DETROIT-With the help of a $2 million grant from the Department of Commerce, Budd Co. of Troy, Mich., is developing a system that would lower the cost of composite automotive parts. The system, which Budd calls transfer injection molding, would process sheet molding compound in an injection mold. SMC typically is compression molded, and is more expensive. The trick to processing the compound in an injection press is preserving the reinforcing fibers.
``We've got a method worked out that will allow us to get an SMC material into a molding tool without destroying the fiber,'' said Jack Ritchie, director of Budd's Plastics Division Design Center.
Transfer injection molding could shorten development times for parts and allow designers to consolidate a number of existing parts in one piece.
Budd received Commerce Department funding for the three-year project under the Advanced Technology Program. Budd will contribute $1 million toward the project. Working with Budd as a subcontractor is the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
The Commerce Department, through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, announced six other ATP awards in composite manufacturing:
of Cedarville, Ohio, is leading a four-year, multifirm venture to develop vapor-grown carbon fiber composites for automotive applications. The Commerce Department is providing $2.2 million of the $5.1 million in funding.
The project focuses on the emerging technology of vapor-grown carbon fiber, which is produced in a catalytic process from hydrocarbon gas. One targeted near-term application is reinforced rubber tires. Others include body panels and injection molded components.
Other members are the Warren, Mich.-based research unit of General Motors Corp.; Emtec of Kettering, Ohio; Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron, Ohio; Gas Research Institute of Chicago; GM's Delphi Chassis Systems, of Dayton, Ohio; Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.; the University of Dayton in Ohio; and Performance Plastics Inc. of Cincinnati.
Ciba Composites Industrial Business Group of Kent, Wash., received a three-year award to develop a composite truck frame and refrigerator container. The Commerce Department is funding $2 million of the $3.8 million project budget.
Ciba hopes to produce full-scale prototypes of the truck rail and container for testing. Ciba also sees the composites industry as one way to employ displaced defense workers. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., will consult on materials and product lifecycle forecasting.
Northeast Alternative Vehicle Consortium of Boston is seeking to reduce the cost of manufacturing a composite monocoque body for electric vehicles. The Commerce Department is funding half of the $6.5 million, three-year project. The consortium's prototype electric vehicle cost $50-$100 a pound or more to build. The goal is to get costs to $12 or less a pound.
Members of the consortium include Solectria Corp. of Wilmington, Mass.; Tasc Inc. of Redding, Mass.; TPI of Warren, R.I.; Boston Edison Co. of Boston; Bonded Technology Inc. of Cromwell, Conn.; Composite Engineering of Concord, Mass.; Textron Defense Systems of Wilmington, Mass.; Tufts University in Medford, Mass.; and the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources in Boston.
Cullen Engineering Research Foundation of Houston is leading a joint venture that plans to study the use of composite drill pipes for oil exploration. The Commerce Department is funding $1.4 million of the $2.8 million, four-year project.
Cullen wants to develop a composite replacement for the heavy steel pipe now used in horizontal drilling. Cullen said a composite drill, strengthened to resist buckling and fatigue, could extend the current reach limit of steel pipe by 40 percent to about 35,000 feet.
Cullen's partners include Phillips Petroleum Co. of Bartlesville, Okla.; Amoco Exploration and Production Technology Group of Tulsa, Okla.; SpyroTech Corp. of Lincoln, Neb.; and the University of Houston's Composites Engineering and Applications Center.
Specialty Plastics Inc. of Baton Rouge, La., won funding for a three-year, $2.9 million project to develop composite pipe for offshore oil and gas exploration. The Commerce Department is funding $1.8 million. Specialty estimates as much as $150 million in cost could be saved for each drilling platform by using composite pipe. But a better method of joining pipe sections and improved fittings must be developed.
Also participating are the Coast Guard; the American Bureau of Shipping in New Orleans; Amoco Chemical Co. in Naperville, Ill.; Shell Chemical Co. of Houston; and Arco Chemical Co. of Plano, Texas. Louisiana State University of Baton Rouge is contributing expertise in composites manufacturing.
Wellstream Inc. of Panama City, Fla., is leading a project to advance the development of flexible composite pipe connecting seabed facilities to floating production platforms. The Commerce Department is providing $2 million of the three-year, $5.8 million project.
Wellstream proposes to develop a manufacturing process for lightweight composite pipe with built-in sensors for monitoring the line condition.
Also participating are Deepstar of Bellaire, Texas; Mobil R&D Corp. of Dallas; and Arco Alaska Inc. of Anchorage. Subcontractors are the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and Virginia Tech.