Alcoa Foundation Advancing Sustainability Research | Lightweight Vehicle Structures | Research

Research

Lightweight Metal-Based Vehicle Structures: Innovative Design and Agile Manufacture

The Ohio State University – Institute for Materials Research

OSU

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The Lightweight Metal-Based Vehicle Structures program conducted by The Ohio State University is developing new design and manufacturing technologies that leverage new joining and assembly techniques. Alternative technologies used in other market applications are being investigated and evaluated and the basic engineering science, education and necessary equipment requirements are being developed. The two major areas of inquiry for the Lightweight Metal-Based Vehicle Structures project are 1) new and innovative methods of joining metals and 2) manufacture and analysis of light vehicle structures.

The project is developing, refining and testing methods of joining aluminum, magnesium, steel and composites. One of the important new techniques for joining metals being studied is conformal joining, which has the potential to quickly create structures from tube or hydroformed structures and end nodes. Through this project, the research team is creating optimal structures and testing them through crash tests, repeated loading and fatigue. Researchers are also experimenting with rearrangement of components, which will allow for mass customization at reduced cost. 

Currently, virtual crash-test systems are not adequate for evaluating light vehicle structures. Cars are virtually "crashed" in computers with sheet metal inserts for areas that do not pass the initial testing. To further the safety analysis of lightweight vehicles, the research team is developing crash analysis systems specifically for multi-material vehicle structures to develop safe designs efficiently.

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