Ford Mustang features lightweight grille made of carbon fiber composite

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  • Polyamide with 20% short carbon fiber
  • 24% lighter than prior plastic-metal hybrid design
  • Carbon fiber composite grille opening reinforcement (GOR) on 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang

Ford approached Magna International Inc. to assist in the development of a lightweight GOR concept for the Shelby GT350. BASF was invited by Magna to suggest lightweight material concepts, which resulted in a carbon fiber GOR that was 24 percent lighter than the prior plastic-metal hybrid design. The GOR is manufactured with BASF’s Ultramid polyamide thermoplastic resin with 20 percent short carbon fiber composition. It is 1.1 kg (2.5 pounds) lighter than the traditional GOR concept that used metal stampings overmolded with plastic.

2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang

The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang with a carbon fiber composite grille opening reinforcement (GOR). Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Carbon fiber with very good aesthetic quality

Typically, the GOR is hidden with a beauty cover. However, due to the appearance of the new part, Ford chose to forgo the beauty cover, contributing to an additional loss of 0.9 kg (1.9 pounds) bringing the total weight savings to 45 percent. The company also decided to play up the innovative nature of the carbon fiber part further by molding the words “carbon fiber composite” into the visible frontend of the part.

Since the grille opening reinforcement is used to structurally connect the upper rails and lower frame rails, provide the general shape of the frontend and increase the overall stiffness of the front vehicle body, it was crucial that the carbon fiber GOR maintained its structural performance.

carbon fiber composite grille opening reinforcement (GOR)

The carbon fiber composite grille opening reinforcement (GOR) used on the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang (source: BASF)

Topology optimization used to tailor the design

Once Magna created the shape and concept, the supplier along with BASF improved the design and optimized the part through the use of advanced technology, such as topology optimization and BASF’s Ultrasim tool. Topology optimization was used to tailor the design for efficient material usage based on multiple vehicle load requirements and a pre-determined package space, while maintaining the attachment scheme.

New design eliminates need for multiple steel stampings and dies

The new design also eliminated the need for multiple steel stampings and dies and reduced the injection mold complexity typically associated with traditional plastics-metal hybrid solutions. These efforts helped decrease the capital investment by approximately 70 percent.

Assembly using patented resistive implant welding (RIW) process

Magna’s patented resistive implant welding (RIW) process was chosen to structurally bond together two large injection molded parts. The RIW process entails placing a conductive element between the two parts that need to be joined, heating the implant with an electrical current, melting the resin and applying pressure to join the two parts together. The result: a structural component with a cohesive bond and an industry first utilizing the process for a carbon fiber polyamide composite material.

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