DETROIT First the auto body, now the powertrain.
In an initiative similar to one that helped U.S. carmakers improve the quality of automotive bodies, a new alliance has been launched to develop cutting-edge engine manufacturing technology.
The Powertrain Engineering and Manufacturing Alliance, or PEMA, will fund a three-year, $12 million research program to raise the bar on the global standards for power train performance and manufacturing, says Butch Dyer, president of PEMA.
The research will be focused on developing digital, high-definition imaging systems for use in the production of engines and powertrain components. The objective is to reduce production variances from the current standard of about 12 microns to two microns or less. A micron is one-millionth of a meter, or 0.00003937 of an inch, according to a U.S. Department of Energy Web site.
If achieved the project could save auto companies up to $1 billion a year, according to PEMAs estimate. The savings would arise from a reduction in capital, operating and warranty costs of automotive powertrain programs.
Calling the launch of PEMA the culmination of three years of hard work, Dwight Carlson, CEO of Coherix Inc., a PEMA member, said the mission of the alliance is identical to the Auto Body Consortium. ABC was formed in 1998 to reduce variation in the fit and finish auto body components made by domestic car manufacturers.
PEMA has received a $4.9 million federal grant as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technologys Advanced Technology Program. In addition to Coherix, PEMA participants include General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Harley-Davidson, Roush Enterprises, Kettering University and the University of Michigan.
The institutes grant will help fund engineering faculty and graduate students research at University of Michigan and Kettering University. The three primary areas of research will be measurement, machine controls and machine design. Each company in the alliance will be responsible for specific commercialization of technology as it becomes available.
We believe if you can measure it you can make it better, says Carlson.
Carlson says research will initially focus on reducing variation in parts with flat surfaces, such as valve bodies, then progress to powertrain parts with more complex shapes, such as gears.