SPE ACCE Keynote to Address Automotive Composites Developments

25 June 2010

The first confirmed keynote of the tenth-annual SPE Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) will feature a joint presentation by Luciano DeOto of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. and Paolo Feraboli of the University of Washington on out-of-autoclave carbon fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRP) technologies for Lamborghini's supercars.

This year's SPE ACCE will be held September 15-16, 2010 at the MSU Management Education Center in Troy, Mich., U.S.A.

Lamborghini has used polymer composites on its vehicles since 1983, and advanced (CFRP) composites for all body panels and several sections of the space-frame structure of its Murciélago coupé since 2001. The company says it sees CFRP composites as the key technology for meeting its two-fold strategy of improving vehicle performance by increasing power-to-weight ratio via mass reduction, as well its need to reduce emissions to lower environmental impact and meet stricter emissions requirements.

Since 2007, the automaker has been collaborating with the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at the University of Washington and with the Structures Technology group of Boeing Research & Technology (Seattle). The team is currently focused on composites-intensive primary structures that meet Lamborghini's weight, cost, and production-rate targets, which, in turn, necessitates both evaluations of non-conventional technologies as well as development of new ones.

Address will have two main areas of focus

The keynote address will have two main areas of focus. Traditional composites used in Lamborghini supercars have been aerospace-derived prepreg materials for autoclave cure. However, new out-of-autoclave processes are showing unparalleled efficiencies in terms of cost and production speed, while leaving performance and quality unaffected. During the talk, speakers will provide an overview of technologies the team is currently focused on in the area of liquid resin infusion (e.g. resin-transfer molding (RTM) and vacuum-assisted RTM (VAR(TM))) and pre-forming technologies (e.g. braiding, non-crimp fabrics, and thermoforming).

The second portion of the presentation will focus on evaluating composite crashworthiness. Carbon composites perform extremely well in crash scenarios, and are therefore used to manufacture dedicated energy-absorbing components used in both in motorsports and aviation/aerospace. Their ability to dissipate more energy per unit mass than aluminum or steel is, however, obtained only through a complex and careful design effort - a process that traditionally involved experiments and crash-testing of full-scale vehicles, which are both costly and time-consuming. Borrowing from the aerospace industry, Lamborghini says it has adopted Boeing's Building Block Approach where margin-of-safety calculations are based on a complex mix of testing and analysis at various levels of structural complexity, often beginning with small coupons and progressing through sub-components up to full-scale components. Additional presentation detail will review this approach and discuss how Lamborghini is using it to design new structural concepts, which are subsequently being evaluated as technology demonstrators.

The ACCE typically draws over 400 speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees from 14 countries on four continents.

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