Lightweight of a cross beam for commercial vehicles


Carbon emission is currently a global concern as its repercussions are manifesting themselves in various ways; most predominantly through global warming. At present, vehicles running on internal combustions engines are among the leading carbon emitters. Statistically as it stands, road transport is responsible for 16.4% of global carbon dioxide emissions and 38% of fossil fuel consumption. Worse off, 85% of the fuel energy generated is usually wasted due to thermal and mechanical losses within the drivetrain. Modern day research has already discovered that, among other corrective measures, reducing the weight of the automobile by either integrating functions from multiple components or breaking them down, would enhance energy efficiency. Further developments have suggested the replacement of iron and steel with light alloys. Even though, much of this research has focused on small size or personal vehicles. Therefore, it is imperative that the same be considered for commercial vehicles as they have a higher carbon dioxide output per unit distance when compared to any other automobile.

To this effect, Streparava Spa Dr. Silvia Cecchel and Dr. Davide Ferrario in collaboration with University of Brescia Dr. Andrea Panvini and Dr. Giovanna Cornacchia developed a novel concept aluminum cross beam suspension for commercial vehicles as a replacement of the conventional structural steel production currently in use. They anticipated that the novel system would offer considerable weight reductions that would eventually be translated into lower fuel consumption hence lower energy wastage. All things considered, they purposed to reduce the carbon footprint of the human race with their novel system. Their work is currently published in the research journal, Materials and Design.

In brief, the research method employed entailed the fabrication of a component measuring 1260 × 450 mm, using high locking force HPDC machine equipped with vacuum in aluminum. The fabricated component was then subjected to various characterization and testing procedures, including: microstructural analyses, salt spray corrosion test, analysis of the most relevant failure modes, with microstructures, hardness tests, tensile tests, fractography, salt spray test and fatigue test bench road simulator with field test data.

The authors observed that a weight reduction of about 50% was achieved in their component. Furthermore, the use of appropriate materials, coupled with the new concept of design and a careful function integration allowed the structural limits to be overcome. The validation was successfully completed and the feasibility of the light alloy use for this particular heavy application was demonstrated. All in all, the outputs of the experimental activities on the concept component they designed were seen to constitute a useful database of properties.

In summary, the study by Dr. Silvia Cecchel and colleagues presented detailed validation and test activities aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of light alloy use for heavy application, that was achieved through careful material selection, appropriate design and accurate integration of functions. In general, the inhibiting structural mishaps were overcome significantly. Altogether, the weight reduction obtained (47%) in this range of vehicles corresponds to a concrete value (from 1 to 5 €/kg) which guarantees the project’s competitiveness not only technically but also economically.

About the author

After graduating in 2012 with a Master Degree in Mechanical of Materials Engineering, Silvia Cecchel took a position as research fellow in University of Brescia’s metallurgy group, working mainly on the behavior of light metals in the field of automotive components weight reduction. From 2014 to date, she has been involving in Innovation and Advanced Engineering at Streparava S.p.A. analyzing new materials and their applications especially for chassis and powertrain components. She has got a PhD in Materials for Engineering from University of Brescia in cooperation with Streparava SpA titled “Optimization of materials and technologies for lightweighting of structural parts for automotive application” (2017). She has published about 15 papers in international journals and conference proceedings. Her research is mainly focused on light alloys produced with traditional and innovative technologies, their characterization, their application in actual components (joining, heat treatment, surface treatment, etc.) and the environmental impact of their whole life cycle.

About the author

Master Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Davide Ferrario started his career as Project Leader for commercial vehicles suspension design in 2003. After a brief experience as Plant Engineer, in 2007 he became Program Manager for Chassis and Powertrain Design in an Italian engineering society and Chief Engineer for an Italian 4×4-vehicle manufacturer. This gave the opportunity to widen the experience through various engineering consultancies such as sport cars, commercial vehicles, trucks & buses, agricultural vehicles etc. and to experience the requirements and the challenges of special vehicles equipment and special purposes.

From 2011 to 2017 Innovation and Advanced Engineering Responsible at Streparava, working both on Axles and Suspensions both on Powertrain, with main focus on lightweight and advanced performances.

Since 2018 Group R&D Manager at Streparava.

Post-graduation masters:

  • Innovation & Lean Management
  • Economics & Management of SMEs (now attending)

About the author

Giovanna Cornacchia is assistant professor of Metallurgy in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department (DIMI) at the University of Brescia (Italy), since 2011. Teacher in the course “Mechanical Metallurgy”, University of Brescia (mechanical and material Engineering degree), since 2012. She received – 5-year Degree in Mechanical Engineering, from University of Brescia in 2003 and Ph.D. in Material Engineering from University of Brescia in 2007. She did study with research fellows in different fields of Metallurgy from University of Brescia from 2006 to 2011.

Her research activity mainly concerns:

  • Optimization of materials and technologies for lightweighting of structural parts for automotive application.
  • Welding.
  • Non-conventional methods for the study of macro and micro inclusions in steels and, in general, application of advanced chemical-physical analytical techniques to the study of metallurgical problems.
  • Study of ductility, formability and fracture toughness of different steels.
  • Definition of productive cycle criticality and optimization of heat treatment and test stages in different forged steel for the energetic field.
  • EAF slag characterization, leaching study and possible reuse as product.
  • Mechanical characterization of aluminium alloys and study of innovative processes.
  • Innovative techniques for archaeological find characterization relating to metallurgical productions of the antiquity.
  • Biomedical applications: choice of materials (predominantly shape memory alloy) and development of new devices.


S. Cecchel, D. Ferrario, A. Panvini, G. Cornacchia. Lightweight of a cross beam for commercial vehicles: Development, testing and validation. Materials and Design, volume 149 (2018) page 122–134.

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