The special feature of this model is its innovative, geometric design.
The engineers had some pretty lofty goals this time around. Their aim was to develop a bumper that offered the same crash performance as current models while being lighter, cheaper, and ideally, more sustainable to produce than ever before. “It was a massive challenge, but we achieved it in the end and came up with a number of extremely impressive solutions,” explained Martin Kibben.
Engineers at work
Martin Kibben presents the new bumper with its open crash beam
Kibben is responsible for bumpers and longitudinal members as part of ThyssenKrupp’s InCar®plus project. InCar®plus is a Groupwide program in which engineers strive to discover different ways to optimize vehicle components. After testing some of its preliminary ideas, the team developed a number of promising concepts. These were then subjected to intensive computer simulations. However the Group’s laundry list of objectives often proved to be somewhat conflicting. “If the forming process checked out, then crash performance would be a problem. Or maybe an idea looked like it would save on weight, but then the production process was too complex and forced our costs up,” says Subproject Manager Andreas Keutz.
The engineers rejected several ideas right away, choosing to develop others instead. One of the approaches they focused their efforts on was the idea to use an open crash beam as a central element of the bumper. The advantages were obvious: The specialized wave-shaped profile allowed the steel sheet to be thinner without compromising on crash performance and eliminated the need for the closing plate used in the reference model. That alone saved an impressive 1.7 kilograms in weight.
The new bumper system optimizes weight, cost, and function.
But before this bumper could be built, the team needed to develop the required forming technology. Good thing they had the expertise of ThyssenKrupp System Engineering to back them up. “We combined our knowledge in materials and processes to develop a solution that would allow our customers to eliminate a significant amount of weight without raising costs. In fact, our solution is cheaper than the reference model,” explains Kibben.
Now that the development phase of InCar®plus is over, this solution is one of four different ideas that the team put together. At a weight of 8.25 kilograms, the new bumper system is almost two kilograms lighter than the reference model. A few of the other solutions are under nine kilograms as well.
Less weight means that the car uses less gas, which means that it produces less CO2. Over time, the drop in material costs will make up for the cost of implementing the new production methods, so the new product will be lighter, but no more expensive.
Currently, the four bumper concepts are on tour as part of the worldwide InCar®plus roadshow. “Which approach works best for which customer? That’s something that has to be decided on an individual basis,” says Kibben. “And we’d be happy to offer our advice.” Car manufacturers are already interested in the solutions and concrete talks are taking place.