Audi has announced it use a new lightweight coil springs made from a glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) composite material on "an upper mid-size model" by the end of 2014. Based on prototypes seen testing in Europe, the first recipient is expected to be the upcoming Audi A6.
Developed in conjunction with an Italian supplier, Audi's new springs are nearly 40 percent lighter than their conventional steel counterparts and offer almost a 10 pound reduction in unsprung mass. According to Audi, they reduce weight at a particularly critical location and permit both greater driving precision and "enhanced vibrational comfort." Easily tunable for specific applications, these new GFRP components are resistant to various forms of structural damage from corrosion and also require less energy to manufacture.
The central structure of the new GFRP springs consists of longs strands of glass fibers twisted together and impregnated with epoxy resin. A machine then wraps additional fibers around the core in precisely-overlapping 45-degree patterns along its longitudinal axis. These create tension and compression plies that mutually reinforce each other, allowing the springs to absorb the stresses encountered while the vehicle is being driven. The last step in the production process involves subjecting each spring blank to heat-curing process.
This won't be the first use of composite springs in series production. The Chevrolet Corvette has been fitted with leaf-style composite springs since 1984 with the introduction of the C4 generation. Last month, Ford confirmed that it, too, is developing composite coils which were unveiled on the firm's mass-minimizing Lightweight Concept car.
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