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Innovators of the year

Automotive News and co-sponsors Microsoft, SAP and Transportation Research Center Inc., present the winners of the 2007 Automotive News PACE Awards. These 12 winners, and three Collaborator Awards, were judged to be the best of the best in creating innovative products and processes. A group of independent judges selected the winners from a field of 23 finalists. The awards were presented at the 13th annual PACE Awards ceremony on April 16 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.

RTT USA Inc., Troy, Mich.

For: RTT DeltaGen (pictured above)

From the judges' citation: "RTT's DeltaGen is a visualization toolset that allows OEMs to develop photo-realistic virtual reality models of vehicles and components straight from existing CAD data. By using RTT DeltaGen, OEMs like Porsche, Audi, Opel, Mercedes-Benz, VW and Lamborghini are able both to drastically cut their use of clay models in vehicle design development, and leverage CAD data into advertising, marketing and point-of-sale materials." Alcoa Wheel Products, Cleveland

For: Dura-Bright Wheels with XBR Technology

From the judges' citation: "Alcoa's Dura-Bright forged aluminum wheels represent a winning innovation that not only eliminates the impact of penetrating brake dust but can be cleaned very simply and without harsh chemicals, simply by rinsing with water. Dura-Bright's finish is actually an integral part of the surface structure of the wheel. This breakthrough chemical compatibility involves a proprietary method of pre-treatment of the aluminum substrate, then the application of a siloxane-based film that actually bonds with the aluminum, becoming integrated with the surface."

Autoliv ASP Inc., Ogden, Utah

For: Safety Vent Airbag

From the judges' citation: "Autoliv's patented Safety-Vent Airbag is a simple but effective device that automatically and naturally controls the inflating gas during a passenger-side airbag's deployment. This is a revolutionary and cost-effective solution. Sensors and electronics which are expensive and require complex installation are no longer needed."

Behr GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart

For: BehrOxal coating process

From the judges' citation: "Aluminum HVAC components such as heat exchangers are always damp and must be surface treated for corrosion protection. Behr, about to build new plants to expand their automotive HVAC business into two new countries, began to experiment with alternative surface treatment approaches in search of a process that would give better quality and be environmentally satisfactory. BehrOxal has allowed the company to start up two new HVAC lines with far less investment, lower operating costs, and industry new environmental best-practices."

BorgWarner Turbo & Emissions Systems, Kirchheimbolanden, Germany

For: Gasoline Turbocharger with Variable Turbine Geometry

From the judges' citation: "The advantages of variable-geometry turbines have long been sought by gasoline engine builders, but the extreme heat and the extreme variation of heat cycles in a gas engine's exhaust pushed requirements beyond the limits of traditional materials and production processes. BorgWarner's VTG is the first time a variable-geometry turbo has ever successfully been installed in a gasoline engine series production vehicle."

DuPont Automotive Systems , Troy, Mich.

For: EcoConcept Paint Line

From the judges' citation: "DuPont's EcoConcept paint and process enabled Volkswagen de Mexico to eliminate the need for the primer coat, so Volkswagen can now paint a car with three coats, not four. This eliminated one spray booth and the associated oven, which yielded significant savings for Volkswagen, increased profit for DuPont, and decreased volatile emissions from the paint process. EcoConcept is a water-based paint system."

Federal-Mogul Corp., Burscheid, Germany & Southfield, Mich.

For: Goetze Diamond Coating

From the judges' citation: "Anticipated market pressures and demands on the performance of piston rings, particularly in diesel applications, led Federal-Mogul to tackle in 2003 a hypothetical solution that was "known" in the industry to be impossible. This was to embed diamond nanoparticles in the chrome surface plating through electromechanical dispersion. They were nevertheless able to get to volume production of rings with chromium coating, embedding nanodiamonds in microscopic cracks of a layered chromium coating."

Federal-Mogul Corp., Southfield, Mich.

For: High Temperature Alloy (HTA) Exhaust Gaskets

From the judges' citation: "The importance of this innovation lies not only in the gasket, but in what it allows engine designers to do in terms of higher efficiency, better emissions control, improved fuel economy and greater reliability. It has gone beyond the root causes of gasket failure. As one customer put it, 'the gaskets will be there after the engine dies.' "

Halla Climate Control Corp., Daegeon, Korea

For: Wave Blade Fan and Saw Tooth Shroud

From the judges' citation: "Large fans are inherently noisier than small ones. Thus larger vehicles must often use two small cooling fans to lessen noise, vibration and harshness. Halla's innovation - wave fan and saw tooth shroud - reduces noise substantially, allowing the preferable use of one large fan. Their unit draws less power, pulls as much or more air and is cheaper to produce."

Hirotec America, Auburn Hills, Mich.

For: E3 Hemming Press

From the judges' citation: "Their innovation, the E3 hemming press, is a revolutionary electric press. Hirotec's system is 10 times more energy efficient than current hydraulic presses doing the same job. It uses a simple dual crankshaft driven by two electric motors, eliminating ball screws, which uniquely offers many advantages to high-volume sheet metal hemming."

Tenneco Inc., Lake Forest, Ill.

For: Diesel After-treatment Predictive Development Process

From the judges' citation: "(The) successful development and application of proprietary 'light tools' (are) for use in design of diesel after-treatment emission controls systems. This innovation requires only a fraction of the time and training it takes to learn and use more complex commercially available CAD/CAE software packages. Tenneco's proprietary tools ensure cost-effective manufacture and eliminate costly engineering rework cycles, as well as allowing quick and accurate response to rapidly changing customer demands."

Valeo Raytheon Systems Inc., Auburn Hills, Mich.

For: Multi-Beam Radar (MBR) Blind-Zone Radar Sensor

From the judges' citation: "The key advantage of the technology is that it offers reliable, intuitive guidance with minimal intrusion into the driver's consciousness, to alert the driver to a vehicle present in a blind spot. The technology offers automaker-programmable detection zones and alert modes. The radar unit is a small box that can be mounted on the inside of fascia or body panels. The radar technology offers promise for additional future safety applications."

Collaborator Award Winner

Volkswagen AG

Collaborating with: DuPont Automotive Systems

For: EcoConcept Paint Line

When DuPont presented Volkswagen with a concept to eliminate an entire stage in vehicle painting, the automaker had to not only take a risk but also suspend its usual method of choosing suppliers. Normally VW sets specifications for suppliers, waits until all requirements are fulfilled, and only then makes a decision. For DuPont's "EcoConcept" paint line, VW had to enter collaboration with the supplier very early to innovate a new process. The effort began in 2000. And by 2003, an 800-car trial run in Wolfsburg showed the concept could work. In 2005, VW launched the paint system in mass production at its Puebla, Mexico, plant and soon afterward at Pamplona, Spain. By changing the way it interacted with the supplier, VW gained a low-cost and low-emissions improvement in production.

Collaborator Award Winner

Porsche AG

Collaborating with: BorgWarner TorqTransfer Systems

For: High Energy ITM3e AWD System/Porsche Traction Management

Porsche was searching for a system to provide all-wheel-drive improvements for its 911 Turbo. The system had to deal with front and rear wheels that turn at slightly different speeds, and also to synchronize with advanced electronic stability systems. Passive viscous couplings, the existing AWD technology, didn't deliver the responsive driving Porsche wanted. Through side-by-side collaboration and on tight development deadlines, Porsche and BorgWarner engineers succeeded in building a low-weight, network-capable, active electronically-controlled system to provide improved traction, increased safety and good handling.

Collaborator Award Winner

Porsche AG

Collaborating with: BorgWarner Turbo & Emissions Systems

For: Variable Turbine Geometry

Variable vane turbine technology provides "big" and "small" turbines in one component, allowing engines to gain both quick response and better fuel efficiency. But such variable vane turbos had only been successful in relatively cool-running diesel systems, not gasoline engines with their much-hotter exhaust stream. For the Porsche 911 Turbo, it was necessary to combine high-temperature materials engineering and thermoshock testing expertise from both Porsche and BorgWarner to create system components. Porsche also contributed to software development so a variable geometry turbo could be realized and its potential reached. The collaboration helped create an outstanding sports car with very high performance, but also with efficiency suitable for everyday use.

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