Hybrid composite-metal anti-roll bar technology set to revolutionise global rail and HGV sectors

12 June 2019

Research to develop a revolutionary high-performance hybrid composite-metal anti-roll bar for trucks and trains has shown that the technology has the potential to spin out into other sectors such as aerospace and could see the UK take a global lead with these products.

Engineers at Performance Engineered Solutions (PES) Ltd are working on the project, co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, with Tinsley Bridge Ltd, one of the world’s leading suppliers of anti-roll bars, and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The project is investigating the development and manufacture of lighter composite materials as an alternative to traditional metal anti-roll bars. Lightweight anti-roll bars could cut fuel consumption and emissions from rail and heavy road vehicles whilst also improving their reliability.

The previous Innovate UK funded project achieved a significant 65% reduction in the weight of the stabiliser bar by replacing the current solid steel component with a carbon fibre composite member. The new stabiliser bar design achieved this weight reduction without compromising performance, and offered improved durability, given that the carbon composite materials are less affected by fatigue.

The new project will further develop and refine the design of the anti-roll bars and undertake a wide variety of laboratory testing to simulate the conditions that the anti-roll bars will face during their service life.

PES Performance is heading up the engineering and design side of the project, using its expertise in composites and lightweight materials to design the anti-roll bars. The PES team will utilise Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to simulate if the proposed designs can resist the loads an anti-roll bar is subjected to prior to manufacture. Also, PES Performance will 3D optically scan the manufactured parts as part of the quality inspection process to check the quality of the manufactured parts against the original design specifications.

The AMRC’s Composite Centre produced the anti-roll bar prototypes using its MF Tech filament winding system. This is a technique in which filaments of glass or carbon impregnated with resin are wound onto a rotating mandrel to form the desired shape. It also used its CT scanner capability to inspect the inside of the bar, checking the structural integrity and verifying the build quality.

Project Manager at Tinsley Bridge, Russell Crow said; “The targeted application of composite materials in automotive and rail applications has the potential to form the basis of a new era of vehicles. Significant weight reduction can be achieved by redesigning structural and safety-critical components to maximise their performance when manufactured from non-traditional materials.

“The goal of this project is to demonstrate what can be achieved on a heavy-duty anti-roll bar without compromising the safety of the vehicle. In order to deliver such a challenging brief, we built a strong consortium, comprising of world experts in their respective fields. I am delighted that we found such engineering and manufacturing expertise in the South Yorkshire region.”

Engineering Director at PES Performance Ltd, Dean Gardner added; “Carbon fibre composites are commonly used in high-end supercars, but have yet to see widespread use in the volume automotive sector. This project aims to show the wider benefits that these materials can provide.

“One of the major challenges has been to achieve a strong and durable interface between the materials in the hybrid anti-roll bars design, in order to achieve the required fatigue performance. With our experience in lightweighting and composites, it is good to be working with Tinsley Bridge and the AMRC on this exciting, potentially ground-breaking project.”

Technical Lead for the AMRC Composite Centre, Anthony Stevenson, said: “The collaboration with Tinsley Bridge and PES Performance has resulted in the development of a completely new hybrid component to meet the challenges of heavy vehicle stabiliser and torsion bars for the very first time; all whilst introducing weight savings that lead to a variety of benefits such as improved fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.

“We are delighted to continue the project to further developing a new design for the hybrid anti-roll bar as the collaboration has the potential to develop a leading place for the UK with a disruptive technology that has global implications; one that will also have applications in other sectors including the aerospace and rail industries.”

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