By: David Vink
March 15, 2012
LOSSBURG, GERMANY (March 15, 1:15 p.m. ET) – German automotive components supplier Continental Automotive GmbH is the winner of this year’s Arburg energy award, for its work on a head-up display (HUD) unit for the 2011 Audi A6.
The key plastic part in the HUD is a high precision free-form mirror made of coated polycarbonate. The mirror takes the form of several prism lenses which follow the contour of the windscreen and are produced to tolerances in the order of 1/1,000mm.
Karlheinz Boguslawski, production manager at Continental Automotive in Babenhausen, Germany, says the company’s cooperation with Arburg resulted in “reversing” the level of in-specification parts from 15 percent when the project started, to a 15 percent reject rate today, with 86 percent of all parts within specification. This improvement contributes to lower specific energy consumption per good part produced and is in-line with Continental’s aim to optimize both energy consumption and resources.
Arburg technical director Herbert Kraibühler says that the special handling system, developed for the project, also contributed to high production efficiency, from the part removal gripper system through all other handling systems used throughout the entire process chain.
Upon receiving the award at Arburg’s Lossburg headquarters on March 13, Boguslawski said: “We need a synthesis of innovation and complex processes, but without upsetting the environment.”
He said the HUD addresses four major mega trends; safer mobility, intelligent “networked” driving, environmentally friendly driving and mobility in worldwide markets. In regards to the latter trend, countries such as China and Brazil have quite different needs, Boguslawski said.
Kraibühler continued by saying that aspects such as control of molding tool temperature, integration of ancillary equipment in the molding machine control system and efficiency of the entire clean room injection-compression process (which is used to produce the prism mirrors) all play their part here.
The companies “had broken new ground” in optimizing the entire production process and production planning, he said.
“But we do not restrict efforts in energy efficiency just to production but apply them also to infrastructure,” Boguslawski continued.
For example, the company installed a combined heat and power (CHP) system in Babenhausen in 2009 which has already produced 7m kWh of electricity. And the firm has added heat pumps, heat exchangers and solar collectors throughout the Babenhausen site over the past two years.
Arburg managing partner Michael Hehl said that Arburg itself generated 16.6 percent of its own electricity in Lossburg in 2011; 15 percent from a CHP unit and 1.6 percent from photovoltaic panels.
Overall, Continental has an objective of reducing energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, water consumption and waste generation at its plants by at least 3 percent annually. The company therefore aims to have cut specific energy consumption in relation to the volume of components by 15 percent in the 5-year period leading up to 2015.
Already, energy efficiency in Babenhausen increased 16 percent between 2009 and 2010, Boguslawski said.
Boguslawski commented that although Continental is known mainly for its tires, the company’s automotive electronics business unit accounts for around 60 percent of its total sales.
Continental is the fifth winner of the Arburg award. Previous winners include plastic toy producer Lego A/S, Swiss molder Wild & Küpfer, electronic components producer Tyco Electronics and electrical/electronic components producer Wago Kontaktechnik.
European Plastics News is organizing a Plastics in Optical Applications conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct. 24-25. For information contact Pranita Nangia at +44 (0)20 8253 9623.