Thanks, AnandY. To be clear, the article states that it's not a plastic engine: it's a plastic engine manifold. What's new is the crossover coolant piece, which used to be metal, and is now also plastic.
The new plastic engine seems to have many new and attractive features that make it better than the old metallic engines. After reading this piece, am sure that Ford drivers (me included) will be wondering if they plan to develop similar engines for the other models that are still in production. It would be very nice if they could and even better if they were to sell such engines separately. Am sure I would opt for the plastic engine if I ever need a replacement.
Interesting piece Ann. It's good to know that Ford have discovered a new and cost effective way to make engines for the new car models but my question is are these savings significant enough to be transferred to and enjoyed by their customers as well, especially those who buy the new car models?
Thanks bobjengr for the input on the use of Moldflow and similar software optimization techniques, and their value. I was blown away by the abilities of some of this software, as I wrote about after the Altair Technology Conference: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=268622 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=269073
mtripoli3, I know how much Mercedes has declined. I went through about the same cycle you did from wanting to purchase to being able to afford to purchase. The increase in plastic parts has certainly changed the feel of cars at the high end.
Those are good points you bring up regarding the repairability--or lack thereof--of plastic vs metal parts, mtripoli3. Thanks for that. I have a plastic rear bumper, too, on my 1996 Nissan Sentra. It's not as cheaply made as your Mercedes', I'm glad to say. But when the paint started peeling off it several years ago it made me unhappy when I found out the greater difficulty and higher cost of repair.
Besides recycling, what is the environmental cost of these materials? Freon, Teflon, and so many other advanced DuPont materials have had lasting environmental impacts.
Another is longevity, engine parts made of metal except for a few special cases last essentially forever.
I've seen a lot of these plastic components used in cars already fail dismaly after a relatively short time in service.
Further to someone elses question about use in racing, that has already happened. I recall reading in "Popular Science" about 10 years ago about Ford adding an additional 100HP to an engine by making the pistons out of plastics except for the crown. It's a while ago that I read it, but there was a lot of other non-metal parts which I won't list for fear of remembering incorrectly.
In racing of course lifespan doesn't matter as long as it's one race. The environment also takes a back seat.
Very informative Ann. I think the following statement says a tremendous Very informative Ann. I think the following statement says a tremendous amount about current technology and the use of that technology:
They used Moldflow to help optimize the process, and finite element analysis to optimize the design. RJG Inc.'s mold cavity pressure-sensing technology was used to get data on the pressures that were being exerted inside the cavity during over-molding.
"Old guys" like me had better get on the bandwagon, if we have not already, and realize previous methods of "cut-and-try" are out the window. I'm sure the methodology used above saved countless hours of design time and frustrating failures along the way. I'm still amazed at the capabilities of "plastic" parts relative to temperature and pressure. At GE, we would kill for a cost reduction of merely $1.00. That would be big. Promotions and salary increases would be in order.
One more thing; I had a 2003 Mercedes ML320. By sons borrowed it to go bowling with some friends. When they got home they "had terrible news". As they were pulling the bowling bag (a three ball bag) out of the back, they let it drop onto the rear bumper (dumb, for sure). What was "dumberer" was the almost perfectly round hole it had punched in the rear, plastic bumper, about 3" across. I took the bumper off (a single screw on either side and it slide right off) only to be confronted with "plastic welds", the kind you design into toys (I know, that's what I used to do) holding the inner bumper to the "shell".
When I was younger, I "always wanted" a Mercedes (of the day). So well built, just the sound of the door closing told you there was quality. When the day came that I could afford one, I got "tin can" doors and bumpers better suited for a golf cart. Was I glad the day that lease ran out...
I have a friend that owns an injection molding plastic company. He has a favorite saying "F*** it, do it in plastic". This is his response every single time anyone talks about a simple metal part that was subsequently replaced by a plastic part and failed, often miserably (a very small example - check out the difference between the window clips used in Volkswagon Passat's vs. the same part used in Audi's. Google it. I know of this one first hand). Having worked on cars of all kinds since I was a "kid", I see this kind of stuff and it makes my skin crawl. My son has a Ford Taurus that had a leaky gasket around the oil pan. No big deal; we can swap that out in a couple of hours. Wrong... It took the better part of 12 hours for this "simple" repair (which included dismantling the front end of the engine, as well as theoretically dropping the exhaust - something I found a work around for). This will, not might, turn into yet another manufacturer issue where it will crack, warp or simply disintegrate; despite the amount of FEA done and awards won. When it does happen, it won't be under warranty, leaving the owner with the decision to either pay a shop to replace ($$$$), or junk the vehicle. Cars today are designed to last the life of the loan; period. At the end of the loan, trade it in and get another. If not, suffer the consequences. As long as we have "engineers" designing engine parts in plastic, and billionaires coping attitude that demonstrated failures and bad design "could never really happen in real life" then the automotive business is on one big slope into the "recycle bin".
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