The top prize for the 2022 Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Innovation Awards has gone to a part most car owners will never see.
The Grand Award and Chassis/Hardware division winner, presented during a Nov. 2 event in Livonia, Mich., went to General Motors Co. for the first all-composite leaf spring for light trucks, used on the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
Produced with exoxy and prepreg layup with compression molding by German supplier Muhr und Bender KG (Mubea), the leaf spring reduces mass by up to 75 percent vs. an all-steel spring and up to 58 percent compared with a hybrid steel and composite part.
In the award, SPE noted the fiberglass-reinforced also doubles durability, eliminates corrosion and improves ride comfort.
The SPE event also honored previously announced winners.
Probir Guha, who retired in 2021 after spending much of his career with Budd Co. and Continental Structural Plastics, received the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Hall of Fame award went to the first molded-in-color weatherable grille, used on the 1987 Volkswagen Golf using materials supplied by Ineos Styrolution.
Other category winners:
• Additive Manufacturing: GM for the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon for a spoiler closeout seal produced by HP Inc. and AMT Ltd. with GKN Additive, using materials from BASF Corp. and GKN Additive.
The powder-bed fusion process was used to print, process and install 60,000 thermoplastic polyurethane closeout seals as a bridge solution while tooling for the part was in production.
• Aftermarket and Limited Edition/Specialty Vehicles: Ford Motor Co. for a carbon fiber C-brace on the 2022 Bronco Raptor. Montaplast of North America was the processor, using material from BASF Corp. and tooling from Commercial Tool Group.
The C-brace was developed to meet offroad desert durability requirements for some versions of the Raptor. The sandwich composite part came in 55 percent lighter than aluminum and 85 percent lighter than steel.
• Body Exterior: Hyundai Motor Group for the 2022 Kia Sorento for a panoramic sunroof frame supplied by Inalfa Roof Systems Korea, injection molded using nylon 6 from GS Caltex Corp.
Weight was reduced 51 percent and the number of parts in the system dropped to four vs. 33 for a steel frame. Weight also dropped by 51 percent.
• Body Interior: Toyota Motor Corp. for the second row seat backs and cushions in the 2022 Toyota Tundra. Flex-N-Gate Corp. worked with Adient and L&L Products to make the composite seat structure using injection overmolding and pultruded continuous fiberglass-reinforced polyurethane and nylon 6 supplied by BASF and SyBridge Technologies.
The structure replaces a 60-piece steel frame with a four-piece molded composite structure while also reducing costs and mass. In addition, more than 100 welds at 16 weld stations were eliminated, improving quality control, while Toyota was able to add under-seat storage.