The runners-up in Altair’s Enlighten Awards Tuesday might have even more relevance to collision repairers than the 2020 winners, for the silver medalists included advanced-material Nissan body structures and a new DuPont structural adhesive.
The next-generation 2020 Nissan Sentra and its new platform took second place in the Full Vehicle category. Altair in a news release Tuesday reported that Nissan helped find the proper design through simulation.
Nissan’s Christopher Reed noted Tuesday that customers wanted a bigger Sentra. He said the OEM spread the vehicle wider but shortened the overhang for style reasons — design decisions which would typically undercut factors like safety, handling, and NVH reduction.
However, Nissan compensated for the new Sentra design by “significantly” boosting the body stiffness, he said. The Sentra was “kind of best in class from our view” in factors like body torsional rigidity, stiffness and resonance frequency, according to Reed.
Reed credited ultra-high-strength steel for this victory, describing the 2020 Sentra as more than 30 percent UHSS — a material which might lead to repairer heat or sectioning restrictions to preserve strength and crash performance. On the whole, the body was “kind of a composite of steel,” Reed said.
Reed said Nissan ultimately increased size, features and performance but kept mass neutral, he said. The OEM saw its body as a “kind of best in class” size compared to its mass.
“We’re very proud of that,” he said.
Altair and awards partner Center for Automotive Research honored Nissan a second time Tuesday with the runner-up prize for the Future of Lightweighting. The second-place design involved a body side panel built out of aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer.
Nissan’s Shinichiro Takemoto said Tuesday it was impossible to simply use carbon fiber for the part, for the cost would be “extremely high.”
Instead, Nissan combined an aluminum outer plate and injection-molded short-fiber carbon-fiber, Takemoto said. The OEM also used topology optimization to design the part, he said.
The concept delivers strength and stiffness but also “low cost and light weight,” Takemoto said. Nissan plans to further develop the idea as “market products,” he said.
Altair global industry verticals Senior Vice President Richard Yen said Nissan’s design was seen as extremely “innovative,” describing it as creating a load path and then sticking “material in the right place.”
One of collision repair’s bread-and-butter parts houses the Enabling Technologies Award runner-up. An Altair slide Tuesday said the “fast room temperature curing, two-component” BETASEAL X2500 structural adhesive can be found in Magna thermoplastic liftgates.
Altair wrote in a news release Tuesday that the DuPont glue “quickly joins thermoplastic inner and outer panels and enables modular lightweight assembly” It also permits a 20-30 percent weight savings over welded steel liftgates, according to Altair.
DuPont’s Brian Fish said North America SUVs and crossovers will keep growing, and the “liftgate itself is a big contributor to the weight.
Fish cited the early engagement and trust between FCA (the liftgate appears on a Jeep, according to an Altair slide), Magna and DuPont as enabling the lightweighting.
He also noted that lightweighting will always come with targets for durability, cost and safety, and “it’s impressive” how multiple Critical to Quality items had been met by the 2020 Altair award winners.
Finally, ZF took second-place in the Module category for an electric parking brake Altair said had already supplied more than 75 million vehicles.
Yen called it a “really great design.”
ZF’s Markus Fischer called it a “challenge” to take the technology from passenger cars to heavy-duty vehicles, for ZF had to improve the brake’s capability by 35 percent. That’s not simply a “tweak something” problem, he said — ZF had to “push everything to the limit” while keeping the tech “safe and reliable.”
The new parking brake saved more than 25 pounds, Fischer said. He observed that as a 30-year chassis engineer, saving 25 pounds in rear suspension unsprung or semi-unsprung mass was a “huge, huge, huge win.”
The electronic nature of the system permitted other desirable features, such as eliminating the parking brake pedal and integrating other safety features.
Even more technological surprises might be coming to auto body shops in the near future besides the eight Altair winners and runners-up. According to judge and Center for Automotive Research CEO Carla Bailo, the event drew “many more submissions” than finalists.
“We had so many good entries,” she said. The field showed “really innovative ideas,” she said.
The contest even singled out one of the losing entries with an honorable mention: a Mazda computer-aided engineering design optimization.
Yen said Mazda’s computer-aided engineering design optimization results can be seen in the Mazda6, CX-30 and new Mazda3, and Altair saw machine learning and artificial intelligence as the future for automotive design.
“We are proud to offer the automotive industry’s only award dedicated to vehicle lightweighting and are thrilled to see how many advancements are made through the use of optimization technologies,” Yen said in a statement Tuesday. “Each year the entries are more and more impressive, making it increasingly difficult to select the winners as entrants are making great strides in lightweighting, and using inventive approaches through simulation and materials.”
Altair, Aug. 4, 2020
Center for Automotive Research YouTube channel, Aug. 4, 2020
The 2020 Nissan Sentra placed second for the 2020 Altair Enlighten Full Vehicle Award. (Provided by Nissan)
Altair honored Nissan on Aug. 4, 2020, with the runner-up Enlighten Award for Future of Lightweighting. The OEM built a body side panel out of aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer. (Provided by Altair)
DuPont took second place in Altair’s 2020 Enlighten Awards category of Enabling Technologies for its BETASEAL X2500 structural adhesives found in Magna thermoplastic liftgates. (Provided by Altair)