Active Energy Absorption Steering ColumnSteering columns, once poised like spears pointing at drivers’ chests, have become safer over decades with passive safety measures such as collapsible designs. Now Delphi has created a steering column that actively works to save drivers from injury. As airbags take the brunt of a driver’s impact, the active energy column telescopes with gradual resistance to absorb up to 20 percent of the total force of the driver’s upper-body impact. The column adjusts for the smallest to the largest drivers, with and without seat belts. It uses a small pyrotechnic device to set the column’s absorption levels based on driver weight, seat position, seat belt usage and crash severity. The entire cycle to full-column collapse takes about 65 milliseconds far less time than the blink of an eye. Ford first used it on the 2005 Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car sedans.
Delphi Adaptive Dual –Depth Passenger AirbagA single airbag that can adjust as it inflates to safely cushion vehicle occupants of any size will help prevent passenger injuries in crashes. Delphi’s dual-depth airbag system measures seat position, occupant size, seat belt use, crash direction and crash severity to calculate how much inflation and what bag size is needed. Delphi combines an inflator that can vent part of its charge harmlessly, with an airbag that has tethers to control the shape and depth. A petite passenger may need low inflation pressure and restrained deployment – large occupants may need the full airbag at full inflation pressure. The bag shape can be tuned to meet vehicle-specific needs for head and torso protection. Its first use is on the 2006 Buick Lucerne and 2006 Cadillac DTS.
Hot ShotMany have thought of using heated liquid to clear snow, ice and frost from car windshields. Microheat’s HotShot product does It efficiently, using an automatically timed set of spray bursts. The one pound module heats small amounts of liquid rapidly, rather than wasting energy to heat and hold the entire reservoir of fluid at temperature. It sprays an initial fluid burst at just over 161 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by three to seven more bursts at 149 degrees Fahrenheit spaced out over several cycles. The heated fluid melts ice and snow, and warms the windshield glass to aid rapid interior defogging. In a standby mode, heated fluid is available any time at the driveris push button command to remove snow, sleet or ice build up on the wiper blades and to deal with road grime and bug splatters while driving. The system launced on the 2006 Cadillac DTS and the 2006 Buick Lucerne.
Direct Drive Windshield Wiper MotorMost windshield wiper systems are old technology, with a single heavy motor that moves complex rods and cams to pivot wiper arms back and forth in a synchronized way. The problem with the old system is that it takes up lots of space, has many complex parts that must move freely, and uses energy inefficiently. Trico has created a new kind of smart wiper motor system, one that combines in-motor electronic controls with a small, sealed motor the size of a hockey puck. The motors control each wiper directly. By having an electronically synchronized motor for each wiper arm, cumbersome linkages can be eliminated. The new brushless direct-drive reversing motors are quieter and cooler-running than conventional wiper motors, saving energy and space even when the motor simply replaces conventional wiper motor assemblies. The first use for Trico’s direct-drive motor will be in a linkage-based installation on a 2009 Asian manufacturer’s vehicle.
Active Engine MountEngines vibrate as they run, potentially contributing to noise, vibration and harshness. Passengers don’t want to feel those vibrations. But engines have to be held stiffly for good power transfer and vehicle handling. Active control of the engine using electric mounts that cancel vibrations lets designers achieve quiet powertrain efficiency and stiffness. The Avon developed active engine mount uses electronic feedback to counteract engine vibrations. Each active engine mount houses an electric shaker controlled by a computer program that continually monitors vibrations and applies a calculated countermeasure. The engine mount system is on the diesel version of the 2006 Jaguar XJ6.
Robert Bosch GmbH
Predictive Safety SystemPassive safety systems can mitigate the effects of a crash, and active safety systems can help cars preserve occupants even earlier. But a new category-predictive safety systems can let the car help drivers avoid the accident in the first place. Bosch’s Predictive Safety System teams the functions of collision warning and brake assist to an advanced adaptive cruise control (ACC) system using a single integrated sensor and control unit. The system uses radar to identify other vehicles on the road ahead, calculate their relative speeds and hold distance from them, decelerating automatically if needed. The newly developed ACCplus controls the distance between vehicles even at low speeds and can take a car to a full halt in stop-and-go traffic. If a collision seems likely, a collision warning such as a pulsing of the brakes is given to the driver and the system pressurizes the brakes in anticipation of emergency braking. If the stop is needed but the driver doesn’t apply enough pedal force, the system takes over to give maximum controllable stopping force. Because the system is designed to assist, and not control, the driver is always able to override the system. The system is on the 2006 Audi Q7 SUV.
Johnson Controls, Inc.
CrafTec PMB (Partial Mold-Behind)Putting plastic and textiles together on a component such as a door panel used to be a multiple-step process of molding the door panel, putting glue in the right places and then layering on the cloth, vinyl or other decorative material. Johnson Controls has developed a process that molds the door panel with the textile in place using a single shot of plastic. Pre-formed textile panels are placed into the mold robotically, the mold is closed most of the way and molten plastic is injected. The mold then closes the rest of the way, squeezing the plastic and textile together and tucking the textile edges into a design feature called a “ditch.” When the plastic hardens, the result is a single piece with no apparent gap between surface materials. The process was used to make door panels for the 2006 Chevrolet Impala and the 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse.
PPG Industries Inc., Automotive Coatings
Color Specific Powder PrimerCustomers love the glossy, colorful finish coat on the outside of a car, but that coat is expensive and hard to apply on the inner surfaces of trunk or hood compartments. PPG has pioneered a process that applies high-gloss colored powder primer designed to match the final exterior color of the vehicle. A 10-color primer palette allows close color matching. The result improves aesthetics while saving money by allowing a single primer application with less film buildup. More intricate, detailed areas such as the in-trunk hinges can now be painted. Reclaimed powder from the paint line can be reused, meaning no volatile organic compound release, no paint sludge or hazardous material disposal. The process was first used on the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt at General Motors’ Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant.
Visteon Corporation and Automotive Components Holdings, LLC
Two-Color One-Shot –Mold Flow Control ProcessPutting two colors on a single large plastic component such as an instrument panel used to require molding two different pieces – one a colored plastic substrate and the other a painted finish panel. Visteon and Automotive Components Holdings have made it possible to inject two colors of polypropylene to create a single two –tone part. The process controls flow from two different plastic screw-injection units simultaneously by opening and closing different valve gates in the mold in a precise sequence based on the positions of the spinning injection screws. As hot plastic flows into the mold, the two colors meet at so-called knit lines that later will be covered by finish panels during vehicle assembly. The one-shot process is being used to make instrument panels for the Ford Mustang, saving about 3.6 tons of paint a year.
Factory Logic Lean Operations SuiteLean manufacturing methods based on the Toyota Production System model offer flexibility and cost savings. Changing from a traditional manufacturing process to a lean one, though, has typically required years of effort to achieve factory efficiency and financial payoff. Factory Logic’s software automates, accelerates and sustains the transition to lean manufacturing by combining tools that schedule production, synchronize production with material flow and align supply chain flow with the rate of production. Companies using the product have documented inventory reduction of 20 percent, cut premium freight costs for special deliveries of supplies or finished components by half and reduced factory overtime significantly. A major user has been Johnson Controls Inc., where Factory Logic is used at 18 North American plants and is scheduled to be in 40 plants by year end.
Plexus OnlineRunning a complex manufacturing operation while meeting quality goals typically has required dedicated computer systems. Plexus has developed an online enterprise resource management system accessible through the internet without the need for special servers, databases or infrastructure. The 350 modules of the system can be accessed through an ordinary Web Brower and used on demand. The modules, which were designed specifically for automotive suppliers, cover all aspects of a manufacturing company. The system can even shut down a press if parts are being made or if an untrained operator attempts to use it. Modules of the system were piloted in early 2000 and used at GKN, Metaldyne and other companies. The system currently is used by more than 100 companies.
Monosteel PistonTo meet tighter emissions standards without sacrificing fuel efficiency, medium-duty diesel engine manufacturers are designing for exhaust recirculation pressures of 230 bar and greater. This creates greater mechanical and thermal stresses on pistons, in an environment that is already both more corrosive and abrasive. Furthermore, fleet operators now demand engines able to provide a million miles of service, so a modern piston must have enormous durability. Designing cooling galleries that would work led to hard-to-manufacture architectures, but articulated pistons and other two-piece designs were too weak mechanically and insufficiently durable. In short, pistons were a significant bottleneck to developing the next generation of cleaner, more efficient diesel engines.
With its Monosteel piston, Federal Mogul overcame this challenge. Starting with a two-piece design, and using inertial welding to combine the crown and the sleeve into a structurally sound whole, meets the stress and durability requirements of the next-generation diesel engine. Two pieces allows the design of an effective cooling gallery without the need for machining. That in turn enables the sleeve to provide sufficient mechanical support. The Monosteel piston not only lasts longer, avoiding burnout and cracking, but performs better than previous designs, in terms of blow-through and other performance characteristics.
Federal Mogul’s design capabilities included computer simulation of mechanical and thermal stress, analysis of the piston’s reciprocating motion, and modeling of oil flow cooling, to come close to a “virtual” design cycle. This allowed shortened engineering lead time, without extensive prototyping and testing. With the flexibility of the Monosteel approach, Federal Mogul is poised to make additional improvements in piston design, as it shifts from inertial to inductive welding, explores the use of different materials for crown and head, implements designs that eliminate pin bushings, and develops innovative coatings. Monosteel piston positions Federal Mogul to lead in the next generation of diesel engine designs, helping protect the environment while lessening fuel consumption. Strong market acceptance among major diesel engine manufacturers already demonstrates the success of this innovation.
BosScrew FastenerThe BosScrew threaded fastener or screw has an innovative design that precludes “backing out” when inserted in plastic automotive parts. The result is that plastic parts in difficult to reach places in automobiles and trucks stay attached firmly to each other, eliminating rattling, and reducing warranty costs as a result. This in turn allows ITW Shakeproof to rise above a commodity posture. Manufacturers have begun to redesign plastic parts for future vehicles to take advantage of this new fastener. Clamps, metal inserts and other added-on bits can be replaced by BosScrews. A BosScrew can go directly into the plastic, saving money by circumventing inserts.
ITW Shakeproof’s diligence in exploring the causes of “backout” of conventional fasteners led to a new screw design that circumvents the problem. A team in the ITW Global Product Center researched ways that plastic might be fastened more securely. Using three-dimensional modeling software they developed a better understanding of how plastic material moves under pressure. Further, they determined the optimum torque to drive a screw into plastic and, more importantly, the amount of resistance a screw must have to avoid backout. From this came the design of the BosScrew with its indented threads. The ITW investigators were able to turn the naturally-occurring creep of plastic into a plus. With BosScrew’s unique thread, the cold-flow of plastic creates an anti-loosening interlock.
Interestingly, the vehicle buying public will not see this product, but they will not notice any squeaks or rattles, either, and the vehicle manufacturer will experience reduced warranty costs as a result. The BosScrew is currently being utilized on numerous vehicle platforms, with orders exceeding 89 million screws per year.
In short, a very small part that had been the cause of squeaks and rattles in completed vehicles was, through disciplined investigation, transformed into a screw that actually prevents the problem. ITW Shakeproof understood the cause, quantified the needed characteristics of a fastener that prevents the problem, and developed a solution, the BosScrew.
Magneti Marelli Controle Motor
Software Flexfuel Sensor (SFS) for Flexfuel vehiclesToday the pressures on the economics of fuel consumption and fossil fuel alternatives are literally greater every day. Among alternative fuels that have started to catch on is ethanol, because it is one fuel that can be grown, that is, it’s renewable. Among the most efficient renewable plant sources of ethanol is sugar cane (more so than corn).
Until now, many cars have been equipped to run on gas or a fuel that is a manufactured mixture of gasoline and ethanol with a fixed ratio (e.g. E85’s 85-15 ratio). The breakthrough would be a true Flexfuel equipped car, one into which its driver could pump all gas, all ethanol, or any mixture that might occur in between, especially as the mixture ratio changes in the fuel tank with fuelings of one or the other fuel.
Enter Magneti Marelli, in Brazil, where sugar cane is plentiful, and ethanol, at the moment selling for one half the price of gasoline, is popular (it turns out that gas and ethanol costs have historically been counter-cyclical in Brazil). Marelli’s innovation is SFS technology – for Software Fuel Sensor – which manages an internal combustion engine so it can run an ordinary engine efficiently with any combination and mixture of gasoline and ethanol in the tank. What is even more stunning about this innovation, it can manage a true Flexfuel situation, that is, any combination and ratio of fuels, without the need for any physical fuel ratio sensor. All of this is accomplished on the basis of modeling and reading real-time fuel combustion parameters, adaptively applied with great precision.
Because Magneti Marelli’s Flexfuel system allows a driver to choose any combination of gas or alcohol, and doesn’t require the OEM to have dedicated car models, 70% of the sales of cars today in Brazil are Flexfuel equipped vehicles, enabled by this innovation from Magneti Marelli. This includes cars made by VW, Renault, Ford, Peugeot, Chevrolet, and Fiat.
OSRAM Opto Semiconductors Inc.
“Color On Demand”Osram has over 30 years of experience in opto semiconductor technology and phospors. They are working on a number of new applications in automotive and non-automotive uses, such as cell phones, white goods, and general and decorative lighting. An innovative new idea in vehicle brand personalization, however, is “Color on Demand” interior lighting, developed by Osram Opto Semiconductors. This breakthrough is made possible by development of a single LED capable of being customized to give off specific unique luminescent colors throughout the interior of a vehicle.
The process is based on use of blue LED applications combined with a series of red and green phospor converters to produce a vast spectrum of colors. The fine-tuning of these phosphors make it possible to offer manufacturers a new, distinctively recognizable way to give their brands unique, identifying personalities. Up until now, creation of saturated colors was possible only by use of expensive electro-luminescent materials or multiple color LEDs.
The result is capable of providing manufacturers with a new form of branding signature, as well as dramatic driver experience, and giving the consumer attractive interior lighting harmony along with the advantages of LED technology, meaning high reliability, long life, low power consumption, and low cost.
The first commercial adoption of this innovation is the 2006 Chevrolet HHR, Monte Carlo, and Impala. The instrument cluster, radio buttons and a number of backlit switches are characterized by the color “Blue Lagoon,” selected by the OEM. A number of other OEMs will implement this feature on 2007 vehicles and beyond, each with a distinctive color signature.
SKF Automotive Division
X-Tracker Asymmetric Hub Bearing UnitSKF’s X-Tracker is the most significant innovation in the global hub bearing market since the integration of ABS sensors in the 1990’s. It consists of an asymmetrical, two row wheel hub bearing arrangement with the outboard bearing race a significantly larger diameter that carries more rolling elements than the inboard row. This uniquely innovative architecture increases the camber stiffness of the hub unit by as much as 70%, adds significant load carrying capacity, and extends service life. This is accomplished without need to change any of the surrounding components and without increased cost.
The most significant attribute is desired stiffness that was not previously attainable with symmetrical bearing rows. Increased stiffness enhances safety by reducing brake caliper piston knock-back, thereby improving brake response times and vehicle stability. X-Tracker has a stronger hub and higher load carrying capacity making it applicable to a wide range of vehicles from compact cars to full sized light trucks.
The innovation originated at SKF’s North American Technical Center in Plymouth, Michigan, during a design exercise to replace a light truck taper hub unit with a ball unit to achieve increased function integration, increase stiffness, and reduce cost at the same time.
The first commercial adaptation was the 2004 Dodge Durango front wheel hub unit, followed by the hubs of the 2005 Dodge Dakota. It now is used on all four wheels of the Cadillac STS-V. In the Dodge applications it is used to integrate functions, add stiffness, and reduce cost. In the STS-V it is used to increase camber stiffness for better braking and stability control of this high performance car.
Improving performance and offering value is an important part of SKF’s business and marketing strategy. X-Tracker has raised the standard of industry expectations, and SKF’s visibility.
Windshield Defogging SensorSuddenly having your windshield fog up is a commonplace, making visibility and safety a problem. When that happens, we struggle with countermeasures in the hope of removing the fog and keeping it away. These typically include activating blowers at a high level, which is noisy and increases fuel consumption, as well as raising the temperature to a higher level than intended or comfortable. The alternative is swiping at the windshield manually, only to have it fog over again.
Earlier defogging sensor systems have a disadvantage in common, that the interior temperature chosen by the driver directly influences when fogging occurs; but with infra-red sensors, there must already be fogging to initiate countermeasures, that means higher temperatures, higher energy consumption, noise – and you have fog anyway.
Preh Automotive began work to innovate ways to head off this common problem with countermeasures that might occur before the fogging itself does. Their approach was unconventional from the start, as it relied on capacitance-measuring technology, not optical or infrared technology. This new sensing technology determines the temperature and calculates relative humidity at the inner surface of the windshield, and then signals the climate control system to take measures to prevent fog on the windshield whenever needed. With direct and accurate measurement of relative humidity at the windshield, these problems disappear. Preventing the problem in the first place is quicker and therefore safer, more comfortable, and uses less energy than removing already-formed fog.
Preh’s capacitive sensor technology is directly applicable in ultra-small packaging to gauging rain or splatters on the windshield and initiating countermeasures, and to light penetration on temperature levels inside the cabin. In addition, it can’t be fooled by dirty or smeared windshields. Initial adoption of this innovative approach has been by BMW, starting with its new 5 Series, and by John Deere.
Tenneco Automotive Inc.
Low Cost, Low Weight MufflerThe purpose of a car’s muffler is to be part of the system that conveys hot exhaust gases from an engine manifold to a point of release, while controlling noise emanating from combustion and expulsion of hot gases from the engine, and suppressing structural vibrations expressed as noise. Because of these functions, mufflers have had significant structural mass as well as cost.
Tenneco Automotive has redefined not what mufflers do, but how they may be designed and constructed to do it. The result is this innovative low-cost low-weight muffler. The assignment they undertook was to design and produce a muffler that is lighter, cheaper, and with desirable (just as good or better) acoustic properties.
Mufflers have historically been made with laminated shells of 1.2 mm steel, with good stand-alone structural strength, in order both to hold up and to provide acceptable heat management and acoustics. With these constraints, mufflers have been reduced in weight by 20% by the savings here and there over the last five years, engineered by various suppliers. Cost has not been reduced much at all, partly due to material costs (thick-wall laminated steel).
The Tenneco low-cost low-weight muffler has been designed by intensive use of Tenneco’s Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), with the result that they have been able to design a single, thin walled muffler (0.7 mm) with a bead pattern that permits in-process welding, and with uncompromised, and even tunable, acoustics.
Tenneco integrated the muffler into the vehicle underbody, to avoid structure-borne noise, thus reducing allocated underbody design space as well. In addition, Tenneco is able to use its CAE to overcome the noise associated with single thin walls, and to tune muffler acoustics by using irregular, geometric embossing patterns in surface topology. Tenneco’s overall effort very cleverly results in a muffler that costs less, and takes another 20% out of muffler weight with just this one innovation.
Tenneco Automotive’s low cost, low weight muffler technology will shortly be applied by General Motors on one of its global vehicle platforms.
Valeo Electrical Systems
StARS Micro-Hybrid systemThe search is on for breakthrough technology leading to fuel efficiency, and for savings of fossil fuels in particular. Any serious innovation contributing to this global effort is worthy and a valuable contribution. Valeo (Créteil, France) has come up with a winning innovation in this arena.
The StARS Micro-Hybrid consists of a belt driven, reversible claw-pole synchronous machine that mounts on any internal combustion engine in place of the conventional alternator, and a separate electronic inverter placed between the machine and the standard 12V battery. The system allows the combustion engine to be turned off automatically when the car stops and the driver holds the brake pedal down, and to be restarted instantaneously when the brake pedal is released in favor of the accelerator. This entire process is completely transparent to the driver and passengers, except that there is of course no engine sound at all, nor exhaust, while stopped. The StARS Micro-Hybrid can be fitted to both gasoline and diesel engines, with little or no specific design change or adaptation to a particular engine. It’s applicable to any engine without further design modifications, a powerful premise.
The consumer benefits are, obviously, that with the engine automatically shut down when the vehicle comes to a temporary stop, and restarted only when the driver decides to proceed, there is a marked reduction in both fuel consumption and engine emissions, especially in urban and suburban traffic with heavy start-stop demands. And there’s no sound.
Initial commercial applications and uptake of the StARS Micro-Hybrid have been on smaller platforms, but this innovation is now being fitted to larger ones as well, e.g. a 4.2 liter 6-cylinder SUV. It is currently available as an option on the Citroën C3 Sensodrive, with a fuel saving of 6 to 20% in real life urban driving. Citroën’s C2 is on its way, and half dozen other OEM brands have this innovation in development now.
Betamate LESA Adhesive SystemDow Chemical scientists and Dow Automotive have for some time been pursuing a “holy grail” of bonding. Until now, it has been impossible to bond polymers like polyolefins (low energy substrate) having structural strength, to other materials, without initial process steps of surface primers and other surface modifications (such as flame treatments, to promote actual bonding). Their innovation, Betamate LESA two-part acrylic adhesive, is the first in the industry to accomplish this bonding in a structural application. Dow Automotive holds more than a dozen patents on the methods and materials used to achieve these long-desired properties.
The initial application of Betamate LESA is on the 2006 VW Golf, where the adhesive-bonded front end carrier (produced in Germany) displays significant rewards. Among these are a savings in weight of 1.5 kg, a 2” lower hoodline, double-digit cost savings, an enhanced vehicle crash rating, an integrated air duct for greater design flexibility, easier end of life cycle recycling, and reduced capital needed for tooling and equipment.
CAE design optimization of plastic and metal components created many advantages enabled simply by using the innovative new adhesive. Another OEM in the US has single-sourced DOW Automotive on four new platforms for this product application already.
Betamate LESA overcomes past structural bonding challenges, by providing greater torsion and impact resistance, increased shelf-life, favorable cure time, ease of mixing and dispensing with standard equipment, and in a one to one mix ratio.
This adhesive system can be used for a variety of applications and a variety of chosen materials. Applications include not only front end carriers, but seat backs, instrument panel carriers, floor and roof systems, tailgates, and door modules. Among materials, Betamate LESA works with fluoropolymers (Teflon™), E-coated metallic substrates, glass, thermoset resins, polyolefin thermoplastics, and composites.
In short, this adhesive bonding solution from Dow Automotive will enable automakers greater freedom in selecting structural resins which cost less to design and build, with improved performance. Meantime, VW is showing the way.
PosiCharge Battery Charging SystemManufacturing facilities generally use numerous electric-drive industrial trucks (such as fork lifts) for moving parts and equipment in a factory. Until recently, the several-hundred-pound battery packs on these trucks had to be removed for recharging – usually every shift. This required a battery charging room and extra batteries, often two or more per truck. PosiCharge battery chargers allow the batteries to be recharged during naturally occurring breaks in vehicle usage without having to remove the batteries. A battery charging room and spare batteries are no longer needed, and the new battery charging system, besides being enough faster to allow this innovative approach, is also 10% more energy efficient.
To provide sufficient charge during the brief breaks in manufacturing usage, the charger must charge the battery as rapidly as possible, but without overheating or damaging the battery. To achieve this, the PosiCharge’s microprocessor identifies the battery being charged, controls its temperature during charge so it doesn’t overheat, assesses its health, records its history, and identifies any needed maintenance.
Following extensive trials, Ford Motor Co. has now installed PosiCharge in 18 of its manufacturing plants, with plans approved to fully convert all North American facilities as soon as possible. Ford projects the conversion project will have a short 14-month payback and save about $2 for every vehicle produced in North America. Even the heaviest duty industrial trucks in Ford plants, which previously required internal combustion engines because batteries couldn’t last through a shift, are being converted to electric drive thanks to PosiCharge. Now several other large users of electric industrial trucks, including North American operations of Toyota, Hyundai, and Daimler Benz, have also converted or are converting to PosiCharge.
OptiCell Non-Contact Measuring SystemWith OptiCell non-contact measuring system, CogniTens is revolutionizing the world of quality control inspection. Previously a part needed to be carried to a climate controlled metrology room and put on a granite table to have a probe tap out a hundred points, or a laser beam map out a similar number. Alternatively, a part could be locked into a check fixture to be measured with a feeler gauge at a handful of pre-selected points. CogniTens uses an altogether different approach, employing a digital camera triangulation system that allows capture of millions of data points very quickly. Due to its processing speed and robustness, there is no need to isolate measurement from the vibration and temperature variation of the production floor. With a cycle time of only a few minutes, the system can capture complete surface dimensional data of a stamping within a robot cell, with no need for machined and certified check gauges. This offers faster, denser and more convenient measurements with a 30-micron tolerance that more than meets the needs of sheet metal applications.
CogniTens’ most important innovation, however, is software that allows tool-and-die and production engineers to understand the inspection data immediately, through easy-to-interpret color-coded outputs that highlight the deviations in a measured part from a CAD file or reference part. This permits identifying sources of problems that are often missed with the limited data points provided by traditional metrology. And OptiCell requires little training. Engineers can also utilize the OptiCell software to assist in part design and assembly simulation, and it can easily be reprogrammed for design changes or new vehicle platforms. The benefits include allowing users to speed up die development time and improve quality, while eliminating much of the cost for check fixtures, and even doing away with metrology rooms.
OptiCell is recognized as an innovation which, through its software, does more than improve existing metrology. This technology is stimulating industry to rethink inspection and validation practices, to capture benefits of more checkpoints and lower sample sizes, and it invites engineers to use an innovative measuring technology in new ways that were never before possible.
General Motors with PPG Industries
Color Harmony Process, at General Motors’ Lordstown Assembly PlantIn December 2001 General Motors approached PPG Industries with the idea of using keyed color-specific powder primer on interior and exterior surfaces, replacing liquid solvent primers. General Motors wanted to expand its use of powder for environmental and cost reasons. Powder has zero VOCs versus a solvent liquid system, and eliminates the sludge and hazardous material of such a system. Powder provides cost savings per vehicle, plus a superior interior finish, increasing value for both OEM and consumer.
PPG responded to General Motors’ challenge by developing a ten color palette to prove the technology was capable and reliable in an assembly plant. A joint development program was formally launched.
To make the Color Harmony system work, cooperative process and application innovation was required. The development of the powder canisters came from the Paint & Polymers Engineering Technology Validation Team at General Motors. The team recognized the need for a color changer that would meet paint shop requirements, while controlling production cost. The working prototype was completed in September 2002, and by July 2003 GM’s Powder Canister system was production-ready. It was proven with PPG’s color specific powder primer at the Baltimore Facility, then taken to the new Lordstown Assembly Plant, where various colors are applied daily to the Chevy Cobalt interiors. The Powder Canister system has unlimited capability for color switchovers, making it very efficient and flexible.
On the material side, PPG’s challenge was to match a standard liquid color palette in a powder system. Colors had to be compatible, and reclamation used as the first coat of color-keyed powder. PPG used its Flint Application Center to prove feasibility of the material and then the overall system at production speeds prior to plant testing at GM’s Baltimore Facility.
The Color Harmony process is a perfect example of an application and product conceived and designed to work together, resulting in a reliable, robust, and cost-effective system for the paint shop at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant – and beyond.
Ford Motor Company with Posi Charge
Fast Charging Battery TechnologyElectric powered material handling vehicles have been used in automotive plants for years: they’re cleaner, more efficient and require less maintenance than internal combustion ones. However, operating electric vehicles meant large, heavy batteries had to be exchanged once a shift. Recharging required up to twelve hours per battery, which meant 2.5 batteries per truck. A plant with 100 trucks would need 250 batteries to store, charge, maintain, and exchange, requiring specialized battery rooms spanning several thousand square feet of centrally located floor space.
In the mid 1990s electric automobiles were being developed for an anticipated California ZEV mandate. For electric cars to be commercially viable, charge times had to be reduced significantly from the eight hours it then took. PosiCharge met this requirement with a high power, computer-controlled battery charger that took as little as 15 minutes. Ford Motor Company became aware of this technology and envisioned its use to re-power material handling vehicles used in high volume manufacturing.
In 1998 Ford’s Industrial Vehicle Engineering team started investigating fast charging by testing prototype systems on forklifts. Trials using production level chargers were begun at several Ford locations, leading to technology enhancements needed in a manufacturing environment (e.g. the ability to use multiple short charges in place of one long-duration charge). Validating enhancements using PosiCharge systems was managed systematically by reviewing and evaluating impact and benefits. Reviews included pilot applications under many usage and plant conditions. Industrial hygiene tests were done to confirm that PosiCharge controls properly managed battery gassing (to avoid any health or safety risks to employees). Systematic effort went into effective and open communication of the technology and positive relations with the plant workforce.
By 2001 Ford had enough experience across a broad range of applications to feel confident converting an entire facility to PosiCharge’s fast charge technology. This first plant-wide implementation was at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant. After launching PosiCharge, the battery room was demolished and the floor space used for production tooling for the new vehicle line being launched at the facility.
Fast charging technology eliminated the need for battery exchanges, reduced battery inventory by nearly 60 per cent, and eliminated the battery room, regaining valuable central factory space. In addition, driver/operators are not required to leave their work areas to recharge batteries, contributing to a safer work environment.
The validation of fast charging led Ford to launch an enterprise-wide program to convert all operations to innovative PosiCharge technology. The collaborative guidance Ford gave their supplier is noteworthy, and is the basis of this award.