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Poland’s Foundry Research Institute has worked with ParaMatters to develop a lightweight automotive suspension upright using the company’s CogniCAD generative design and topology optimisation software.
The project also leaned on Voxeljet 3D printing technology to produce the mould for the investment casting.
Using CogniCAD, ParaMatters imported six designs with defined load cases and set up design goals to minimise mass under strength constraints. With the software’s generative design capabilities, a lightweight version of the suspension upright was designed with the limitations of investment casting taken into consideration but without human intervention. The result was a design that was 45% lighter than the original component.
At this point, Voxeljet was called upon to print the casting in PMMA at a speed of around 18mm per hour, before a ceramic shell was layered onto the finished part. The PMMA model was then softened in a kiln at 80°C and shrank so tears couldn’t form in the ceramic shell, with the 3D model later being burnt out from the casting die with virtually no residue. After casting flow simulation was carried out, liquid AK9 aluminium was poured into the cast at a temperature of around 670°C and, once it had cooled down and the mould had been removed, the upright’s sharp edges were smoothed down to leave the final part.
The partners had previously considered implementing laser sintering technology to produce the aluminium suspension upright but concerns over the speed and cost of additively manufacturing the component were compounded with the belief that the upright’s properties could be better controlled through casting. NXT Factory, a partner of ParaMatters through the XponentialWorks network, connected the software vendor with the Foundry Research Institute, and as a result, an automotive series production component has been significantly lightweighted.