Lightweight concepts for leaf springs

Komposite Composite Firma
© IFC GmbH

The lighter a vehicle is, the less energy it consumes. This not only pleases car drivers, but also politicians, who urge for a reduction in fuel consumption and thus in CO2 emissions to improve climate protection. One hundred kilograms weight saving means around five percent less fuel consumption and correspondingly fewer emissions. One component that offers potential for this are the leaf springs in the chassis. In a project started on 1 January 2016, researchers at Fraunhofer IMWS together with IFC Composite GmbH, want to find out whether these springs can be made of thermoplastic-based polymers.

Leaf springs are essential parts of chassis systems of vehicles with a large payload. They are mostly made of steel and consist of several curved, connected spring leafs, whose cross-section, length and number determine the suspension properties. Due to their layer build-up, leaf springs have a large self-weight, which ranges from around 25 kilogram in a small van up to more than 60 kilograms in semitrailer tractors for particularly heavy trucks.

In the »Development and testing of a thermoplastic bonded leaf spring« project, researchers of the Fraunhofer IMWS  together with partners from IFC Composite GmbH in Haldensleben, want to test whether and how such heavy weights could be replaced by thermoplastic-based lightweight solutions. At the same time the development and use of so-called UD tapes, which are reinforced with glass fibers, will be investigated: In these tapes the continuous fibers are orientated to precisely suit the load distribution of the component, so that enormously stable and extremely lightweight components are produced.

Within two-and-a-half years the project partners want to develop and test new material concepts. This will involve examining properties such as temperature resistance, media resistance and behavior in case of a crash. In this way, the aim prospectively is to pave the way for efficient production in large quantities relevant for the automotive industry.

Apart from reducing the weight of vehicles, thermoplastic-based concepts could offer other advantages too. For example, the recyclability of the materials would reduce costs and environmental impact still further.

Kunststoff Mischung robust leicht
© Fraunhofer IMWS
UD tapes reinforced with glass fibers offer large potential for lightweight construction.