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10/15/2015 | 2 MINUTE READ

Industry/University Alliance's Focus: A Recyclable Thermoplastic Auto Suspension System

Originally titled 'New Industry/University Alliance's Focus: A Recyclable Thermoplastic Auto Suspension System'
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Rassini and the University of Alabama partner on innovative application of thermoplastic composites in vehicle design.

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Mexico’s Rassini, a designer and manufacturer of suspension and brake components for the automotive industry has partnered with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to advance the development of composite materials in vehicle design, with a primary aim of developing a thermoplastic suspension system that is fully recyclable for its entire lifecycle.


Rassini, which has set up its key technology development center in Plymouth, Mich., is the world’s largest manufacturer of suspension components for light commercial vehicles. Suspension products include leaf springs (parabolic and multi-leaf) for light and commercial trucks, coil springs and bushings. In July of this year, the company expanded its suspension offerings to include leaf springs for the North American heavy commercial truck market. The company noted that the growing forecasts for the region’s commercial truck market has allowed it to enter this arena with a strong position and it anticipates doubling its market share by 2018.


Rassini is also the largest fully-integrated brakes disc manufacturer in the Americas, with eight manufacturing sites and technical centers strategically located in Mexico, the U.S., and Brazil. The brakes business manufactures rotors, drums, brake assemblies, clutch plates and motor balancers. Its diversified customer base includes GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Maserati, Mercedes Benz, Daimler, and VW.


Meanwhile, UAB and Rassini previously collaborated last year in the development of a lightweight, high-performance vehicle that competed in the Grand Touring Lite classification in the Sports Car Club of America. Also in partnership with Polystrand and PPG Industries, the project tested the latest in continuous fiber thermoplastic composite technologies under extreme driving conditions, gathering data and insights into the part’s performance.


This year’s agreement provides UAB-School of Engineering students the opportunity to closely examine and study the applications for fiber-reinforced thermoplastics in a vehicle’s suspension system with access to accredited professionals. Specifically, the program focuses on designing and creating reference models, methodologies and tools for rapid product innovation and realization for leaf springs in the light truck market.


“As the demand for composite materials continued to grow across all industries, Rassini is committed to improving its work product. We want to leverage our technological expertise and help identify state-of-the-art concepts that generate significant contributions related to thermoplastics and suspension design. We are pleased to be initiating this relationship with UAB in an effort to accelerate technologies for product and process innovation,” says Bob Friedrichs, v.p. of corporate engineering, NA Suspension Group at Rassini.


UAB is one of very few universities nationwide with an established Materials Processing and Applications Development Center (MPAD) committed to the advancement of thermoplastic composites manufacturing, equipped with large-scale manufacturing facilities that provides industry with materials development to prototyping opportunities. Adds, Brian Pillay, associate professor and director of UAB’s MAPD, “Besides the productive synergy of industry ‘pull’ and the technology ‘push’ from UAB researchers, this opportunity gives our students exposure to the professionals at Rassini and affords them a unique opportunity of solving current industry-related problems in a fast-paced, real-world situation. The experience they will receive will be invaluable as they prepare for their careers in engineering.”