Lifetime Achievement Awardee Honored For Over 30 Years of Advances in Automotive Molding

Technical specialist Dr. Suresh Shah, who holds more than 45 Intellectual Properties including patents and trade secrets, was recognized at SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala.

The 47th-annual Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Innovation Awards Gala, was held Wednesday, Nov. 8, at Burton Manor in Livonia, Mich., honoring the winning part nominations and the teams that developed them. I had the honor for the third year in a row to be among the judges for this always exciting competition and will be reporting on the finalists in the coming days. During the gala’s evening celebrating automotive plastics innovation, SPE also honored this year’s “Lifetime Achievement Award Winner,” Dr. Suresh Shah.

Retired, senior technical fellow at Delphi Corp., formerly General Motors—ACG (Automotive Components Group), Shah is a technical specialist with over 30 years of experience and more than 45 Intellectual Properties including patents and trade secrets—over 40% of which are in production—far more than the 4% industrial average, according to SPE. Shah advanced plastic processes including gas-assist injection molding, co-injection molding, microcellular molding, hybrid plastic/metal molding, direct (in-line compounded-ILC) long-fiber thermoplastic (D-LFT) composites and thin-wall molding.

Shah also advanced material developments involving natural fiber composites, nanocomposites, TPOs and TPEs. This expertise led to several game-changing innovations including the single-piece, all-plastic door hardware module known as SuperPlug, and thermoformable TPO skin for instrument panels. He also developed many other innovative applications for exterior, interior and under-the-hood components.

Shah has won more than 20 prestigious awards internationally. The most recent was 2015 SPE International’s Research/Engineering Technology Award—one of the highest honors SPE bestows upon an individual every year.

Here are some of Shah’s the key game-changing and industry-first developments, working with teams, that are now industry standards:

● Microcellular foaming process for driver-side airbag cover, radiator end tank and HVAC case.

● Thin-wall molding process for PP HVAC case and radiator end tank technology.

● First concept for plastics/metal hybrid heat exchanger (automotive radiator).

● First unique formulation approach to eliminate mildew issue by incorporating special anti-microbial control release agent in plastic film bonded with paper for HMX.

● In-house TPE material for driver-side air bag cover.

● First all-plastic hollow steering wheel—a unique approach to reduce weight and integrate functions and wiring.

● First to bring in-line compounding of LFT-D and EDCM process (1997) compression molding process from Germany to the U.S. to develop several high-end structural composite parts. Worked with team developing Cross Car Beam (2004), in-mold lamination (2003), cockpit structure and IP retainer (2003), etc. to replace metal, reducing weight and cost—PP-based nanocomposites and hybrid fibers for ECM process.

● Paintless TPO skin for instrument panels.

● First TPO skin formulation to replace PVC skin for instrument panel. In-house TPO compounding using twin-screw extrusion process. TPO skin has become trend-setter in industry.

● Natural fiber technology (flax, jute, hemp and kenaf) for instrument panel and door panel in 2000—far ahead of time.

● First to introduce ‘module’ concept—all-plastic door inner module known as SuperPlug, replacing 50 metal pieces to parts to one plastics module—significant parts integration with multi-functionality and light weight. Received seven prestigious awards worldwide including “SPE International Plastics Industrial Product Design Award” during ANTEC in 1996. In production on more than 60 million vehicles—trend setter in industry—metal is almost replaced. SABIC (former GE Plastics) was partner in material development.

● Applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Taguchi methods for process optimization, in-cavity temperature/pressure sensors, additive manufacturing for prototyping and fit-and-function, infra-red camera for process monitoring, sequential valve gating, etc. (1993—far ahead of its time).

● First introduced and licensed gas injection molding in U.S. from U.K.’s Cinpres Process.

● In-line extrusion-reshaping process for high-gloss, metallic body-side molding.

● Co-injection molding process for large body-side molding.

● SMC formulations for grille opening panels for Class A surface.

● Structural RIM process and all-plastic window frame molding technology.