Lighter, simpler, cheaper, easily recycled. Those qualities win points for suppliers with their customers. And they are common traits in the innovations created by these finalists for the Automotive News PACE Awards.
The sixth-annual competition, co-sponsored by Ernst & Young LLP, honors innovation in design, engineering, manufacturing and process among automotive suppliers. (PACE stands for Premier Automotive-suppliers' Contribution to Excellence.) These six companies are among 24 finalists for this year's awards. Six of the finalists are being featured in Automotive News each week in February. Winners are chosen by a panel of independent judges and will be announced March 6 at a program in Dearborn, Mich.
1. PPG Industries Inc.
The virtue of a powder in painting is its environmental friendliness and the precision of application. Now, PPG has introduced its Enviracryl Powder Clearcoat, in use on BMW's 5 and 7 series cars. At BMW's plant in Dingolfing, powder clearcoat has meant that 'overspray' can be vacuumed up and most of it can be recycled. The finish looks as good and performs as well as that provided by traditional liquid clearcoats. Because the powder uses no volatile organic compounds, expensive cleaning and water-wall systems that trapped overspray in the past are not needed.
2. McCord Winn Division
Textron Automotive Co.
Putting many functions into one part, and then making that part easier and less expensive to form sets McCord Winn's trademarked RITec plastic component apart. The company designed a single component that puts together a radiator fan shroud, coolant reservoir, rear-reservoir fill funnel and windshield washer reservoirs for both front and rear windows. Because the blow-molding process creates the assemblies out of a single plastic part, space is saved and underhood appearance is improved. So is recyclability.
3. U.S. Farathane Corp.
Sterling Heights, Mich.
Controlling airflow has been the function of open-cell foam seals used in automotive air conditioning evaporator core assemblies. But the evaporator core condenses water as it does its cooling work, and bacteria find open-cell foam an appealing home. Those bacteria emit unpleasant odors, a source of frequent complaints and warranty claims. U.S. Farathane's new core seals eliminate the home for those bacteria.
4. McLaren Automotive Group
There's nothing second-rate about technology for cars destined for third-world buyers. The challenges of simplicity and durability create a need for cutting-edge applications in design and assembly. McLaren's auto body concept bonds composite plastic panels to a tubular steel frame for a simple and, by Western standards, inexpensive assembly process. The ABC Car does not require painting, is versatile enough to use a number of engine types and sizes and can be configured easily as a pickup, minivan or off-road vehicle.
5. Gleason Corp.
Grinding gears used to be a synonym for bad transmission shifting, but even the best-synchronized gears vibrate and make noise. Dynamic disturbances mean lost energy and unwanted noise. Gleason has found a way to combine software with machine tools to eliminate up to 80 percent of gear noise under all loads. Its UmcUltima process enables gear-cutting machines to adjust continuously as they carve the contact areas of precision gear teeth.
6. Parish Structural Products Dana Corp.
St. Marys, Ontario
Lightweight tubing forms the engine cradle in Ford's 1999 Windstar. It's thin-wall tubing is made into a strong component with Parish's new multipressure hydroforming technology to shape it exactly. The process also reduces tooling cost. Parish has created a method to use different pressures at different points in the hydroforming process, allowing the use of very long lengths of large-diameter, thin-wall tubing to make complex assemblies. The process reduces material cost while producing a strong, reliable and lightweight part.