Way to Lightweight—Altair and CAR Awards Best Lightweight Cases

10th Annual Enlighten Awards add sustainability criterium.

Altair may have been the first major simulation vendor to commercialize generative design—the latest technology for manufacturing companies eager to lightweight their products. The aviation industry has the most obvious need for lightweighting, as moving mass away from the Earth’s surface takes the most energy. Next are the automotive and transportation industries, as moving mass on the Earth’s surface takes less energy.

Altair, headquartered in Troy, Mich., a safe distance from Detroit, is well placed to serve the automotive industry. For 10 years, Altair has honored its customers with its Enlighten Awards, which recognize exemplary efforts in weight reduction by automotive companies and Tier 1 vendors.

Winners are determined by independent judges led by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), which will also host the awards ceremony on August 2, 2022.

The Enlighten Awards

More than lightweighting, the Enlighten Awards also place great importance on sustainability.

“The caliber of nominees for this year’s Enlighten Award was unparalleled and is a true testament to the investments the automotive industry is making to reach—and even exceed—global sustainability targets,” said Richard Yen, senior vice president, Product and Strategy, at Altair.

Sustainability is an added focus this year and, according to Altair, this year’s winners reflect a “commitment to building a net-zero environment and circular economy.”

About Altair, Lightweighting and Generative Design

Design software, simulation and specialized vendors have followed Altair’s lead with generative design technology of their own, sometimes with such excitement that one feels that they are pushing generative design as the primary—if not the only—way to lightweight.

Altair takes a more holistic view of lightweighting. To Altair, generative design is one of the tools in the lightweighting toolbox. Good old-fashioned simulation tools, like finite element analysis (FEA), are other tools for lightweighting provided by Altair.

A pragmatic and holistic view of lightweighting distinguishes Altair from the field and establishes the company with tools the industry needs rather than serving technology for technology’s sake based on the conjectures of what is needed by developers and marketing departments, a folly that has led to a parade of useless parts—parts that show more novelty than practicality.

The lightweighted parts shown off in Altair Enlighten Awards may not be displayed in art galleries, but their value to engineers tasked with shaving weight from existing and future products—often with government regulators breathing down their necks—is unmistakable.

And without further ado, here are the awards. (Pictures supplied by Altair and descriptions based on Altair material provided.)

1st Category: Sustainable Product 

Winner: Ford Motor Company—2022 F-150 Lightning

It was a bold move to make America’s bestselling pickup truck run on batteries, but in 2022 that is what Ford did with the F-150 Lightning. The designers preserved the trucks brawny look. You have to look closely to see that the big grill has no holes (EVs don’t breathe air) and no exhaust. Don’t fear for a lack of performance, though. The Lightning has more power than the internal combustion version—up to 580 horsepower and 775 lb.-ft. of torque—“the most torque of any F-150 ever.” The Lightning can be working even when parked. A $9,500 battery upgrade includes an inverter and 120 V outlets for power tools or the speakers and blender for a tailgate party.

The F-150 Lightning’s dual in-board motors are mounted on an all-new steel frame that can support a 2,23-pound payload while towing 10,000 pounds.

Runner-up: Lacks Enterprises—Composite Wheel Technology

Lacks' composite wheel on a 2013 Audi A8. (Picture courtesy of Wards Auto.)

Lacks’ composite wheel on a 2013 Audi A8. (Picture courtesy of Wards Auto.)

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Lacks Enterprises bought Emergent Carbon Wheels of Kansas in 2018 and now provides lightweight composite wheels to the automotive industry. A lightweighting mainstay in the aviation industry, a must-have for ultra-weight-conscious cyclists and Formula One racers, carbon fiber has been used less in consumer vehicles. Steel is still the preferred material, especially for wheels. But this is changing as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for model years 2022-2025 have become more demanding.

An Audi A8 outfitted with composite wheels saved 4.4 kilogram per wheel for a total of 17.6 kg per vehicle (38.8 pounds).

2nd Category: Sustainable Process 

Winner: Nemak—Recycled Materials for Sustainable Manufacturing and Product

Nemak’s Melting Center produces aluminum-silicon alloys for the automotive industry. The company recycles 2.5 billion aluminum cans annually. With a recycling capacity of more than 400 kilotons tons per year, Nemak needs only 95 percent of the energy required for aluminum manufacture and also saves 4.8 million tons of CO2  that would have been emitted in the process.

Nemak’s Melting Center produces aluminum-silicon alloys for the automotive industry. The company recycles 2.5 billion aluminum cans annually. With a recycling capacity of more than 400 kilotons tons per year, Nemak needs only 95 percent of the energy required for aluminum manufacture and also saves 4.8 million tons of CO2 that would have been emitted in the process.

Runner-up: ArcelorMittal—First Industrial Large-Scale Hydrogen Direct Reduced Iron Test (H2 DRI Test)

Steel producer ArcelorMittal, headquartered in Luxembourg, operates a direct reduced iron (DRI) plant in Contrecoeur, Quebec, that is powered by gas. As part of a $10 billion investment plan, Arcelor Mittal is testing using green hydrogen with the goal of eventually converting to hydrogen, which combusts without producing greenhouse gases.

3rd Category: Sustainable Material

Winner: Ford Motor Company—100% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Ocean Plastic (PA6) Wiring Harness Clips

Ford Motor Company, winner of the Sustainable Product category, also wins in the Sustainable Material category for ridding the oceans of plastic waste—5 grams at a time. That’s the weight of the wiring harness clip shown above that will find its way into the Ford Bronco. The clip is made entirely of plastics found in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, and what Ford claims is an industry first: a 100 percent post-consumer recycled ocean plastic made into a vehicle part. Material for these clips is collected by hand from plastic waste found floating in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

“This is another example of Ford leading the charge on sustainability,” said Jim Buczkowski, vice president of Research and Henry Ford technical fellow, in a Ford press release. “It is a strong example of circular economy, and while these clips are small, they are an important first step in our explorations to use recycled ocean plastics for additional parts in the future.”

Up to 13 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean from land each year, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts quoted in the same press release.

Runner-up: Nucor Corporation—Econiq for Being the World’s First Net-Zero Carbon Steel at Scale

Nucor, a steel manufacturer based in Charlotte, N.C., makes several steels with the Econiq designation for the automotive industry, all of which are produced with net-zero greenhouse gases. Econiq steels are made, in part, with recycled steel and are the only net-zero steels produced at scale in North America, according to Altair.

4th Category: Enabling Technology

Winner: Shiloh Industries, General Motors—ShilohCore Acoustic Patch Laminate (APL)

Shiloh Industries offers a one-piece, behind the dash, sound absorbing formed sheet named ShilohCore. The product’s noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) damping is similar to fully laminated vehicle material but with less weight, less carbon emissions and cost, according to Altair.

ShilohCore reduced interior noise by over 2dB, decreases damping treatment mass by 45 percent and cuts overall assembly costs by up to 20 percent, claims Shilo Industries on its website.

Runner-up: Bionic Mesh Design GmbH—Bionic Mesh Design

Germany’s Bionic Mesh Design GmbH exists to help manufacturers with lightweighting and, in particular, their mass cast and forged parts. Customers include BMW. Bionic Mesh Design is a service firm that uses Altair simulation and generative design tools and shaping tools to first optimize a part with topology and then reshape it into a manufacturable product, with CAD models produced and further simulation done along the way as needed.

Runner-up: Human Horizons—Integrated High Pressure Die Casting (HPDC) Rear Cabin

China’s Human Horizons has incorporated high pressure die casting (HPDC) and heat-free treatment material into the manufacture of the rear cabin of its EV, resulting in an up to 20 percent weight reduction. The HPDC rear cabin has integrated 40 parts of the rear floor into a single part, cutting manufacturing and mold development time by a third.

5th Category: Future of Lightweighting

Winner: McMaster University and Nemak – NemAlloy HE700, Novel Lightweight Automotive Aluminum Alloy

High pressure die casting machine at Canmet MATERIALS. R&D partner: McMaster University. (Picture courtesy of Altair)

High pressure die casting machine at Canmet MATERIALS. R&D partner: McMaster University. (Picture courtesy of Altair)

Shock tower made from NemAlloy HE7000. (Picture courtesy of Altair)

Shock tower made from NemAlloy HE700. (Picture courtesy of Altair)

A high strength aluminum die casting alloy that serves the needs of automotive structural components without requiring heat treatment. Due to its lightweight and the elimination of heat treatment, NemAlloy is fully recyclable.

Runner-up: Adient—Ultra Thin Seating

Adient, a leader in automotive seating headquartered in Plymouth, Mich., manufactures full seats and parts. It was the ultrathin reinforced automotive seats made out of soft thermoplastic elastomers panels that caught the judges’ eyes.

Runner-up: Yanfeng—Instrument Panel and Passenger Air Bag (IP PAB) Integration

The integration of the passenger airbag and the instrument panel combines the chute and airbag module housing into one part. This lowers the cost of production and reduces assembly time. By changing material, weight was reduced 23 percent and the carbon footprint was cut by 50 percent.

6th Category: Module Lightweighting

Winner: BASF Corp., Toyota, and L&L Products—Toyota Tundra Second-Row Seat Structure

The Toyota Tundra lightweighted the second-row rear seat structure by replacing more than 60 stamped and welded steel pieces with four composite pieces, resulting in 20 percent less weight and a 20 percent cost savings.

Runner-up: Bocar Group—Toyota Tundra Rear End Post

The Toyota Tundra Rear End Post—Bocar Lightweight Design is a class “A” exterior structural die-cast part that saves 4.4 kg (9.7 lb) in vehicle mass and 78.9 kg (174 lb) in CO2 emissions per vehicle annually.