In a mission to develop a recyclable thermoplastic suspension system, Rassini SAB de CV, a Mexican automotive suspension and brake components manufacturer, has joined forces with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
A company press release reports that the three-year project, which kicked off in April, will mainly focus on leaf springs designed for the light truck market. As part of the partnership, UAB School of Engineering students will work closely with Rassini engineers, and Rassini is sponsoring two of the three graduate students involved in the project.
The project builds on Rassini and UAB’s partnership last year to develop composite leaf springs for a lightweight race car, displaying continuous fiber thermoplastic composite technology from Polystrand Inc.
According to a Rassini representative, that set the stage for them to move forward into the more defined collaboration with UAB on a project basis. “Being able to do that gave us the confidence that there was something tangibly real there, that we now have a real-life application.”
UAB’s Materials Processing and Applications Development center is a 30,000-square-foot laboratory that closes the gap between laboratory-scale research and mass production.
The representative added that they could develop materials, applications, catalysts and those activities to promote the properties that they are looking for, but take it into the arena of commercialization, which is a crucial factor in automotive when the volumes become greater than what conventionally has been applied in composite thinking in the past.
Describing the MPAD Center’s approach, MPAD director Brian Pillay said that they found there is kind of hole in the market where if research at the universities is taken into account, industry needs will be determined. “We kind of stop at a certain point, and then there has to be this big jump to where industry needs it to be. We try to close that gap with the facility that we have, and therefore we go all the way up to prototyping and providing help and assistance with developing full manufacturing facilities at the plant.”
He also noted its benefits to students. “Most times industry needs things done on a very rapid pace, so [students] develop this culture, and then when we’re actually producing the parts they’re developing experience on industrial-scale equipment, not just lab scale equipment.” Pillay added that they are already industry-ready when they get their qualifications and degrees. The work that pushes thermoplastics to new capabilities is driven in part by the automotive industry’s focus on lightweighting, along with a need for environment-friendly technology.
Rassini and UAB will examine recyclability of both production scrap and end-of-life suspension components.
Hamid Moaref has always been fascinated by cars and the automotive industry. His family has a longstanding association with the industry and has been in the tire business for the past 35 years. Raised in Dubai, Hamid attended Capilano University in Vancouver where he graduated with a BBA in marketing before attending an intensive course in magazine publishing in 2005. He has been the publisher and chief editor of Tires & Parts magazine for the past ten years.
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