Johnson Controls Inc. is preparing to launch a new door-panel manufacturing method that it said can make better-looking auto interior parts faster and cheaper.
The firm's CrafTec system will serve three North American-produced vehicles starting with 2005 models, with the Plymouth, Mich.-based auto unit of JCI still seeking other customers.
CrafTec inserts fabric or resin-based door-panel skins directly into the mold during production of the injection molded substrate, said David Phillips, executive director of business development for JCI's door systems. He spoke at a Jan. 5 news conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The panels are designed with a slim but deep ditch to divide hard and soft surfaces, with the softer sections covered either with a textile or a thermoplastic skin.
That ditch not only provides an aesthetic line, but also serves as the primary connection to hold the skin covering in place, eliminating the need for glues, heat staking or other post-production fastening assemblies.
The company has worked closely with toolmakers to ensure each mold is up to the job, Phillips said. The in-mold assembly also improves fit and finish and ensures a repeatable grain pattern, he said.
In all, JCI estimates it can cut 20 percent of the production time from a finished panel and save some money, although the company is not providing specifics on the cost decrease.
So far the firm is targeting the CrafTec program for door panels used in low-priced to midrange luxury vehicles.
``We're seeing a lot of interest in this so far,'' Phillips said.