Industry Changing Automotive Project Reaches Completion at Nifco

Erika Marshall     18th March 2019

Hot on the heels of celebrating five years in operation, the Research & Development team at local manufacturing giant, Nifco UK, has brought a major, potentially industry-changing, project to its successful conclusion after a 12-month development phase.

The nine-strong R&D team at the Eaglescliffe-based business, which manufactures parts used in the engines, interiors and exteriors of cars produced by Ford, General Motors, Honda , Jaguar Landrover, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Vauxhall Opel, has worked in collaboration with material supplier Celanese and prototyping company Graphite AM, to design, prototype and test a new engine bracket which could bring significant benefits to the running of the vehicle.

Steve Garrett, R&D Manager, says, “This product – a bracket which supports the powertrain and withstands all the loads from the engine during operation – is a significant piece of kit and is traditionally made using aluminium. We’ve tested various materials to be able to design and develop the same bracket using long glass fibre reinforced plastic, providing a weight saving of 0.7kg or 50% – contributing to a reduction of CO2 emissions, or in an electric vehicle – extending range.”

According to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the number of UK-registered electric vehicles (EV) has increased considerably in recent years, rising from 500 per month in 2014 to approximately 5,000 a month in 2018. With a significant improvement in charging infrastructure and battery mileage-range, in addition to the government’s efforts to reduce diesel engine ownership, this upward EV trajectory can only continue.

“Our new engine bracket can be fitted to both traditional combustion engines as well as an Electric Vehicle motor system and, in their positive feedback, we are hearing from customers that more sustainable, environmentally-friendly solutions are favourable. This product not only offers a weight reduction, but the actual production process is more energy and cost efficient than traditional methods, such as aluminium die-casting – for example the part is quicker to make, so it can be scaled up more easily for the mass market and the tool to mould the component would only need replacing every five years instead of six months. So, saving the customer both time and money, not to mention reducing the environmental impact from a ‘well to wheel’ measure.” Steve continues.

Adam Hall, Account Development Manager at Celanese commented: “I am delighted by the high level of performance achieved by such a light weight thermoplastic component – replacing steel in aggressive, high-load automotive applications. This innovative solution, enabled through the close working partnership between Nifco Design Engineers and Celanese’s CAE Engineering team from the start of the project, maximized the superior mechanical performance brought by Celanese’s long glass fiber reinforced Celstran® LFRT technology.”

Nifco UK boasts an enviable minimum waste to landfill record and the R&D team adopts the same philosophy in designing environmental-friendliness into its new products.

“Only a few weeks ago, there was an announcement of plans to build a recycling plant on Teesside – not 30 minutes from where we are based – we’ve got access to the facilities, and as a responsible manufacturer, my team is developing parts for the vehicles of the future whilst prioritising environmental impact” Steve concludes.

Speaking of the collaboration, Neil Furber, Technical Sales Engineer at Graphite Additive Manufacturing, added, “We were delighted to support this project. This is one of the most demanding applications for our in-house developed Carbon SLS material to date and demonstrates that it can be a fully-structural material rather than only semi-structural or very simple prototypes.”

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