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TPO goes postal

Wise Industries Olefin Van Interior System. Postal vans are going to get a bit more plush. The Postal Service's new mini-van-sized fleet vehicles make use of a lightweight interior cushioning system for the cargo area. Made by Wise Industries from a Basell HMS polypropylene resin, the cushioning system starts out as closed cell PP foam. Wise flame laminates the foam to polypropylene carpet, creating a recyclable all-olefin structure. Using a 5- x 9-ft tool, it then compression molds and trims the cushioning, which ultimately installs as one piece. According to Wise Business Development Manager Todd Starnes, the resulting structure weighs about 85% less than vacuum formed ABS or polyethylene cushioning systems. He adds that this cushioning costs about 15% less than vacuum-formed plastics. Lastly, the all-olefin foam and carpet structure lends itself to recycling.

From racetrack to the street

General Motors Corvette C5 Carbon-Fiber Hood. Though intended for the streets, the 2004 Corvette Z06 Commemorative Edition has a lot in common with its racecar cousins, right down to a carbon-fiber epoxy hood. According to John Remy, a GM senior project engineer, it's the first production vehicle costing under $100,000 to sport an OEM-installed, carbon-fiber hood. GM makes the outer hood panel (which it bonds to an SMC inner panel and paints to a Class A finish) from a quick curing epoxy prepreg resin system from Toray Composites. "What we've done is productionize composite manufacturing techniques used in aerospace," Remy says, noting that GM lays up the hoods by hand on Invar tooling and puts them through a vacuum bag and autoclave cure. To keep costs down, the C5 retains an SMC inner hood panel, allowing the use of existing compression mold tooling. Remy gives three good reasons to use carbon fiber in this application-"It's stiffer, stronger, and lighter than SMC." In fact, the hybrid hood assembly weighs 33% less than an SMC hood, and GM has validated a complete carbon-fiber hood that would weigh 57% less.

Seal keeps weather-and cost-at bay

Cooper Standard Automotive Injection-Molded TPV Door Seal. Barring any leaks, automotive door seals may not attract much attention. But they offer their share of cost reduction opportunities. For the 2004 F-150 pick-up, Ford and Cooper Standard Automotive replaced traditional extruded thermoset rubber door seals with injection-molded ones at half the installed cost-and reduced weight by 15% and noise by 1.5 sones. The seal is molded in a two-shot molding process that shoots a Santoprene thermoplastic vulcanizate with a slip additive over a talc-filled polypropylene to form the finished seal. This process eliminates the secondary manufacturing steps associated with extruded door seals. But the big benefit comes from getting rid of separate fasteners to install the seal. David Gross, a Cooper Standard designer, notes that the molding process allowed patented, clip-like fasteners to be molded into the part. But doing so wasn't easy. The seal's 3D geometry, tolerances, fastening features, and long flow lengths required complex, sequentially gated tooling, Gross says.

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