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Ford Engineers Win Coveted SPE Award

Ford Engineers Win Coveted SPE Award

Good engineering spawns corporate profits.

Ford Motor Co. last week announced a third quarter profit of $1 billion, and said it will be solidly profitable in 2010. The next day, the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Div. announced that Ford is the 2009 winner of the Vehicle Engineering Team Award for the new Taurus sedan.

Pete Reyes, chief program engineer-Taurus at Ford will accept the award during SPE's 39th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala Nov. 12 in Livonia, MI.

Previous winners of this award include Porsche AG in 2004 for the ‘04MY Porsche Carrera GT supercar and Ford Motor Co. in 2008 for the ‘09MY Ford Flex cross-over utility vehicle.

Tri-extrusion Innovation

Four specific innovations using polymers are finalists in the SPE's "Most Innovative Uses of Plastics Competition." Winners will be announced at the same banquet Nov. 12. Two of them involve interesting new technologies for weather stripping for the 2010 Ford Taurus.

"The outer belt weatherstrips are an industry first to provide a low-profile tri-extrusion with stainless, TPV and a vinyl high gloss ionomer," says Chet Walawender, a design engineer in the product development group at Ford. "The manufacturing process envelope was pushed to the maximum to satisfy the Taurus design theme."

Most side belts have a homogenous material appearance and are mechanically attached using a visible fastener along the b-pillars. The 2008 Taurus (fifth-generation design) had a stainless-steel molding for capping.

Designers wanted a fresh look for the sixth-generation Taurus, whose design was led by Chief Designer Earl Lucas. The end result is more aerodynamic and higher-end than the previous Taurus.

In the new outer belt weatherstrip, the TPV provides sealing, the stainless steel provides a chrome appearance, and the high gloss vinyl tape carries the Taurus appearance theme.

In a related appearance-oriented innovation, the Ford engineering team pulled off another industry first - use of weatherstrip corner mold overlays in the door glass run to provide gloss and appearance differences to the gloss seals. In the Ford innovation Zytel nylon is used for low resistance to the glass closing with no bounceback. The previous Taurus used a low-friction silicon spray.

Painting Eliminated

Ford Taurus bezels, which hide the inner workings of the headlamp, are made with polycarbonate infused with metallic flakes. "We wanted to achieve a distinctive metallic appearance," says Russ Bloomfield, an applications development engineer at Sabic Innovative Plastics. Costs were reduced 5-10 percent through elimination of painting.

The fourth SPE finalist for the Ford Taurus is an industry first use of plastic for below-belt door brackets. "Plastic channels will not ding door outer panels during installation and provide quiet window system operation," says Wallawender.

A typical automotive window below belt bracket attaches to the door in white (before painting) to support window glass during up and down travel. The u-channel construction is made of cold-rolled steel and weighs up to 3 lb per vehicle.

The new injection molded bracket is made of a glass-filled polyolefin and reduces weight by 50 percent compared to conventional designs. "Gating of the mold and management of cooling rates through mold flows were done to optimize the processing to prevent value-add secondary operations," says Wallawender.

Ford designed the part so the molding has three functions:  provides the glass channel, mounts features for in/out direction, and toggles lock to the inner panel "z" direction.

The system is supplied by Henneges Automotive, a Tier Two specializing in the automotive sealing market.

Ford design engineers want back to the drawing board for the smallest details to boost the styling and performance of the 2010 Taurus. Photo: SPE

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