Research project aims to give UK a lead in heavy duty suspension technology19 January 2016
Top vehicle suspension specialists, a high performance engineering design solutions business and advanced manufacturing technology experts are bidding to develop a revolutionary system to cut transport emissions and costs while boosting reliability and durability.
Tinsley Bridge, the Sheffield-based SME that is one of the world's leading suppliers of anti-roll bars, has joined forces with Performance Engineered Solutions (PES) and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).
The trio has launched a project, co-funded by the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK, to develop unique, high performance, metal composite hybrid anti-roll bars for trucks and trains.
The bars are safety critical suspension components that are currently made from metal and the project aims to significantly reduce their weight by developing a composite alternative with metal end pieces.
Reducing weight will cut fuel costs and emissions. Using composites could also mean the bars will never need replacing - unlike their metal counterparts - and will increase the dynamic loads the bars can cope with.
One of the major challenges will be achieving a sufficiently strong bond between the metal and composite and researchers will be investigating a number of innovative solutions.
The potential market for high performance composite anti-roll bars for use in road and rail applications runs into millions of pounds.
Tinsley Bridge is already the fourth largest supplier of anti-roll bars to global OEM truck manufacturers and a key development partner for stabiliser and torsion bars to vehicle manufacturers.
Successful development of metal composite hybrid bars through innovation and research would create an advanced version of the product to counter the threat of low cost foreign competition and open up new opportunities, but the potential benefits don't end there.
"There could be multiple spin-offs, including opportunities in the aerospace sector, if the work we are doing comes to fruition," said Mike Maddock from PES, which has worked with the AMRC on a number of projects, including developing a rear wing for a Porsche racing car and body parts for a Subaru made from eco-friendly bio-composites, partly funded by the Niche Vehicle Network
"This project also highlights the value of strong collaboration to drive innovation which delivers technical advances, enabling UK PLC to take the lead in multiple sectors," said Maddock.
"Bringing together the knowledge and expertise of SMEs like Tinsley Bridge and PES, working in partnership with the AMRC raises the profile of local businesses and the region in the global market place as an important part of the Northern Powerhouse."
PES is heading up the engineering and design side of the project, using its lightweight and composite expertise, while the AMRC's Composite Centre will use Finite Element Analysis to check the designs will resist the loads the bar undergoes before automatically producing the bar using its MF Tech filament winding system, unique to the UK.
The AMRC will also use its CT scanner to 'see' inside the bar, checking its structural integrity and verifying the build quality.
Tinsley Bridge Engineering Development Manager Russell Crow said: "If we are successful, we will have created a unique process and high value manufacturing capability which will provide future job security and potential for significant expansion.
"It will also create a novel manufacturing capability for the wider benefit of the UK."
Matt Smith, from the AMRC Composite Centre, added: "Although composite materials are used in a range of industrial applications, they have not been developed as a hybrid component to meet the challenges of heavy vehicle stabiliser and torsion bars.
"The strong technical and environmental benefits, increased durability, improved fuel efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions means we have the potential to develop a leading place for the UK with a disruptive technology that has global implications."