Advanced Technology of Automotive Front-End

Before the advent of European sports cars being imported to the United States, highways in that country were traversed by large heavy hulks of automobiles that somewhat jokingly held the reputation of being like Sherman tanks. Everything was heavy about them, from power train to the knobs on the radio. Up to the very recent past cars were manufactured from the ground-up in one assembly line; nothing really had changed from the time of Henry Ford in the very early 1900s. In other areas of manufacturing, especially electronics, miniaturization and modulations were becoming watchwords, as more attention was being paid to the need to have space and conserve natural resources.

Europe and Japan already realized that there needed to be a change in how automobiles were being manufactured, as peoples in these regions already were experiencing high fuel costs, and they were living in much more crowded areas. It was only logical to bring in manufacturing practices to the automobile industry, and the first wave of that came with European “sports cars” and economy cars. The U.S. lagged by at least ten years, introducing similar but inferior models, such as the Chevette and Pinto in the early 1970s. The Mustang and the Camero, albeit smaller than their larger predecessors, still weren’t as small as the Toyota Corolla of 1971, Honda Civic, fiat Spider, or the VW Beetle. They certainly don’t rank in the category of “compact” or “economy” cars, as a visit to any major parking lot, rental car agency, or street in Europe or Japan will immediately reveal.

Europe and Japan also led the way to modularization, as well as miniaturization, front-end modules (FEM) being a major step forward. Two major factors driving FEM development were the need for weight reduction, brought on by increasing fuel costs, and the observation that vehicle assembly procedures were bulky and inefficient. Smaller cars demand lighter components, simply because the engines are not as powerful.

Material density and size are the main factors contributing to weight and strength. The main goal in design to make a material less dense and miniaturized, while retaining functionality and durability. However, overall cost of manufacturer still is the baseline consideration by most manufacturers. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations [1] also will be a factor. These U.S. regulations were enacted in 1975 in response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo and mandated auto manufacturers to construct vehicles with lower fuel usage.

Three basic ways of constructing a front-end module (FEM) are using current materials, (mainly metal), all non-metal (mainly composites), or a combination of both. The central goal is to have a lower weight but stronger assembly that is durable but environmentally friendly. FEMS initially has a steel carrier but developments in composite design have helped transition construction from a hybrid design to more composite-based assemblies.

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Posted on September 5, 2011, in ALL, Chassis. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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