balance and it allows to minimize the environmental impact of the vehicle.
In order to sumarize, the objectives set will be achieved through the development of the following technological milestones:
- Application of dynamic multibody analysis applied to three-wheeled vehicles, in order to determine their behavior in service based on their interaction with the environment, with the objective of feeding the vehicle redesign phase from a multimaterial perspective.
- Use of light materials such as high resistance steels, foams and composites using multi-material designs and manufacturing and assembly technologies through structural adhesives that contemplate the design of the joints, taking into account the new materials introduced.
- Development of manufacturing methodologies for low cost structural pieces, based on the thermoforming of medium quality plastics with continuous fiber reinforcement, using plasma surface treatment to improve the interaction between both stages.
- Development of lightweight demonstrators for the 2 case studies proposed, allowing the project developments to be validated in a relevant enviroment: lightweight multimaterial superstructure for the case of the buses and a new monocoque chassis concept made up of high-performance thermoset and thermoplastic composite pieces or a structural arm supporting the two rear wheels of thermosetting composite manufactured using non-autoclave curing processes (VBO) and reinforcement zones, in the case of the three-wheeled vehicle.
- Definition of recycling methodologies and LCA analysis of multimaterial structures, evaluating the environmental impact of the vehicles developed.
In order to achieve the ambitious objectives set, LIGHTRANS counts with six companies with a complementary profile, which cover the entire value chain of the ativities proposed:
VMS AUTOMOTIVE, LIGHTRANS project leader, final user and developer of an innovative 100% electric three-wheeled vehicle.
CARROCERÍAS CASTROSUA, final user of the project, manufacturer of bus and coach bodies and pioneer in the development of hybrid propulsion systems.
RESINAS CASTRO, as a company specialised in thermoset matrix composites (MCTE) in combination with high-performance fibers and in non-autoclave manufacturing processes.
ALEACIONES LIGERAS Y PLÁSTICOS, company specialised in thermoplastic materials and their manufacturing processes (thermoforming, injection), galvanic protection coatings and injection of cellular materials.
POLIÉSTERES SOBRAL, expert company in processing thermoset matrix composites by liquid resin injection processes, such as RTM (resin transfer molding).
UNTHA IBÉRICA, company specialised in recycling solutions.
In addition, the consortium counts with the participation of the AIMEN technology center, an entity with extensive experience in design, manufacturing and characterization of composite and multi-material components, as well as in the study of dissimilar joints and in the optimization of manufacturing processes; and with the Laboratory of Mechanical Engineering of the University of A Coruña, expert in the study of the dynamics of multibody systems applied to the automotive industry.
This second year it has had a major impact on those activities related to the optimization of designs of the different case studies. In this way, an important work of redesigning the chassis and the swingarm of the three-wheeled vehicle has been carried out in order to refine the load log, making possible to dimension the composite materials. On the other hand, works have been done on the bus superstructure, identifying and analyzing different lines of action with a different rate of performance-weight-cost. Finally, important tasks has been carried out to fine-tune manufacturing processes with the consequent characterization of the composite materials manufactured in this way. In this campaign it has been included the recyclability study of the different materials of polymeric origin contemplated within the framework of the project. For this, crushing studies of the different combinations under study have been carried out.
LIGHTRANS project is framed in the CONECTAPEME 2018 PROGRAMME, it is financed by the Xunta de Galicia through the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN) and it has the support of the Ministry of Economy, Employment and Industry and it is cofinanced by FEDER funds in the framework of axis 1 of the operational Feder Galician Programme 2014-2020.