Detroit--Carpet is nice to walk on. It even plays a significant role in auto interiors. But does it deserve the top prize in the Society of Plastics Engineers' (SPE) annual Automotive Division's awards program?
In the case of the 1997 awards, the answer is a resounding "yes!" The Grand Award winner can be found in more than three million nylon air cleaners operating in 1997 and 1998 Ford vehicles made from some 27 million sq ft of used carpeting.
Ford received the award, termed "Carpets to Car Parts Recycling," for adopting 25% post-consumer recycle content for all of its nylon air cleaners used on cars and trucks in North America. Visteon (formerly Ford Automotive Parts Operations) qualified the recycle content materials and produced the air cleaners at its Sandusky, OH plant.
DuPont reclaims the nylon and other materials from used carpeting--enough to cover all floors of the New York World Trade Center and the U.S. Capitol Building--through its "Partnership for Carpet Recycling." The partnership operates 49 collection sites in North America.
The Ford project also walked off with the top prize in the Environmental category. Other award winners and their categories included:
- Chassis--General Motors for the S10 electric truck battery enclosure, said to be the largest structural foam part used in the automotive industry. The part, molded by Structural Foam Plastics Inc., incorporates the wiring harness and air-cooling channels to accommodate two different battery configurations. Weighing 1,400 lbs, the part eliminates as many as 50 separately assembled parts. Comalloy International supplied its Hiloy(reg) glass- and mineral-filled nylon 6 resin for the enclosure.
- Materials--Ford Motor Co. for the patented invention of the first conductive TPO resin for electrostatically painted parts. Carbon filler content of the material, a low 10%, reportedly allows paint transfer efficiencies equivalent to steel. The material requires no adhesion promoter and primer to save costs, while increasing paint surface durability. The Visteon plant uses the material, Dexflex(reg) TPO supplied by Solvay Engineered Polymers, for the 1998 Mercury Sable fascia.
- Powertrain--Mercedes for the world's first flat air housing on heavy-duty trucks. The metals replacement reduces cost by more than 20% and weight by 50%. Made by Filterwerk Mann and Hummel in Germany, the part extends the filter service interval to 10,000 km, minimizes noise and vibration through integral ribbing, and can be installed vertically or horizontally to conserve space. DuPont supplied the Zytel(reg) glass-reinforced nylon 66 resin for the application.
- Body Exterior--The 1998 Ford Winstar for the "next generation" fascia. The thinner-wall (2.4 mm) fascia for the minivan improves part manufacturing productivity by more than 30% and reduces weight by five lbs, for a savings of up to $16 per vehicle. Showcased as the first minivan to receive a five-star NHTSA rating for frontal crashes, the facia comprises a multi-functional design that incorporates the grille, fog lamps, air dam, and license plate pockets. Polycon Industries makes the part from a mold produced by Paragon Tool.
- Body Interior--General Motors' Opel Vectra for the industry's first all-plastic airbag housing. The nylon part, with ample integral ribs for dimensional stability and strength, features innovative mounting hooks for ease of as-sembly that can withstand the forces of airbag deployment at temperatures from -40 to 80C. The metal replacement won't corrode, does not require painting, weighs 45% less, and cuts costs 40% compared to its metal counterpart. Lemforder Metalwarren, Estermetall molded the part, supplied as a module by AlliedSignal using BASF's Ultramid(reg) 40% glass-filled nylon 6 resin.
- Process--General Motors for the Magnasteer(TM) variable effect steering gear used on 1998 Aurora and Riviera passenger cars. Needle injection of plastic enables the metal steering mechanism to become the fourth wall of the mold. This permits the plastic to precisely hold in place the balance of critical hydraulic, electronic, and magnetic components. In addition, the plastic serves as an electrical insulator, holding the components together without the need for costly and labor-intensive fasteners or adhesives. Delphi-Saginaw Steering Systems designed the steering mechanism using Ticona's (formerly Hoechst) Fortron(TM) PPS, Thermofill's glass-filled nylon, and DSM's Stanyl(reg) 46 nylon resin.
"This annual awards program has grown over the past 27 years to become the largest engineering recognition event of its kind," notes Richard Siem, chairman of SPE's Automotive Division. "It illustrates how plastics' modular design capabilities, materials, and process innovations keep redefining how cars and trucks are being built."