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Energy-efficient transport with new materials

With the watchwords modularity, robustness and lightweight, Modul-Systems works constantly to improve their interiors for service vehicles. Participation in the RISE project MATFLEX resulted in three new lightweight products that contribute to energy-efficient transport.

Modul-System develops, manufactures and installs equipment for storage in light commercial vehicles, such as vans. Besides interiors in the form of floors, drawer units, cabinets, shelves and walls the range also includes roof racks, all forms of lighting, electrical systems and battery chargers.

Focus on lightweight since 2004

The company has focused on lightweight since 2004 and in projects together with RISE has worked to find out the available testing possibilities and to get answers to some important questions they had about materials.

“The idea was simply that we could create better products through better material choices,” says Anders Carlsson, technical Manager at Modul-System.

And the result has been better products. The cargo compartment floors in the vehicles that previously were made of 12 millimetre plywood have now been replaced with a sandwich floor consisting of two aluminium plates with a polypropylene interlayer. The materials are joined with glue.

Customised floors

The sandwich floor can be up to ten kilos lighter than an old wooden floor. They are manufactured in modules that are customised by milling. To achieve this, Modul-System has scanned and built a database of cargo compartments for virtually all current car models sold in Europe.

“The floor acts as a click floor that is glued in position. There are fastening rails in the floor that can be screwed into to mount the drawer units and other equipment. This approach does not damage the vehicle, which is important when they are to be returned to the leasing company or sold,” says Anders Carlsson.

Aluminium is now also used in the drawer units’ drawer interiors where the material has replaced a heavier steel. This means that on average the drawers are 20 per cent lighter.

A third product that was indirectly born out of MATFLEX is a new type of sliding door separating the cargo compartment from the driver cab. Even this consists of a glued sandwich profile of aluminium and polypropylene, but with a smooth and shiny surface.

“The possibility of retrieving packages without getting out of the car and opening the rear doors, saves a courier a lot of time. In addition, it provides a safer working environment through less risk of theft and traffic accidents,” says Anders Carlsson.

Improved material specification and control

He believes that Modul-System, through MATFLEX, has become better at specifying material orders and checking that they really get what has been ordered. Anders Carlsson is positive when he sums up what the project gave:

“We created a competitive and lighter drawer unit as well as a new floor and a new wall that together resulted in a completely new business area.

Even for RISE, the project is considered an interesting way to develop new knowledge:

“In addition to lightweight, the project together with Modul-System has focused on the possibilities of mixing different materials in the same product. We had previously worked together on pure plastic products. It was therefore exciting this time to be able to combine a polymer with a metal,” says Boel Wadman, who was the RISE project manager.

Lightweight and durability drive business

Last year was the best year to date in Modul-System’s soon to be 60-year history and 2019 has also started well. A success that cannot only be explained by the boom, bonus malus and a growing e-commerce.

“No, lightweight and sustainability are of course right in time even when it comes to vehicles, among others, through WLTP that will come into force in September. This is a new way of measuring fuel consumption where the entire weight of the vehicle is included. For our continued growth, it is therefore important to create new products that are lightweight and functional,” says Anders Carlsson.

As a technical manager, an important part of his job is to keep in contact with various industry bodies, institutes and colleges. RISE plays an important role:

“Yes, we have a long relationship and work continuously together, sometimes in the form of individual assignments and sometimes we participate in projects. For us it is a great option because we are too small to have our own research and testing department.


MATFLEX

The MATFLEX project that ran between 2014-2016 offered participating companies the opportunity, in lab environments at RISE in Mölndal, KTH and Chalmers, to explore material flexible production in physical and virtual test beds.

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Boel Wadman

Forsknings- och affärsutvecklare

+46 10 228 48 42
boel.wadman@ri.se

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