DEARBORN, MICH. - To achieve a rounder, sleeker look for the re-designed Taurus and Sable models, Ford Motor Co. has made extensive use of new plastic materials and processes and boosted the overall plastics content on the vehicles. The new Taurus and Sable, now being delivered to dealers for the 1996 model year, use 360 pounds of plastics in their design - about 11 percent more than the previous design. Ford is using plastics in some 195 different parts, including such major applications as rocker panel moldings, bumper covers and climate control housings.
Creating the 1996 Taurus/Sable involved an ``unprecedented'' amount of teamwork between its suppliers, said Douglas F. Gaffka, chief designer for the Dearborn-based automaker's large, front-wheel-drive vehicles.
``We found that when individual designers and engineers work closely together, they really feel like they're contributing. As a result, they buy into decisionsmore readily and work even harder to make things right,'' he said.
Gaffka was the featured speaker Sept. 18 at a meeting of the Detroit section of the Society of Plastics Engineers in Dearborn.
In moving toward a greater degree of teamwork with its suppliers, Ford also expects to gain a better understanding of new materials and processes. That will be a key element in the automaker's push to speed development of new models and incorporate innovations from theoutset of the design and engineering process.
The 1996 Taurus and Sable represented a ``major turning point'' in Ford's product development strategy and a ``great leap forward'' in its design philosophy, said Brad Nalon, a Ford product planner who joined Gaffka at the SPE program.
``At Ford, we are operating on a new product development paradigm,'' Nalon said. ``We are moving away from just adding technology onto the car design in bits and pieces and moving toward integrating technology into the car design as it evolves.''
For interiors, Ford has a goal of using the same plastics materials for all related parts, such as a door trim panel that appears as if it flows into an instrument panel. Painting plastic trim to achieve a match in appearance is not ideal because that can make the job of recycling the part difficult. Surface texture also is important with car buyers, Gaffka said.
``They perceive shiny parts as cheap and toylike,'' he said.``Parts with a satin or low gloss finish are perceived as well thought out and of high quality.''
One of the new processes introduced for Taurus and Sable is low pressure molding used to make, among other things, a seatback consisting of a polypropylene shell covered in vinyl or cloth with foam bilaminated. The edges of the part, molded by Blue Water Plastics Inc. of Marysville, Mich., are neatly wrapped around the shell by using the self-adhesive propertiesof the materials.
Gaffka also said Ford is pushing hard to incorporate more recycled plastic in its vehicles.
``Today's parts must be engineered for recyclability, which means we need to use more of the same materials for different applications and develop new and better processes and shorter cycle times that will achieve these goals,'' he said.