New Technologies Bring Lighter Materials, Such As Boron and High-Strength Steel Welders
Advances in new materials and technologies in the auto industry are constantly evolving. Companies like General Motors and Honda are developing powerful new lightweight materials, made of boron and high-strength steel, which could transform auto manufacturing in diverse and positive ways.
GM recently announced that it has pioneered a kind of aluminum welding technology that may be able to eliminate significant weight from hoods, doors, lift gates, and other components, by reducing the need for rivets. It has already leveraged this special process to build its Hybrid GMC Yukon and Cadillac CTS-V models. This new material configuration offers advantages over traditional steel. These go well beyond reduction in the overall mass of the vehicle. For instance, aluminum resists corrosion better than steel and offers a profound amount of strength as well.
Not to be left behind, Honda has also announced that it is using similar hybrid materials for sub-frames of select vehicles.
Honda and GM are not alone. Other auto companies are busy exploring the pros and cons of using materials like boron and exotic composites to tweak designs, masses and strengths of various components.
Implications of This Industry-Wide Move Toward New Materials
Periods of innovation in material science create opportunities and threats. It’s easy to see how these new materials might enhance automotive performance by reducing drag and friction, improving fuel efficiency, and increasing the overall strength of vehicles (and thus reducing accidents and injuries).
On the other hand, when you reduce the mass of the vehicle, you potentially put it at a “force disadvantage.” After all, according to the very laws of physics, force generated depends sensitively on changes in momentum. In an auto collision, a lighter weight vehicle is more at risk when it collides with a heavier mass vehicle. This is why accidents between trucks and light-weight autos notoriously favor trucks: autos simply don’t have the mass to match the bigger vehicles.
The point is that industry analysts need to evaluate these technologies and materials and measure results in terms of fuel efficiency, auto safety, et cetera, before we can gauge their influence.
Special welding equipment is required to work on these new high-strength materials. The team at Shattuck Auto in Berkeley is equipped to repair your car – even hybrids or one with the new high-strength materials – after a Bay Area auto accident. Give us a call today at 510-848-6281.