Sometime in the mid-1980s, Detroit-based General Motors Corp. decided to try out a different material for the bumper fascia on its 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier: thermoplastic polyolefin.
TPO has now become the standard material for fascias worldwide, used on an estimated 65 million to 70 million vehicles made each year, accounting for nearly 1 billion pounds of the material annually.
When you're making these decisions, you don't know [that global acceptance] will happen, said Nippani Rao, who co-chaired the SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Hall of Fame committee, which picked the Cavalier and its TPO fascia to win the Hall of Fame nod Nov. 9 in Livonia.
The award goes each year to a plastics automotive application that has been in continuous service for at least 15 years, and has gained general worldwide acceptance.
The Society of Plastics Engineers also recognizes new parts and production methods each year. Rao, president of consulting group Rao Associates of Farmington Hills, Mich., and a former Chrysler executive, notes that they all represent a breakthrough.
Like all the awards that we have right now, maybe one of them will make it to the Hall of Fame one day, but not all of them will, he said.
Awards go to cars in production in 2010.
Both the Grand Prize and the Powertrain Award went to the diesel-exhaust fluid system in Ford Motor Co.'s 2011 Superduty diesel pickup. The system is the first high-volume truck application to use an all-plastic system to fill, store and deliver diesel-exhaust fluid to the exhaust system to meet diesel emission requirements.
The part is made by blow molder Kautex Textron GmbH, part of Providence, R.I.-based Textron Inc., for system supplier Robert Bosch LLC of Farmington Hills. Several resins are used, and 90 percent of the system is made up of plastic components including the filler pipe assembly, integrated pump, valves, sensors and filtration units. The only other material that could have been used stainless steel would have been seven times heavier and cost 40 percent more than the plastic system.
Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford also landed multiple awards with its 2011 Explorer SUV, including the Vehicle Engineering Team Award, which goes to both the automaker and the entire team of suppliers and designers.
The Explorer had seven different parts submitted for the annual awards competition. It was a category finalist with six of the parts and also won the Safety category.
The SUV is the first vehicle to offer inflatable seat belts for second- and third-row passengers. The seat belts were developed by Key Safety Systems of Sterling Heights, Mich., with an inflation system integrated inside the plastic seat-belt connectors. The belt itself contains tubular webbing that will inflate for up to six seconds in an emergency, providing additional protection for rear-seat passengers.
Other awards and their winners are:
* Body Exterior: Ford's 2011 C-Max compact car, for the polypropylene cowl grills with a co-molded rubber seal produced in a single process using projectile-injection technology developed by RÃ¶chling Automotive AG of Mannheim, Germany. The process saves 30 percent of the weight of a standard two-piece cowl and extruded seal, and saved 10 percent of the direct costs.
* Body Interior: PSA Peugeot CitroÃ«n's 2007 C5 sedan for the self-reinforced air-bag door system molded by Visteon Corp. Visteon, based in the Detroit suburb of Van Buren Township, makes the air-bag cover using PP from LyondellBasell Industries of Rotterdam, Netherlands, with a PP fabric covering.
The part is fully recyclable and does not require post-mold scoring to ensure the airbag deploys properly. The system reduces the part weight by 30 percent and saves $5 per part compared to welded systems.
* Chassis/Hardware: Hyundai Motor Co.'s 2010 Sonata sedan with its integrated carrier rail for rear plastic doors. Previous plastic door-module designs had separate metal rails attached to the inner substrate after molding. The door also integrates wire-harness clips. The design from system supplier Pyeong Hwa Automotive Co. Ltd. of Deagu, South Korea, and ArvinMeritor Inc. of Troy, Mich. is molded by Arkal Automotive of Kibbutz Bet Zera, Israel, using PP and long-glass fiber from Sabic Innovative Plastics. Sabic is based in Pittsfield, Mass. Aalbers Tool & Mold Inc. of Oldcastle, Ontario, was the toolmaker on the project.
* Environmental: Chrysler Group LLC for the recycled polyol for seat foam in its 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The seat is molded and supplied by Magna International Inc. of Aurora, Ontario, and is the first industrial application of a flexible urethane seat foam made using polyols manufactured from post-industrial scrap, supplied by InfiChem Polymers LLC of Sterling Heights. The process uses a two-stage, closed-loop recycling process that allows up to 10 percent of recycled content in new seats.
* Materials: General Motors Co. for the turbocharged engine cover on its 2010 Ecotec 2-liter turbo on the Cadillac CTS sports sedan.
The cover is injection molded by Camoplast Inc. of Sherbrooke, Quebec, using DuPont's Zytel Plus with a copolymer that provides higher heat stability than standard. The parts are produced in a high-gloss finish without paint. Summit Polymers Inc. of Kalamazoo, Mich., uses a polycarbonate and ABS blend from Samsung Cheil Industries Inc. of Seoul in a process that combines a new grade of ABS along with a process of increasing the cavity side tool temperature before and after injection to deliver a jet-black part with high gloss. The process improves aesthetics, eliminates paint and lowers direct costs by more than 20 percent. South Korea's Nam Do Tool Co. Ltd. made the mold.
* Performance & Customization: Ford's chrome film, thermoformed TPO fascia on the 2009 Retro USA limited edition Bullit Mustang sports car. The part is the largest and thinnest chrome film, thermoformed fascia to date, produced by Orion Plastics Inc. of Edmonton, Alberta, and Brentwood Industries Inc. of Reading, Pa., with material supplied by Mytex Polymers Inc. of Houston and Soliant LLC of Lancaster, S.C. Castek Aluminum Inc. of Elyria, Ohio, was the toolmaker.