FCA and Fraunhofer IAPT (Research Institution for Additive Manufacturing Technologies) collaborated on a 3D printed wheel carrier with an integrated brake caliper for an FCA sports car.
The part represents the first step towards serial 3D printing of FCA vehicle components. Carlo Carcioffi, Head of Advanced Processes and Materials Body, Interiors, Chassis, commented: “Together with our innovation partner Fraunhofer IAPT, we are cutting the costs and production effort for key vehicle parts. The knowledge transfer will help us to improve additive manufacturing competence in the fields of integrated design, materials, and process technology across the group.”
The additive research collaboration started around the idea of 3D printing a complete suspension system for a sports car. At present, this system still consists of various individual parts such as the wheel carrier, brake caliper including hydraulics, and heat shield. In the past, these components were manufactured individually and then assembled in several steps using screws, seals, and washers to form a complete, functioning system: a complex, time-consuming, and expensive process.
“Together with the FCA design team, we had to completely rethink the entire wheel suspension in order to achieve a one-piece bionic structure that fulfilled all the functions of the previous assembly at least equally as well, absorbed all the forces, was weight-optimized, and could be produced additively,” revealed IAPT design engineer Yanik Senkel.
Eco-efficiency through DfAM
The result is impressive: By using topology optimization, the team developed a prototype that weighs 36% less than the 12 individual parts of the conventionally manufactured component. The bionically optimized design reduces the assembly effort enormously, increases the fatigue strength thanks to the more robust construction and should also perform better in terms of noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH). The clever integral design eliminates many typical weak points and therefore extends its lifetime. “The component demonstrates the potential of Additive Manufacturing for future cars,” added Carcioffi ”and, on top of that, it’s a real eye-catcher.”
The 3D printed wheel carrier with integrated brake caliper, the world’s first of its kind, is only the beginning: It is the starting point for many other projects. In numerous joint workshops, which also covered the areas of material and process development and quality assurance, several components in lightweight and integral construction were completely redeveloped.
“The overall focus is on the reduction of manufacturing costs, for example, by significantly increasing production speed,” explained Ruben Meuth, Head of Business Development at Fraunhofer IAPT. “This innovative project is an excellent example of the collaboration between industry and research. This component shows how Additive Manufacturing can be implemented into series production for luxury and sports cars,” he summed up.
Mr Carcioffi expects that additive manufacturing, will be implemented in several more automotive projects at FCA. “We can entirely rethink many areas of the automobile and lay the foundations for future innovations,” he said.