Magna’s new Composites Center of Excellence in Esslingen, Germany, features a new Engel 2,300-metric-ton pressGermany - The new Composites Center of Excellence will act as a base for the development of various vehicle structural components such as subframes, as well as exterior body parts like door panels and hoods. The idea is to identify production-ready lightweight solutions that will help vehicle manufacturers meet increasingly stringent emissions standards.

"Lightweight composite parts can deliver weight reductions of 30 to 60% over steel," commented Grahame Burrow, president of Magna Exteriors. "It's easy to see why automakers are pursuing these materials, and we're ready to deliver innovative solutions to help them meet their goals."

A new 2,300 metric-ton Engel V-Duo press has been placed in the facility. It is used for thermoset compression molding of reinforced plastic or sheeting holding compound materials, and allows Magna to produce full-size test components using a wide range of composite materials. The press is also linked to a testing laboratory, in which temperature cycles, climatic cycles, static and dynamic tests, and microscopic examinations can be carried out.

The supplier has said that there are a number of European vehicle manufacturers pursuing joint development projects with Magna at the new facility, one of which is currently investigating the use of composites in structural rear vehicle modules while another is looking at using composites for vehicle subframes. Some companies are also showing interest in the development of Class A exterior panels from composites.

In March 2017, Magna announced that it had made a prototype subframe with Ford using carbon fibre. The companies achieved a 34% reduction in mass and an 87% reduction in the number of parts when compared to an equivalent subframe made of stamped steel. After passing performance requirements based on computer-aided engineering (CAE) analyses, the frames are now being made by Magna for vehicle-level testing at Ford.