Crashworthiness of a Production Vehicle Incorporating a Fiberglass-Reinforced Composite Front Structure 971522

Focal Project I (FP-I) of the Automotive Composites Consortium (ACC) was initiated in early 1990 to focus on the use of composites in a vehicle's front end structure to perform crash energy management. The project is a continuation of a proprietary Ford project to replace the entire front structure of a production 1984 Escort with a molded composite front structure. Although FP-I uses existing RTM molding tools, the project focuses on the development of a completely new reinforcement architecture which emphasizes production feasible preforming methods: triaxially braided glass fibers over foam cores make up the upper and lower rails and the connecting panel can be formed from either thermoformed continuous strand mat or directed fiber. The process uses a vinyl ester resin. The front structure of the Escort has been redesigned and replaced with production-feasible composite components designed for crash energy management requirements as well as other overall structural considerations. A fully-dressed and instrumented vehicle was built up to incorporate the composite front structure and the vehicle was barrier crash tested at 35 mph. The vehicle passed the test -- all performance measures were well within the Federal MVSS requirements -- and all but one measure yielded improved performance over the all-steel production vehicle. In addition, the composite parts are 25 % lighter than the steel parts they replace.


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