Class knuckle

Ford C-segment cars, such as the Focus, could become more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly thanks to a lightweight rear suspension component designed by the CLASS (composite lightweight automotive suspension system) research project team.

Weight reduction efforts usually target body components, as these typically have less demanding design and service load requirements than powertrain or chassis applications.

Reducing unsprung mass in chassis application has the additional benefit of improving vehicle ride and handling. And, while composite suspension components are common in motorsport, to date they have not been used in mainstream automotive applications. The CLASS project set out to investigate the potential benefits of doing so.

The team, consisting of the Ford Motor Company, the University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), Gestamp Chassis and GRM, developed the carbon fibre/steel composite tieblade-knuckle using an optimised design and manufacturing process that reduced the weight of the part by 35% compared to the multi-piece steel part it replaces.

WMG researchers carried out materials selection by moulding test plaques and measuring material performance characteristics. This was fed into the design of the part, carried out by Gestamp, before optimisation of the design, carried out by GRM.

Additional moulding trials carried out by Ford and WMG using a surrogate geometry at Ford’s Research & Innovation facilities provided the required design for manufacture input which was used by Gestamp to further optimise the design.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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