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.



Manufacturing Innovation Hub To Strengthen U.S. Leadership In Next-Generation Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 12. January 2015

Last Friday, President Obama and Vice President Biden visited the Clinton, Tenn.-based Techmer PM LLC manufacturing site, and after touring a portion of the facility, the President made a major announcement about the creation of a $250-million manufacturing innovation hub aimed at strengthening U.S. leadership in next-generation composite materials.


The Knoxville, Tenn.-based Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) is a consortium of the Department of Energy (DOE) and 122 company partners and members, including Techmer ES (Engineered Solutions), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Techmer PM.


IACMI, which is part of a larger plan to boost manufacturing, foster innovation, and create jobs for the middle class, will focus on cutting-edge research on advanced composites, such as carbon fiber compounds, which Techmer ES has developed. This composite was recently used to bring to life an additive manufacturing (or, 3D printing) project with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).


“Our successful work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory was the genesis for the President’s visit and a prime example of composite materials advances achieved through a transformative technical partnership,” said chairman and CEO of Techmer PM John Manuck. Techmer ES partnered with ORNL, contributing its high-performance materials expertise to help the DOE laboratory develop a large-scale additive manufacturing system. Techmer ES created a unique carbon fiber-based thermoplastic formula to help further ORNL’s progress in building an additive manufacturing system that is 200 to 500 times faster and can print components ten times large than what was previously possible. This is the BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine, developed by ORNL and Cincinnati Inc., that was used to produce the “Strati”, the world’s first 3D-printed car that was designed by Local Motors and made its debut at IMTS 2014. It extrudes hot thermoplastic to build parts layer-by-layer, similar to an FDM machine.  


Following a further upgrade to BAAM, ORNL and Techmer ES developed the first full-size 3D printed electric car. The fully-functioning Shelby Cobra 289 FIA was unveiled during last Friday’s tour. The 1400-lb vehicle contains 500 lbs of 3D printed parts (the body of the vehicle) made from Electrafil J-1200/CF/20, a 20% carbon-fiber-reinforced ABS formulated by Techmer ES. The material was also used for the tooling, according to Tom Drye, managing director of Techmer PM, “From a new carbon fiber technology to the exciting frontier of large-part additive manufacturing—3D printing—our working relationship with the National Lab has been a model of cooperation and innovation,” he said. 


The vehicle is now at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit—Jan. 12-25.


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



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