Lamborghini Redefines the Future of the Super Sports Car 3/3 - Official Press Release

LAMBORGHINI SpA Europe: Official Press Release

Lamborghini Redefines the Future of the Super Sports Car

     3. Lamborghini’s CFRP Expertise
  3.1. The Advanced Composite Research Center (ACRC)
  3.2. The Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL)
  3.3. Patents, Partners and Repair Technology
  3.4. 30 Years of Experience with Carbon Fiber

3. Lamborghini’s CFRP Expertise

Lamborghini possesses many years of expertise in carbon-fiber reinforced plastics technology (CFRP). The super sports car brand from Sant’Agata Bolognese is the only vehicle maker to have mastered the entire CFRP process across several technologies in-house – from 3D design, through simulation, test, production and validation, all in a state-of-the-art industrial process to the very highest quality levels. Lamborghini has around three decades of experience with this hi-tech material. The early eighties saw the production of its first prototype carbon-fiber bodyshell. Carbon-fiber reinforced plastics have been used in the brand’s series production models since 1985, with their proportion growing continually every since.

Dedicated work on innovative methods
The company is now working hard to expand its worldwide leading position – at the new Advanced Composite Research Center at company headquarters in Sant’Agata, company engineers and technicians are working on innovative design and production methods for carbon-fiber applications in automotive engineering. At the Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory at the University of Washington, the behavior of these materials is being researched and tested under everyday conditions and crash situations, with input from a wide range of cooperation partners. Finally, the innovative monocoque and the entire bodyshell of the Murciélago successor are being produced at the expansive new carbon fiber production facility in Sant’Agata Bolognese.

3.1. The Advanced Composite Research Center (ACRC)

The ACRC research and development center places Lamborghini at the very top when it comes to the research of innovative materials and new methods for low-volume production. More than 40 experts work here to develop vehicle components of all shapes and sizes. These specialists build prototypes and the associated tooling, and derive concepts for optimum production methods.

They also develop the appropriate repair techniques for CFRP structures. One major focal point is simulation technology – an especially complex topic when it comes to carbon fiber. With sophisticated systems developed largely in-house, engineers can reliably and precisely calculate the technical characteristics and crash behavior of CFRP components. A host of patents document the creativity and innovation of the development work being carried out by Lamborghini.

The ACRC comprises two facilities on the factory site in Sant’Agata. In the “Prepreg Center”, conventional production methods using autoclaves are perfected, while, at the so-called “Out of Clave Center”, work is focused on innovative technologies that do not require the use of large-scale autoclaves. One technology developed here includes the patented “RTM-Lambo” production process.

Cooperation with partners from science and industry
Core to the development work carried out at the Lamborghini Advanced Composite Research Center is the cooperation with highly competent partners from science and industry. In 2010, a partnership was agreed between Lamborghini, aircraft manufacturer Boeing and the University of Washington in Seattle. One research topic is new kinds of repair technologies for complex carbon-fiber structures. The partners are working on further topics such as wireless temperature sensors that are bonded into the fiber structures.

Forged Composite a next-generation material
Lamborghini is also securing its leading position in the application of carbon fiber well into the future. Engineers at the ACRC are working with the very latest equipment – including a heated 1000-tonne press – on technologies for use on the vehicle generations of tomorrow and beyond. Forged Composite® is the keyword for the lightest, most stable and most precise material used to-date.

In contrast to conventional CFRP materials based on long, interwoven fibers, this revolutionary material is made from 1-2 inch short fibers. More than 500,000 braided fibers per square inch create a material that has only one third of the density of titanium, yet is considerably stronger. Thanks to an innovative forging process, Forged Composite can be formed very efficiently and to the highest levels of precision.

Lamborghini offered a first glimpse of the outstanding characteristics of Forged Composite with the Sesto Elemento prototype. Its monocoque and parts of its suspension are made from Forged Composite. However, there is still development work that remains to be done before this material can be used in series production.

Automobili Lamborghini’s partner in the development of Forged Composite is Callaway Golf Company, the world’s leading manufacturer of golf equipment. Callaway uses Forged Composite to produce club heads with vastly superior characteristics than those made using conventional metal alloys.

3.2. The Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL)

The Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL) at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA is another element in the extensive investment made by Automobili Lamborghini in carbon-fiber technology. Since 2007, Lamborghini has been providing the laboratory with substantial funding, thus supporting long-term research work at the university. The ACSL has borne its name since 2009.

One of the main tasks of the laboratory is its work as the hub for all Lamborghini’s cooperation partners in the USA, such as Callaway Golf and Intel. Further partners in the joint programs are aircraft manufacturer Boeing and the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Boeing in particular possesses an enormous amount of expertise in the field, with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner being the first commercial airliner to feature a fuselage made from carbon-reinforced plastic.

One focal point of the work done at the ACSL is material analysis and simulation. The crash behavior of composite structures in an automobile was, for example, the subject of a core research project. A key term in materials research and simulation technology is the Building Block Approach.

This technique sees small samples of new materials tested and defined in minute detail. As soon as the material and its characteristics are perfectly understood, a slightly larger test piece is made and tested again. At a later point, an entire component 1:1 scale is made using this material and tested. As in a building block system, the simulation is always calibrated with the real crash test case, in order to have an excellent level of predictability in the 1:1 real crash test. Further down the line, of course, real prototypes are also destroyed in the real crash test facility – although only to validate findings.

Lamborghini and its cooperation partners like Boeing now find themselves in the final years approaching a major breakthrough. With the Building Block Approach, complete crash simulation is also possible with a CFRP structure. Boeing uses the same methodology for the development of commercial aircraft - the 787 was validated using this simulation method.

3.3. Patents, Partners and Repair Technology

Naturally, even a super sports car can meet with the occasional accident or misfortune, which is why Lamborghini has taken the necessary precautions – with a dedicated repair concept and a small team of specially selected and trained experts, a damaged Lamborghini is in excellent hands. These “flying doctors” support Lamborghini service centers on site in assessing the damage, and then handle repairs to the carbon-fiber structure themselves. The Lamborghini promise is that the repaired area is 100 percent the same quality as the original part.

Smaller damages to the carbon-fiber exterior of a Lamborghini model such as this are generally unproblematic – add-on components are easy to replace. What is considerably more troublesome is damage to the load-bearing structure of the super sports car – this calls for highly specialist know-how, because the extent and implication of the damage can only truly be assessed by absolute experts.

For this reason, Lamborghini service centers do not carry out this kind of work themselves; the repair expertise rests with the Lamborghini Advanced Composite Research Center (ACRC). The dealer only photographs and documents the damage and sends his findings to the ACRC in Sant’Agata Bolognese, where the experts evaluate the information.

Certificate guarantees 100 percent quality
In the event of a structural damage, one of the flying doctors gets on the next plane with his tool kit. In the service center workshop, the flying doctor uses his NDI (Non-Destructive Inspection) equipment to assess whether, alongside the visible damage, there are any hidden cracks in the carbon-fiber structure. He will then carry out a professional repair that fully reinstates the physical performance of the structure – something that is also confirmed for the customer by means of a certificate.

The idea for the flying doctor program was created through the cooperation with Boeing. The aircraft company has been working for some time with this kind of traveling specialist and has developed a system that enables carbon-fiber repairs to be carried out perfectly using a very compact set of equipment. At Lamborghini, the system was further developed to suit the requirements of automotive technology and then applied to the benefit of the customer.

A host of patents for innovations
The repair process is one further element in the extensive carbon-fiber competence possessed by Automobili Lamborghini. Naturally, the leading expertise developed by the brand from Sant’Agata can also be found in a host of patents. They apply to such innovations as the RTM-Lambo production process, the monocoque assembly concept, the system used to connect the CFRP structure to the metal components, the self-heating tools used in the RTM process, the bodyshell of the Sesto Elemento concept car and its unique paint finish and to Radicarbon, an adaptation of Forged Composite. Further patent submissions are currently undergoing the registration process and apply to future developments.

The partners – the best from all fields
Automobili Lamborghini is working on the further development of carbon-fiber technology together with the most renowned of partners. The hubs of activity in this know-how network are Lamborghini’s two research and development centers, the ACRC and the ACSL. The most important partners are the University of Washington, Boeing and Callaway Golf.

The University of Washington in Seattle was founded in 1861and is one of the foremost universities in the USA. Due to its proximity to world-leading aviation firm, the Boeing Company, the University of Washington possesses particular expertise on all areas associated with aeronautics and carbon-fiber engineering. The head of the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structure Laboratory based here is Professor Paolo Feraboli, who has been in close contact with the engineers in Sant’Agata for many years.

The Boeing Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial and military aircraft. Founded in 1915, the company grew during the 40s to become an important military aircraft manufacturer. Its development into the leading producer of passenger aircraft was closely linked to the development of the Boeing 707 and later the Boeing 747. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is currently under development, is the world’s first high-capacity airplane with a fuselage built almost entirely from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. This has given Boeing the most extensive experience in the simulation, development and manufacture of CFRP structures

Callaway Golf, on the other hand, is the world’s leading company in a completely different sector – golfing equipment. The Callaway Golf Company produces and sells golf clubs and golf balls and sells golfing attire, shoes and accessories under a number of different brands in more than 110 countries worldwide. In striving continuously for innovation, the Callaway Golf Company develops products that can improve the performance and skill of every golfer.

For the engineers at Callaway, the application of carbon-fiber composite materials instead of steel and titanium offered the chance to develop advanced club heads that enable better transmission of force to the ball and more precise trajectories. The “Forged Composite” developed through the joint efforts of these two research and development teams is the first result achieved by the cooperation of Callaway and Lamborghini.

3.4. 30 Years of Experience with Carbon Fiber

Automobili Lamborghini has around 30 years of experience with fiber-reinforced plastics. As far back as 1983, engineers in Sant’Agata built a prototype of the legendary Countach using an occupant cell made entirely from CFRP – a sensational pioneering achievement at the time. The 490 hp V12 was put through its paces in extensive test driving and demonstrated impressive dynamics due to its weight advantage. This one-off finally met its end in a crash test – the automotive industry’s first crash test with a carbon-fiber road-going sports car.

For Lamborghini, this marked an impressive demonstration of its role as a pioneer in fiber-reinforced plastics – series production of the complete vehicle was, however, not feasible at the time. It was in 1985 that the first components made from glass-fiber reinforced plastics made it into series production – the front hood and engine cover of the Countach Quattrovalvole were made from this material.

Carbon-fiber structural parts in the Diablo
Lamborghini made a major technological leap in 1990 with the presentation of the Diablo – this marked the first significant application of carbon fiber, and not just for virtually all the exterior panels, but also in the bodyshell structure. An underbody/tunnel component made from CFRP provided stiffening for the tubular steel structure. The proportion of glass and carbon fiber grew substantially in the 1993 Diablo Roadster – with the entire exterior skin, the hard top and the spoiler made from fiber-reinforced plastic.

Systematic development in the Murciélago
The 2001 Murciélago brought with it the next step in the Lamborghini lightweight philosophy. The center tunnel, substantial parts of the underbody and the wheel arches were made from CFRP and provided additional stiffening to the tubular steel structure. With the Murciélago Roadster came further subassemblies, such as the structural framework around the driveline.

The highly exclusive limited-edition Reventón super sports car and Reventón Roadster from 2008 and 2009 would not have been possible without the extensive application of carbon-fiber technology. Here, too, all exterior panels and significant parts of the bodyshell structure were produced in CFRP.

Preeminence in the Gallardo Superleggera
The current Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera and Gallardo LP 570-4 Spyder Performante demonstrate how the targeted application of carbon fiber can make an already excellent lightweight design even better. Thanks to its intelligent aluminum structure, the complete Gallardo model range is already among the most competitive in the super sports car sector when it comes to power-to-weight ratio. Yet it was possible to improve even on this figure – with a dry weight of only 1,340 kilograms (2,948 lbs), the Superleggera is the undisputed best-in-class.

The weight reduction of 70 kilograms for the Superleggera compared with the already incredibly lean Gallardo is due largely to the targeted application of carbon-fiber components on the bodyshell and in the interior. The engine bonnet of the Gallardo Spyder and Gallardo Spyder Performante is the automotive industry’s largest carbon-fiber component with class A surface quality.

In 2011, the successor to the Murciélago will see Lamborghini begin a new chapter – for the very first time, a full monocoque structure made from carbon fiber will form the basis for a super sports car bearing the sign of the bull.