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Iron Castings - Sep 9, 2019

Automotive Lightweighting | CAFE Standards | Waupaca Foundry

MCDP Staff Report | Metal Casting Design

Ford and General Motors worked with their casting suppliers to reduce vehicle weight with a variety of methods, from replacing material to switching processes.

Lightweighting vehicles is not a new concept—the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were passed in 1975—but automotive manufacturers continue to find ways to trim the pounds. While many of the weight reductions have come from replacing steel with aluminum, more creative solutions have been found to meet strict strength and stiffness requirements while helping improve the overall fuel economy of the vehicle.

Here are three examples of vehicle manufacturers working with their casting suppliers to engineer lightweight solutions through changes in material, innovative design or a different manufacturing process.

Ductile Iron Cuts Weight Over Aluminum

Reducing weight is not limited to changing the material to something lighter. Auto manufacturers and suppliers have been studying ways to cut the pounds by designing stronger parts using less material.

Such was the case for a lower control arm for Ford Motor Co.’s CD4 engine platform, which is incorporated in vehicles such as the Ford Fusion, Ford Taurus and the Lincoln Nautilus. In this instance, an aluminum part was converted to a ductile iron casting in order to achieve weight savings.

Engineers from Ford worked closely with suppliers AFS Corporate Member Waupaca Foundry and Hitachi Metals to produce the high-strength, lightweight component. Using design optimization software, an initial design concept was conceived, and it was then further refined for production feasibility. The design engineering team carefully detailed the mating part interfaces of the arm to enhance durability and ensure proper assembly function and shaped the surface profiles so the component fit into the packaging space. 

Through collaboration among Ford, Hitachi Metals and Waupaca Foundry, the final design featured a hollow shape and weighed 25% less than it did at first concept. The thin-wall ductile iron component weighs 19.2 lbs. compared the 25.4-lb. aluminum version. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the July/August 2019 issue of MCDP.

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