General Motors took the grand prize, but Ford dominated the finalist list and won four of nine categories in the 2012 Society of Plastics Engineers’ (SPE) Automotive Innovation Awards honoring the industry’s best plastics and composites component executions. More than 700 attended the 42nd annual awards gala held Nov. 7 in Livonia, MI.
Entries from Citroën, Chrysler, Daimler, Kia, and Nissan, along with their material suppliers and related process/tooling subtiers, also were among the 30 finalists in the main categories—Body Interior, Body Exterior, Chassis/Hardware, Materials, Powertrain, Processes/Assembly/Enabling Technologies, Safety, and Performance/Customization—plus a Vehicle Engineering Team Award (won by Chrysler’s SRT Viper team). The annual competition is considered to be the Oscars of the plastics and composites industry.
AEI once again was honored to be included among the esteemed panel of Blue Ribbon judges comprised of materials and vehicle engineers, industry analysts, and trade media editors.
Entries are prescreened in two days of opening-round judging. The best make it to the finalist round, which consumes a full day of detailed presentations in front of the Blue Ribbon panel. Funds raised from the event are used to support SPE’s educational efforts and technical conferences throughout the year.
And the winners are…
Grand Award and Body Interior: Reflecting the industry’s greater focus on interior craftsmanship, surface finish, and materials quality, the soft-skin, contour-stitched full instrument panel (IP) system in GM’s 2013 Lambda-based CUVs (Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia) captured both the Body Interior award and the SPE Grand Award.
The all-polyolefin, multigrained IP has been winning rave reviews from media road-testers and customers alike for its sumptuous hand-stitched appearance. GM’s Tier supplier/processor is Inteva Products. The IPs use materials from Adell Plastics Inc. and Ticona Engineering Polymers. KTX Co., Ltd. of Japan was the toolmaker. The materials are TPO-631 SSXT Soft TPO; Celstran LFT-PP.
The Blue Ribbon judges were impressed by the use of advanced robotic sewing, which gives an upscale appearance while saving 15-25% costs vs. noncut/sew applications, and up to 50% vs. cut/sew leather plus 15% weight, claim the companies.
The Body Exterior award goes to the carbon-fiber one-piece hood assembly on the 2013 Chrysler SRT Viper coupe. The hood, which incorporates fenders, is supplied by Plasan Carbon Composites, which has manufactured CF parts for Viper and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and ZR1 programs. (Plasan also is supplying the carbon-fiber-intensive body on the base 2013 Corvette C7, which will debut at the Detroit Auto Show on Jan. 13.) The Viper hood’s class-A outer panel is painted by Prefix Coatings.
The carbon-composite hood, in G83C T700S-24K material, is manufactured using a vacuum-bag/autoclave-cure process. The Viper hood currently is the largest Class-A carbon fiber composite part provided to a mainstream OEM at volumes up to 3000 vehicle sets/year. The inner panel features integrated mounting points using riv-nuts and studs molded into the inner hood panel. Local section thickness was varied to meet structural requirements. The final part is claimed to be 44% lighter than the previous SMC hood-only assembly.
Cytec Industries' Umeco plc provides the carbon fiber weave prepreg. The unidirectional carbon fiber prepreg is from Toray Carbon Fibers Americas. Ashland Inc. provides the structural polyurethane adhesive. Weber Manufacturing is the moldmaker.
Chassis/Hardware: The one-piece, dual-rate air extractor used in the 2012 Ford Edge and Escape is formed of rigid polypropylene and overmolded with TPE. The two-shot injection-molded extractor features plastic “living hinges” and plastic torsional springs that function as a one-way pneumatic valve—it enables air to exit through flaps while reducing the level of exterior noise entering the passenger cabin through the extractor.
Wegu Manufacturing Inc. in Canada serves as supplier/processor. Rhetech supplies the 40% talc-filled polypropylene. Anfe-Moulds Inc. is the toolmaker.
Materials: Ford’s 2013 Escape, Fusion, and Lincoln MKZ feature HVAC register vanes made using an innovative material and process combination. It uses a controlled crystallization rate to provide greater design freedom and eliminate paint, while meeting stiffness, durability, and perceived quality requirements.
TRW Automotive and Key Plastics handle the systems supply of the registers. A partially aromatic injection-molded PA 6/6 resin (Leona 90G60 B3374 PA 6/6/6I) supplied by Asahi Kasei Plastics is used to boost modulus without increasing wall thickness or adding glass reinforcement. It achieves a high-quality, Class-A surface without paint thanks to the "kinked" crystalline structure of the semi-aromatic nylon resin. According to the companies, the crystallization rate can be better controlled, so parts fully pack out before the skins freeze off. The resulting resin-rich, super-smooth surface does not require paint.
Liberty Molds Inc. and J&J Tool & Mold Ltd. are the project’s moldmakers.
Performance & Customization: The one-piece carbon-fiber composite air extractor for the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 is a major factor in the performance coupe’s high-speed aerodynamics. The lightweight part, produced in MTM Prepreg 57 Series epoxy/carbon fiber prepreg using a vacuum-bag/autoclave process, actually increases downforce at high speeds. It is assembled using adhesive bonding, which joins the polyamide vent screen and thermoplastic polyester deflector. The adhesive bonding also isolates the carbon composite panel from the ZL-1’s aluminum hood, preventing galvanic corrosion.
The program’s system supplier is TransGlobal LLC. DeBotech Inc. is the processor/toolmaker. Materials are sourced from BASF, Sabic Innovative Plastics, and Umeco.
Powertrain: The octopus-like geometries of the water outlet assembly used in the 2012 Nissan Altima were described by an SPE Awards presenter as being “a toolmaker’s nightmare.” Nissan design engineers, working with Tier supplier MPC Inc., used a combination of sequencing, precision timing, multislide actions, scientific molding, and robotics to create an injection-molded outlet in Solvay Specialty Polymers’ Amodel AS-1933HS-GF33, a glass-reinforced PPA.
The complex-shaped outlet with 10 seamless barb ports serves as a manifold for the vehicle’s powertrain cooling system and also serves the cabin heater core. It replaces a previous metal outlet.
The outlet includes a press-in-place seal, sealed threaded insert, a wire harness bracket, an oil drip rail, and also houses the thermostat! The 10 male ports are created without a parting line (usually required with conventional injection molding). They are made possible through precision timing of multiple valve gates and multiple slide actions to properly form this spidery product.
Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies: Directly extruding a bulb seal onto a cowl (air inlet) panel on the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid allows the application's functional requirements to be met, while also eliminating the time-consuming manual installation of the seal. Windsor Mold Group collaborated with Ford engineers on the solution; an extrusion die, mounted to a flexible, heated hose and guided by a robot, quickly and efficiently lays down a TPV profile along the edge of the injection-molded substrate.
The Santoprene 121 50E500 TPV is supplied by ExxonMobil Chemical, and Reis Extrusion GmbH was the toolmaker.
The fully automated process creates an easily tunable and functional seal that can be handled immediately after extrusion without need for post cure (as with thermoset rubber). Other benefits include no secondary operation, maximized sealing to the hood interface with excellent dimensional stability, reduced scrap, and high design freedom and process flexibility, according to the companies.
Safety: On the 2013 Ford Fusion, hood bump stops integrated with the headlamp attachment bracket provide a stout surface when impacted by the hood structure during a crash event, which leads to high HIC values during pedestrian-protection testing.
This one-piece integrated part, supplied by Magna Exterior & Interior, replaces separate components. It offers a more efficient way to meet new pending “ped-pro” requirements. The patented part is injection-molded in 30% GR-PP from Styron LLC. It is tunable for a wide range of breakaway load levels, can be used on other vehicles, reduces assembly complexity, and lowered HIC values by about 30%, claim the companies.
More information on the 2012 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards can be found at http://speautomotive.com/Awards%20Modules/2012Awards/Home.html