Substitution of steel by lightweight resin-matrix composites is an effective way of weight reduction for automobiles. In this paper, an integrated design method involving material property, structural geometry, process formability and resultant performance for automotive composite components is proposed. Referring to the exterior styling and assembly space of original steel reference, the conceptual CAD model is established. For the selected materials, optimization of minimizing the mass is carried out with layer thickness, stacking sequence and dimensions of each composite component as design variables, referring to the regulations requirements on performance of steel benchmark as constraint conditions. Then the resin transfer molding (RTM) process is simulated and optimized to determine the optimal forming parameters. As an example, a SUV hatchback with composite laminate is developed by RTM technique. Finally, the lightweight design of hatchback is achieved under the multiple constraints of static bending, torsion stiffness and vibration frequencies. The results show that the weight of SUV hatchback has been reduced 38.8%, whereas the stiffness and frequency all meet the requirements. When manufacturing with RTM process, the filling time of the final optimized program is 443 s, without any air trap. This instance has validated the effectiveness and feasibility of the integrated design method which is also applicable to other automotive composite components.

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