Manufacturers must integrate an increasing number of concepts and energy storage systems into vehicle structures. Future vehicle bodies will be lighter, which will require more flexible design. As the number of vehicle varieties increases, designers must develop adaptable bodywork concepts that are economical to manufacture. Additive manufacturing could offer new approaches.
One example of how additive manufacturing enables flexible design is the EDAG “Light Cocoon” concept car. The car was unveiled in March 2015 at the Geneva Motor Show and in September 2015 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. The car is intended to polarize opinions among designers and break open existing thought patterns in vehicle design.
The bodywork of the compact sports car embraces bionic patterns and translates them into a lightweight structure. The outer skin is made from weatherproof textile material.
EDAG Engineering GmbH (Wiesbaden, DE), Laser Zentrum Nord GmbH (Hamburg, DE), Concept Laser GmbH (Lichtenfels, DE) and the BLM Group (Cantù, IT) created the optimized frame. It was produced by hybrid manufacturing to highlight an adaptable bodywork concept that can be manufactured flexibly and delivered to make the increasing range of different vehicles manageable thanks to the large number of different drives and load stages.
Playing a coordinating role, EDAG Engineering GmbH devised and optimized the space-frame concept, while Laser Zentrum Nord GmbH did the laser welding, the BLM Group undertook the 3D bending and laser cutting, and Concept Laser GmbH performed the additive manufacturing of the nodes.
Additively manufactured bodywork nodes are combined in the frame. These nodes can be configured to be flexible and multifunctional so that, for example, different versions of a vehicle can be produced “on demand” without additional tooling, equipment and start-up costs.
Steel profiles are used as connecting elements. They too can easily be adapted on an individual basis to the specified load levels using different wall thicknesses and geometries. They are cut to the appropriate shape and length using 3D bending and 2D and 3D laser cutting processes.
The design of the space frame nodes prevents them from be manufactured by conventional steel casting. So the team used an X line 1000R LaserCUSING machine from Concept Laser, which has the appropriate build envelope (630 x 400 x 500 mm3) for such projects and operates with a 1kW laser.
Both the nodes and the profiles can be adapted to new geometries and load requirements without any additional outlay. The basic idea is to have a node/profile design which can be customized to reflect what the particular model requires. By employing processes, which do not involve much use of apparatus or tools, it will be possible in future to manufacture all bodywork versions economically and with the greatest possible flexibility.