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3/23/2015 | 1 MINUTE READ

CFRP air spring support for buses wins JEC Innovation Award

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Automated process delivers hollow braided support structure that cuts weight 70% vs. steel.


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The Predevelopment Division  of MAN Truck and Bus (Munich, Germany) joined forces with carbon fiber reinfoced plastic (CFRP) specialist Munich Composites (Munich GermanY) to develop an air spring carrier for buses that is 70% lighter than previous steel construction. The project was awarded the 2015 JEC Innovation Award Europe in the "Transportation" category.

The aim of the joint project was to achieve significant weight savings for the 1.6m long rear axle beam vs. the current steel beam construction. The beams are joined to the air spring suspension bags, which support the weight of the bus. Each rear axle has two air spring carriers, each weighing 83 kg, with a support structure weighing roughly 53 kg. The CFRP prototype for this support structure is a hollow profile that is 70% lighter and would thus reduce bus fuel consumption or increase payload.

Another key aim of the project was to develop a technology to manufacture such components on an industrial scale. The Munich Composites production process is highly automated. Carbon fiber is braided around a core using a radial braider. Several robots work together to pull the component core through the radial braider at exactly the right angles. The subsequent injection process for epoxy resin is also fully automated, helping to guarantee that each component will be of the same high quality.

With prototype development completed, the components now will be tested to prove their road capability in stringent practical trials. Economic efficiency will also be evaluated.