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Last July, Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. announced a new Advanced Composites Research Centre (ACRC) at its headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese. This investment follows other composite investments such as the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL) established at the University of Washington, with Boeing as partner.
The centre carries out research on innovative design and production methods for carbon-fibre elements. Both the ACRC and an all-new, highly efficient production process for extremely complex carbon-fibre structures were developed at the same time. The process is secured through an array of patents and constitutes a breakthrough into the next generation of carbon-fibre components.
Carbon-fibre technology is crucial to the future
The consistent development of carbon-fibre technology is a key element of the company’s strategy. The most important parameter for super sports cars is, now as in the future, the weight-to-power ratio. Therefore, as there is a limit to power increase due to emission regulations, manufacturers must work on weight reduction. Extensive use of carbon fibre, even at the structural level, allows Lamborghini to be at the forefront of development techniques. The real difference is in the correct use of technologies and materials to satisfy technical and financial concerns. This is what the Centre is all about.
Carbon composite materials are crucial to tomorrow’s automotive engineering, especially for high-performance sports cars. These materials are made from carbon-fibrereinforced polymers and combine the lowest possible weight with excellent mechanical properties. Cars become lighter, thus lowering fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The decisive factor for any sports car is improving its power-toweight ratio and thus its performance. A super sports car built using carbon-fibre composite materials offers improved acceleration and braking, as well as superior handling.
The current Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera offers a perfect example. Compared with the already extremely lean Gallardo LP 560-4, its weight has been trimmed by a further 70 kilograms. One major contributing factor is the use of exterior and interior components made from carbon fibre. The super sports car from Sant’Agata Bolognese weighs in at no more than 1340 kilograms – the new benchmark for the exclusive market segment occupied by Lamborghini.
Over thirty years of experience at Lamborghini
Lamborghini has many years’ experience in composite elements. The first carbon-fibre-based chassis prototype was built for the Countach as far back as 1983. Series-production parts first appeared in 1985. The current Lamborghini Murciélago is built largely of carbon fibre, with 93 kilograms of structural carbon-fibre materials in its body shell. The Gallardo Spyder’s engine cover is the largest component ever produced in the automotive world with RTM technology and an optimum Class-A surface finish.
The new Lamborghini Advanced Composite Research Centre comprises two facilities covering an area of more than 2,600 square meters. A team of 30 people, engineers and technicians works there to develop vehicle components of all shapes and sizes. They build prototypes along with the associated tools, and production tools. They also develop optimized production technologies. Sophisticated systems largely developed in-house allow extremely high precision levels as engineers simulate manufacturing processes and carry out crash tests on complex carbon-fibre structures. The ACRC is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, such as a test laboratory with sophisticated testing and measuring devices, automated cutting and casting equipment, a heated, 1,000-ton press, and several autoclaves to harden carbonfibre parts under high pressure and temperatures. Efforts, however, focus on “out-of-autoclave” technologies such as resin transfer moulding (RTM), whereby carbon-fibre structures are compressed under high pressure, or vacuum RTM, whereby resin is forced into carbon fibre using negative pressure.
Breakthrough production processes
Lamborghini ACRD’s specialists have already achieved a definitive breakthrough with the invention of an innovative process that combines the benefits of existing methods. Thanks to the extensively patented “RTM light” process, Lamborghini can use minimal pressure and relatively low temperatures to manufacture carbon-fibre components to the highest levels of quality, precision and surface finish, from small parts to complex vehicle structures. Further benefits include higher process speeds, lower costs, and extremely light tooling.
Carbon-fibre materials have impressive advantages. However, exceptional levels of expertise are necessary in order to fully master their application – for instance, in crash simulation. Together with The Boeing Company, Lamborghini initiated a crash-analysis research programme in 2007. In 2009, the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL) was established at the University of Washington, with Boeing and other US companies as partners. Around 20 scientists work in the fully equipped laboratory and support the team in Sant’Agata Bolognese, primarily in the field of crash and dynamics analysis. Results so far achieved are unmatched anywhere else in the world and have delivered extensive benefits to the safety and build quality of Lamborghini super sports cars.