Whether they are finding new ways for drivers to interact with their vehicles or creating new ways to integrate design and engineering, these PACE Award finalists show imagination and boldness at work.
The sixth-annual PACE Awards, co-sponsored with Ernst & Young LLP, honor innovation in design, engineering, manufacturing and process among automotive suppliers. (PACE stands for Premier Automotive-suppliers' Contribution to Excellence.) The six profiles below conclude a review of 24 innovations, presented each week in February. Winners are chosen by a panel of independent judges and will be announced March 6 during the PACE Awards ceremony at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
1. Visteon Automotive Systems
Stepping back from the manufacturing and assembly process, Visteon looked at overall methodology for designing integrated systems and developed an initiative it calls Superintegration. Using this method and discipline, Visteon is able to encourage design that lets various components and modules share structural strength and functions across larger assemblies in the car in more ways.
An example of Superintegration might be a cross-car beam that doubles as a duct for heat and air conditioning, while carrying electronics and an integrated airbag housing. Such integration cuts weight and clutter, saves manufacturing steps and increases the integrative qualities sought by designers and engineers creating modules.
2. Delphi Automotive Systems
Delphi Chassis Systems Division
The bigger and taller vehicles get, the more they tend to sway and roll when making sharp cornering maneuvers. Delphi has developed Dynamic Body Control, which actively counters that body roll and gives improved ride and handling characteristics in sport-utilities.
The Delphi system uses front and rear hydraulics, electronics, and mechanical components to intervene when steering forces begin to induce a roll motion. Valve mechanisms in the shock absorber system permit hydraulic pressure regulation and switching, rather than just fluid flow diversion. Forces are exerted that counter roll and enhance handling rather than simply react to steering-induced acceleration. 'Active Cornering Enhancement' is available on the 1999 Land Rover Discovery Series II.
3. LumiLeds Lighting U.S. LLC
San Jose, Calif.
Durability, low power consumption and light weight have made light-emitting diodes an appealing technology for rear signal lamps. But rear combination lamps are complex, and their shape is important to styling and packaging.
LumiLeds Lighting's SnapLED creates a formable, metal matrix instead of solder joints to hold the diodes. The form of the array can be matched to the form of the outer lens. That allows for very thin signal lamp designs, roughly one-half the thickness of the incandescent equivalent. The lights last longer, emit less heat and light up more quickly than incandescent bulbs. SnapLED technology is on the 2000 Cadillac DeVille. LumiLeds is a joint venture with Philips Lighting and Agilent Technologies.
4. Rieter Automotive Systems AG
Vehicle engineers trying to control noise have tended to use tried-and-true products over large areas of car and truck assemblies, mainly through insulation. Now Rieter Automotive has introduced special, lightweight material, called Rieter Ultra Light. It is fabricated out of recycled blue jeans and cuts noise chiefly through absorption.
Use of these lightweight materials is estimated to save between 22 and 66 pounds per car, compared with traditional systems. In addition, noise and vibration are managed more precisely. The Rieter Ultra Light system is used in the Toyota Camry, Chrysler minivans, and Ford Taurus and Explorer.
5. Gleason Corp.
The Gleason Works
An oily slurry and much time have been an unavoidable part of the process used to fit together the sets of bevel gears that are used to transmit power through the differential joints of cars. Sets of such gears would be cut and then 'lapped' by running them in a specially compounded lubricant.
PowerCutting, developed by Gleason, allows production of such gears in an oil-free environment. The system's computer-guided precision has eliminated the need for the slurry step of the lapping process. Gleason estimates that its trademarked process reduces manufacturing time by 80 percent and cuts gear manufacturing costs by half.
6. Siemens Automotive
Locking and unlocking a car, fumbling with keys, and deactivating security systems are tasks that Siemens Automotive wants to eliminate for drivers. Siemens' KeylessGo system replaces the ignition key and keyless entry system. In its place, Siemens-innovated engine immobilizer functions are utilized through an intelligent identification card that is a transponder.
As the driver approaches the car, the device can both unlock the vehicle and configure it for the individual. Memory seats are moved, and power mirrors are repositioned. Unlocking occurs as the driver pulls the door handle; the car can then be started with just the touch of a button.