DETROIT - The Society of Plastics Engineers awarded its Automotive Division grand prize to Ford Motor Co. for the integrated front-end system on the 1996 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. The award, for the most innovative use of plastics technology in the 1995 model year, was announced Nov. 9 at SPE's auto-motive awards banquet at the Westin Hotel in Detroit.
The composite front-end system, which provides support for the radiator, bumper fascia and headlamps, allowed for the consolidation of some 22 parts to two or three and reduced subsystem costs by 14 percent.
The part, which eliminated 27 fasteners used on the previous design, is also easier to manufacture and assemble. The upper and lower mounts of the subsystem serve as locators or mounts for the hood latch, hood slam bumpers, headlamps, wiring, radiator systems, air conditioning condenser, cooling fan motors, shrouds, and various sensors.
The award for the front end, which also took the top prize in the chassis/hardware category, was shared with Budd Co. and Autodie International Inc.
SPE also announced awards for innovative products in other categories:
Body interior: Dow Chemical Co., General Motors Corp. North American Truck Group, and the LCF Division of ABC Group Inc. of Rexdale, Ontario, won for a blow molded knee bolster used on the 1996 GM Astro and Safari vans. The bolster replaces a multipiece steel and plastic panel with an adjustable part made from a polycarbonate/ABS blend. Crash safety standards are satisfied by tuning, or adjusting, the wall thickness of impact ribs and by modifying of the parison thickness through tooling.
Body exterior: The Dow Automotive Materials & Services Group, Chrysler Corp. and Donnelly Corp. of Holland, Mich., took top prize for a single-sided encapsulated glazing process for a ``flush-look'' window on the 1996 Chrysler Town and Country, Caravan and Voyager minivans. The glazing process, which uses a thermoplastic polyurethane, results in an aerodynamic appearance and no visible hard-ware.
Process: For the first time in the history of the award program, more than one winner was selected in a category. Chrysler and GM shared the prize for most innovative process.
Chrysler NS/GS Minivan Engineering, AlliedSignal and Siegel-Robert Inc. of St. Louis were selected for an exterior door handle and bezel assembly. SPE said the minivan part, which uses nylon, represents the industry's first use of a four-cavity, air-assist molding process. An ergonomic one-piece pull handle and plastic bezel is made with the Battenfeld gas-assist process to replace a multicomponent handle and bezel formerly made in die-cast zinc.
GM won recognition for an interior trim package on the 1996 GMC Savana and Chevy Express. The part, SPE said, introduces a ``unique'' hot-runner system gated directly onto the backside of showing surfaces, enabling the pigmented molding of large unpainted ABS parts at reduced costs. The new approach, which was a cooperative effort of several manifold suppliers, provides a more uniform melt temperature with lowered shear rates and major improvement in part mechanical performance. Also sharing the award were Venture Industries and Monsanto Chemical Co.
Powertrain: GM, Hoechst Celanese and Webster Plastics of Webster, N.Y., won for an accumulator piston on the 1996 GM 4L60E and 4T40E transmissions. The design, the first thermoplastic part used internally on the transmission, maintains smooth shifting by adjusting the flow of transmission fluid, which can reach a continuous high temperature of 300§ F. The linear poly-phenylene sulfide resists creeping under pressure load and offers high strength-to-weight performance.
Environmental: The coextruded fuel tank made for the 1996 Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee, SPE said, is the first plastic fuel tank in the industry that meets California Air Resources Board hydrocarbon emission regulations for all fuels. The high density polyethylene part, some 5 pounds lighter than the average 22- to 24-pound fuel tank, has a special weld line to give it greater impact resistance. The winner was a combined effort of Chrysler, BASF and Kautex Corp. of Windsor, Ontario.
Materials: Chrysler and Raychem Corp. took top honors for the PolySwitch resettable fuse on the 1996 Chrysler NS minivan. The fuse is a space-saving, current-triggered conductor. The part uses carbon-filled, cross-linked PE and works by expanding with heat, thereby breaking current. As the heat drops, the switch resets itself.
Trav Meister Hall of Fame: This award is for an innovative plastic product that was in continuous production for more than a decade.
Exxon Chemical Co., GM and its Delphi parts division won for the Guideflex bumper energy absorber first used on the 1974 Chevrolet Corvette. The ethylene vinyl acetate part allowed for adjustable thickness and spacing of ribs to fine-tune bumper impact performance.