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ATR Group is an Italian company that specialises in R&D, design, prototyping and production of structural parts and components in advanced carbon-fibre composite materials.
(Published on August-September 2005 – JEC Magazine #19)
ATR Group has always distinguished itself for its unique production and skills in the field of composites. In a short period, the company has succeeded in gaining a strategic position in Italy’s national economy and winning the esteem of prestigious international customers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Audi, Peugeot and Maserati.
Super Light Cars
SLC, which stands for Super Light Cars, is the ATR Group automotive company. It started up in 2000, and designs its cars to take advantage of the exclusive characteristics of carbon-fibre composite materials. SLC’s business is based on three completely different, yet complementary activities:
JEC Composites Magazine: What is the company’s philosophy, and why the interest in composite materials?
Abramo Levato: Our interest in carbon fibre composite materials comes from ATR Group founder Mr. Pierantozzi. When he started his first experiments with these materials, he was motivated only by his intense interest in racing. At that time, there were very few composite applications in the racing field. Our philosophy, but also our mission, is to lead the introduction and use of carbon-fibre composite materials to become a wide building concept in various markets. We pursue performance, quality, reproducibility and high production volumes with the main goal of staying economically competitive.
To further these ambitions, ATR Group know-how has evolved over the years towards developing technological solutions for manufacturing monolithic integrated chassis and structures. During the production process, we always try to think and design together with our customers, in order to obtain the best product: excellent in technologies, design, functionality and performance. Our way of taking care of the product is probably the reason why we are able to reinforce partnerships with our customers and create their models.
J.C.M.: At the moment, are you working with new materials or implementing new processes?
A. L.: ATR Group is very sensitive to the production rate a customer needs in terms of quality and performance. Our R&D department promotes new alternative solutions and materials in order to reduce costs and increase production volumes. This philosophy could be illustrated by Integrated Technology Advanced Carbon fibre (ITAC), which is an alternative hybrid solution that allows the use of standard prepregs without vacuum bagging. This promotes lower-cost manufacturing versus autoclave moulding technology, for instance. Several technical collaborations with leading raw material suppliers worldwide ensure that ATR Group has the opportunity to get the right materials for its own internal specifications, matching customers approvals in most applications.
J.C.M.: You work mainly for the automotive sector but also for aerospace. Do you plan to work for other sectors?
A. L.: Besides the automotive and aerospace sectors, we also work in the aeronautical, nautical, cycling, motorcycling, leisure, furniture and special parts sectors. To be up to this challenge, we evolved into a group of nine companies (ATR, ATRCC, ATRCARS, ATR R&D, ATR-ENGINEERING, ATR TOOLS, ATR AEROSPACE, ATR SERVIZI, and SLC) located in the same industrial area, each one focused on specific specialised skills and roles, but each one also competent to work in the several production areas in which the group is involved.
It is true, especially in the field of road super cars and racing cars, that ATR Group boasts a wide range of know-how and a long experience, but the aerospace and the nautical sectors also have a great potential for us. We plan to expand in these markets, thanks to our special ability to produce structural parts in carbon fibre with high production rates at high quality levels and using different technologies.;
Moreover, we don’t rule out the possibility of extending our target to different production areas and markets in the future.
- niche road car production The K200 project and future projects are designed in line with the company’s mission basics: product exclusivity, niche market exploitation, and technological integration, - racing sector This is a brand-new sector for the company, with the R1 project for the production of a single-seater car to participate in F3 championships, - engineering SLC was conceived as an engineering company for the automotive sector, capable of handling all development work involved in producing “special” road and racing cars.
K200 project: a mini supercar
The spirit of challenge so characteristic of SLC is summed up by its decision to produce the K200, an extremely light “mini supercar” that makes extensive use of advanced composite materials. The K200 has exceptional technological features and safety requisites for its niche market. Its various technical features make it a unique model on the market.
Weighing only 535 kilograms, the K200 is the lightest vehicle on the market. It is only 2,507mm long, 1,400mm wide and 1,140mm high. The introduction of specific components such as the doors with helilift opening and the sequential gear on the steering wheel make it a sporty vehicle in terms of both aesthetics and driving. All these specifications depend on the advantages of the carbonfibre carbonfibre composites chosen for the structural components, including high torsional stress resistance providing stiffness and very high fatigue strength. The technology is flexible enough to be used to construct structures with parts designed specifically for the individual task.
The chassis is a prepreg carbon-fibre/epoxy sandwich structure with honeycomb as core material to guarantee increased stiffness without compromising the weight, and also to contribute to shear stress resistance.
The project was developed using the most advanced techniques in the sector. Hot bonding techniques in autoclave are used to mount the subassemblies, so the K200 body can be considered as a monolithic structure, with no significant structural parts to be cold-bonded on later.
Even the body was manufactured completely from composite materials, which means that, besides the above-mentioned properties, it offers high wear and weathering resistance.
Safety is a top priority, of course. The centre of gravity is 400mm from the ground, and the front wheels are controlled kinematically, so the vehicle holds the road extremely well. Other features contributing to active safety are the standard quality of the suspension and wheel components, the pick up acceleration and adequate speed capability, the steering characteristics, and the four disc brakes. Additional features that contribute to passive safety are the front crash-box structures in Kevlar, the carbon doors with an anti-intrusion system, a carbon-packed double transversal arch and longitudinal connection, and FEM calculations of the impact behaviour.
The company is now adding the finishing touches to the K200 “Barchetta”, a new version that should be an “absolute” innovation in this niche market.