Martinrea's Pat D'Eramo talked to government officials, media and others recently at the official grand opening of the company's technical center in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Martinrea)

Martinrea's new tech center focuses on subframe innovation

A new North American technical center is the product development centerpiece for Martinrea’s new mixed-material vehicle subframes currently under development.

“We grew from a series of acquisitions, gaining resources in multiple locations. Now with this new technical center, we’re consolidating many of our resources under one roof,” Pat D’Eramo, President and CEO of Martinrea International Inc., said in an interview with Automotive Engineering at the recent official grand opening of the Auburn Hills, Michigan technical center.

The new two-story, 108,000 ft2 building houses R&D activities, process and product engineering, and testing labs. Martinrea’s new tech center is a cornerstone for the development and production of fluid management systems as well as metal and aluminum parts, assemblies and modules.

In a first for the 17-year-old Ontario-based company, Martinrea engineers will design and develop several hybrid-material applications. Recently awarded business includes aluminum hybrid rear subframes for future Daimler vehicles; aluminum/steel hybrid front and rear subframes for a Ford crossover vehicle; and an aluminum hybrid rear subframe for an electric vehicle platform from China’s Geely.

“One product that’s definitely gaining traction for us is the hybrid subframe," D'Eramo noted. "In the past, we’ve made our subframes out of steel, or from a solid piece of aluminum or a hollow piece of aluminum. But the hybrid subframe allows you to mix and match materials and mix and match the manufacturing processes.”

As automakers find value in platform modularity, Martinrea officials expect to land more contracts through the company’s lightweight, hybrid-material/processing solutions.

“When an OEM uses a one-piece subframe, that subframe fits only one vehicle. But with a hybrid design, the parts are interchangeable. You can extend or shrink different parts and change the basic size of the subframe but keep the connecting points and some of the core components,” D’Eramo explained.

A hybrid material approach can enable vehicle manufacturers to use one subframe design for multiple platforms. “Depending on the design, it’s possible to save 30% in weight by taking a hybrid approach of multi-materials and multiple processing techniques,” D’Eramo said.

New business is also a table-setter for additional resources.

Robert Fairchild, Martinrea’s Executive Vice President of Sales and Engineering, said achieving flawless launches is mandatory. “And to do that you have to have the right amount of resources early. You can’t get behind because you’ll never by able to catch up, no matter how many resources you throw at it,” Fairchild said. Added D’Eramo, “We’re investing much more at the front-end of every launch than we ever have.”

Martainrea’s hybrid subframes will production debut in the 2020/2021 timeframe. 



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