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The Big Story: Joining Forces

The Big Story: Joining Forces

As steel, aluminum and composite suppliers make their pitches to automakers striving to take weight out of vehicles, the ability to combine a range of disparate, lightweight and strong materials holds the greatest promise.

In the mixed-use Detroit Corktown neighborhood just a few blocks south of where fans cheered professional baseball for 87 years, LIFT – Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow – is making some major-league noise.

Although LIFT’s lightweighting endeavors are wide-ranging, from military applications to aerospace, about two-thirds of its $150 million in projects relate to taking pounds out of cars, trucks and SUVs. To do that, the not-for-profit technology incubator is installing pilot-scale equipment to study lightweighting solutions.

LIFT’s projects include innovative methods for joining differing metals without causing corrosion, making robust thin-wall castings, friction-welding dissimilar metals and extruding aluminum tubing for use in lightweight vehicle frames.

In the bigger picture, however, LIFT’s goal is to bridge the growing gap between laboratory research and practical industrial applications by creating a public-private partnership that brings together laboratories and industry to solve lightweighting problems.

At a time when the automotive industry is laser-focused on reducing weight as a key to meeting looming requirements for dramatically increased fuel efficiency and drastically lower greenhouse gas emissions, LIFT could be the kind of glue needed to bring it all together.

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