• Jul 14th 2010 at 8:58AM
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Lamborghini's Advanced Composite Research Center – Click above for high-res image gallery

Lamborghini has announced its intentions to build lighter cars, and that means more carbon fiber and carbon composites. The stampeding bull is already deep into the stuff, with the Murcielago replacement (rumored to carry the Jota name) swapping out the Murci's steel frame for one of carbon fiber, and the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera winning The Biggest Loser due to its CF parts.

Getting ready for the long term and knowing it will need to do more than merely hang carbon parts on its wares, Lamborghini has opened an Advanced Composites Research Center in Sant' Agata Bolognese. The 30-strong workforce will develop new processes for designing, shaping and producing parts for the "extremely complex carbon-fiber structures" we hope to see on Lamborghinis of the future. Follow the jump for the full press release on the center.

[Source: Lamborghini]
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Lamborghini announces new center for carbon fiber research in Sant'Agata Bolognese

09/07/2010 -- Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. announces a new Advanced Composites Research Center (ACRC) at its headquarters in Sant'Agata Bolognese. The center carries out research on innovative design and production methods for carbon-fiber elements. Both the ACRC and an all-new, highly efficient production process for extremely complex carbon-fiber structures were developed at the same time. The process is secured through an array of patents and constitutes a breakthrough into the next generation of carbon-fiber components.

Carbon-fiber technology is crucial to the future
"The consistent development of carbon-fiber technology is a key element of our strategy," says Stephan Winkelmann, President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. "The most important parameter for super sportscars is, now as in the future, the weight-to-power ratio; therefore, as there is a limit to power increase due to emission regulations, we must work on weight reduction. Extensive use of carbon fiber, even at structural level, allows Lamborghini to be at the forefront of development techniques. The real difference is in the correct use of technologies and materials to satisfy technical and financial concerns. This is what the Center is all about."

Key technology for super sports cars
Carbon composite materials are crucial to tomorrow's automotive engineering, especially for high-performance sports cars. These materials are made from carbon-fiber reinforced polymers and combine the lowest possible weight with excellent mechanical properties. Cars become lighter, thus improving fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The decisive factor for any sportscar is improving its power-to-weight ratio and thus its performance. A super sportscar built using composite materials in carbon fiber has improved acceleration and braking as well as superior handling.

Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera: lightweight engineering champion thanks to carbon fiber
The current Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera offers a perfect example: compared with the already extremely lean Gallardo LP 560-4, its weight has been trimmed by a further 70 kilograms. One major contributing factor is use of exterior and interior components made from carbon fiber. The super sportscar from Sant'Agata Bolognese weighs in at no more than 1340 kilograms – the new benchmark for the exclusive market segment occupied by Lamborghini.

Over thirty years of experience at Lamborghini
Lamborghini has many years' experience in composite elements. The first carbon-fiber based chassis prototype was built for the Countach as far back as 1983. Series production parts first appeared in 1985. The current Lamborghini Murciélago is built largely of carbon fiber, with 93 kilograms of structural carbon-fiber materials in its bodyshell. The Gallardo Spyder's engine cover is the largest component ever produced in the automotive world with RTM technology and a class-A surface optimum finish.

ACRC's functions
The new Lamborghini Advanced Composite Research Center comprises two facilities covering an area of more than 2,600 square meters. A team of 30 people, engineers and technicians, works here to develop vehicle components of all shapes and sizes. They build prototypes and the associated tools, production tools, and develop optimized production technologies. Sophisticated systems largely developed in-house allow extremely high precision levels as engineers simulate manufacturing processes as well as carry out crash tests on complex carbon-fiber structures.

Focus on innovative technologies
The ACRC is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, such as a test laboratory with sophisticated testing and measuring devices, automated cutting and casting equipment, a heated, 1,000 ton press and several autoclaves to harden carbon-fiber parts under high pressure and temperatures. Efforts focus, however, on "out of autoclave" technologies such as Resin Transfer Molding (RTM), whereby carbon-fiber structures are compressed under high pressure; or vacuum RTM, whereby resin is forced into carbon-fiber using negative pressure.

Breakthrough on production processes
Lamborghini ACRD's specialists have already achieved a definitive breakthrough with the invention of an innovative technology: they have developed one new process which combines the benefits of existing methods. Thanks to the extensively patented "RTM light" process, Lamborghini can use minimal pressure and relatively low temperatures to manufacture carbon-fiber components to the highest levels of quality, precision and surface finish, from small parts to complex vehicle structures. Further benefits include higher process speeds, lower costs, and extremely light tooling.

World-leading expertise in crash simulation
Carbon-fiber materials have impressive advantages. However, exceptional levels of expertise are necessary in order to muster fully their application as, for instance, in crash simulation. Together with The Boeing Company, Lamborghini initiated a crash analysis research program in 2007. In 2009, the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL) was established at the University of Washington, with Boeing and other US companies as partners. Around 20 scientists work in the fully-equipped laboratory and support the team in Sant'Agata Bolognese primarily in the field of crash and dynamics analysis. Results so far achieved are unmatched anywhere else in the world and have delivered extensive benefits to Lamborghini super sportscars' safety and build quality.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Centers like this and the ones being operated by BMW and Lexus are going to have a major impact on reducing the cost of carbon fiber components. I'm looking forward to the not too distant future where carbon fiber in cars is as commonplace as aluminium or even steel. It starts at the top and trickles its way down. This is great for entire industry.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I wouldn't be concerned about the flammability at all. Realistically though, my most significant twinge about a carbon-fiber based future is in recyclability. Aluminium and steel is pretty straightforward, but end-of-life uses for carbon composites will probably be pretty marginal. You might be able to grind it up and use it as chopped fiber reinforcing material, but you'll never come close to getting the structural advantages available in the original product.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The company that can mass produce CF in large quantities at a reasonable cost is going to net some HUGE profits. CF is very much a low-volume business right now, but it has enough advantages (especially in the weight department) that whoever gets this doing is going to strike it rich.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Huge gains in the stiffness department, too...

        But that's more important when building a sports car than an SUV or sedan...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Great idea, but im afraid with the even fatter cars we get each year, this wont be enough.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder how long it will take for carbon fiber to become cheap enough to use in everyday vehicles. I'm 19 now. Maybe when I turn 50?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It all depends on market demand. With consumers' desire for cars with better mileage, it may happen. I say that since these same consumers are often unwilling to part with the lard arse nature of today's cars (size, extra sheetmetal, etc.). CF would be one way of lightening cars while reducing the other compromises.

        If there's enough demand, they'll figure out a way to bring it to the mass market (and thus profit from it).
        • 5 Years Ago
        I concur with Paul34. We shouldn't get ahead of ourself in the challenge to build an entire vehicle from CF - but instead target the heavier parts of the car we can replace.

        For example - the Corvette Z06/ZR1 uses CF, but this just offsets the weight of the larger 20 inch wheels (unnecessary) and bigger brakes. Take that same CF and mass produce it for the base C6 corvette. Fenders, hood, front end, rear hatch, thinner glass, non-run flat tires. This could easily shave off a few hundred pounds from the car. Ad a dual clutch system and start-stop tech. Now you have a Corvette easily capable of 28+ MPG combined.

        My point is - target areas you can change without having to rethink the safety/impact testing of the vehicle. Even cars like the 370 is lighter than their predecessor.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Funny how the Lexus and the LFA being their first supercar already accomplished this and Lambo has been making supercars for a long time now..
      • 5 Years Ago
      And in other news, Audi has opened a new "R" Carbon Weave Centre for Development and Study. They have opened this new centre in Santa'Agata Italy in order to scare the living shiver me timbers out of Ferrari, Pagani and Lamborghini (The R8's main competitors).

      Mmm Corporate Marketing/Sharing at its best.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why would Audi scare the living whatsits out of themselves?

        PS: Autoblog - "Lamborghini's of the future". Lamborghini's? Really?
      • 5 Years Ago
      You know what I don't understand? Why is it that everyone is about carbon fiber, yes its strong and light weight but there are other less costly to produce maintain options out there, like high strength steel. Not to mention when carbon fiber fails it catastrophically fails and the entire part needs to be replaced where steel and other metals can be reformed to fit their original shape.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This was exactly the case for the Boeing Dreamliner. They managed to infuse collapsible section in the cargo area that would adsorb the impact reducing the G's transferred to the spine of the passenger. Granted - depending on the severity of the crash, angle and impact surface it wouldn't matter what the plane was made of.

        My point is - if the frame of a vehicle is made of a carbon composite I would assume they could add similar technology into the F/R of the vehicle to create a collapsible impact zone rather than one that exploded or even worse transferred the force into the feet, hands and neck of the passengers.

        Composite science is already hard at work in the aviation industry - instead of reinventing the wheel have places like Ford and GM invest into an already existing research lab.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think the real draw to CF is it's high specific modulus. Roughly speaking, the specific modulus of CF is around 3-4 times that of mild steel, whereas in using a high strength steel by comparison, you would probably only see marginal gains.

        And while things like doors and body panels could fail catastrophically and you'd have to replace the whole part, I think the majority of gains you'll see from CF is in the frame design (monocoques). And in reality, if your steel frame is bent, you're most likely going to total the vehicle anyway. Sure, some shops will repair it, but it likely won't be the same as factory without a complete redo. The idea that a monocoque is not repairable once it's damaged is also a myth. I personally know a guy with a composites shop that repairs old and damaged Indy Light chassis to factory condition. It can and has been done.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually Jason, the modulus of all steels is relatively similar - only a few percent difference between mild steel and the most sophisticated maraging steels that might cost more than titanium. The difference is in ultimate yield strength, not stiffness.

        As has been mentioned, the modulus is why carbon fiber is so special. For large thin parts like body panels that don't see heavy loads, CF is ideal because you can have something incredibly thin (and thus light) that won't flop or bend. An aluminium or steel part would need to be much thicker to be stiff enough to maintain its shape, and as a result would much, much stronger, but it all depends on what you're designing for...

        Because CF is an anisotropic material (directionally-oriented, unlike metals), it also lets you very specifically reinforce only the areas that you want to to deal with the kinds of stresses that you will experience there. That makes it incredibly versatile, but you just need to make damn sure that your structural analysis is bang on. Otherwise, you see the kind of catastrophic failures that people have come to expect from CF.
        • 5 Years Ago
        While I COMPLETELY agree with you on the "catastrophic failure" part, I think the reason that high strength steel doesn't get this kind of media attention or R&D money is simply because it's a "known entity."

        Companies are already using it. There really aren't major questions on how to design with it, mass-produce it, or how to make parts from it. It's more of a cost issue at this point.

        Also one of the reasons that high strength steel is not as "sexy" of a material is that it's simply not nearly as lightweight... yeah, you can use less of it because it's so strong, but it's still heavy. CF has the dual advantages of being extremely lightweight, but also being strong. Those are some big pluses in it's favor. It's fragile nature and especially it's cost are the things holding it back.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Here's an idea...let's use about $50 million of the stimulus fund/debt on a joint GM/Ford carbon fiber research center. Take out some serious weight and give US manufacturers a competitive advantage, and some hope of making a serious dent our dependence on foreign oil.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agree 99.99%, but it should not be just GM and Ford, let's establish a group consisting of Government and 50 Mil+GM, Ford,Chrysler,+Boeing, GE, DuPont, MIT, Stanford and other top universities. More importantly, whatever the patents that come out of this research they would be shared by this group. So they could make money off of them, which in return will encourage investment of their own money into the technology.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I tend to agree with that, but then you get all the naysayers that were bitchin about something as vitally important as saving GM. You really think those idiots would be willing to fund some kind of US-based research facility?

        Those people are too short-sighted to see how important CF will be in the future, and would rather see that technology and those jobs go to Europe or Asia.

        Maybe if it was positioned as some kind of military technology, you could get enough people to fund it, but god forbid if it's for any other purpose.

        GM has already seen how important battery production will be for electric vehicles, so they are building that facility in MI. A similar effort should be put into CF production.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They, like everybody, are waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind McLaren when it comes to this.

      They should just keep using it as a silly decorative element. It's perfect for the type of people that buy Lamborghinis. "Yo guys, check this out! This is called "CARBON FIBRE" and they make Formula 1 cars from this stuff. It's really light and it matches my lamborghini carbon fibre phone and laptop!"
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