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SPE Auto Awards Innovations In Safety, Environmental, Process, Power Train

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 15. January 2015

Having had the honor to be one of the Blue Ribbon judges of the 2014 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of up-close presentations of such a broad variety of innovations. In this month’s issue, I reported on the award winners of each of the eight categories. Since I saw that nearly all other finalists’ innovations were newsworthy, I followed up with a series of blogs covering the categories of interior, exterior, materials, and chassis/hardware. Take a look at these four attention-grabbing innovations in the safety, environmental, process/assembly, and power train—all of which are transferable to other vehicles.

 

• Safety—Blind Spot Information System Tail Lamp: Featured in Ford’s F-150 pickup, this week’s announced winner of the 2015 North American Automotive Show for this vehicle category, this innovation is injection molded by Flex-N-Gate using Arkema’s V826, 1803/1808/18304 polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). This, has been uniquely integrated into the rear blind-spot information system (BLIS) sensor rail-lamp assembly because the vehicle’s aluminum bumper does not permit normal installation behind the plastic fascia. The radar unit is housed behind two layers of plastic on a three-color, three-shot tail-lamp lens and features a cast-aluminum serviceable door, which also acts as a heat sink. In order to have the red opaque and clear material as one layer, the red opaque is the first shot in the molding process, followed by the clear over the red as the second shot which forms the backup window in the module area. By installing the BLIS system in the tail lamp, the lens cover also protects the module from direct impact, water, mud, or snow and the system saves $10 USD/vehicle.  By having it designed this way, vs the initial design which was to have the module installed below the lamp, the following components were not needed: bracket, plastic cover, three fasteners; two gary ball attachments and unique D-Pillar.  

 

 

• Environmental—Lightweight Material with Unique Synthetic & Bio-Fillers: This is featured on the 2015 Ford Mustang and injection molded by Tribar Manufacturing using the specialty TAP01 TPO from Amplas Compounding. The innovation entails the use of a unique synthetic mineral-based fiber plus a bio-filler (coconut powder) that replaces talc and PP plus rubber from recycle battery cases, and which provides a 5% density and 33% wall-thickness reduction in a rear decklid applique bracket and side-door cladding without sacrifice of properties. In addition, the material provides a 30% reduction in injection-molding cycle time and a 15% material cost reduction.

 

 

• Process/Assembly—High-Gloss Entertainment System Bezel: Featured in the 2013 Daimler Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan, this is produced by Johnson Controls and Trexel using Bayer MaterialScience T65 XF ABS/PC injection molded with Mucell foaming. This injection-molded frame for a DVD video bezel had to provide high dimensional stability, reduce warpage, lower weight and cost, and achieve a high-gloss Class A surface finish. Replacing an earlier two-part design featuring multi-layer painting, this single-piece part met all performance requirements thanks to the combination of two process technologies: microcellular foaming and tool heating/cooling. This led to a 40% weight savings and a 20% cost savings along with an additional 10% product cost savings while improving global quality perceptions due to excellent appearance and lower NVH--noise/vibration/harshness.

 

 

• Power Train—Charge Air Cooler Duct and Resonator: This is featured on the 2014 Fiat Chrysler Jeep Cherokee SUB and injection molded by Hutchinson FTS using Stanyl Diablo OCD2100 Nylon 4/6 from DSM Engineering Plastics. The DSM super-stabilized nylon 4/6 grade is used to mold a combination hot-side charge air cooler duct plus resonator in a unique shape that accommodates a difficult packaging environment. Doing so, eliminates one sub-component, delivering corrosion-free performance for longer life, and improved captive screw retention. Moreover, it enables improved seal design and retention, reduces weight by 32% and cost by 42% vs. its metal predecessor. It also allows the resonator to be incorporated as an insert for easier acoustic tuning and flexibility to use the same part in a similar package with different acoustic requirements. 

 

 

 

 

Highlights Of SPE Auto Awards In Chassis/Hardware Innovations

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 15. January 2015

In this month’s issue, I reported on the award winners of the eight categories of the 2014 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards. Because I found nearly all the finalists worthy of mention, I’ve recently posted a series of blogs highlighting some of these other innovations by category, including interior, exterior, and materials. Here’s a look at three innovations in the chassis/hardware category.

 

 

            • Flush Glass Power Backlite: This innovation is featured in the 2014 Ford F-150 pickup, which this week got the top award for pickup trucks at Detroit’s North American Automotive Show. This first-to-market hole-in-glass seamless sliding back window with engineered plastic framework addresses previous sealing and aesthetic issues with conventional complex multi-pane constructions for the pickup market. It is injection molded with PVC by Magna International’s Engineered Glass Division. It boasts improved appearance, styling, and operating performance that meet customer desires, while providing best-in-class sealing and water management, plus significant weight and assembly savings vs. traditional designs at similar costs. In addition, a heated version and flush design maximize line of sight for drivers. The innovation can be applied to other vehicles, and it allows the design studio more freedom since they are not limited to a single profile along the vehicle exterior.

 

 

            • Plastic Reinforcement for Steel Truck Bumper: Featured on the 2014 Fiat Chrysler Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, and produced by Flex-N-Gate Corp., it is the first steel pickup truck bumper reinforced with an injection molded composite support bracket. The composite is SABIC IP’s Stamax 30YM240, a 30% long glass fiber (LGF) PP. The part provides an excellent stiffness/weight ratio required for durability, while reducing mass by 4 lb/vehicle and yielding a small cost savings. Predictive engineering with advanced fiber-orientation modeling was used to properly set up the injection mold.

 

 

• TPE Jounce Bumper: Featured on the 2015 Fiat Chrysler Punto supermini car, it is injection and blow molded by Insit using Hytrel HTR8724 thermoplastic copolyester elastomer (TPC-ET) from DuPont. It is the first TPE jounce bumper that integrates several components into a single part to help deliver lower system costs and better performance. This includes improved durability, noise reduction, and mechanical properties under demanding conditions such as low temperatures, low humidity, or high loads. The use of an injection/blow molded TPE to replace foam polyurethane eliminates the need for metal or nylon saturation cups due to better saturation height control, which in turn allows total suspension height to be reduced. Additionally, 10% mass savings, shorter processing cycles, and lower systems costs were achieved.

 

 

Highlights Of Materials' Finalists Of SPE Auto Innovation Awards

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 14. January 2015

In this month’s issue, I reported on the award winners of the eight categories of the 2014 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards and subsequently have posted two blogs on other interesting finalists within the categories of interior and exterior applications. Here are three innovations in the materials category that also grabbed my attention.

 

            • Bio-TPO Sheet for Interior Trim: Featured on the 2014 Hyundai Kia Soul electric vehicle, this award-winning application required the development of a manufacturing technology by Tier I Hyundai Mobis and materials supplier LG Hausys that produces a vacuum formed 25 wt-% bio-mass (from sugarcane waste) content TPO sheet material from the crash pad and door-trim skins. This development also required optimized use of electron beam to control TPO cross-link density as well as multi-head corona treatment equipment to improve adhesion between the bio-TPO and urethane coating. While the material represented a 10% direct-cost increase, because the cost of the bio-based TPO is not based on price fluctuations in petroleum inputs, it is expected that long term, it should save money while reducing carbon emissions and VOCs.

 

            • A-Gloss MIC Grille Mesh: Featured on the 2015 Ford Taurus SHO sedan, this was injection molded by Flex-N-Gate with Lexan SLX2271T PC/ITR (isophthalate terephthalate resorsinol) copolymer from Sabic IP.  Through the use of this specialty material, which provides long-term UV property retention and meets all exterior-durability requirements, this MIC “A” gloss piano black grille mesh no longer needs paint, secondary finishing, or the heating/cooling process technology. This saves $10 USD/car through paint eliminations, increases impact performance, eliminates the aesthetic challenges of paint chipping, and improves craftsmanship by permitting tighter radii to be molded. The part is fully recyclable at end of life, CO2 emissions are reduced and VOCs eliminated.

 

 

            • Low-Squeak ABS and ABS/PC for Interiors: Featured in the 2014 Fod Taurus sedan and injection molded by Summit Polymers, these special low-squeak ABS and ABS/PC grades for interiors from Techno Polymer America rely on a special styrene copolymer rather than additives or special noise-abatement measures to reduce stick/slip noises that are often characteristics of these polymers. The new injection-molding grades process the same as conventional materials and save about $1 USD/vehicle while significantly reducing interior noise.

 

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

Highlights Of Exterior Applications' Finalists Of SPE Auto Innovation Awards

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 14. January 2015

In this month’s issue, I reported on the award winners of the eight categories of the 2014 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards and noted that nearly all other finalists’ applications are newsworthy. Having participated as a Blue Ribbon judge for this event, I was fortunate to see these innovations up close! Here are three innovations in the exterior applications category that grabbed my attention.

 

            • Transparent Plastic Fin: This first transparent, adjustable fin on a commercial vehicle that allows rear visibility through the fin appears on the 2014 GM Chevy Corvette Stingray Z06. It was molded by 3 Dimensional Services Group of Rochester Hills, Mich., featuring Lexan SLX1432 PC copolymer from SABIC IP. Using a combination of PC/ABS on opaque sections of the fin and Lexan PC/ITR (isophthalate terephthalate resorcinol) on the transparent section, the unique look also improves vehicle handling and control by increasing downforce without impeding or blocking the driver’s line of sight through the rear-view mirror. Additionally, special resin technology provides resistance to impacts, weather, and chemicals while reducing mass40% and costs 60% versus more common metal fins. The innovation is transferable to other OEMs and/or vehicle lines.

 

 

            • Light Element for Articulating Step: This is the first application of precision light element powered by LEDs and appears on the 2015 GM Cadillac Escalade SUV. Tier I supplier Magna International of Troy, Mich.., used 3M’s PLE urethane, to produce a cast flexible PUR light bar with molded-in light dispersion/extraction geometry. Coupled with a hard-coated extruded PC lens profile, it helps provide improved entry/egress into full-size SUVs equipped with articulating step assists. Unlike conventional light pipes with LEDs, there are no “bright spots”. The system, which is transferable to other vehicles, achieves very uniform lighting for improved safety while sealing the light pipe against heat, water intrusion, stone throws, and shoe impacts.

 

 

            • Belly Pan with Multiple Airdam Options: This new design that is applicable to other vehicle lines and OEMs appears on the 2015 Ford Mustang, and is injection molded and extruded by US Farathane, Auburn Hills, Mich., of KE308 20% talc-filled PP from KW Plastics. This innovative design allows a single belly pan to accommodate multiple airdam profiles while meeting all program targets for low-speed impact, pedestrian protection, aerodynamic targets, ground clearance, and tooling costs. The resultant system features die-cut airdam extrusion profiles sonically welded to an injection-molded base belly pan, saving $1.2 MM USD in tooling, while providing either improved front-end lift or improved drag at speed depending on the profile used while meeting all program goals.

 

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

Rethink Ramps Up Robotics Revolution With New Round of Funding

By: Tony Deligio 13. January 2015

When temperatures dipped into negative territory last week, some pipes in Rethink Robotics’ red-brick South Boston headquarters—a repurposed industrial space from the 1890s—burst, dousing desks but not dampening spirits for the innovative startup that is “rethinking” automation.

 

Rethink’s chief marketing officer, Jim Lawton, told Plastics Technology that his company’s plumbing issues had no impact on robots currently in production and did little to dismay the robot manufacturer in light of the news it announced on the same day: an additional $26.6 million in Series D financing coming from GE Ventures and Goldman Sachs.

 

Since its launch in 2008, Rethink has generated more than $100 million in funding, with this latest round to support continued innovation and global growth. To date, apart from robots installed at research institutions, the “several hundred” Baxter’s that are up and running in manufacturing are solely in the U.S., according to Lawton.

 

Not for long, however, as interest in the collaborative robots comes in from all over, particularly the Far East. “There’s a tremendous market for robots in Asia,” Lawton said. “China hasn’t leveraged automation nearly as much as other parts of the world.”

Learning From the Field
Following the 2008 founding, Rethink actually launched its Baxter line of collaborative robots in the fall of 2012, with its first orders shipped in the first quarter of 2013. Since those Baxter’s were deployed, Rethink has been rethinking its product, optimizing its collaborative robot.

 

“Now we have a couple of years of really good understanding,” Lawton said. “Here’s where [the robots] work, here’s where they don’t. What we’ve done since we started shipping the robot is  build up a really good understanding of where you can deploy—here’s where it’s more challenging; here’s where it makes sense.”

 

Since those first Baxter’s were installed at the start of 2013, Lawton said Rethink has made changes, but primarily on the software side. On the hardware side, the company intentionally created a design that could “sustain us for a long time,” according to Lawton.

 

Imprecise Precision
Lawton noted that historically, automation has been about building out the most precise hardware and packaging it with a programmable software platform. Rethink purposely avoided building Baxter with the most exacting motors and gears in the world, and not just because they’re extraordinarily expensive.

 

Instead it designed Baxter with what is known as “compliant motion control” similar to how human arms work, allowing the robot to feel its way around a job.

 

All Baxter’s joints have springs in them, giving them certain amount of give. Where other robots utilize sensors and vision systems to try to achieve exact movements through space, adding cost and the potential for mishaps if elements become misaligned, Baxter operates via feel. Lawton says this allows the robot to work under imprecise pick and imprecise place scenarios, granting it greater flexibility for future jobs.

 

Lawton recalls visiting with a plastics customer in the Chicago area recently who pointed out his shop’s automation graveyard—a deserted corner of the plant where ultra precise systems that were too inflexible to take on new jobs had been mothballed ever since their molding run was up.

 

For Baxter, it’s a question of wheeling the robot to another job, and showing it what to do, according to Lawton. Improvements to Baxter’s programming algorithm have boosted speed and precision by “path planning” or figuring out the most efficient way for the robot to move through space.

 

Within plastics, the robots are tending machines, packing cartons, and undertaking general material handling tasks, including things like loading/unloading inserts. These are instances where a human could do the work, but it’s often tedious, making it prone to errors that generate scrap.

 

Putting a Face With a Robot
Where Baxter also differs is in how it interacts with the humans it’s designed to work alongside. The robot has a “face” that follows people that enter its work space and, as a human would, hints at its next move.

 

“If you were here and I took a drink, you would see my eyes glance at the drink before I would move,” Lawton explained. “You don’t think about that, but I’m sending you a signal, and you know what I’m going to do; you’re not surprised. Comfort comes from trusting that you have a general sense of where the robot is going to move.”

 

In addition to a face, Baxter is fixtured with human-like arms, giving people around it a clear understanding of its reach and range of movements, for instance. “I’m not dissing six-axis robots, they’re very good at what they do, but they really have to operate with a cage. They can be coiled like a snake—I have no idea how far it can reach, and how fast it can get there.”

 

If Baxter crowded you, however, you could get his attention, according to Lawton. “If I grab its arm it will look at me,” he explained. “Baxter has a face; he has anticipatory artificial intelligence; he will give an indication of what he’s likely to do before he does it. This helps humans get comfortable with a robot.”

Comfortable enough, that Lawton and Rethink believe collaborative robots can become a fixture in many settings, not just a molding cell.

 

“Last year, a lot of automation suppliers rebranded themselves as making collaborative robots,” Lawton said, adding that he thinks that’s a positive. “The concept has gone from intellectual curiosity to, ‘Wow these are real.’ I firmly believe you will see collaborative robots in every single manufacturing facility, every home.”

 




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