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MIT & Lamborghini come together to create supercar of 21st century.

Posted: October 24, 2016 at 12:48 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is known for cutting-edge engineers, and Lamborghini is known for super cars. Just this week, the two paired up to ponder the future of an ultra-light, strong, and innovative automotive brand.

Last week at the EmTech conference at MIT in Boston, Lamborghini Chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali sat down with leaders from the university, other Italian companies, and the Italian Trade Agency. He was there to talk about Lamborghini’s long-time work in the development of carbon-fiber technologies for automotive, consumer, and aerospace industries.

The technology used to create that prototype is known as “pre-preg.” Pre-impregnated sheets are first infused with resin and then put into a vacuum mold and heated to activate the resin. This time-intensive process is usually done by hand and creating a single component can take days. Repairs to a broken piece are nearly impossible. While the pre-preg Countach Quattrovalvo prototype didn’t survive crash testing, the lessons Lamborghini’s team learned in building and creating it are still being used today.

Resin Transfer Molding (RTM), as used on the Aventador, evolved out of pre-preg carbon fiber techniques. In RTM, a two-sided, closed mold is used and carbon fiber and resin are pumped into the mold under low pressure. They are then either vacuum- or heat-cured. RTM carbon fiber parts are significantly faster to make, and the raw materials are easier to store since they can be held at room temperature.  RTM parts also don’t yield print-through like pre-preg parts do. When the Aventador hit the market in 2013, it was the only consumer car with a complete carbon fiber tub and roof.

Lamborghini didn’t stop its carbon fiber research there, however. The same year, the automaker hired Dr. Paolo Feraboli to run its Advanced Composite Laboratory in Seattle. Feraboli is a composite engineering specialist who was working at the University of Washington. He describes himself as a “carbon fiber designer” and did a stint at Lamborghini headquarters in Sant’Agata between undergraduate and graduate school.  His career in carbon fiber and aerospace material development spans companies as diverse as Callaway Golf, NASA, and Boeing.

Under Dr. Feraboli’s tutelage, a team of five engineers test and develop new composite technology for everything from aerospace to consumer goods, and of course, automotive. The facility on the edge of downtown Seattle houses one of only two lightning strike generators in the country (the other is housed at Boeing).

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