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TPI Composites General Manager Kevin Weldi poses with the new Humvee  (Source: Associated Press)
New composite Humvees shed 900 pounds of weight

Humvees are synonymous with transporting troops on the ground during times of war. The ubiquitous workhorses are also pretty lacking when it comes to protection from enemy fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The U.S. Army in conjunction with AM General Corp. and TPI Composites Inc. are looking to composite materials to give its soldiers a better chance at surviving treacherous working conditions on Iraq.

Its latest test bed is a Humvee that features a frame and body made of composite materials. Resin material is used to bond together balsa wood, carbon reinforcements, fiberglass and foam. The use of composite materials on the Humvee shaves 900 pounds off the usual 10,000 to 12,000 pound vehicle weight.

"We can put the strength where we need it," said TPI Composites CEO Steven Lockard. "Every pound of weight we save, that weight is being added back to the vehicle in armor and mine-blast protection."

Additional armor could be placed under and around the cabin area of the Humvee to protect the passengers, while the composites materials alone could be used for the hood and fenders.

Predictably, the new composite-bodied Humvees are slightly more expensive than their conventional counterparts and the Army still hasn't made a firm commitment to purchasing the vehicles.

With that said, TPI Composites is fully prepared should the Army give the company the green light. "We could ramp up pretty quickly to most any volume that would be desired," said Lockard.





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By DeepBlue1975 on 9/21/2007 9:02:06 AM , Rating: 4
That all these new light weight and high resistance materials being researched, can make their way into the street cars market.

I'm tired of having to buy always a new car that is inevitably heavier while featuring almost the same size than the previous generation ones.

A compact or mid sized european / japanese car from the 1995-2000 era weighted roughly the same as what now weights a small or mini car from the same brand, which I find really annoying.




By sdifox on 9/21/2007 9:56:15 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
As is the case with the Humvee and IEDs, composites don't add much strength when it comes to crash protection. Therefore you're going to want to have quite a bit of steel still in your car in order to maintain safety.


Huh? You mean those F1 drivers crashing their carbon fibre cars into the wall and walk away is a miracle?


By TomZ on 9/21/2007 10:06:43 AM , Rating: 1
No miracle there - but there is obviously a strong focus on safety. In a way it's kind of a controlled environment.

http://atlasf1.autosport.com/news/safety.html


By abhaxus on 9/21/2007 1:37:13 PM , Rating: 3
So Robert Kubica hitting the wall in Montreal going 190mph and decelerating at almost 50G was a controlled environment? :)


By hrah20 on 9/21/2007 3:40:25 PM , Rating: 2
Let's keep the eye on the ball here, anything that helps soldiers to survive a mine,bomb or rpg is great I'm just hoping here that it doesn't take too long for the army to approve this, yesterday on HBO I was watching a documentary called : (ALIVE DAY MEMORIES: HOME FROM IRAK)they were showing the soldiers injuries, what they went through, and the videos from the insugents related to each soldier, the videos of the explosions where disturbing to say the least, and they show you the magnitude of those explosions, IF there is something to help them survive and have a better chance of getting out alive, I say it's GREAT !!!.


By FITCamaro on 9/21/2007 10:38:15 AM , Rating: 4
These humvees aren't being made out of straight carbon fiber either. They're using fiberglass, balsa wood, carbon reinforcements (probably some carbon fiber), and foam. So don't compare them to a high performance race car who's chassis costs more than one of these Humvees.

And yes, carbon fiber can be very brittle. Even NASA has raised this concern. And those drivers are surviving because they're all but bolted to their seats and are surrounded by a roll cage. Drag cars have all steel roll cages and are going 100+ mph faster than F1 cars and their drivers survive just fine without any carbon fiber.


By sdifox on 9/21/2007 12:05:06 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
These humvees aren't being made out of straight carbon fiber either. They're using fiberglass, balsa wood, carbon reinforcements (probably some carbon fiber), and foam. So don't compare them to a high performance race car who's chassis costs more than one of these Humvees.


But what we are talking about here is just replacing the body panels more than anything else with the composite material. The weight saving then gets moved to more armour. Sounds good to me.


By 91TTZ on 9/21/2007 1:05:23 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
And yes, carbon fiber can be very brittle. Even NASA has raised this concern.


NASA raised the brittleness issue with the reinforced carbon-carbon leading edges of the Shuttle wings. This is a different material than carbon fiber. They both have carbon fibers, but the bonding material is different.


By DEVGRU on 9/21/2007 11:53:31 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, and each one of those F1 cars cost millions - with hundreds of millions spent in R&D, testing, and manufacturing. And the (amazing) protection carbon fiber does provide an F1 car is (99%) engineered to perform in the lateral plain (front, side, rear).

Costs aside, (I know that wasn't your point per sa) carbon fiber (and its close cousin Kevlar) aren't known for its anti-ballistic, kinetic, or thermal resistance as far as stopping 1-2000 lbs. of C4, HMX, RDX, or Semtex explosives in a shaped charge directly beneath a vehicle, be it a Hummer or flipping a 60-ton M1 Abrams onto its back like a turtle.


By sdifox on 9/21/2007 12:07:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
by DEVGRU on September 21, 2007 at 11:53 AM

Yeah, and each one of those F1 cars cost millions - with hundreds of millions spent in R&D, testing, and manufacturing. And the (amazing) protection carbon fiber does provide an F1 car is (99%) engineered to perform in the lateral plain (front, side, rear).

Costs aside, (I know that wasn't your point per sa) carbon fiber (and its close cousin Kevlar) aren't known for its anti-ballistic, kinetic, or thermal resistance as far as stopping 1-2000 lbs. of C4, HMX, RDX, or Semtex explosives in a shaped charge directly beneath a vehicle, be it a Hummer or flipping a 60-ton M1 Abrams onto its back like a turtle.


But they are not talking about replacing armour with composite, just the skin. At least that is what I read.


By sdifox on 9/21/2007 12:10:41 PM , Rating: 2
I meant to say structural and skin, but adding more armour with the weight saved.


By afkrotch on 9/21/2007 7:43:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Huh? You mean those F1 drivers crashing their carbon fibre cars into the wall and walk away is a miracle?


If you haven't noticed, the cars also feature large open areas, allowing for a natural crumple zone within them. Also the cars use many types of materials. Aluminium, titanium, magnesium, and of course, carbon fibre. For the most part, the frame and body panels are created using a layering of carbon fibre. Course none of this has anything to do with hummers, as creating this layering of carbon fibre is really expensive.

I don't expect the military to pay $1 mil per hummer.


By DeepBlue1975 on 9/21/2007 10:23:39 AM , Rating: 3
Not necessarily true:

For example, by these days its very usual that car designers make the front of the car more flexible as to be able to absorb impact energy, but reinforce the part where people are to make it as little deformable as possible.

As someone replied you, there are materials out there which are lighter than steel but yet more resistant, like carbon fibre, so that steel shouldn't be a mandatory part (were it not for the low cost of steel versus better materials).

Not always a harder frame means higher crash protection (well, it might be better for the vehicle to be less deformable, but it is not for the passengers that, then, will have to stand most of the impact's energy transferred directly to their bodies instead of having the body of the car absorb that as much as possible).

At least I'd rather get a car that gets destroyed in a crash but keeps me alive, instead of one that gets little damage but also gives me little probability of surviving :D


By Amiga500 on 9/21/2007 11:12:35 AM , Rating: 3
Carbon Fibre is excellent for crash protection - I don't what gave your the impression of anything otherwise.

While they can be brittle, and extremely weak 'out of plane' - by cross weaving during lay-up you will get an extremely strong and flexible (if needs be) component. The amount of energy CF can absorb is tremendous - and that is the critical thing in crashes, absorbing energy.


By FITCamaro on 9/21/2007 9:09:05 AM , Rating: 2
Thats because of all the safety equipment and electronics for said safety equipment. Instead of people learning how to drive, we just cram our cars full of airbags, anti-roll technology, etc.

There was a lot fewer accidents and deaths in the days when cars were made of steel and all you had was a seat belt (if you had one).

I vote for going back to said cars. Then people might actually be afraid of getting in an accident again for a reason other than their insurance rates going up.


By TomZ on 9/21/2007 9:23:10 AM , Rating: 3
I agree with everything, except for the part that there were fewer accidents "when cars were made of steel." The statistics don't seem to support your conclusion.

http://www.iihs.org/news/2006/iihs_news_081006.pdf


By Shoal07 on 9/21/2007 9:24:14 AM , Rating: 2
Speed limits were also signifigantly lower across the board, which is directly attributable to lower death per accident ratios back then. Do you also want to drive 35mph everywhere? There's little anything can do to save you once you start getting over 55mph... especially 75mph+ - hit a tree at those speeds and all the steel in the world will still crumple like a can (with you in the middle).


By Egglick on 9/21/2007 10:06:47 AM , Rating: 2
Studies have shown that lowering the speed limit doesn't positively impact accident rates. I also highly doubt that the material of a vehicles body has any effect on whether you crash said vehicle.

I think higher accident rates are mainly the result of significantly more cars and people on the road.


By CascadingDarkness on 9/21/2007 1:33:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think higher accident rates are mainly the result of significantly more cars and people on the road.

This statement is totally opposite.

The word rate would imply a scale or percentage. I would expect the number of accidents to increase with amount of cars. While the rate (percentage), of say, accidents per thousand, decreases with safety improvements increase.


By Egglick on 9/22/2007 12:15:59 AM , Rating: 3
When you reach a point where there is overcrowding, traffic jams, and roads which weren't built to handle this amount of increased traffic, the rate will go up as well as the number .


By acer905 on 9/21/2007 10:09:17 AM , Rating: 2
Ahh yes, back to the trees again. I propose 2 situations for the masses to chose between. A) get rid of all trees within 100' of all roads. or B) along every road make a wall lined with very very soft cushioning foam so that the cars simply come to a gentle stop.


By FITCamaro on 9/21/2007 10:30:01 AM , Rating: 2
The point is that people feel too safe these days in cars. No one is afraid of getting in accidents because the idea is that all this modern safety equipment will protect you. I want all that taken away and people to actually respect the road again. If you're in a metal can without airbags, ABS, anti-roll, traction control, etc. you're going to drive better since theres actual fear that you could get hurt. Say what you want about fear but its a strong motivator to do the right thing, regardless of the situation.

Modern technology has taken away a lot of the feel of the road that used to be there. You don't know when you're starting to push your car too hard anymore since the electronics tries to cover it up and handle it itself. Then by the time the computer realizes it can't handle it, you're spinning or sliding out of control.

I'm not saying technology shouldn't be used to save lives, but we've taken safety systems to where its more important to have the safety system than it is to just be a good driver and not need it. The only fear most people have of accidents any more is that their premiums will go up and they might have to wait a few weeks for their car to get fixed.


By chsh1ca on 9/21/2007 10:56:22 AM , Rating: 4
The only problem with that is that not everyone is going to be a good driver. My best day of driving may be better or worse than another person's best day of driving, and ultimately given the rather enormous unknown that is how other people are acting around you I think it's far better to have the safety equipment. You can only really trust yourself.

An friend who is also a Police instructor used to say:
Aggressive drivers don't cause accidents.
Defensive drivers don't cause accidents.
Indecisive drivers cause accidents.


By TomZ on 9/21/2007 11:24:44 AM , Rating: 4
...to that I would add: Distracted drivers cause accidents.


By DeepBlue1975 on 9/21/2007 11:56:42 AM , Rating: 2
You've got a very valid point there.

Many people think that safety systems are miraculous and will save you always. The obvious problem is that, err... well, they don't.

I wouldn't say the solution is to take away the safety devices, though.
I'd rather have them learn that those gizmos have limitations and that they don't make up for an excuse to drive recklessly "because the ABS+EBD+SPP+CPR+DOA+KIA will save the day".

Cruising at 100mph on a rainy or foggy day isn't advisable at all no matter what car you have, as it's always a bad idea to be driving only a handful of feet behind the car in front of you.


By TomZ on 9/21/2007 12:28:48 PM , Rating: 2
On the other hand, cars today are safer than they used to be, so the feeling is pretty justified. I also question the widely-held belief people are subsequently driving in more risky ways than in the past. Has anybody seen any studies on this?


By DeepBlue1975 on 9/21/2007 8:11:58 PM , Rating: 2
Of course they are WAY safer.
The rigid, non deformable chassis of old muscle cars is safer only for the car itself, but not so for he who travels in it that will end up absorbing most of an impact's energy in his body.

The same is normally applicable to many SUVs and pickups, as this comparison suggests:

quote:

In a thirty-five m.p.h. crash test, for instance, the driver of a Cadillac Escalade—the G.M. counterpart to the Lincoln Navigator—has a sixteen-per-cent chance of a life-threatening head injury, a twenty-per-cent chance of a life-threatening chest injury, and a thirty-five-per-cent chance of a leg injury. The same numbers in a Ford Windstar minivan—a vehicle engineered from the ground up, as opposed to simply being bolted onto a pickup-truck frame—are, respectively, two per cent, four per cent, and one per cent.


Right now I can't find a study on what you say, but rather lots of opinions.
IMHO, I think that people who like to push a car to its limits, with a new car will be tempted to drive much faster and push it harder in corners because it's less likely that he'll get "the wrong answer" from the car.
And going and cornering faster, what people are testing harder is not really the car, that can withstand the abuse with grace, but rather their own reflexes and speed of reaction, which is roughly the same as it always was.

Car safety and ease of handling technologies did improve dramatically, but normal people's reflexes, speed of reaction and training for critical situations did not.

Anyway, if I can find a study about the relationship between driving recklessness and "car safety feeling" I'll post it, as it could be an interesting read :D


By 91TTZ on 9/21/2007 1:11:04 PM , Rating: 2
Speed limits were not lower back then. They were higher. The 55 mph speed limit was instituted for fuel safety during the energy crisis of the mid 70's.


By 91TTZ on 9/21/2007 1:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
Make that "fuel savings", not "fuel safety".


By killerroach on 9/21/2007 10:20:38 AM , Rating: 1
You might want to look into something known as the "Peltzman Effect". Great stuff.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan once remarked that the best way to make cars safer is to force drivers to internalize the risk of driving their vehicle by having a sharp spike coming from the steering column pointed at the driver's chest.

In other words, it's not always the car, but how the person in the driver's seat acts.


By acer905 on 9/21/2007 10:05:38 AM , Rating: 2
... Stop buying new cars?


By Polynikes on 9/21/2007 12:29:02 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, the VW Golf GTI gained about 400 pounds between this generation and the last. That's ridiculous.


By BZDTemp on 9/21/2007 8:59:10 PM , Rating: 2
Lighter cars are coming. If you read about the Frankfurt Auto Show (The largest car show on the globe) you'll see there are a lot of focus on the environment and one of the result is lighter cars. The new Mazda 6 is lighter and stiffer than the current and the same goes for the Mazda 2 and that is a fact which as gotten very positive press so it will force others to follow. Still it's only the first step and Mazda is actually saving the weight using high strength steel rather than carbon fiber and so.

Also the crossover models are coming from many companies which is sort of like a 4x4/SUV/Sedan and lighter than the big 4x4s.


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