There is the potential for use in other parts of the vehicle where a lightweight reinforcing structure is needed, including side door modules and composite windshield headers. It promises to work well on the challenges posed by large SUVs, especially when it comes to cutting vehicle mass and weight, and reducing emissions.
Krull credits the Czech Republic team for “coming up with the concept and taking it all the way.”
“Their team-based approach is the best way,” he said. “You need inputs from everybody to arrive at the perfect solution.”
Work on the composite space frame began in 2011 for Dr. Josef Puta, a Magna Exteriors technology leader, and has turned into “the biggest project” of his life. It also reinforced the benefit of cross-group collaboration and tapping into innovators from universities, suppliers and startups.
“We had a very strong partnership with Magna designers and people who were fresh from universities,” said Puta, who earned a doctorate in engineering technology from the Technical University of Liberec. “They are open minded and ready to think about new technologies. In the end, we were one team.”
It is estimated that at least 100 people provided insight and inspiration on the project.
Key moments included the day in late summer 2019 when a red Toyota Supra was put on display next to the Liberec assembly line, a visible sign of the team’s accomplishment, and the day in 2011 when the first L-shaped prototype part was built and the team popped the cork on a bottle of sparkling juice.
“We had the part in our hands,” Puta said. “It was an important step in showing we are one team. Besides, it’s all about friendship in the end.”
Growing up in the Czech Republic, Stanislav Tichy played center on an ice hockey team, learning important lessons that he brings to his current job as Magna Exteriors global product manager.
“Even in my professional work, I try to behave like a sportsman,” Tichy said. “Ice hockey is not a one-man show. Neither is what we do. It’s a team show with team spirit.”
The greatest challenge with the composite space frame was “not just creating the part,” Tichy said. “World-class manufacturing was part of the equation.”
As the lead engineer on the composite space frame, Paul Hasl emphasizes that what happened was not just a big idea, but a “series of innovations to reach the goal.”
“There were hundreds of small advances to make the original idea perfect,” he said. “These are micro-changes, everything from taping to fine-tuning the process, as you take it from an idea to manufacturing. That’s the difficult part.”
He added: “It took thousands of hours to get to where we are today. That’s why the whole team gets the glory.”
Hasl, who has a master’s degree in physics from the University of Gothenburg, said his role came at the beginning of the process in 2011, as the concept was developed and evaluated. Early on, he dreamed of becoming an architect or an artist, and even spent some time sculpting. Today, he calls himself a “designing physicist” and said his work combines creativity and practicality.
“I like to create the innovations,” he said. “Nine out of 10 ideas end up in a drawer. You have to make mistakes to find the right innovation. Today, we’re working on more improvements with liftgates. I still have lots of ideas.”
Body stampings, front and rear bumpers, brackets, reinforcement and supports
Complete liftgate module with composite space frame reinforcement
MECHATRONICS, MIRRORS, LIGHTING
Side door latches and hood hinges
Complete vehicle manufacturing; fuel tank, filler cap and filling pipe