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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M507696/1
Title: Lightweight Energy Absorbing Aluminium Structures for Transport (LEAAST)
Principal Investigator: Fan, Professor Z
Other Investigators:
Ji, Professor S Scamans, Professor GM
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Ctr for Advanced Solidification Tech
Organisation: Brunel University London
Scheme: Technology Programme
Starts: 01 May 2015 Ends: 31 October 2018 Value (£): 593,690
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Transport Systems and Vehicles
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Lightweight crash management systems are of increasing importance for most forms of ground transport. Automotive OEMs like JLR have advanced aluminium automotive body designs but still depend on steel for bumper beams and for rail applications steel based crash systems predominate. Constellium has developed considerably stronger extrusion alloys based on the AA6xxx alloy system that are fully recycling compatible with the sheet used for automotive structures and body panels. Brunel University has developed alloys and casting technologies that enable extrusions and castings to be combined in novel ways to produce a new generation of compact lightweight crash management systems. The envisaged work programme with include the high strength alloy being combined with casting alloys using overcasting techniques and the use of bonded and riveted joints to demonstrate the potential for both increased crash resistance and weight saving. The project will demonstrate and evaluate optimised designs for crash management systems for both automotive and rail transport.

The proposal aims to achieve a cost-effective material/manufacturing technology delivering a step-change in weight reduction for crash management systems for use in the automotive and rail sectors. We will design, manufacture & demonstrate lightweight aluminium systems based on the use of a novel high strength aluminium extrusion alloy that can replace the incumbent steel systems whilst providing at least a 25% weight reduction using alloys formulated from recycled end of life scrap. Utilising a novel overcasting technology that will eliminate the need for welding using casting alloys that are also based on recycled metal, we will also utilise the flow forming technology available in the UK for the first time to provided low waste near net shape manufacture of precision components for crash management systems. The project will involve the development, simulation & validation of novel architectures for both road & rail which radically exploit the new design freedoms afforded by the recent advances in high strength aluminium alloys, in overcasting & riv-bonding joining techniques & in novel casting & near net shape manufacturing methods. A second outcome will be the tangible steps taken towards a more sustainable, more UK-centric supply base & manufacturing capability in resource-efficient lightweight solutions through the leading partners (JLR & Constellium) in the Advanced Metal Casting Centre at Brunel University. The project consortium includes representatives from across the UK supply chain covering a range of industrial sectors.

Predominantly focusing on crash management systems for automotive & rail applications the technology, once proven can be easily transferred to other structural systems in chassis & body where steel structures can be replaced. Closing the recycling loop by the replacement of dissimilar alloys in the LCV body structures will increase the intrinsic value of the end of life vehicle as the body structure will be returned as a post-consumer scrap source either to the wrought sheet & extrusion producers (high value) or for the manufacture of further alloys with high recycled content of which the benefits were highlighted by the successful TSB REALCAR (TP/9/LCV/6/I/S0086E). Further dematerialisation will be achieved with the increased use of aluminium in LCVs & the use of lower cost, more recyclable alloys expanding the use of aluminium intensive vehicle structures from premium vehicle to more affordable & higher volume vehicle classes. Similarly, rail investment in lightweight rolling stock will follow similar strategies to automotive which will result in significant dematerialisation (weight reduction) of these presently steel intensive structures. Building on developments in the EPSRC supported TARF-LCV project supported under the TSB-LCIP through the inclusion of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Liquid Metal Engineering.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.brunel.ac.uk