Innovation rules SPE automotive plastics awards

  • 31-Mar-2008 05:54 EDT
Photo 1 - Delphi backlit.jpg

Delphi’s Grand Award-winning backlit audio unit featuring the innovative color-converting plastic, as used on the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe.

The Society of Plastics Engineers’ 37th annual Automotive Innovation Awards are the Oscars of the automotive plastics business. The competition for 2007 was “especially intense,” noted program chair Brian Gosser, Automotive Business Manager for Samsung Chemical USA. As in years past, AEI was honored to participate on the Blue-Ribbon judging panel.

The 2007 Grand Award winner also took home the Materials category award. Supplied by Delphi Electronics & Safety, this application, on General Motors’ 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, is a patented system for producing custom-colored interior backlighting using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) fed through light-distribution pipes.

It features patented fluorescing dyes and proprietary light-scattering additives supplied by Bayer MaterialScience, BASF, and RTP. The Makrolon 2405 polycarbonate (PC) translucent resin used to mold buttons, knobs, and backlit plates replaced more expensive custom-colored LED bulbs. Moving color control from the LED to the plastic button provided more uniform, controllable emitted color, and also was a more cost-effective way to offer backlighting in low-volume, niche colors. Kno-Mar handled the tooling.

In the Body Exterior category, a GM SUV (the 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Envoy) was again the winning application, and the trucks’ Composite Assist Step the winning plastic component. Attention to rib design and use of weatherable materials enabled this one-piece running board to withstand loads with lower deflections than the five-piece steel/plastic assembly it replaced. It is produced by Magna Decoma’s Mytox division in a two-stage injection-molding process, using Mytox’s Myplas 40 long-glass polypropylene (PP). Making the step in plastic provides a 50% mass reduction and a direct cost savings in excess of $19 per vehicle. It also is credited with reducing assembly complexity, improving aerodynamics, eliminating corrosion, and lowering buzz, squeaks, and rattles.

The Door Trim-and-Hardware Module produced by Grupo Antolin for Chrysler’s 2006 Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass and Patriot topped SPE’s Body Interior category. The module combines all door hardware components plus the trim panel. It is injection-molded in Dow Chemical 702-20 PP using the two-shot bolster process. IAC served as the material processor and HiTech was the tooling vendor. Directly sequenced into the Belvidere, IL, assembly plant, the module arrives fully tested to reduce door dress-up at the plant. It offers a 10% weight and $10-$17 cost savings per vehicle.

In the Powertrain category, an Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) module used on the 2007 Chrysler Pacifica took top honors. Supplied by Bosch, with Christophery as the material processor and tooling specialist, this is the first plastic ETC housing. It is 28% lighter and 18% less costly than the cast-aluminum ETC it replaces. The material is BMC’s zero-shrink Tetradur BMC TD 455 (glass-reinforced thermoset polyester).

Reduced cabin NVH as well as improved weather and dust sealing in the 2007 Dodge Nitro and Jeep Liberty is a benefit of the Extruded Seal for Door Modules that earned this year’s Chassis/Hardware category. Claimed to be the first time a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)ExxonMobil’s Santoprenehas been extruded directly onto a door module carrier, the Faurecia-supplied 360º seal acts as a water barrier between the door’s wet and dry sides. It also provides acoustic damping and seals out dust.

The seal is fully recyclable, simplifies assembly, and is more robust than previous technology. Perhaps best of all, it reduces material costs 53%, capital costs by 15%, and tack/cure time by 90%. Reiss Robotics/Gepoc was the tooling vendor.

Winning the Process/Assembly/Enabling Technology category this year was the first direct-long-fiber thermoplastic (D-LFT) composite front-end carrier compounded with a twin- rather than a single-screw extruder during the inline compounding (ILC) portion of the process. Supplied by Aksys de Mexico, the carrier is used on the 2007 Volkswagen Golf, Jetta, and Bora built by VW de Mexico.

Basell Polyolefins supplied the PP resin and Owens-Corning the long-glass fiber reinforcers. ILC eliminates secondary operations and offers weight and cost savings compared with conventional injection and glass-mat thermoplastic (GMT) composites.

SPE awards the aftermarket, too, and this year a clever folding pickup bed extender for the 2006 Ford F250 captured the category. This is the first blow-molded pickup bed extender, replacing roll-formed steel or aluminum profiles, while reducing part count, weight, cost, and assembly costs, and improving quality. Produced by ABC Group using its own Salflex Polymers S815 glass-reinforced PP resin, the high-strength fully recyclable composite solution features in-mold color and grained texture to meet OEM Class-A specifications, retaining excellent grain quality in such a large blow-molded part. ABC’s Supreme Tooling group handled the tooling. The system’s design provides three methods of use—cargo, storage, and stowaway to increase usable bed space on pickups.

The annual SPE Hall of Fame award went to the glass-reinforced nylon radiator end tank used on the 1982 Ford Escort and Mercury Lynx—a pioneering underhood application for engineering plastics. DuPont’s now-ubiquitous Zytel-reinforced Nylon 6/6 was the material, and processor Hoover Universal (now Carlisle) collaborated with Ford Plastics Division as supplier.

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