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Lamborghini Gives Auto Composites a Huge Boost

DN Staff

October 15, 2009

3 Min Read
Lamborghini Gives Auto Composites a Huge Boost

Potential expanded use of carbon fiber composites in cars istaking another step forward with the creation of an advanced composites testinglaboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The official name of the facility is the AutomobiliLamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Lab.

"This partnership is a win-win situation," saysMatthew O'Donnell, dean of the UW's College of Engineering. "Itfurther establishes the Pacific Northwest as aleader in composites research; it funds equipment for a UW engineering lab andit provides students with valuable research experience that's directly tied toreal-world applications."

The Seattlearea is rapidly becoming an American and global center for carbon compositesresearch and development because of the groundbreaking use of the material inthe Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The University of Washington alreadyoperates an engineering certificate program in aircraft compositestructural analysis and design. The program was jointly developed by theUniversity of Washington Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the BoeingLearning, Training and Development group. Instructors include leadingprofessionals from the aircraft industry. Classes are taught at Boeing's Everett, WAlocation.

The collaboration between UW and Lamborghini goes back twoyears. UW hosted Lamborghini engineers while UW faculty traveled to Italy toconduct small classes on the fundamentals of composites design andcertification.

"Lamborghini remains committed to investing in itsfuture, and advancing carbon fiber composite technologies is the key toachieving many of our goals," says Lamborghini President StephanWinkelmann.

The new composites lab is headed by Paolo Feraboli, whojoined the University's Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2005 asAssistant Professor in Aerospace Structures and Materials. Feraboli has alsoconducted research for Boeing and Toray, the primary composite supplier to theDreamliner. In addition, he worked on the Dreamliner technology integrationgroup under the direction of Dr. Al Miller.

"Composites are no longer the future, they are thepresent of structural materials for anything that's high-performance, whetherit's aerospace or golf clubs or sports cars," says Feraboli."Monolithic materials like aluminum just won't cut it anymore."

Lightning Simulator

Equipment for the new lab includes a lightning-strikegenerator for simulated lightning strikes up to 100,000A; a drop tower forinflicting damage from foreign objects; a pneumatic crash sled capable ofcrushing full-size vehicle prototypes; and a high-speed video camera that cantake 82,000 frames per sec.

Lamborghini plans to boost power-to-weight ratios of itscars by using composites to decrease the vehicles' overall mass, while alsolowering carbon dioxide emissions. Lamborghini also hopes the lab will help itreduce development time for prototype parts.

One of the big tests for the lab will be its ability toimprove the economics of composite parts production for automobiles.Lamborghini is one of the few auto companies to use composites for productionparts. In the U.S.,design engineers usually only specify composite parts for showy parts on sportscars, such as the adjustable rear wing in the 2008 ChryslerLLC Viper ACR.

Anotherleading player in developing carboncomposites for cars is Plasan Carbon Composites of Bennington, VT.

Several carbon composite parts are used to reduce the weight of the Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce. Photo: Lamborghini

Lamborghini Gives Auto Composites a Huge Boost A

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