DIAB Divinycell core composite ambulance

Lightweight, high-strength sandwich composites chosen for new Nilsson Ambulance

Nilsson Special Vehicles (Laholm, Sweden) is one of Europe’s leading builders of specialpurpose vehicles. Established in 1945, it currently produces limousines, ambulances and hearses that are primarily based on the Volvo S80 and V70 automobiles.

The company’s latest ambulance is very much the benchmark for this type of vehicle setting new standards in terms of build technology and lightweight performance.

Nilsson’s basic modus operandi is take a standard, four-wheel drive, V70 vehicle direct from the Volvo production line, dismantle, cut and stretch it, and then produce the necessary custom coachwork.

With the new ambulance, a module is produced that completely replaces the existing roof and the rear elements of the vehicle extending the vehicle by 1 meter (3.3 ft.) in length and 0.65 meters (2.1 ft.) in height. In the case of this vehicle, Nilsson wanted to produce a significantly lighter module without comprising structural strength in order to meet the higher ‘on-board’ equipment demands of hospitals and emergency services.

A series of meetings with Diab engineers convinced the company not only to switch from single skin GRP to advanced sandwich composite materials, but also to use RTM (resin transfer moulding). As a result of this approach, Nilsson has been able to reduce the weight of the module by around 50% while maintaining strength and achieving higher stiffness than the previous model.

The complete module is produced from carbon fiber skins over Divinycell grooved and perforated cores to facilitate resin transfer. To speed up the manufacturing process and to optimize laminate quality, the Diab core is supplied in ready-to-use CNC-produced kits. With the RTM process, which comprises a female mould and counter mould, the resultant component is self-finished on both sides thereby minimizing any subsequent finishing operations.

By producing the module using a completely separate production process rather than building the module directly onto the vehicle chassis (as was the case in the past), Nilsson has increased the flexibility of its production process and reduced the time that a vehicle chassis needs to be at its facility.

Previously, the majority of Nilsson vehicles have been sold to customers in Europe but such are the performance advantages of the new ambulance that the company is confidently expecting to receive orders from as far afield as the Middle East, Africa and Asia.


Louise Eriksson Jacka
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