Fraunhofer and Fiat Chrysler additively manufacture sports car wheel components

November 17, 2020

Fraunhofer IAPT and Fiat Chrysler’s additively manufactured wheel carrier with integrated brake caliper (Courtesy Fraunhofer IAPT/ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Additive Production Technologies (IAPT), Hamburg, Germany, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have collaborated to develop an additively manufactured wheel carrier with an integrated brake caliper for an FCA sports car. The part is said to represent the first step towards serial Additive Manufacturing of FCA vehicle components.

The research collaboration began with a focus on developing a complete suspension system for a sports car using Additive Manufacturing. Presently, 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. Said to be a complex, time-consuming, and expensive process.

“We had, together with the FCA design team, 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-optimised and could be produced additively,” stated Yanik Senkel, Fraunhofer IAPT design engineer.

According to Fraunhofer IAPT, the result of the collaboration is impressive. By using topology optimisation, the research team has developed a prototype that weighs 36% less than the twelve individual parts of the conventionally manufactured component. The bionically optimised 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 integral design reportedly eliminates many typical weak points and therefore extends its lifetime. 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.”

Carcioffi added, “The component demonstrates the potential of Additive Manufacturing for future cars and on top of that it’s a real eye-catcher.”

The additively manufactured wheel carrier with an integrated brake caliper, said to be the first of its kind, is only the beginning, explains Fraunhofer IAPT. 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.

Ruben Meuth, Head of Business Development at Fraunhofer IAPT, reported, “The overall focus is on the reduction of manufacturing costs, for example, by significantly increasing production speed. This innovation 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.”

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