DETROIT - The race to build a tighter fuel system is driving one company to consider injection molding of plastic tanks.
Mannesmann VDO AG may place more components inside the fuel tank and help cut emissions to meet stricter standards in California by 2004.
'We have a lot of different processes we are looking at,' said Justus Kloeker, Mannesmann general manager for tank systems.
One way to reduce emissions is to insert as many components as possible within the tank, capturing any leaks within the system, said Joel Kopinsky, a principal with consultant ITB Group.
Automakers are anxious to have outside suppliers take on the entire fuel system, rather than buying individual components on their own, Kopinsky said.
'A number of companies, including fuel tank makers, are having to work around all of these fuel systems,' he said. 'More tank makers have to take on tank assemblies.'
Mannesmann's concept would produce two tank halves, then weld them together with filters, a sender unit and valves.The company has not determined what material it will use for the tank, Kloeker said. Mannesmann could opt for hydroformed steel instead of plastic, but if it is plastic, it is aiming at injection molding the two halves.
Even traditional plastics processors are looking for alternatives, with Visteon Corp. announcing last year it sold a thermoformed system to an automaker. Like the Mannesmann plan, it inserts some components inside the tank.
TI Group Automotive Systems Corp. is sticking with blow molding.
'The emissions standards are going to be rolled out tighter as we go, and we're working on the next evolution (of systems),' said Christopher Quick, director of r&d at TI Automotive's Technology Center Inc. in Windsor, Ontario.