The John Deere 8030 farm tractor sports a powerful new, fuel-efficient engine, wrapped up in a package - a signature green hood molded by Bemis Manufacturing Co. of Sheboygan Falls, Wis. - that grabbed a major award at the SPI Alliance of Plastics Processors conference in Columbus.
The Industrial Designers Society of America/Plastics News Design Award went to Henry Dreyfuss Associates, a firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., that has designed parts for Deere since 1937.
William Crookes and Michael Deininger were the designers at Dreyfuss who earned the award for their work on the large, Deere & Co. engine enclosure.
Milwaukee-based Triangle Tool Corp. made the molds for the exterior hood and a sister part, called the inner hood. The inner hood, designed by Deere, fits under and supports the cosmetic hood.
``It was a collaborative effort,'' said Scott Toppin, Deere's program manager of the 8000 Series. Deere designed the newest tractors in the line, the 8030 Series, with the company's new PowerTech Plus engine, which meets the Environmental Protection Agency's Tier 3/Stage III diesel emissions rules. In December, Deere began tractor production to meet the EPA mandate, which took effect in January, he said.
The green hood slopes down to the front, black grille, which also uses a plastic structure. The tapered design marks a sporty departure from the traditional squared-off tractor hood.
Beyond simply looking good, the design is highly functional. It allowed Deere to lower the front of the hood to position it closer to the radiator, improving visibility for the driver, according to Ron Schwertner, marketing manager for Deere's 8000 series.
Crookes, who is president of Dreyfuss Associates, called good visibility ``a huge component in the functionality of the equipment.''
The judges, all three IDSA members from Columbus, admired the graceful, curving lines of the tractor hood's roof, sides and front grille.
``For me, it was the fit and finish and magnitude of detail down to the edge,'' said Sean Montag, senior project manager for engineering at Design Central.
The judges liked how Bemis, Dreyfuss and Deere worked together.
``The molder maintained the integrity of the design'' to produce ``a seamless product,'' said Jim Kaufman, professor of design at Ohio State University. He noted ``the grille part was very well integrated.''
That prompted judge Greg Breiding, president of Canvas DesignWorks LLC, to add: ``You can tell the designer didn't have to take any shortcuts. ... It had to be a good partnership, from the beginning, between the industrial designer, the mechanical designer, the plastics engineer and the molder, to pull that off. I bet Dreyfuss and Bemis have been working together for years.''
And they were right on the mark. The two firms have worked together for years. Dreyfuss is the first repeat winner in this award's nine-year history, having won in 2001 for its work with Bemis on the Deere Spin Steer Tractor.
Crookes said the designers first worked with Deere to establish the basic shape of the hood and functions it must perform. Then the designers got Bemis involved. With any industrial design, Crookes said, the manufacturing process somewhat limits the form of the part. There are always tradeoffs. But he said Bemis, a longtime molder for Deere, is easy to work with.
``They're excellent,'' Crookes said of the Wisconsin molder. ``They full well understand the tradeoffs. And the years of interaction with them, it's more important that they understand the tradeoffs and create the dialogue, to get to where they are satisfied with the design.''
Plastics News teamed with the 3,300-member, Dulles, Va.-based IDSA to create the award in 1998, to help shine a light on the role of industrial designers.
Robert Grace, Plastics News' editor and associate publisher, announced the winner April 4 during the APP event.
Jurors considered several elements, including manufacturability, human factors, aesthetics, technical merits, materials and process optimization, and environmental responsibility.
Manufacturability is an important feature to Deere, and it required special design and molding work to make both the cosmetic exterior hood and the inner hood. At the Waterloo Works in Iowa, Deere employees assemble both parts together using adhesive and screw fasteners. The final hood assembly uses more than 130 pounds of engineering-grade plastics, according to Bemis.
Gary Vande Berg, director of engineering for injection molding at Bemis, said the green hood has molded-in bosses on its underside, which are used to connect the inner and outer parts. Lifters in the mold form undercuts, so the part does not have sink marks at the bosses.
Members of Bemis' internal 8030 product development team included Jeff Lallensack, the project engineer, Vande Berg and Bemis Chief Executive Officer Peter Bemis. Bemis coinjection molds a polycarbonate/polybutylene terephthalate blend to make the top and side panels on the hood. On the cosmetic panels, the base color is the same as the top coat of paint, so if the paint is scratched, it will not expose a different color.
Using an off-spec core material cuts costs and boosts impact strength, Bemis said.
The hood also plays a major role in keeping the driver's cab cool, said Toppin, the Deere program manager, in a telephone interview. In a tractor, the heat that comes off the radiator normally moves along the side panels and can end up making the cab uncomfortable. The 8030 Series hood has stylish-looking louvers and openings on the top and sides, to vent out heat from the engine.
Crookes, the designer, said Deere's use of the hood for removing heat is a major innovation. ``They were using a new airflow dynamic,'' he said.
At the Columbus conference, Bemis also got a lot of attention for the inner hood, a 58-pound structural part molded from 33 percent glass-filled PBT. Milacron coinjection molds the part on a massive Milacron press with 6,600 tons of clamping force.
Besides supporting the outer hood, the inner hood acts as a shield and ducting to remove heat from the engine, and has mounting areas for the hinge block, grille frame and the hood-lift system.
At the conference, Vande Berg said the huge black part fills in just 13 seconds, using sequential valve gating through five gates. Injection starts in the middle and moves out to both ends of the long part, he said.
Toppin said traditional steel tractor hoods did not need an inner support structure. But on the two-piece plastic hood assembly, the inner hood performs double duty.