Magna takes a load off: Joint R&D with Ford creates lighter carbon


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A collaborative lightweighting project yields 34% mass reduction and 87% fewer parts.

Where the carbon fibre composite subframe fits into the vehicle architecture. PHOTOS: MAGNA

Magna International Inc. has been busy on the innovation front. The Aurora, Ont.-based global auto parts manufacturer, working with Ford Motor Co., has developed a prototype carbon fibre composite subframe that reduces mass by 34% compared to making a stamped steel equivalent.

The subframe is a key part of a vehicle’s structure, providing a place to attach the engine and wheels while contributing to rigidity and crash management.

Replacing 45 steel parts with two moulded and four metallic parts accounts for an 87% reduction. Mouldings are joined by adhesive bonding and structural rivets.

The subframe is the result of joint R&D by Magna and Ford that’s investigating potential mass-reduction benefits and the technical challenges posed using carbon fibre-reinforced composites in chassis applications.


Magna’s engineering team involved the body and chassis, and exteriors product groups.Their design has passed all performance requirements based on computer-aided engineering (CAE) analyses.

Prototype subframes are now being produced by Magna for component and vehicle-level testing at Ford where factors not measured by CAE such as corrosion, stone chipping and bolt load retention will be evaluated.

The project team will also develop a design, manufacturing and assembly process based on what they learned from the prototype.

On the tech side, Magna has developed a camera-based, advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) called ClearView to improve visibility during lane changes, backing up and driving with a full cargo in the back.

It combines a self-cleaning camera with a regulatory compliant side-view mirror to display a live feed inside the vehicle. The camera is mounted on the mirror beyond the widest point of the vehicle to achieve a maximum field of view and can include features such as turn signals, ground illumination and surround-view cameras.

Advanced AWD

Magna is also a supplier of 4WD/AWD systems, and it’s working with Audi on the new quattro ultra all-wheel drive system.

Audi featured a next-generation AWD system on its A4 all-road in 2016 that’s reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Magna’s Flex4 all-wheel drive is the technical foundation of this system that fits into vehicles with longitudinally mounted engines and dual-clutch or manual transmissions.

Its true all-wheel-drive disconnect system automatically activates all four wheels, but only when necessary – approximately 20% of driving conditions.

When there is no need for all-wheel drive, the rear axle drive is decoupled from the drivetrain, and the vehicle operates with front wheels only.

The quattro ultra system adds some cool driving dynamics. When road conditions call for additional traction (slick road or dynamic curves) the rear-wheel drive is engaged to maximize driving stability.

The system doesn’t react, it engages proactively with a lead-time of about half a second as it recognizes the need for increased traction before it arises.

The electronic all-wheel drive management is networked with several additional control devices that in 10-millisecond intervals collect and evaluate data, such as the steering angle, friction coefficient, lateral and longitudinal acceleration and the motor torque. The control system also takes into account driving style, the status of the electronic stability control, the selected driving program and trailer identification.

A multi-disc clutch integrated into the rear axle drive handles the switch between front- and all-wheel drive modes. In front-wheel mode, the clutch is opened.

This disconnects the shaft and parts of the rear axle drive, which reduces transmission and friction losses. To make the switch to all-wheel, the multi-disc clutch closes and accelerates the resting elements of the transmission to the rotational speed of the coupling before it also closes. Control accuracy is high for precisely coordinated processes that are unnoticed by the driver.

Magna has 317 manufacturing operations and 102 product development, engineering and sales centres in 29 countries.


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