Magna dramatically lowers subframe weight with carbon fibre composites

Collaborative R&D project with Ford yields 34% mass reduction; 87% reduction in number of parts.

Prototype carbon-fibre composite subframe which reduces mass by 34% compared to a stamped steel equivalent.
Photo: Magna

SAILAUF, Germany — Magna International Inc. is using a carbon fibre composite to significantly reduce the weight of a vehicle subframe.

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 rigidity and crash management.

By replacing 45 steel parts with two moulded and four metallic parts, the prototype reduces the number of parts by 87%. Mouldings are joined by adhesive bonding and structural rivets.

The subframe is the result of a Magna and Ford research and development project that is investigating potential mass-reduction benefits and the technical challenges posed using carbon fibre-reinforced composites in chassis applications.

Magna’s engineering team was a collaborative effort between the company’s 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 that will evaluate corrosion, stone chipping and bolt load retention, which aren’t currently measured by CAE.

The project team will also develop a design, manufacturing and assembly process with the experience gained during the prototype build and subsequent testing.

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

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