New Lightweight Design Focus: the Cockpit Beam
The lightweight solutions presented back in 2009 are being further developed by ThyssenKrupp as part of the InCar plus project. In addition, the second project from 2014 is also offering new solution approaches, e.g. a cockpit beam which is around 3.4 kg lighter than current steel solutions. With lightweight design costs of € 5.30/kg, it offers easily accessible potential for saving weight.
While updating the InCar plus reference structure, the body and near-body components such as closures and add-on parts were investigated as regards their potential weight savings. One component in which lightweight measures are especially worthwhile is the cockpit beam. To obtain an overview of the trends and products in this field, the ThyssenKrupp engineers compared almost 300 different cockpit beams. Important parameters include the use of material, the connection and support points, and weights. Steel is the preferred material in 64 % of the investigated cockpit beams, followed by die-cast magnesium and aluminum. The average weight of the investigated cockpit beams is 7.5 kg (steel), 4.5 kg (aluminum) and 3.5 kg (magnesium).
The cockpit beam’s usage characteristics are validated virtually. For the simulations, a widely used steering column and a substitute mass for the steering wheel are added to the cockpit beam. Integration into a rigid frame guarantees a manufacturer-neutral installation situation. Global natural frequencies include the lateral mode with 42.0 Hz and the vertical mode with 45.0 Hz. The high natural frequencies reflect the cockpit beam’s good stiffness-to-weight ratio. At 3 Hz, it is additionally guaranteed that the spread between the first global modes is sufficiently large. As further verification of the usage characteristics, a vertical load of 100 kg is applied onto the steering wheel. At 95 MPa, the stresses induced in the cockpit beam are around 44 % less than the yield stress of Mg AZ31. This therefore guarantees that no plastic deformation will occur during daily use.
The magnesium sheet cockpit beam developed in the InCar plus project weighs 2.4 kg. If this is compared with an optimized steel cockpit beam weighing 5.8 kg, the lightweight design costs amount to € 5.30/kg. Magnesium sheet components therefore offer great potential for reducing weight in vehicles.