Taking an existing process or technology and making it better. That's a hallmark of innovation, as these finalists for the 1999 Automotive News PACE Awards demonstrate. They and 15 other auto suppliers are being featured through F eb. 22. Winners of the fifth-annual competition, co-sponsored with Ernst & Young LLP, will be announced at a ceremony March 1 at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
A tougher approach to sprockets
Powdered metal allows manufacturers to form parts more precisely. But it has not been used for demanding applications such as gears because it lacks strength and hardness. Enter Stackpole Ltd., a $50-million-a-year technology firm that spent $50 million developing a high-strength powder metal process. Stackpole's SelectDens innovation enables a producer to apply a thin skin of dense material to strengthen critical areas of a part, such as gear teeth or the center of a sprocket. General Motors has embraced SelectDens to produce sprockets for its huge volume 4T65 and 4T40 transmissions. Those two projects alone are saving GM 30 percent on the cost of more than 5 million components.
The big easy
One of the biggest problems facing the trucking industry is finding skilled drivers. One solution: Make big trucks easier to drive. That was the goal behind Transmission Technologies' new AMT-7 medium-duty transmissions. The company developed a computer-based transmission controller that calculates engine torque and throttle activity and signals the driver when to shift up or down. A hydraulic accumulator stores fluid under pressure to help smooth out shifting, reducing the chances of stalling or 'frogging' the truck.
Bring on the bubbles
Textron Automotive Co.
McCord Winn Textron
McCord Winn Textron devised the technology to operate multiple air cells in an auto seat and to control them to support various seating positions. The technology is on the 1998 Cadillac Seville STS, and other automakers are following suit. The McCord system, called ASCTec, automatically conforms the seat surface to the passenger's body for greater comfort. It also opens the door to new seating features, such as massaging motions.
The no-hydraulic brake
Delphi Automotive Systems
Delphi Chassis Systems
Delphi Automotive Systems has designed an electronic brake system that eventually could replace conventional hydraulic brakes. The system, dubbed Galileo, is featured on the EV1 electric car. Galileo enables engineers to tune brake pedal 'feel' more precisely to the motorist's preferences. The electrically operated rear brakes do not require parking brake cables, hydraulic lines, pumps or fluids.
Move the pedal, not the seat
Teleflex Automotive Group
Sliding a driver's seat forward is fine up to a point. But drivers of shorter stature face a problem: Scooting up close enough to reach the pedals means sitting dangerously close to the driver airbag. Teleflex's solution is an adjustable pedal system. A 12-volt motor drives a worm gear that moves the brake, accelerator and clutch pedals forward without changing the angles. That gives drivers of all sizes more control over reach and visibility.