171 Aluminum foam car body structures

Karmann GmbH is a system supplier for the automotive industry worldwide.* The company designs and produces vehicles for original equipment

* Contact details: W. Seeliger, Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, Karmann Strasse 1, D-49084, Osnabrück., Germany. Phone (+49) 5 41-581-0; fax (+49) 5 41-581-1900.

Karmann USA Inc., 17197 North Laurel Park Drive, Suite 537, Livonia, Michigan 48152, USA Phone (313) 542-0106; fax (313) 542-0305.

Schunk Sintermetalltechnik GmbH, Postfach 10 09 51, D-35339 Gießen, Germany.

Yu, M and Banhart, J. (1998) In Metal Foams, (1998) Proc. Fraunhofer USA Metal Foam Symposium, Stanton, NJ, MIT Verlag, Bremen, Germany.

makers (OEMs). Karmann has announced a newly developed Aluminum Foam System allowing revolutionary technology in body panels (Figures 17.1 and 17.2). It claims that aluminum foams offer cost-effective performance as structural automotive parts that are up to ten times stiffer and 50% lighter than equivalent parts made of steel. Such lightweight, stiff foam sandwich panels simplify body structure systems, enabling OEMs to produce different variations of low-volume niche vehicles based on a common body structure.

Figure 17.1 A concept design for a low-weight vehicle. The firewall and trunk are made of three-dimensional aluminum foam panels. (Courtesy of Karmann GmbH)

The three-dimensional aluminum foam system consists of outer skins roll-bonded to a central layer containing a dispersion of titanium hydride (see Chapter 2, Section 2.4). The central section is expanded by heat treatment after the panel has been pressed to shape. Sections of the body shell considered well suited for aluminum foam sandwich panels include firewalls, roof panels and luggage compartment walls.

As much as 20% of the auto structure could be made from three-dimensional aluminum foam panels. The company note that, in the typical compact family sedan, this would lead to a mass saving of 60 kg, translating into a reduction in fuel consumption of 2.6 miles per gallon.

Figure 17.2 A pressed panel after expansion, showing the three-layer structure. (Courtesy of Karmann GmbH)
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