The engineering that went into General Motors LLC's Chevrolet Volt electric car has been getting a lot of press. So has its ability to run its electric motor from energy stored in its lithium-ion battery pack or backup power provided by a gasoline-powered generator when those batteries run down.
The production of the batteries themselves received some attention from the Society of Plastics Engineers, though, as Detroit-based GM's Volt took home the top prize for powertrain parts at SPE's Automotive Innovation Awards, held Nov. 9 in Livonia.
The battery pack is made up of 135 individual lithium-ion cells, and each prismatic cell is placed inside a frame injection molded from BASF SE's Ultramid nylon by Mann+ Hummel GmbH in Portage, Mich.
Altogether, Mann+Hummel molds 160 individual parts for the battery pack, using 37 pounds of plastic. The high technical demand for placement of the cells means that the 135 individual frames must meet high levels of uniformity during production.
Omega Tool Corp. of Menomonee Falls, Wis., made the multicavity tool and the companies used Moldflow analysis from Autodesk Inc. of San Rafael, Calif., to develop the parts and hot runners from Synventive Molding Solutions Inc. of Peabody, Mass.
Other Automotive Innovation Awards went to:
Chrysler Group LLC of Auburn Hills, Mich., for Body Exterior for the RamBox assembly and lid on its 2012 Dodge Ram pickup. Penda Corp. of Portage, Wis., makes the lid with a twin-sheet thermoformed process, replacing a blow molded bin on previous Ram trucks. Evco Plastics of DeForest, Wis., molds the bin and River Bend Industries LLC of Fort Smith, Ark., molds the end caps. Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc. of Fowlerville, Mich., provided the Thermylene polypropylene used in the box. Cavalier Tool & Manufacturing Ltd. of Windsor, Ontario, was the toolmaker for the injection molded parts and Tooling Technology LLC of Fort Laramie, Ohio, made molds for the thermoformed lid.
Ford Motor Co. won the Body Interior category for the overmold cushion suspension on its 2012 Escape sport utility vehicle and Ford Kuga crossover vehicle. The injection molded polypropylene design reduced the part count on the seat structure from five molded parts to one, cutting the cost by more than 50 cents per seat; reduced tooling costs; and saved nearly 2 kilograms over the previous version. The Flex-O-Laters Division of Leggett & Platt Inc. of Carthage, Mo., is the system supplier. Washington Penn Plastic Co. Inc. of Washington, Penn., supplied the resin and Advanced Mold Engineering Inc. of Columbus, Ind., made the tooling.
The power-window regulator on Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford's 2011 Focus received the Chassis/Hardware award. The power-window motor was changed from a steel output pinion to a new injection molded polyester one for a quieter and lighter motor that would still meet performance requirements. Brose Fahrzeugteile GmbH & Co. KG of Coburg, Germany, is the system supplier and Mitsuba Corp. of Hirosawa, Japan, is the molder. Wilmington, Del.-base DuPont Co. supplies the Hytrel PE used in the part and Camoplast Inc. of Sherbrooke, Quebec, was the toolmaker.
Fiat Auto SpA of Turin, Italy, won the Environmental category for its use of DuPont's new bio-based PA1010 polyamide, which is being used on all Fiat diesel car fuel lines. The material is nearly completely sourced from caster beans and replaces a previous DuPont nylon resin. Hutchinson srl of Rivoli, Italy, supplies the extruded fuel lines.
Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. of Seoul, South Korea, received the Materials award for the use of a pillar trim made using volcanic filler in a PP injection molded part on the Kia Pride subcompact, Kia Optima midsize sedan and Hyundai Elantra compact car. The volcanic filler provides the texture and appearance of a more costly fabric-wrapped part in an injection molded trim. It replaced a previous talc-filled and fabric-wrapped PP at a 10 percent weight savings and 50 percent cost savings. Plakor Co. Inc. of Hwaseong, South Korea, is the molder and Hyundai Engineering Plastics Co. Ltd. of Dangjin, South Korea, supplies the material.
The Safety award went to Ford's 2011 model-year Focus for the use of the reinforced air-bag lid in foam, a technology for an optimized instrument panel passenger air-bag door system using a reinforced PET mesh textile and foam lid for the air-bag door, rather than metal. Faurecia SA of Nanterre, France, developed and molded the instrument panel and ai-rbag door.