The automotive industry continues to drive forward innovation in plastics materials and processing technology, as manufacturers compete to deliver ever more attractive and high quality solutions delivering high performance at low manufacturing cost. The Society of Plastics Engineers Central Europe division’s awards – this year delivered in Neuss in Germany just ahead of the K show – are intended to recognise the best examples across the whole vehicle.
First prize in the exterior body category went to Smart for the “moulded in colour” (MIC) body panels of the latest 2007 model year ForTwo car. Already an established automotive exterior application, the innovation that secured the SPE award for Smart – and that also saw it pick up the GKV plastics processing association’s TecPart prize the same week – was the shift from PC/PBT blend to elastomer modified PP.
Produced in Borealis’s Daplen ED 230 HP 20% mineral filled EPDM elastomer modified polypropylene compound, the Smart application is the first MIC panel to be produced in PP with a single-layer protective clear lacquer coating.
SPE Central Europe chairman Dr Rudolf Fernengel said the the lower specific gravity of the material, together with wall section reduction of 0.1mm, had resulted in a 20% weight reduction. He also said the easier flow of the PP compound enables shorter flow paths with a less complex hot runner system. Other benefits from the change of material are said to include elimination of the occasional colour streaking that had required some MIC panels to be painted in the past. Blistering is also reduced.
The Daplen ED 230 HP compound was developed jointly with Plastic Omnium and found its first application in a Renault tailgate in 2006. As with the original body parts, the modified PP parts are moulded on Krauss-Maffei machines in a Plastal (formerly Dynamit Nobel) plant at the Smart site in Hambach, France. Schneider Form, Karl Krumpholz and RS Meccanica provided the tooling for the panels.
The top place in the body interior category went to Austrian company Burg Design – the screen print and film decoration printing specialist that was acquired in November 2005 by Magna Intier – for the use of its Print Mould Design (PMD) backmoulded decoration system for the high gloss piano black lower bezel of the new BMW Mini car.
The application is the first use of the screen printed 3D pre-shaped PMD film in an automotive interior and makes use of a 1mm thick Sentotop Pianoblack 8337 film from the Austrian film supplier Senco Europe.
Burg Design first introduced its PMD product solution in 2001. The system is also used on BMW’s 1-series vehicles and the company has been developing transparent and semi-transparent parts as well, which it hopes will appear in future car interior designs.
A quite different interior application took the second place, however. The natural fibre reinforced polypropylene BMW 5-series door trim – supplied since March by Johnson Controls Interiors (JCI) – is the first ever use of a two-colour, PVC foam backed, film clad part in one piece without visible separation. The parts are produced two at a time on a Kiefel double-tool thermoforming unit using Yorn foamed PVC film from Contitech’s subsidiary Benecke-Kaliko.
Benecke-Kaliko says the new technique is less costly than previous alternatives and overcomes occasional difficulties in compliance with strict part weight limitations. It has also been possible to master the production of sharp and clear colour separation lines.
JCI says its equipment and tooling know-how has overcome the challenge of maintaining the colour separation lines within close tolerances, despite stretching of the film during cladding. Its fully automatic door trim production system makes use of image processing sensors to continuously monitor and automatically adjust the exact position of the two-colour films in real time, the company says.
As the part production changeover had to take place within just a few days, production of the older design door trim was transferred to another production hall while the new line was installed, with production of both types of doors running parallel for a short period.
JCI says it has to cater for processing and logistics for 100,000 different versions of each door trim produced – allowing for mounting of door pockets, airbags, loudspeaker grids, decorative strips and arm rests in different surfaces and with different options. It says it supplies the two-colour BMW 5-series door panel to BMW’s German plants and to Shenyang in China.
The grand innovation award in the body interior category went to another foam application in the BMW 5-series car – an energy-absorbing and dimensionally stable rear seat back produced as a sandwich structure. The part is produced with an Arpro expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam from JSP International bound to an injection moulded 30% glass fibre reinforced PP forming produced on a Frimo machine without the use of adhesives. Tooling is made by BMW itself together with Schraml Metallverarbeitung.
Mann+Hummel collected three awards in the power train category, securing second, third and fourth places. Its best result was the 3-D blow moulded clean air duct produced in a Normatec mould by the company in France for the BMW Mini, Peugeot 207, 307, 308 and Citroen C3 and C4 models. It secured its award for the innovative use of an ExxonMobil Santoprene 103-40 EPDM seal applied to the PP duct without the need for additional fixing elements, enabling faster assembly and cost reduction.
The company’s production of the air intake plenum of the BMW M3 vehicle – on a Krauss Maffei injection moulding machine in a combination of Leuna-Miramid 30% glass fibre reinforced PA6, PP from Borealis and EPDM from ExxonMobil – won third place for the way it enabled the weld line to be hidden, opening up greater under-bonnet design freedom.
The fourth place power train award went to Mann+Hummel’s first modular design variable intake manifold. This uses basic components that can be combined to make different intake manifolds for different engines and to meet regional requirements. Moulded in Germany on Arburg and Demag injection moulding machines using Miramid VE30CW-802 30% glass fibre reinforced PA6 from BASF Leuna, the modular design intake manifold has been used on an Opel Astra 1.6 litre engine since November 2006.
First prize in the electronic and optical parts category went to automotive moulder Witte-Velbert and material supplier Schulman for the use of gas assist moulding and ProLas laser penetration welding equipment to produce the keyless-entry system for the VW Passat. The material chosen for the application is a Schulamid 6GBF30 green glass bead and glass fibre reinforced PA6 that incorporates additives for laser transparency.
Second place went to the adaptive lighting system frame used on the BMW 5-series car since March 2007. This assembly is produced in an EMS Grivory HTV-5H1 polyphthalamide grade, with the parts moulded by Oechsler and Hella on Krauss-Maffei machines using tools from Oechsler. BMW picked up an AVK award in 2004 for a similar frame for the adaptive headlamp system on the BMW 3-series, produced in an engineering phenolic.
The grand innovation award in the category went to Ticona and Harting Mitronics in Switzerland for an MID (moulded interconnection device) application for a Hella sun sensor. The part is moulded in two Vectra liquid crystal polymer (LCP) grades – metallisable Vectra E820i Pd and Vectra E130i – and Ticona says conductor track width and interspacing has been reduced to 0.25 mm.
Ticona, together with German moulder Kunststofftechnik, also shared the fifth place for the fully automatic overmoulding of a polyester cover retaining strap for the airbag of the Skoda Fabia 2005 model airbag channel in its Celstran PPG30 long glass fibre PP grade on Krauss-Maffei injection moulding machines.