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SPE Automotive Division salutes winners of 22nd Annual Awards.

While celebrating innovations that continue to forge a prominent role for plastics in automotive styling and design, members of SPE's Automotive Division used the occasion of their 22nd Annual Awards Program--held November 12 at the Detroit Westin Hotel's Renaissance Ballroom--to look both forward and back in time. Back, that is, to such developments as Henry Ford's all-plastic bodied "soybean car" (circa 1941) and the 1953 Corvette, the first production vehicle to use fiber-reinforced plastic body panels; and forward, to the greater technical chal- lenges posed by tougher safety standards, increased automotive recycling, and demand for cost and weight reduction.

Perhaps most representative of the program's "Back to the Future" theme, however, was the winner of the Automotive Division's Grand Award, signifying the most innovative use of plastics in an automotive application. That honor went to Chrysler Corp.'s recyclable 1993 LH platform front fenders and fastener system, which has been reconstituted into polyester fiber since woven into sail cloth for the tall ship HMS Rose--a replica of a frigate built in 1757. Also named the most innovative use of plastics in the body exterior category, the fenders earned the Grand Award against competition consisting of "most innovative use" winners in seven other automotive categories: powertrain, body interior, process, materials, chassis/hardware, environmental, and interna- tional.

Now in production on the 1993 Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision, and Chrysler Concorde, the LH platform front fenders are injection molded of Du Pont Bexloy K-550 thermoplastic polyester by Plydex Division of Decoma International; Paragon Tool & Die provided tooling. Besides eliminating metal flange reinforcements, the fenders are "Class-A paintable" and withstand, for as long as one hour, E-coat and body coat bake temperatures of up to 400|degrees~F.

Chrysler's 1993 LH instrument panel assembly, representing a different, structurally efficient approach to housing the passenger-side air bag, took top honors in the body interior category. Rather than using conventional cross-car steel beams and separate metal brackets, the instrument panel system uses a GE Azdel or Exxon Taffen composite knee bolster to support the radio, climate control unit, glovebox, and air bag modules. A two-piece injection molded structural defroster duct consisting of talc-filled polypropylene incorporates the speaker mountings and wiring trough. Housing the instrument cluster, controls, and AC outlets is a complex base panel of glass-filled GE Noryl PPO, which also ties the structural duct to the knee bolster. Parts manufacturers include Davidson Textron, Lescoa, Bluewater Plastics, and Acustar; Delta, Spartan, and Active Mould provided tooling.

Named most innovative in the materials category was Dow Chemical's HIPP-140 ABS modified polycarbonate, used on the wheel cover of the 1992 Pontiac Grand Am and Sunbird and on taillight moldings of the 1992 Lincoln Continental. Reported to have twelve times the impact strength of plated ABS at -20|degrees~F and at room temperature, HIPP-140 is an electro-plated plastic that provides the brilliance of chrome and enables the wheel cover to withstand exposure to high heat without warping and blistering. One-piece design produces cost savings of $6.00 per vehicle. The taillight moldings replace die cast parts, reducing weight by more than 1/2 lb per vehicle, and cost, by $4.50 per vehicle. Lacks Industries developed the material, with tooling provided by Rapid Die.

A mini motor washer pump used on all 1992 GM vehicles received top honors in the chassis/hardware category. The washer pump features an impeller design reported to improve output efficiency by 30% and reduce weight by 12%. By isolating the pump from the reservoir, spring-in mounting reduces rattles and vibrations. Snap-fit design permits automated assembly, improving tolerances and reducing labor costs. Delco Chassis used tooling provided by Liberty Tool and Brady's Mold & Tool to manufacture the pump of Hoechst Celanese Celcon Acetal copolymer.

The 1993 Corvette rear quarter surround inner panel--the first automotive application of recycled SMC in North America--emerged victorious in the environmental category. Incorporating low-density SMC with recycled SMC filler processed by Phoenix Fiberglass, Inc. (the recycled filler is about 10% by weight and 1 lb per part), the inner panel eliminates need to landfill scrap material. GenCorp Automotive manufactured the parts from vinyl ester 30% glass.

In the international category, Volkswagen captured first prize with its complete front end module assembly for the 1991 VW Golf. Reported to be dimensionally stable, the assembly combines the radiator support structure, radiator, cooling fan, fan shroud, head lamp carrier, and head lamp in a single module to reduce weight, assembly time, materials handling requirements, and cost. With tooling by Zimmerman, Presswerk Koengen used a glass-mat reinforced thermoplastic polypropylene supplied by BASF/Elastogran to mold the assembly.

Top honors in the powertrain category went to GM's 3.8-liter composite air intake manifold for the Park Avenue, LeSabre, Olds 88 and 98, and APV vans. The first thermoplastic composite air intake manifold in North America, the assembly reduces weight (saving 7 lbs versus aluminum), enhances fuel flow to the engine, and lowers cost. Its two-piece interlocking design reduces the number of fasteners, easing assembly and disassembly, and includes "clock and lock" vacuum line connections. Precise injection molding tolerances and a smooth surface finish are said to promote better air flow and performance than traditional cast metal manifolds. GM's AC-Rochester Division molded the manifold from Du Pont Zytel 70G33 glass reinforced nylon, with tooling by Model Die & Mold, Inc.

Davidson Bright Trim/Textron's "Flexible Bright" vacuum metalizing process, which allowed Ford engineers to design an aerodynamically styled, bright, and resilient radiator grille in the front-impact zone of the Lincoln Mark VIII, won first place in the process category. By coupling the flexible properties of A. Schulman's Polypur thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer with a system that vacuum-deposits chrome plating in microscopic island form, the process produces a bright metal finish that resists corrosion, UV light, and 5-mph front-end impacts. Because earlier plating grades of ABS could shatter on impact, grilles were previously located behind a protruding bumper.

The Trav Meister Hall of Fame award, honoring a plastics application that has been continuously used for ten or more years, went to the Chevrolet Corvette for its pioneering use of fiber-reinforced exterior body panels on a production vehicle. Corvette first used the panels in 1953, employing fiber-reinforced thermoset polyester resin to save weight (190 lbs/vehicle) and tooling costs.

Chrysler's 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10--the first production car to use all-resin transfer molded (RTM) exterior body panels with a Class A surface--won the Special Recognition Award, new to the competition this year. The RTM body panels use a low-bake urethane paint system that eliminates in-plant painting; they also incorporate a lightweight low-filler composite material that reduces vehicle weight by 100 lbs.

Throughout the competition, evaluation criteria included innovation, practicality, and future impact on automotive plastics technology. The SPE Automotive Division's Board of Directors reviewed nominations of an awards committee before selecting finalists in each category; a panel of judges then selected the category winners and the winner of the Grand Award.

Nearly 1000 plastics and automotive engineers and executives attended the awards program.
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Author:Shortt, M.W.
Publication:Plastics Engineering
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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