Pontiac puts sizzle in
By designing the sedan off the Grand Prix coupe, Pontiac has
created a racy, mid-size model
IL--Mid-size sedan: Those words don't usually light fires in the hearts
of automotive enthusiasts. Mid-size sedans are, after all, supposed to be
ordinary, soft, and sluggish.
But with the 1997 Grand Prix, Pontiac hopes to re-tool the image of Mom and Dad's old four-door sedan. And it hopes to accomplish that through an unusual tack: by designing the sedan as a coupe. "Typically, you de-sign the sedan first," notes Jim Vurpillat, assistant brand manager at Pontiac. "Then you take off a couple of doors and 'Voila!' You have a coupe. Doing it the other way around gives us an advantage."
Indeed, doing it the other way has yielded numerous advantages. The most obvious of those is the Grand Prix's appearance: The sedan's roof is lower than those of conventional sedans, yet slightly higher than those of conventional coupes. The result is the look of a coupe, but the accessibility and passenger room of a sedan. Pontiac engineers claim the car has half an inch more headroom than the Ford Taurus, despite its low profile.
A wider track also adds to the car's racy look. Engineers stretched the track by two inches in the front and three inches the rear. Then they kept those dimensions when they stepped from the coupe to the sedan. "We didn't just design it as a sedan and then decorate with with sports cues," notes Dave Barnhart, Pontiac chief engineer. "The packaging dimensions are the same on the coupe as on the sedan."
Meeting enthusiasts' needs. In shaping the new car, Pontiac executives knew they needed to precisely define their niche if they were to avoid the mistakes of the 1970s. Back then, they say, they let their brands decay by blurring the lines between them and focusing on miles per gallon, instead of driver enthusiasm. The result was that sales dropped sharply after the Grand Prix topped out at 200,000 units in 1976.
Now, they say they know their market. The average Grand Prix driver is 38 years old with a $60,000-a-year income and a passion for driving. In essence, their drivers are performance-car enthusiasts who have grown up, started families, and are willing to spend just under $20,000.
Appealing to such driving enthusiasts, however, means that the Grand Prix must provide a sporty exterior and more. That's why engineers combined the low profile and wide track with a more rigid body, special isolation techniques, and an improved suspension.
The rigid body was crucial, in part because it enabled the Grand Prix's stylish looks. The underbody gets its high degree of structural stiffness from a system of longitudinal- and cross-car rails. By concentrating stiffness in the underbody, engineers were able to employ the new low-profile roof design, as well as thinner pillars for improved visibility. One of the five cross-car beams also runs along the base of the windshield, enabling it to support a modular cockpit. In all, the Grand Prix has 40% greater torsional stiffness and 15% greater bending stiffness than its predecessor.
That stiffness adds up to better handling, a feature that potential Grand Prix buyers consider key. "Pontiac buyers are unwilling to sacrifice the sportiness of a coupe, even if they are buying a sedan," says Tim Greig, Pontiac interiors chief designer.
Better NVH. Still, Grand Prix drivers are consider-ed "grown-up" enthusiasts, which is why designers and engineers also wanted to improve the vehicle's noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics. The stiff underbody contributes significantly to those goals. Its low structural vibration mode of 22 Hz enables it to more effectively minimize shake responses from the road.
Engineers also reduced unwanted sounds and vibrations by incorporating sound-deadening materials, special isolators, and couplers. Side glass wind noise is controlled through a new door frame and use of a cable-driven window regulator. Both features were added after months of wind-tunnel testing on full-size clay models.
Equally important in the effort to carve out Grand Prix's niche was the development of an all-new suspension system. Engineers improved the front suspension with gas-charged struts featuring a new valving technology that greatly reduces body motion. A new rear coil-over-strut tri-link suspension also combines gas-charged shocks, negative camber geometry, and light aluminum knuckles for improved stiffness and stability during aggressive driv-ing maneuvers.
New transmission. Grand Prix's GTP version also benefits from General Motors' 4T65-E electronically controlled automatic transmission. The 4T65-E, a big brother to GM's venerable 4T60-E, handles the higher torque and horsepower loads of the supercharged 3800 engine. GM engineers de-veloped the 4T65-E in part because im-provements to the supercharged 3800 have taken power levels to new heights. The supercharged 3800 now generates 240 hp @ 5200 rpm and 280 ft-lb of torque at 3,200 rpm.
The 4T65-E also benefits from the addition of an electronically controlled capacity clutch (EC3), a device that offers the advantages of a viscous converter clutch without the mechanical elegance--or high cost.
For GTP drivers, the most exciting aspect of the 4T65-E may be the luxury of switching back and forth between a "normal" and "performance" setting of the transmission. By pressing a button on the center console, the car can be switched to higher shift points and more aggressive downshift calibration, which is said to approximate the crispness of a well-timed manual shift.
Dramatic sedan. For Pontiac, designing the sedan off the coupe is a calculated risk, especially since sedan sales are expected to double those of the coupe. But Pontiac managers say they aren't worried. "People look at the sedan, and at first glance, they think it's a coupe," notes Greig. "Designing it in this way has yielded a very dramatic-looking sedan."
Initial impressions from the media bear out Pontiac's assertions. Automotive magazines describe it as "racy," "muscular," and "sizzling." And they are applying those terms not just to the coupe, but to the sedan as well.
"We have every intention of being the most dramatic and exciting mid-size car," says Pontiac general manager Roy Roberts. "And we're convinced we've executed that."
--Charles J. Murray, Senior Regional Editor
Voracious bugs make buses sparkle
Lyon, France--French scientist Louis Pasteur, famous for his studies into bacteria, probably never dreamed that one day the bugs would play a major role in promoting hygiene and cleanliness. However, Sociètè Lyonnaise de Transports en Commun (SLTC), Lyon's public-transit company, recently implemented the use of a technology that uses microorganisms to renovate its fleet of buses. Procèdè, also of Lyon, patented the Procèdè C.O.R. process.
In SLTC's case, the time had come to look beyond current cleaning techniques, such as high-pressure washing or mechanical and chemical methods, and find other solutions. Moreover, in France it will soon become illegal to use such products as trichlorethylene, employed primarily in the cleaning of mechanical parts.
Unknown to many, microorganisms play an important role in the biological breakdown of organic waste, cleaning up oil spills, for example. Through biotechnological research, non-pathogenic "mutant" bacteria have been created with a working capacity some 300 to 500 times higher than normal.
These new resources can be put to use in countless areas: for polluted soil or industrial wastewater, in the agro-food business, and in industrial cleaning. The bacteria are lyophilized on a vegetable medium and placed in appropriate packaging. While remaining inactive in powder or gelatin form, they are "reactivated" on contact with hot water.
Using Procèdè, SCTC completed a trial run focussing on 15 articulated bus couplings. Assailed by the army of hungry bacteria, the couplings were cleaned in record time, say the local transit officials.
Previously, the couplings were cleaned with detergent and mechanical appliances. With the new procedure, they are left to soak in a solution containing the voracious bacteria for two hours. Afterwards, a quick wipe-over with a sponge is all it takes for sparkling results.
Bayer tailors a strong coating
Detroit, MI--Polyurethane coating systems developed by Akzo Nobel Coatings Inc., Louisville, KY, are providing important benefits for the plastic grilles on various General Motors Corp. trucks and vans.
Bayer Corp., Pittsburgh, supplies Desmodur aliphatic polyisocynates to Akzo for exterior applications where low-temperature curability, high-impact resistance, and superior light and gloss retention are required.
Replacing convention-al one-component lacquer coatings, the polyurethane coatings met stringent GM tests for color and gloss retention, according to a senior engineer at the automaker. "The two-component poly-urethane coatings have ex-cellent weathering and UV resistance, so they will con-tinue to look good over time," he reports.
The coatings' low-temperature curability was also an important feature. One of the plastics previously used cannot withstand temperatures of more than 180F without melting. Because some coatings require a high-bake--250F or more--they could not be considered. "The polyurethanes also dry very quickly, which was important for meeting our high-volume production demands," the GM engineer adds.
All parts go through a power wash and dry-off oven. Some of the parts are coated with a waterbone adhesion promoter and cured under infrared lights. Akzo's two-component polyurethane monocoat is then spray-applied to a dry-film thickness (DFT) of 1.5 mils. The grilles then go through a 170F bake oven for 30 minutes, explains Michael Pettis at Akzo Nobel.
Other parts are sprayed with the Akzo two-component polyurethane basecoat and two-component polyure-thane clearcoat to a DFT of 1.5-2.2 mils. These grilles enter the same oven as the other units, curing for 30 minutes at 170F, explains Pettis.
The polyurethane coatings meet volatile organic compound emission requirements of less than 2.8 lbs/gal.
Air-duct technology trims parts costs
Tallmadge, OH--A new, single-component automotive clean-air duct from Steere Enterprises has replaced multiple-piece air-duct assemblies in Chrysler Neon and Dodge Dakota models. By combining a blow-molded polyolefin center tube with an injection over-molded cuff made from thermoplastic rubber, the design not only simplifies the assembly process, but shaves 25% off the cost of parts for Chrysler versus air ducts made with thermoset rubber cuffs.
Production of the one-piece ducts incorporates a new, patent-pending "dual process" technology from Steere that improves cuff-end sealability. The air-tight seal is achieved using Santoprene rubber from Advanced Elastomer Systems, L.P., Akron, OH.
"A low durometer grade of Santoprene is instrumental in achieving the over molding onto the irregular-shaped, blow-molded tubes," says Dave Curtis, technical director at Steere. "We're able to obtain excellent adhesion between the rubber cuff and the polyolefin tube. This one-part assembly ensures a consistent air-tight seal that guards against premature engine wear."
For this application, Steere uses Santoprene rubber grade 101-55--a recyclable thermoplastic elastom-er with 55 Shore A hardness. "Our assembly-line operators say that cuffs made with the material are easier to use because they are molded onto the component, unlike thermoset rubber cuffs, which need to be attached with metal clamps," Curtis explains. "That translates into shorter assembly times, higher efficiency, and lower worker fatigue--in addition to the 25% per-part cost savings."
Reinforced composites support Taurus front end
Detroit, MI--To satisfy the lower-front-end, cab-forward styling of the Ford Taurus/Sable, The Budd Company designed a two-piece part that combines the functions of a radiator support, headlight assembly, grille-opening reinforcement panel, hood-latch mounting, and hood-bumper support, while controlling the fit and coordination of the fascia, hood, fenders, and lamps.
Both parts are molded from polyester thermosetting Sheet Molding Composite (SMC) manufactured with continuous roving reinforcements from Owens-Corning, Toledo, OH. The reinforcements offer improved processability in Class A and structural applications where characteristics such as density and mold flowability are required.
"The two-piece SMC structure provides a significant cost and weight savings versus conventional steel design, and enables a significant reduction in the number of components and operations necessary in the assembly plant," says Ken Rusch, advanced projects manager of Budd's plastics division. "This provides needed reductions in complexity and contributes to improved system reliability."
During vehicle assembly, the upper radiator support is bolted to the front fenders and front body structure. It then proceeds through various paint systems, along with the attached sheet-metal structure. No adjustment of the SMC component is necessary after the paint ovens because the thermal expansion coefficient of the SMC is similar to that of steel, Rusch notes.
The SMC lower radiator support serves as the base for the car's front-end cooling module. The assembly includes the radiator, transmission-fluid cooler, oil cooler, air-conditioning condenser, cooling fans, housings, and other hardware.
The upper and lower radiator supports are bolted together, contributing to the overall stiffness of the vehicle front end. The front-end structure must withstand a range of load conditions, including hood slams and five-mile-per-hour bumper impact loads. Not a problem, explains Rusch; the SMC components met all performance specifications.
Bravada packs a punch
Detroit, MI--The "new" sport-utility vehicles of the '90s are designed for comfort and style as well as all terrains. They are the luxury cars of the 21st century--and the Bravada from Oldsmobile is no different.
Being 5'1", I usually find some of these trucks difficult to get in and out of. Forget wearing a skirt! But this vehicle was designed with all people in mind. According to Chief Truck Designer Bill Davis, "What we did was deliver the Explorer's room and utility in a much tidier package. Since our seat heights are an inch or more lower, the Bravada is easier to enter and exit."
Adding to Bravada's convenience is a split-folding rear seat, remote keyless entry, overhead console to hold sunglasses, and a universal garage-door-opener system that can learn the operating signals of up to three different openers. An electric sun roof is optional.
New to the 1997: four-wheel disc brakes, liftgate with liftglass rear door, plug-in front halfshafts, major parts marked with VIN to thwart theft, and a more ergonomic keyless-entry fob.
To provide a strong foundation for easy ride and handling, the Bravada's frame is boxed to boost torsional rigidity by 28 percent and bending stiffness by 50 percent. Squeaks and rattles are minimized.
Another feature, SmartTrak, is a sophisticated traction-optimizing system. It consists of full-time all-wheel drive, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, and a locking rear differential. Whether the mode is accelerating, cornering, braking, or mixed, the system keeps the Bravada rolling at an even keel.
In the event one or more wheels lose traction on a wet or icy road surface, SmartTrak automatically minimizes any loss of mobility. A viscous clutch is embodied within a planetary center differential to limit slippage. This device is a sealed drum containing 51 interleaved plates and a specially formulated silicone fluid. Twenty-six of the plates are mechanically linked to the rear wheels through the annulus gear and the viscous clutch's drum. The remaining 25 plates are interspersed between the aforementioned set of plates, and mechanically linked to the front wheels through the sun gear. As long as the front and rear wheels rotate at precisely the same speed, the viscous clutch does nothing.
Combined with Bravada's 190-hp V6 engine and four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, SmartTrak provides all-weather peace of mind.
--Marne Turk, New Products Editor
Software helps design electric motor for trucks
St. Petersburg, FL--Fisher Electric Motor Technology Inc. doesn't believe that electric vehicles are under-powered and years away from being practical. In fact, the company recently designed an electric motor that powers a standard Chevy S-10 pickup truck.
Fisher constructed the motor from grain-oriented steel, achieving a higher flux density that allowed the motor to produce more power per pound than other electric motors. But with the high flux density came heat, and a critical design challenge: Engineers had to achieve enough flux density to power a truck, yet not so much that the motor would overheat.
"For some electric motors, underdesigning flux density is ok, but we were trying to get every bit of torque we could out of this one," explains Dr. John Jacobs, director of engineering at Fisher. "We wanted to go right up to the flux limits, which meant we had to know exactly what they were."
Exact determinations of flux were difficult due to the grain-oriented steel used in the motor. Calculations typically used to determine flux are time consuming and based on linear approximations. Yet grain-oriented steel carries flux in a non-linear manner. "We could have built piece-wise linear models, but these would not have been very satisfactory," says Jacobs. To obtain the accurate flux density information needed, Fisher turned to ANSYS/Emag electromagnetic design and analysis software from ANSYS Inc., Houston, PA.
Fisher used ANSYS/Emag to calculate flux in the motor's stators, the rotor, and the air gap between the two parts. "We entered the steel characteristics into a table," explains Jacobs, "and the software did the interpolations to give actual values of permeability."
Using the software was faster than the manual approach, says Jacobs, but its visual display of the results was an even greater benefit. "The software gave us a visual picture of flux density over all the parts, displayed as a color image," he says. "We could immediately see which parts needed to be beefed up and which were being stressed the most," he adds.
Fisher engineers also combined ANSYS/Emag's parametric modeling feature with the software's macro programming feature to develop a system that set up and analyzed new motor designs with very little effort on the part of the engineer.
"We developed a number of macros that allowed us to plug in our different motor parameters," Jacobs explains. "To analyze a variation on the design, we just entered the new specifications and the software took over from there. It automatically regenrated the model according to the new specifications, then calculated flux density and displayed it in the graphical format we wanted."
Fisher's previous method of evaluating motor designs was to build and test prototypes. Because the Chevy S-10 motor was very different from other Fisher motors, it probably would have re-quired multiple prototypes, each taking up to two months, says Jacobs. By simulating different designs in software, Fisher was able to develop this motor without prototypes and reduce the development cycle significantly.
NASCAR competition no day at the races
Brooklyn, MI--Despite their "stock car" label, the Fords, Chevrolets, and Pontiacs that compete in NASCAR Winston Cup racing have very little in common with cars encountered in the typical showroom. Nearly every component of the $70,000+ cars is engineered for racing.
Each of the nine Number 81 Thunderbirds driven by Kenny Wallace and sponsored by Square D and T.C.I Financial Systems is designed for peak performance on a specific type of track. The team will encounter four categories of tracks over the 31 races of the 1996 schedule. One car is optimized for road courses, two for short tracks, two for super-speedways, and four for intermediate tracks.
The recent GM Goodwrench Dealer 400 falls into the latter category.
"We regulate the down-force, damping, drag, and suspension characteristics for each type of car according to the track," Crew Chief Gil Martin explains. This is done by using different body panels, aerodynamic features, and customized components.
The treadless, nitrogen-filled Good-year tires cost $1,200 a set. And the pit crew does not blink about changing them during a race at every opportunity. Once, a car went through 20 sets in a race strewn with caution flags. Tires removed are not re-used for racing purposes.
Each competing car must wear a NASCAR-provided governor plate to restrict airflow to the engine in order to keep speeds down around 200 mph for safety reasons. Cars must also conform to sixteen NASCAR "template" standards so that competitors start from a common base. Nevertheless, there is much leeway for innovation within the rules. Martin builds the shocks for the Square D/T.C.I. Financial Systems Ford Thunderbird himself by customizing valves and other components from off-the-shelf Penske parts.
Wallace qualified number 13, which entitles him to a starting position in the front third of the pack. However, on turn two of lap 32, Number 81 crashes into the outer wall. "The car went sideways on me," reports Wallace, unhurt, after bringing his charge into the garage. "Derrike Cope (#12) got into me, it wasn't his fault, and I spun into the wall. We did a lot of damage to the car, but we'll get back out there and try to score some points."
NASCAR rules do not allow teams to use a backup car once the race is under way. Therefore, Martin's crew labors to overcome the aftermath of Wallace's crash. The team compensates for much of the body panel damage with that can-do adhesive, duct tape.
Ultimately, Number 81 got back into the race. Wallace managed to nurse his wing-clipped Thunderbird for 52 more laps. This was enough to get past three other competitors who dropped out due to engine problems for a 37th-place finish.
Every lap counts in NASCAR racing and the efforts of Wallace, Martin, and the rest of the team are appreciated by the fans and owner Filbert Martocci. Furthermore, the team is buoyed by Square D's offer to become their primary sponsor through the year 2000, promising many days of thunder ahead for the Number 81 Thunderbirds.
--Michael Puttré, Associate Editor
GM to design flexible 'global' engine
Pontiac, MI--What's considered a sub-compact car for budget-conscious American buyers can be decidedly more upscale in Europe. And that means when it comes to engines, buyers on one side of the Atlantic might be looking for a less-expensive, "stripped-down" version than those on the other.
That's why General Motors plans a new lightweight "global-engine" design that can easily modify displacements, number of overheard cams, use of balance shafts, and performance characteristics to meet varied demands in different markets. "We have to have an efficient and flexible design," says George Ford, chief engineer for line engineering at GM Powertrain.
The new engine, announced in August, will first appear as a 2.2-l, 4-cylinder version in the Saturn Innovate--a planned mid-size car, GM officials said. It is also expected to replace several existing 4-cylinder engines.
In Europe, where the engine is likely to power more upscale cars, the design may include such features as electronic throttles and variable CAM timing--options considered too expensive for many U.S. small-car buyers.
Fuel and combustion efficiency will drive the design, Ford says. The engine is unlikely to break major new technological ground, according to Ford, but will "push the envelope for weight, for friction, and combustion effectiveness." He expects composites and lightweight metals to be major factors in shaving weight from the engine. GM Powertrain already has a working prototype of a proposed design.
But no matter how good, the engine design alone can't ensure the success of the program, according to Ford; the engine must also be well integrated into the various vehicles it will power. That means working with vehicle designers in several different organizations to ensure good fits.
GM managers know they must tread carefully as they work to replace several different engines with a single design, Ford acknowledges. "If you want to design a common transmission or HVAC, nobody cares," he says. "But everybody's an engine 'expert.' Engines today are still a very emotional issue."
'97 Wrangler still very much a Jeep
Hatcher Pass, AK--The first annual Alaska Jeep Jamboree was my chance to put the redesigned 1997 Jeep Wrangler through all combinations of mud, muck, rocks, rain, shrubs, and slopes. We both emerged in need of a good bath--but no worse for the wear.
Jeep Jamborees bring together hundreds of Jeep enthusiasts who take their vehicles off road to explore scenic trails all over the country. 1996 will see 33 Jamborees spanning February through the end of October.
The new Wrangler maintains its basic, rugged body-on-frame construction, but designers strengthened the ladder frame to increase chassis stiffness and allow for more precise suspension tuning. Underneath, the Wrangler sports a new Quadra-Coil suspension. It adds seven inches of articulation over the previous leaf-spring set up, as well as higher ground clearance and improved approach and departure angles.
The interior brings improved comfort and safety with dual airbags and an integrated HVAC system. These added some height to the front end, which slopes down one inch to the signature Jeep grille. A traditional feature sure to please Jeep lovers is a return to round headlights.
In all, 77% of the Wrangler's parts are redesigned, and despite international variations, Jeep was able to reduce the number of components compared with the Wrangler's predecessor.
For example: Engineers arranged all of the HVAC, radio, and other controls on a center "stack" on the instrument panel. Then they replaced the foot-operated parking brake with a hand-operated brake lever located on the transmission housing. "This configuration is common to both left- and right-hand drive models," says Jeep Product Manager Patrick Dilworth, "vastly reducing component count and assembly complexity."
The Sport model I drove had a 4.0-l overhead-valve in-line 6-cylinder engine with sequential, multipoint fuel injection. Jeep designers say they extensively modified the engine to make it smoother and quieter than its predecessor--and to give it more torque at low- and mid-range speeds. Ratings are 222 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm and 181 hp at 4,600 rpm.
The Wrangler's hydraulically operated three-speed automatic transmission features an electronically controlled torque converter clutch. While in four-wheel drive, I always felt in control of the vehicle--even when heading down uneven muddy hills. And when the day was done and I was heading back to the lodge on paved roads, the ride was smooth, but not suspiciously so. Just like a real Jeep.
--Julie Anne Schofield, Associate Editor
Rapid-prototyping method models full-scale cars
Camarillo, CA--Armed with an unusual rapid-prototyping method, engineers at Volvo's Monitoring and Concept Center have created full-scale interior and exterior models of concept cars. Called Cross-Sectional Prototyping (CSP), the process was developed by LaserCAMM (Menlo Park, CA). It's intended almost exclusively for large projects that don't lend themselves to conventional rapid-prototyping methods, and can produce models from materials including plastic, wood, paper, particle board, fiberglass, or foam.
A CSP model consists of multiple object cross-sections, laser-cut from sheets of material and assembled into a solid facsimile. The geometry for these cross-sections is taken from "slices" of a 3-D CAD file supplied in IGES, DXF, OBJ or STL format. Special software allows the user to specify the slice direction and material thickness. The program then slices the file and adds part numbers and registration holes or interlocking notches.
Models can be built in one of two methods. The first, solid-section modeling, slices the CAD file in one direction so that the cross-sections can be stacked into a solid form. Final sanding smoothes away the surface steps between slices. Engineers can vary detail by specifying materials ranging from paper to inch-thick foam.
In the second method, called egg-crate modeling, LaserCAMM slices the CAD file in two perpendicular directions with space between the slices. Slots allow the cross-sections to interlock in an open-cell framework--like an egg crate--and the final form can be filled with foam and sanded.
At Volvo, Mark Gastmeyer, manager of concept models, has applied CSP to several projects, including evaluating dashboard ideas for upcoming production models. "We did an interior using LaserCAMM, and there were about two days of CAD work and about one-and-a-half days to cut the cross sections," he says. "We assembled the parts in about a day." This compares with three people working full-time for a week to create a traditional--and less accurate--model by hand.
For a 1/4-scale car model, Gastmeyer used the LaserCAMM system in place of cutting the prototype on a CNC mill. Full-scale models could benefit even more. Sculptors often took six months to mold a car from clay. "For something quick and dirty," he claims, "nothing matches LaserCAMM."
--Mark A. Gottschalk, Western Technical Editor
Split-second laser scans 3-D
Cambridge, MA--On four-dimensional factory floors of the future, lasers fan multiple light planes over products. The result: 100% on-line product inspection for accurate surface and volume measurements. Embedding stereo-vision and structured-light technologies on the manufacturing line may make techniques such as laser interferometry, ultrasound, or liquid volumetric measurements as obsolete as T-Rex.
A new technique for measuring surface areas and volumes gives high-accuracy measurements of stationary or moving surfaces in just a few seconds. Engineers at Intelligent Automation Systems (IAS), developed the Four-Dimensional Imager (4DI) to be simple and require minimal setup and expertise to operate.
The 4DI's major components include a sensor head, a personal computer, and a PC-based interface card. Target applications will require fast dense measurements over large areas. With no moving parts, the system is robust enough for a manufacturing environment. Modular design enables customization of the 4DI for many applications from electronic component to large-aircraft-part production.
A visible red laser (768 nm) light source focused through a defraction grating generates a number of laser planes that fan over the surface. High-resolution CCD cameras (768 × 494 pixels) positioned at various angles capture the scene and a high-speed image processor locates all stripes in the image. The interface card pre-processes the coordinates in 1/30 sec, while triangulation software spatially integrates volume elements from a 3-D array of x-, y-, and z-coordinates at rates of 20,000 points/sec.
Ford Motor Co. is testing the 4DI's capabilities embedded in the manufacturing line to measure engine-component volumes. "We are considering 4DI deployment to gather manufacturing-process performance data more efficiently," says Ford engineer Bill Charron. This data will set the stage for improved design and a better product, he adds.
The fast laser-illuminator/video sensor system easily keeps up with Ford's engine-component transfer speeds. The system takes volume measurements to a precision better than 0.2% of chamber volume of three chambers in less than 20 seconds, achieving 100% in-line quality control. "There are many scanner systems out there doing the same thing," says Charron, "but they can't do it as fast."
For more information about Intelligent Automation Systems Inc.'s 4DI system, contact Wendy Wolfson at (617)354-3830, FAX (617) 547-9727.
Get your data on the road
Midland, MI--Most drivers describe a vehicle's ride and handling using words. But carmakers have to quantify vehicle dynamics to guarantee consistent quality.
To help ensure data quality, Ford needed a standard way to acquire vehicle-dynamics data. "We looked at what was out in the market for data acquisition," says Dan Craig, supervisor of the vehicle-dynamics test section at Ford, "and there was nothing that met all our needs. So we decided to work with Dateppli to develop the DRIVE system."
DRIVETM is a portable system that lets users collect analog data from a moving vehicle in test-track and over-the-road test conditions. The combined hardware and software system is based on a FieldWorks (Eden Prarie, MN) ruggedized laptop computer, which can withstand 100g operating shocks. It also includes a National Instruments ATMIO16X 16-bit data-acquisition board and LabVIEW-developed software.
"We want to have 'commonization' of equipment and procedures, and this system goes a long way in accomplishing that," notes Craig. In fact, Ford has made DRIVE its global standard for road-handling vehicle-dynamics data acquisition.
Thus far, the company has bought 50 systems (both 16- and 32-channel versions), including two for Australia and 10 for Europe (which includes one for Jaguar in Britain). Ford vendors, such as tire companies, have also bought DRIVE systems to help them meet Ford targets for data quality. The 16-channel system costs $40,000, the 32-channel version $50,000.
Engineers interface sensors to DRIVE to acquire objective data so that development teams can correlate hardware to CAE models. "We measure such things as lateral and longitudinal acceleration, yaw of the vehicle, and roll and pitch of the vehicle during certain maneuvers," says Craig.
He also points out that the system's software, developed using National Instruments' LabVIEW, makes the system user friendly because of the visual interface: "Engineers can pick up the nuances of utilizing the software very quickly."