15

It works like this – reduce the overall mass, and you have a lighter vehicle. A lighter vehicle requires less horsepower to achieve equivalent performance, which means a smaller, lighter drivetrain can be used, reducing mass further, which means you can carry less oil and coolant, reducing mass further, which means smaller braking components can be used, reducing mass further, which means you could fit smaller, lighter wheels and tires, hence reducing mass further, which adds up to better fuel mileage, so you can fit a smaller fuel tank, carry less fuel, thus reducing mass further and… You get the picture. That’s just the beginning – there are further benefits to the OE like reduced freight costs, handling costs, assembly costs, and the list goes on.

As performance enthusiasts, we’re all concerned with weight. When it comes to speed, common sense says that lighter is faster – and I’m here to tell you that this is indeed true.

 

Those of you who know me know that I’m a suspension guy (hopefully, Mike and Dave will vouch for me if I get called to the carpet on that), and, while reducing weight is good for the reasons mentioned above, suspension guys especially love reducing unsprung mass for the big gains in handling performance that it affords. If you’re new to the concept of sprung and unsprung mass, the chassis and all the components rigidly attached to it (things that are held up by the springs, hence the term “sprung”) such as the body, drivetrain, exhaust, interior, etc… are considered sprung weight. Unsprung weight is basically the moving bits that are hung on the car by the suspension and not directly connected to the chassis, like wheels, tires, calipers, and rotors. For calculation purposes, the stuff that’s in between – whatever creates the interface between the sprung weight and unsprung weight, like control arms, springs, struts, shocks, panhard rods, trailing arms, and so forth, is usually considered 50/50 – half of the mass is considered sprung and the other half unsprung.


Why does reducing unsprung weight improve handling? In simple terms, with all things being equal, the car that maintains the most consistently loaded tire contact patches is going to have the best handling. Less unsprung mass means the tire can react to changes in the road surface more quickly and maintain optimum traction.

 

All that being said, what’s all this talk about plastic? Enter composite materials – sometimes known as FRP, or Fiber Reinforced Plastics. Most people think of woven carbon fiber saturated in some kind of resin when they think of composites, but the definition is much broader than that. Composites are defined as materials that are made from two or more different materials that have very different chemical and/or physical properties. When combined, the different materials are still separate and distinct, but the new material has properties that are different from, and usually much better than, the individual components that make it up.

 

Most composites consist of a matrix or binder (like epoxy resin), and a reinforcement, such as carbon fiber or glass fiber. Fact: the most common composite in the world? Concrete, which is a combination of aggregates (basically gravel) - which serve as the reinforcement - and cement, which is the matrix that binds it all together. So, where are we going with all this? We’re going racing, of course!

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Comments
Burninator
Burninatorlink
Thursday, October 16, 2014 11:11 AM
Cool project. I look forward to seeing more.
StrangeLiform
StrangeLiformlink
Friday, October 17, 2014 1:40 AM
So you guys are making fiberglass springs? Very cool.

I remember recently hearing about the collaboration between Sogefi and Audi to produce fiberglass springs for new Audi cars. I honestly had a bit of a 'facepalm' moment when I read about that, because it is the sort of tech that seems *really* obvious in retrospect.

Can't wait to see this project come to fruition!
bigBcraig
bigBcraiglink
Sunday, October 19, 2014 1:51 PM
Long-strand thermoplastic composites good enough for use as stressed suspension components... Impressive. Just read your SAE article.

Do y'all have any openings I can send a resume for?
Jonathan Spiegel
Jonathan Spiegellink
Monday, October 20, 2014 7:42 AM
Hey bigBcraig - Actually, I'll go into more detail on the actual composites in the next segment or two. We're actually the next step beyond what they consider long-strand - we make continuous strand composites. I'm assuming you're talking about the SAE interview from the SPE/ACCE show?

Thanks for the input - this is a really fun project. What's your background?
bigBcraig
bigBcraiglink
Monday, October 20, 2014 6:37 PM
Jonathan -
I have a BSME from Georgia Tech, with coursework and internships focusing in composites. Also was the suspension & chassis lead for the FSAE team. So this project really caught my attention as it lines up very much with the things I find most interesting. I also seem to be fairly well-skilled at breaking Linkedin.


I was referring to the following article - http://articles.sae.org/13523/
Jonathan Spiegel
Jonathan Spiegellink
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 7:28 AM
Ahh - a fellow Ramblin' Wreck! I left the hallowed halls of our Alma Mater back in '86, and spent most of my career in the automotive and light truck aftermarket. Now I get to play with suspension from a very different perspective, starting at the materials end of things. Thanks for the LinkedIn connection as well. I don't know of any opportunities related to this project yet, but there are several OEM programs in the works and I will definitely keep my eyes and ears open-
Hey Guys
Hey Guyslink
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1:11 PM
Ever since hearing about the Trabant, I've developed a fascination with Duroplast. Duroplast is a composite thermosetting plastic, kinda like bakelite. Some of the cool things about it:
-Its strong and light
-It is made of recycled material, cotton waste and phenol resins
-it can be made in a press similar to shaping steel, it is more suitable for volume car production than fibreglass.
-Duroplast can be shredded and used as an aggregate in cement blocks for pavement construction
-Or a bacterium that will completely compost a Trabant's Duroplast body in 20 days.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duroplast
CJ Warner
CJ Warnerlink
Thursday, October 23, 2014 11:26 PM
Thank you for the link bigBcraig! Is there an article on that concept adapted to a rear-wheel drive platform? (other than GM's leaf spring solution.) I'm particularly interested on how one would negate the forces applied to the system from the drivetrain.
Jonathan Spiegel
Jonathan Spiegellink
Friday, October 24, 2014 6:57 AM
Adapting to rear wheel drive isn't be too difficult. Like most conventional RWD systems, drivetrain forces can be easily controlled with linkages (like trailing arms or multi-link configurations). Linkages also allow us to optimize geometry as well.
Jonathan Spiegel
Jonathan Spiegellink
Friday, October 24, 2014 7:01 AM
*wouldn't be*
CJ Warner
CJ Warnerlink
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 12:36 PM
Ah, I see what mean. Can't wait to see the car in action! Best of luck on your racing season. I'll be looking for you posts soon!

Efficiency above all reproach!
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