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.
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.