|Delphi’s award winning ultra-light radio. Click to enlarge.
Delphi Corporation’s ultra light radio design with insert-molded electro magnetic compatibility (EMC) shielding, available on Chevrolet and GMC full size pick-ups and sport utility vehicles, won top recognition at the 39th Annual Society of Plastics Engineers International (SPE) Automotive Innovation Awards ceremony, last week in Livonia, Michigan. The competition, conducted by the automotive division of the Society of Plastics Engineers International, honors the most innovative use of plastics in automotive applications.
The application breadth of SPE award ceremony highlights the increasing plastic content in automotive applications, in applications ranging from powertrain to interiors to exteriors. Jack Cahn, formerly with GM and now Automotive Account Manager, Polyethylene with Total Petrochemicals USA Polyolefins Divisions, told Green Car Congress that the plastic content in automobiles has increased so significantly for a variety of reasons, including design flexibility; lightweighting with its attendant fuel economy benefits; cost; and safety.
How far you can go with the use of plastics [in automotive applications] in my mind is virtually unlimited. Over the past number of years, the plastic content in automobiles has gone up significantly for a variety of reasons...It’s not just fuel economy, there are many regulations on top of that [that plastics help automakers meet]: crash worthiness, rollover, the whole federal motor vehicle safety standards that are updated on an annual basis.
...The focus of attention in today’s market environment is to take the lower performing resins and to try to improve them to the next level over the higher performing, exotic types of resins that are much more costly. There are all kinds of exotic resins and things that perform. Those gears in the transmission may be made out of highly durable, high temperature products, but that cost about 10x over polypropylene. It would be great is we can we get polypropylene to do that. The polypropylene manufacturers are continually being asked to see if they can improve heat resistance, and where they can get it to. The amount of attention and growth is being focused on growing the maximum amount that we can achieve with a little bit of performance enhancement.—Jack Cahn
SPE Awards. Delphi was named Grand Award Winner for its ultra light radio technology which was also cited as the winner of the competition’s Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies category. Two other Delphi technologies were also recognized in the competition.
Integrating 29 patented technologies, the ultra light radio’s plastic case features an innovative, patented method of embedding EMC shielding into a plastic case, enabling significant reduction in weight and assembly time. A metallic-mesh Faraday cage is insert molded into the reprocessed, 16%-glass-reinforced PC/ABS material. The innovative design and highly efficient assembly process reduces cycle time and eliminates 29 screws per radio—a weight savings of 22% or 1.2 pounds (0.54 kilograms).
In today’s environment, where vehicle weight reduction is targeted in an effort to improve fuel economy, removing more than a pound from the vehicle provides our customers an enormous advantage.—Dr. Andrew Brown, Delphi chief technologist.
Other Delphi products highlighted in the SPE awards included:
A plastic post-isolation for automotive HVAC blower motor on the Chevrolet Camaro that was a grand prize finalist and category winner in the Body Interior category. The application uses an integrally molded plastic mount instead of multiple rubber isolators that softens and quiets HVAC fan-motor vibrations. This results in significant cost and development time reductions for automakers plus a quieter vehicle interior for consumers. A resonant frequency "tuning" feature enables noise/vibration/harshness (NVH) optimization with minimum impact on mold tooling, even late in the vehicle development cycle. With this technology, automakers can purchase bare motors and a quick snap-fit joins the plastic mount to the motor, facilitating assembly and allowing more motors to be shipped per container.
Delphi’s halogen-free ultra-thin-wall cable was named a finalist in the Environmental category. The highly durable automotive cable features significantly lighter and thinner insulation than traditional cable. It is a recyclable and environmentally friendly product free of dangerous halogens that offers outstanding abrasion resistance and pinch resistance nearly double that of traditional cable. Delphi produces more than 1.5 billion feet (474,000,000 meters) of halogen-free ultra-thin-wall cable per year to supply four major automakers.
Other SPE categories and winners were:
Body Exterior. GM’s exterior spoiler with integrated CHMSL assembly on the 2009 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon is a highly dimensionally stable, thermoplastic Class A horizontal body panel. It meets stringent gap requirements by managing a low coefficient of thermal expansion (3.9) while also maintaining heat, impact, and surface quality for a highly aesthetic application. The center high-mounted stop light (CHMSL) is also integrated in this first-surface part.
Body Interior. GM’s plastic post-isolation for automotive HVAC blower motors, featured in the 2010 Camaro, uses an integrally molded plastic mount instead of multiple rubber isolators to soften and quiet HVAC fan-motor vibrations, resulting in significant reductions in cost and development time plus a quieter vehicle interior for consumers. A resonant frequency tuning feature allowed for noise/vibration/harshness (NVH) optimization even late in the vehicle development cycle with minimum impact on mold tooling. Now, bare motors can be purchased, allowing more motors to be shipped per container, and a quick snap-fit joins the plastic mount to motor, facilitating assembly.
Chassis and Hardware. Fiat’s electric power-steering flexible coupling in the 2010 Fiat 500 replaced a similar stainless-steel coupling with broached splines and grease. The part features ribs that connect and transfer torque from one rotating shaft to another, which in turn strokes axially and stretches and compresses the coupling. The fully compliant constant-velocity joint eliminates torsional lash, the need for grease, and all sliding interfaces at a cost savings, while reducing audible cabin noise and improving steering “feel.” The system replaces traditional hydraulic systems, reducing weight 17%, cost 50%, and increasing fuel economy by 4%. System performance and customer satisfaction were also improved.
Environmental. Toyota’s radiator end tank from renewably sourced material is the first use of bio-plastic in a chemically aggressive and mechanically demanding application: in radiator end tanks. Roughly 40% of this new nylon 6/10 material is sourced from caster bean oil, reducing reliance on petroleum-based inputs and helping lower the vehicle’s carbon footprint.
Materials. BMW’s door panel in the 2008 7 Series was compression molded from a new, high-performance, lightweight, cost-effective, and green composite. The resin matrix is a unique acrylic polymer that is thermoplastic in its “B-stage,” allowing for production of prepreg/semi-finished rollstock or blanks, yet cross-linking at temperatures above 120 °C to produce a very durable thermoset. The resin’s high wetout of natural fibers and ability to form chemical as well as mechanical bonds to the reinforcement allows for production of composites with very-high fiber loadings—70% in this application—yielding lightweight parts with high stiffness in thin walls. The resulting panel saves weight and cost, significantly reduces VOC emissions, and its rapidly renewable natural fiber mat reduces the vehicle’s carbon footprint without sacrificing performance.
Performance & Customization. Ford’s illuminated door-sill insert using a single-LED light engine in the 2010 Mustang, MKZ and MKT combines several different plastic technologies to create highly efficient optics that require only one LED light source. The illuminated door-sill insert can easily be customizable (via laser etching) to produce high-impact illuminated graphics. The system’s unique construction allows the design to be adapted to new vehicles in weeks, not months, significantly reducing development costs. In addition, the application is the auto industry’s first to provide multi-color illumination from a single LED light engine.
Powertrain. Ford’s oil pan optimized for stone impact, applied in the 2010 6.7L Power-Stroke Turbo Diesel, is the first plastic oil pan designed for full exposure to the road environment and optimized to withstand road chemicals and stone impacts, enabled by a new material / ribbing configuration. An impact-modified 35%-glass-reinforced nylon 6 provides excellent impact strength even at -40 °C and is not affected by calcium chloride thanks to a proprietary modification package. A special waffle-design ribbing pattern can handle multiple impacts (unlike earlier plastic designs with sacrificial ribs). Another unique aspect of this oil pan is that it features the first plastic drain plug, which sports a cam-lock design that makes it impossible to over-torque and break the plug’s screw threads. The oil pan is 2.1 lbs (0.95 kg) lighter than the steel pan it replaced and 30% less costly. It has an noise/vibration/harshness value similar to that of cast aluminum and quiet steel, yet will not rust or corrode and provides better protection against stone impact than metal designs.
Safety. Ford’s pedestrian-protection-compliant front fender in the 2008 Kuga crossover meets tough European pedestrian-protection requirements for head impact in a single part, eliminating the need for secondary bracketry under the fender as in steel designs. The MPPE/PA material is online paintable, dent and corrosion resistant, a unique styling enabler, and reduces both weight and cost by 50% vs. steel. The vehicle was also able to qualify for a better insurance rating because of this innovation.
Hall of Fame. GM picked up this award for the thermoplastic body panels used in the Buick LeSabre. Making the switch from steel to thermoplastic enabled GM to reduce part weight 40% (4 lb/1.8 kg vs. 7.3 lb/3.3 kg in steel) and eliminate denting and corrosion and the application was quickly translated into thermoplastic body panels on many other GM vehicles. More than 45 platforms and 20 million vehicles globally have used or currently use this material. And thermoplastic body panels have since been translated beyond automotive to tractors and lawnmowers for home and agricultural use.
Lifetime Achievement. Irv Poston spent 42 years with GM, retiring in 1997 as the head of plastics development at the automaker’s technical center. He helped shepherd development of both thermoset and thermoplastics and was involved in launching an injection molded PP fender liner, reaction injection molded fenders, tailgates made of sheet molding compounds, polyurethane bumpers, the all-composite Fiero sports car and RIM and SMC body panels.