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ALU-CAR lightweight construction experts

What do we need to meet all needs and requirements?

What can we omit without compromising the function and design?
And how do we combine all the individual components sensibly and in the right order? These are just a few of the key questions that our specialists at ALU-CAR ask themselves, as I find myself doing as I write this. After all, there are so many different aspects of lightweight construction to discuss that I need to limit myself to just a few key points here. After all, you don't have endless amounts of time to find out why ALU-CAR is the right partner for your next lightweight construction project, right?


The objective:
an (all-round) positive result

Regardless of how different the projects are that we work on for our customers at ALU-CAR, our objective of "building as economically and sustainably lightweight as possible" is almost always the same. The motivation for the new development might involve a legal requirement, a massive increase in demand for "more ecological" or responsibly produced products, or even economic constraints. But each assignment essentially involves combining the following four aspects: weight, function, sustainability and cost.

It would therefore be a "serious error of judgement" to assume that modern lightweight construction only involves selecting the most lightweight material. Our "mantra", that is the formula on which everything in the ALU-CAR development team is based, is much more: ideally using as little material as possible in the ideal application to achieve the best performance at reasonable cost. After all, if you do it right, you can also "construct lightweight products with steel." But to do this, you need to know the properties of a material, how best to use and process it, and possibly combine it with or join it to other materials.
We have this knowledge and experience. As an engineering partner to the automotive industry, we have been developing body architectures, vehicle structures and HV battery housings for well-known vehicle manufacturers, including AUDI, BMW, Bugatti and Porsche, as well as suppliers and component manufacturers, for over 20 years. We have supported them as they transition from pure steel or aluminium solutions to intensive mixed constructions, and have actively helped to shape this change process. For instance, today's automotive industry makes use of compound steel, aluminium and magnesium materials. Fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) and large-scale cast components are the norm and the prerequisite for reducing weight, something that had been on the rise for some time. This is absolutely necessary to achieve the required CO2 savings and make processes and products more sustainable.


Getting rid of (old) baggage.
Also in our minds.

Not everything was better in the past, but of course not everything was bad either. That's why in the first stage of the project we conduct an analysis for and with our customers. This allows us to determine whether and, if so, how existing concepts, procedures and processes can be further developed. How can tried-and-tested methods and processes continue to be used or adapted to new requirements?
To this end, it is helpful to develop an overall concept for lightweight construction and consider the complete system – either the entire body or the complete supporting structures in the battery environment. Apart from pure structural, material-related and joining technology issues, we also consider the optimum use of the space, at the same time meeting design and functional requirements.

However, alongside these issues, we also question whether it makes real sense to stick to "tried-and-tested" methods economically, ecologically and technologically. It may well be that there are now material combinations, joining techniques or technologies that enable us to develop totally new solutions. Do we really need a battery housing for a BEV ("Battery Electric Vehicle") or could we instead use a load-bearing structure or fully integrated modules in the vehicle? What would be the outcome if we replaced the cast components used to date with larger, more complex ones? Would it not make more sense to make this one component heavier, avoiding the need for additional parts or follow-up measures to make it lighter overall?


Dare to try out new ideas.
With a light touch.

We discuss these and similar questions with our customers. And we talk to them as equals about the risks and "follow-up challenges" associated with a new lightweight design approach. Ultimately, anyone wishing to tread new paths will sooner or later encounter obstacles that need to be overcome. Although we do not have a solution up our sleeves for every difficult situation, we can nonetheless use our in-depth professional knowledge to propose ideas, analysis, simulations or concepts and suggestions that might help.

So you see: we are firmly convinced that lightweight construction can provide the answer to many current problems. And as you are still reading this, you also appear to see the great potential in lightweight construction. We should talk if you are considering a specific project or just want to exchange ideas with lightweight construction experts. Hard as it is to conclude, we'll end now as it's starting to get too heavy – no seriously due to a lack of space! But could this be the start of a constructive development relationship? We'd be thrilled if it were!  


Volker Merks
ALU-CAR | Managing Director

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