Electronics, materials lead the charge
The growing importance of electronics and materials in the design of the automobile was evident at the recent SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Congress held in Detroit, February 23-26, 1998. Many of the more than 900 exhibitors in attendance had on display some of the latest innovations in electronics and materials, from new sensing technologies to complete drive-by-wire systems. Here's a look at some of the most exciting new products our editors saw at the show:
The future of electronics is now
Brew your coffee--while you commute! Crowds at the show thronged to see Delphi Electronic's Energe(TM) System, a high-power, high-efficiency vehicle electrical system with multiple-voltage capabilities intended to provide supplemental vehicle power. Applications that are envisioned for such a system include on-board 110V\220V appliances, a PC/Internet interface, collision avoidance systems, even the ability to electrically assist the powertrain....The Robert Bosch Corp. had many exciting electronics developments on display, but one that particularly captured the interest of attendees was a common rail fuel injection system for diesel engines. The system, which other companies are also developing, works by sending a pulse from a control unit to a solenoid valve. The injected quantity is calculated from the solenoid opening period and the system pressure, which is generated by a high-pressure pump and maintained in a high-pressure accumulator or rail. The result is optimal injection pressure up to 1400 bar, which is available throughout the range of engine operation...The Torrington Co. unveiled a simple, yet completely innovative new bearing technology that integrates a bearing and wheel speed sensing functions into a compact unit. The device incorporates an integral magnetic encoder ring with 60 to 90 targets whose position is detected by an external sensor (clip-on or traditional probe-type). A simple sensor interface produces a consistent digital output. The advantage, says A. John Santos, research engineer at Torrington, is not only the space savings, but also since the components are separated, the OEM can source the encoder-bearing and sensor independent of one another. Typical applications include antilock braking systems, navigation systems, and speedometers...American Electronic Components announced a novel, programmable rotary position sensor. The programmability feature allows an OEM to electronically calibrate the sensor after it is installed, eliminating mechanical stackup problems and process variations. Unlike the typical resistive contact technology, this sensor uses a non-contact, magnetic-based technology that includes an AEC custom Hall effect IC. The IC and magnetic circuit are assembled together into an environmentally sealed package, protecting against premature failures, which may help to justify a pricetag anticipated to be 50% higher than resistive contacts.
Software strengthens design
Exa Corp., which provides fluid flow simulation tools for engineers, announced Release 3 of its popular PowerFLOW software. The new release, which was developed with input from engineers at Chrysler and Ford, now includes internal flow capabilities, a CAD universal interface, faster performance, and multi-platform support. Release 3 enables engineers to simulate even complex internal flow problems, such as throttle valves and underhood flows with accurate results..Concurrent Computer, which develops systems to support the design and testing of embedded systems (hardware-in-the-loop), made a big hit at the show with the introduction of its PowerLab RT(TM), a real-time workstation running National Instruments' LabVIEW. The major strength of the system is the capability it gives engineers to generate models without the need to know programming languages. The system, which has multi-threaded capabilities, sells for under $15,000 and is currently used by companies such as Ford and Daimler-Benz ..Parametric Technology, developer of the hugely popular Pro/ENGINEER(reg) CAD software, demoed a new tool for optimizing vehicle concepts and layouts. Parametric Vehicle Architecture (PVA) enables engineers to experiment with many different vehicle configurations in real time ... As electronics make their way into more and more areas of a vehicle, The Mathworks couldn't have timed the introduction of its newest products for modeling, simulating, and prototyping real-time embedded systems any better. Complementing MATLAB 5, the newest version of the company's computational software, Simulink(reg) 2 (a graphical environment for creating block diagrams), rateflow(TM) (a graphical tool for designing complex control and supervisory systems), and Real-time Workshop(reg) 2.1 (a code-generation engine) are claimed to be the first to provide a fully integrated solution for engineers.
Innovations in plastics...
BASF Corp. debuted the first plastic automotive parking brake pedal molded of reinforced Ultramid(reg) nylon for the 1998 Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid, as well as advanced, injection-molded nylon air-intake manifolds for these vehicles ...DuPont Automotive introduced a new engineering plastic alloy based on Surlyn(reg) ionomer resin that allows the molding of exterior and interior parts in color with a hard, durable, smooth surface "equal to painted parts" ...E-A-R Specialty Composites featured its VersaDamp 2000 Series family of thermoplastic rubber (TPR) materials for varying the damping performance and durometer characteristics of injection-molded grommets and isolators ...LNP Engineering Plastics debuted its "N" series of Carilon(reg)-based composites, an aliphatic polyketone resin from Shell Chemical, that come in carbon, glass, or aramid fiber-reinforced grades ...Loctite Corp., in addition to having a Chevrolet Monte Carlo stock car built by the Pete Vanderwyst racing crew at SAE'98, introduced Nuva-Sil(reg) 5092, an advanced electrical/electronic potting and sealing compound for circuit-board connectors and sensors ...REHAU highlighted 15 thermoplastic components for the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV it made from gas-assisted injection molding, duel-injection molding, and variable extrusion ...Rogers Corp. displayed several new materials, including a glass-reinforced MPC-moldable phenolic composite for power transmissions, PORON foams used to make high-performance gaskets, and Poron solid silicone materials for high-temperature gaskets and seals ...Teknor Apex demonstrated how automotive airbag covers achieve cost saving through the use of its pre-colored thermoplastic polyolefin and Tekron(reg) TPE compounds that match the appearance and tactile properties of surrounding components ...3M uncovered a thermal transfer film process, Crystal Silk(TM), that enables the placement of durable, silk-like designs or logos onto headrests, seat backs, door panels, and dashboards made of leather, fabric, or vinyl ...Ticona debuted Impet(reg) Hi (high-impact) PET that provides a balance of mechanical properties and processability for injection-molded structural applications, and Topas(reg) cyclolefin copolymers suited for automotive lenses, reflectors, and glazing said to offer high-temperature and optical properties for use as a lighter-weight alternative to glass.
...and metals, too
Amcast Automotive introduced two aluminum caliper castings: a front, double-piston casting for the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro, and a rear, single-piston casting for the new GM S\T platform, as well as three aluminum caliper castings for two mid-size programs set to debut in 1999 ...Corning Inc. announced the full-scale production of a catalytic converter ceramic substrate product with a 25% higher geometric surface area than conventional substrates said to offer a significant reduction in auto emissions ...Emitec introduced what it claims to be the first metallic catalyst in conical form, the ConiCAt(TM), that reduces cold-start vehicle emissions by acting as a start-up catalyst, while occupying minimal space ...Inco Alloys International debuted INCOLOY alloy 864, a high-performance nickel-iron-chromium material specifically developed for exhaust system flexible couplings ...International Copper Association announced that Universal Auto Radiator Manufacturing will soon start commercial production of brazed copper-brass radiators using the association's new CuproBraze(reg) manufacturing process ..SETFORGE announced a casting-forging process for high-performance aluminum alloys designed to improve the materials' mechanical properties, save weight, and cut the cost of the final part when compared to forging ...Thixotech displayed magnesium automotive parts made by the Thixomolding process that eliminate the need for machining to cut the customer's cost by 50%.