FCA said 'poking holes' in virtual truck-frame components via computer simulation produced weight savings of 3% to 5%. (Photo courtesy of Ram Trucks)

FCA pokes holes in vehicle frames to cut weight

April 4, 2017
Company says this new tactic is one of 24 “product expectation” topics being addressed by its engineers at annual SAE gathering.

Reducing weight is becoming a major engineering focus for light vehicle and commercial equipment manufacturers alike largely as part of an overall effort to generate fuel economy gains.

Along those lines, the U.S. division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US LLC) is experimenting with “poking holes” in car and light truck frame assemblies at precise locations the reduce weight.

Phil Jansen, head of product development for FCA–North America, explained this week at WCX 2017, the annual international gathering of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in Michigan, that weight reduction is a key contributor to improved fuel economy and can be achieved by using less material.

The challenge, he said, is determining which components can withstand weight reduction – and by how much – while still satisfying customer expectations for vehicle durability and performance.

To that end, FCA US engineers developed multiple algorithms to quickly and precisely determine the optimal size and shape of “lightening holes” and can apply them to any number of vehicle components.

The company said simulations using those algorithms on virtual truck-frame components, for example, produced weight savings of 3% to 5%.

“With such a tool at their disposal, [our] vehicle development teams can accelerate their work, which benefits customers by reducing the time required to bring new products to market,” Jansen noted in a statement. “Such progress bodes well for our ongoing investigation of strategic material placement.”

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