Awesome in Aluminum

Although aluminum per se is not ordinarily considered an "advanced material," there can be little question that the Ferrari F430 is among the world's most advanced motor vehicles, so given that, and given the extensive use of aluminum on the F430--following the firm's success with the all-aluminum 360 Modena--in some ways aluminum can qualify as an advanced material.

Ferrari's goals with the F430 material selection were two-fold: structural stiffness and safety without adding weight. The curb weight for the European-spec vehicle is 3,196 lb. Ferrari worked with Alcoa on the aluminum structure for the F430, as it did on the 360. According to Dr. Axel Forderreuther, development manager, Alcoa Advanced Transportation Systems, in a presentation at the 7th European Automotive Lightweight Conference in Bad Nauheim, Germany, compared to the 360 Modena, the bending stiffness is up 8%, the torsional stiffness up 20%, the energy absorption in front crash up 37%, the energy absorption in a rear crash up 105% (in compliance with U.S. standard 301).

According to Ferrari, extensive finite element analysis was used in the development of the chassis. The structure itself consists of a series of extrusions, castings, and sheet. Alcoa figures show that there are 65 extrusions (excluding bumpers), 12 castings, and 90 sheet parts. Riveting and/or welding are used for assembly. After the structure is welded, high-speed machining is performed of the complete space-frame in order to smooth the structure.

One area where there is really an advance is the floor. An alloy that is commonly used in aeronautical applications, 7075 T6, is being used in the F430, and this is said to be the first-ever application of the material in an automobile chassis.

One notion of how well the vehicle is put together can be derived from the fact that given a variety of factors--including the door structure, chassis reinforcements, collapsible arm rest positioning, and seats--it was determined that side impact safety is so good that side airbags aren't necessary.
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