The application of high performance composites in the automotove industry is well documented. Full carbon fiber survival cell structures are now commonplace in the latest supercars. Caterham Composites (Hurth, Germany) asked the question: Is it possible to transfer the same levels of technology into the more affordable sports car sector?
The key challenge for the volume market is budget.To be a commercially-viable product, the company needed to concentrate on lean design, engineering and manufacturing concepts, and not simply re-use its extensive (and expensive) Formula One material database. By combining all of our knowledge of and experience with complex structures, Caterham was able to work out how geometric configurations and sensitivities combined with arrays of material properties could achieve the desired mechanical performance, at the desired target costs, and be delivered in a repeatable and reliable medium-volume production solution for 10,000 units per annum.
Challenge: To develop a cost-focused, automotive survival cell suitable for medium-volume
production according to mass, strength and stiffness targets. Solution: Use geometry morphing, dynamic simulation and composite layup optimization techniques. Results: Caterham delivered a cost-efficient vehicle survival cell concept according to the performance targets, through the intelligent application of materials and geometry optimisation, using an electric car concept vehicle.
With the latest software from Altair HyperWorks Suite from Altair (Troy, Mich.), Caterham was able to find a broad solution trend very quickly. From this intital result set, it refined its simulation into a matrix of geometric and material sensitivities, always using the mechanical performance targets of the survival cell as the basis for the solver optimisation. Once it had achieved the desired blend of performance characteristics, sensitivity response and
global geometry, the company performed a range of dynamic simulations for the crash load cases to ensure a greater degree of realism and refinement. After defining the proposition of the large-scale production of a complex, structural, predominantly composite automotive survival cell structure, the next steps in the project were to start turning ‘virtual reality‘ into an actual reality. "We believe we have the correct foundations on which to base a sensible, commonsense product solution which can both broaden the appeal and display the
unique benefits of composites to the wider consumer," says Caterham, "and critically, save lives." For more information about this case study, visit the Web site: www.caterhamcomposites.com.
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