Detroit — HBPO North America Inc., a Troy, Mich.-based supplier of front-end modules for the auto industry, presented an "exploded view" of a front-end module designed for the Chrysler Pacifica at its AutoMobili-D booth during the North American International Auto Show.
The expanded view showed the individual components coming together, highlighting HBPO's lightweighting capabilities, Diana Mannino, president of HBPO in North America, said Jan. 18 during an interview at the supplier's booth.
"We designed and engineered the main piece of the front end, which is the carrier here. [It is] a combination of plastic and steel overmold," she said. "And this is one product we're displaying here because we were able to engineer out 25 percent of the weight due to our designs and our use of plastic technologies and steel overmolding."
Mannino said that the auto supplier uses 30 percent glass-filled polypropylene and 30 percent glass-filled nylon for most of its applications.
"A very typical plastic for a front-end carrier … is polypropylene. That's really standard," Matt Weber, project engineer, said Jan. 18 at the HBPO booth. "We usually add the stiffness by high-glass content or, in this case, you have metal inserts. That's what the [automaker] requirements dictated."
Weber said one advantage of the metal inserts or "ribs" is achieving a lighter-weight system by only adding the inserts where you need them vs. an all-metal carrier.
"The only way you can get the stiffness is by just making the metal thicker, so it's a lot heavier," he said. "[The plastic one] is a lot lighter."
With more and more sensors being integrated in the front and rear of a vehicle, Mannino said HBPO is tailoring the design of its front-end modules to accommodate these sensors.
"We do have other customers where we are doing radars and semiautonomous functions, so it can absolutely be a part of the front-end module," Weber added.
In addition, HBPO showed active grille shutters in horizontal and vertical orientations.
"The active grille shutter reduces the coefficient of drag and the [carbon dioxide] emissions because it increases the fuel efficiency, so these shutters shut at high rates of speed," Mannino said. "It makes your car more aerodynamic."
For 2018, HBPO is also completing work on two just-in-sequence facilities in Mexico — one in Aguascalientes and another in Saltillo — to be closer to its customers. Mannino declined to say how much the company is investing in the two facilities.
Sister publication Automotive News reported in June 2017 that Nissan Motor Corp. has three plants in Aguascalientes and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has two plants in Saltillo. Both automakers are customers of HBPO, but due to supply agreements with manufacturers, the company was not able to confirm.
HBPO North America Inc. is a part of parent company HBPO GmbH in Lippstadt, Germany. The company is a partnership among Hella GmbH & Co. KgaA, Mahle GmbH and Plastic Omnium SA.
HBPO has more than 2,000 employees and reported sales of 1.8 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in 2016. Annually, the auto supplier produces more than 5.3 million front-end modules.