Dana Corp.'s magnetic pulse welding process, which could cut significant weight from vehicle frames, will be ready for production in 18 months.

Magnetic pulse welding makes it possible to join dissimilar metals such as steel and aluminum by way of a super-tight molecular bond. The process requires no heat or welding wire and minimizes scrap.

Dana highlighted the technology at the recent opening of its new Engineering Support Center in Farmington Hills, MI.

The company displays a scale model of a space frame by joining rails made of steel, aluminum and magnesium. Steel would only be necessary for the highest-stress portions of the frame - the center side rails.

Dana now is studying the weight savings that could be achieved. In a truck frame application, Dana determined that three aluminum cross members could be substituted for steel and save 19 lbs. per frame.

The space frame also offers a nifty feature for hybrid vehicles. The lower cross members in the frame could be formed to accommodate several batteries. Stashing heavy batteries in the frame would keep the vehicle's center of gravity low, where it should be for better stability.