Last week, Ford filed a patent for a new type of composite cylinder head design that could reduce weight, slash manufacturing costs and save money on raw materials. The company’s new “Hybrid Composite Cylinder Head” would be made up mostly of a polymer composite instead of the traditional aluminum or iron.

Ford’s patent application describes an “internal metal structure” made of cast iron, which could include the upper combustion chambers, combustion chamber inserts, fire deck, engine coolant ports, and oil drain ports. The internal structure would be surrounded by an FRP composite structure that could contain oil feeds for hydraulic valve lash adjusters and spark plug/fuel injector pockets (assuming the engine has direct injection). According to the patent, Ford is considering thermoset resins, including polyurethane, epoxy, phenolic or polyamide. That polymer would be reinforced by either carbon fiber, aramid fiber, glass fiber or other alternatives.

As lightweight, high-strength composites become more prevalent in commercial automotive applications, it’s not surprising to see Ford look at metal alternatives for its engine components. Two years ago, the automaker showed off a 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine at the Detroit auto show that made use of injection-molded carbon fiber for a number of parts, including the cylinder head. The mill’s weight fell nearly 16 percent compared to a stock motor.

And last year, Ford and Magna teamed up to develop a carbon fiber-reinforced composite subframe. This key piece of architecture weighed 34 percent less than a conventional subframe, employing far fewer parts.

To view the full patent application, click here.