Automotive Innovation Awards: Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies

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The pressure press technology was the winner of the Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies category. The out-of-autoclave process is used for the 2014 Corvette Stingray sports car. System supplier was Globe Machine Manufacturing, material processor Plasan Carbon Composites. The material was supplied by Toray North America.

Winner of the category Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies

Pressure press technology

OEM/vehicle: General Motors/2014 Corvette Stingray sports car

System supplier: Globe Machine Manufacturing

Material processor: Plasan Carbon Composites

Material supplier: Toray North America

Tooling/equipment supplier: Weber Manufacturing Technologies

Material/process: epoxy carbon fibre prepreg/pressure press

Pressure press process for carbon-reinforced composites (photos: SPE)

This is the first production use of a new rapid out-of-autoclave process for carbon fibre reinforced composites. It produces parts with equivalent mechanical properties and better aesthetics far faster (in 17 vs 150 min) than autoclaves, now making carbon composites affordable for medium-volume production. The patent-pending breakthrough reduces cycle time 66%, direct costs 30% and cost of process consumables 75%. Nickle-vapour-deposition (NVD) tooling with embedded hot-oil heating/cooling lines moves heat quickly through the Z-axis for rapid curing. A reusable silicone-rubber canopy reduces the cost and hassle of disposable bagging. Parts exit the tool with more consistent surfaces, reducing finishing operations 35%.

Finalist of the category Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies

Lightweight seat pan

OEM/vehicle: General Motors/2013 Opel Astra OPC sports sedan

System supplier: SeaTcon

Material processor: Reinart

Material supplier: BASF

Material/process: Ultramid B3S & B3ZG8 PA 6/hybrid injection moulding

PA6 seat pan

Thermoplastic composite (PA6 with discontinuous and continuous fibreglass reinforcement) replaces stamped steel in this seat pan. It meets all safety requirements while improving crash and long-term fatigue performance, yet reduces wall thickness, packaging space and mass without increased cost. The part is produced in a hybrid injection moulding process combining robotic handling of pre-cut preimpregnated continuous-fibre inserts and an infrared heater inside the injection moulding tool that preheats and pre-forms the cold sheet prior to tool closure and overmoulding with impact-modified, discontinuous short glass/PA6, which is used to form ribs, edges and other geometry that long fibres cannot fill.

Finalist of the category Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies

3.5l/3.7l V6 integrated coolant cross-over

OEM/vehicles: Ford Motor/2013 Ford Taurus, Flex, Edge, & Explorer & Lincoln MKZ, MKS, MKX, MKT vehicles

System supplier: ITW Tomco

Material processor: ITW Tomco

Material supplier: DuPont Performance Polymers

Material/process: Zytel HTN 51G35HSLR PPA & PA 6/injection moulding

Tooling/equipment supplier: Luttmann Mold

Integrated coolant cross-over tube

This integrated coolant cross-over tube eliminates corrosion from aggressive long-life coolants (LLCs) while taking 0.5kg (1lb) weight and €0.73 (US $1) cost out of each engine. Overmoulded brazed-metal tubing was replaced by injection-moulded 35% GR PPA tubing, which is subsequently inserted into a second tool and overmoulded with 30% GR PA6, forming the rest of the intake manifold. Significant structural design work was performed to ensure the hollow PPA tube would survive overmoulding pressures, and special mould-cavity pressuresensing technology from RJG helps prevent processing damage. The composite solution is recyclable, improves service life, fuel economy, and CO2 emissions while saving money.

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