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FLAC project seeks 40-80% weight reduction in automotive components through 3D printing

Engineers at The University of Nottingham are developing lightweight automotive components using new additive manufacturing processes to boost vehicle fuel efficiency, while cutting noise and CO2 emissions as part of the Functional Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project. FLAC aims to achieve significant weight reductions in mass (40-80%) and optimized thermo-mechanical performance in new vehicle components.

The Nottingham team will construct components using selective laser melting (SLM). SLM uses a 3-Dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) model to digitally reproduce the object in a number of layers. Each layer is sequentially recreated by melting sections of a bed of aluminium alloy powder using a laser beam. Layer by layer, the melted particles fuse and solidify to form novel structures that can be made up from complex lattices to provide a light-weight component. SLM helps increase functionality and lower the number of separate components in production. This significant mass saving cuts component costs and increases overall vehicle efficiency.

The use of advanced lightweight materials in the project will serve to minimize wastage. Only the required material is incorporated into the built component, reducing costs, increasing the ability to manipulate the material to achieve the required performance and efficiency.

Environmental advantages include the inherent recyclability of the aluminium powder waste, reduced transportation and the elimination of special tooling and hazardous cutting fluids to produce the SLM parts.

The three-year, £1,731,610 (US$2.14-million) FLAC project also will demonstrate the viability and cost analysis of the industrialization of SLM, along with possible manufacturing routes and supply chain models. Nottingham’s share of the funding is £368,286 (US$456,000).

FLAC will benefit UK automotive companies, increasing their competitiveness by allowing them to adopt innovative routes for the design and manufacture of lightweight on-vehicle componentry, with shorter lead times and lower costs than are presently available.

—FLAC project lead, Professor Chris Tuck

The FLAC project, which has secured funding from Innovate UK, will investigate components such as brake calipers, heat sinks for LED headlights and power train sub-systems. The project is led by HiETA Technologies, and also includes Alcon Components, University of Liverpool, Added Scientific Limited, Reinshaw plc and Moog Controls Limited as partners, along with the University of Nottingham.

HiETA Technologies specializes in thermal management and light-weighting, exploiting additive manufacturing (AM) as a production and customization process.

The short-term market opportunity for these components—which will also deliver a decrease in CO2 emissions by 16.97 g/km—lies in the luxury car and motorsport markets.



Wonder if similar weight reduction could be attain with up to date electrified (BEV-FCEV) vehicles and with batteries and FCs?

If so, we could drive much lighter more energy efficient vehicles by 2025 or so?


I find it hard to accept. They are going to make led headlight heat sinks and brake calibers lighter by 40 - 80% - this I get.
They, they claim to reduce the CO2 by 17 g/km - That seems WAY too much for this degree of weight reduction.
Have they suggested they could reduce the weight of the whole car by 40% ?
Some figures are missing here ...


I had 3 different 3D printing machines in my University lab with the first machine dating back to 1990 or 1991. These machines are not very useful in making production parts as they are very slow compared to casting, injection molding, stamping, or even CNC machining. They can do a reasonably job at prototyping models or making demonstration parts. 2 years ago at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, I did see some examples of full strength titanium metal parts that were made using a 3D printer that were real parts but they were one-off bone plates and some low volume jet engine fuel injection parts and even in these parts, it was probably necessary to have critical holes machined with a CNC machine. I sorry, but the idea of making any sizable parts in production volume using 3D printing does not work. These people are just playing in a University setting.

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