Sponsored By

Winners in the 10 categories were announced earlier this month at the 51st SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala.

Stephen Moore

November 8, 2022

7 Min Read
Tension Leaf Spring
Image courtesy of SPE

The Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) has announced the winners of its 51st annual Automotive Innovation Awards. The announcement was made on Nov. 2, 2022, during the 51st SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala at the Burton Manor in Livonia, MI. The Chassis/Hardware category winner, pictured above, was also this year’s Grand Award winner. The recipient of the Grand Award is selected from the winners of each of the 10 categories by a judging panel of industry experts.

The spoiler closeout seal covered in an earlier report was the winner of the Additive Manufacturing award.

Other winners included the following.

Grand Award and Category Winner: Chassis/Hardware

Tension Leaf Spring

  • OEM make and model: 2022 General Motors Co. Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra

  • Tier supplier/processor: Mubea (Muhr und Bender KG)

  • Material supplier/toolmaker: Multiple/Mubea (Muhr und Bender KG)

  • Material/process: Epoxy/prepreg layup and compression molding

The first all-composite leaf spring for light truck programs, pictured above, reduces mass up to 75% vs. all-steel and 58% vs. hybrid steel-composite solutions while doubling durability, eliminating corrosion, improving ride comfort, lowering NVH, and increasing payload. Fiberglass-reinforced epoxy prepreg is used to form a single leaf with a progressive spring rate that eliminates the shackle, shackle bushing, and helper leaves yet passes all OEM test requirements.

Category Winner: Aftermarket and Limited Edition/Specialty Vehicles

Carbon Fiber C-Brace

  • OEM make and model: 2022 Ford Motor Co. Ford Bronco Raptor

  • Tier supplier/processor: Montaplast of North America

  • Material supplier/toolmaker: BASF Corp./Commercial Tool Group

  • Material/process: Ultramid B3WC4 HP CF and GR PA 6/injection molding

Carbon Fiber C-Brace

This customer-visible, Class A C-brace was designed to meet offroad desert durability requirements for convertible versions of the vehicle while boosting torsional stiffness by 40% to improve handling and NVH. Weight was reduced 55% vs. aluminum and 85% vs. steel by adopting a sandwich composite approach. Upper and lower shells were injection-molded in 35% glass fiber (GF) reinforced polymide (PA) 6 while a core was injection molded in 20% CF-PA6. The components were then bonded with a newly formulated methacrylate adhesive.

Category Winner: Body Exterior

Panoramic Sunroof Frame

  • OEM make and model: 2022 Hyundai Motor Group Kia Sorento

  • Tier supplier: Inalfa Roof Systems Korea

  • Material supplier: GS Caltex Corp.

  • Material/process: Hiprene ALG14BF PA 6/injection molding

Panoramic Sunroof Frame

Several novel technologies contributed to this large injection molded long-fiber thermoplastic (LFT) PA 6 panoramic sunroof frame. First, flat rather than round glass fibers provided higher dimensional stability and reduced warpage. Second, twist pultrusion was used to produce LFT pellets whose fiber length exceeds the length of the pellets, again contributing to mechanical improvements. Weight was reduced 51% and part count dropped from 33% to 4 vs. a steel frame.

Category Winner: Body Interior

Second-Row Seat Backs and Cushions

  • OEM make and model: 2022 Toyota Motor Corp. Toyota Tundra

  • Tier supplier/processor: Flex-N-Gate Corp. and Adient/Flex-N-Gate Corp. and LandL Products

  • Material supplier/toolmaker: BASF Corp./SyBridge Technologies

  • Material/process: Ultramid B3ZG7 35% GR-PA 6 and Elastocoat 74850 80% GR-PUR PA6 and PU/pultrusion and injection overmolding

Second-Row Seat Backs and Cushions

This composite seat structure combines a pultruded continuous fiberglass-reinforced polyurethane (PUR) reinforcement beam that is injection-overmolded with short-glass/PA 6 to form the seat frame geometry. By replacing a 60-piece high-strength steel frame structure with a four-piece molded composite structure, significant crash performance improvements were achieved while both cost and mass targets of 20% reduction were met. Additionally, more than 100 welds at 16 weld stations were eliminated, significantly improving quality control. Under-seat storage that wasn’t possible with the previous solution was added.

Category Winner: Electric and Autonomous Vehicle Systems

High Voltage Power Distribution System

  • OEM make and model: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

  • Tier supplier/processor: Aptiv PLC/Yazaki North America Inc.

  • Material supplier: DuPont

  • Material/process: Crastin FR684 and HR5339 PBT/injection molding, silicone overmolding

High Voltage Power Distribution System

This customizable, shielded, high-voltage power distribution system permits seven sets of subassemblies and up to 64 possible configurations from a single tool, providing both flexibility and scalability for future programs. Three different materials are used — a flame retardant 25% GR-polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) forms the internal assembly and terminal blocks and a silicone seal is overmolded directly onto a 30% GR-PBT cover. A unique shielding system uses stamped connection interfaces that reduce mass by two-thirds vs. cast products while maintaining electromagnetic shielding.

Category Winner: Materials

Thermoplastic BEV Thermal Management Solution

  • OEM make and model: 2023 General Motors Co. Cadillac Lyriq

  • Tier supplier/processor: Cooper Standard Automotive Inc.

  • Material supplier/toolmaker: DuPont, Dow Chemical, LyondellBasell Industries/Cooper Standard Automotive Inc.     

  • Material/process: PA6/12, PA66, and PP/extrusion, molding, forming, and automated assembly

Thermoplastic BEV Thermal Management

Two developments provide a lightweight, thermoplastic solution for battery electric vehicle (BEV) thermal management systems. PlastiCool 2000 multilayer tubing for glycol applications to 120°C provides excellent chemical resistance, 25% better permeation resistance, and 60% lower weight than ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (EPDM), and is available in smooth, convoluted, round, and non-round configurations. Ergo-Lock+ modular VDA connectors are flexible, offer visual and scannable latch verification, and reduce insertion forces by more than 30%. The system’s modularity permits hundreds of connector configurations from a standard set of molded subcomponents at lower total cost.

Category Winner: Powertrain

High-Pressure Oil Cooler Gasket Seal

  • OEM make and model: 2022 General Motors Co. Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra

  • Tier supplier/processor: Uchiyama Marketing and Development America

  • Material supplier/toolmaker: Uchiyama Marketing and Development America and DuPont/Uchiyama Marketing and Development America

  • Material/process: UMC V7401 ethylene acrylic elastomeric plastic/injection molding

High-Pressure Oil-Cooler Gasket System

Oil cooler gaskets are small parts with important sealing functions between oil coolers and oil pumps in demanding engine environments. To eliminate leaks seen with fluorocarbon seals during temperature cycling, a new ethylene acrylic thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) was developed. It offers superior low-temperature sealing and maintains good compression set and controlled oil swelling from -40° to 150°C and 14 bars oil pressure. Gasket height also was increased to provide higher contact pressure and better sealing. Costs were reduced 66% and sustainability was increased since the thermoplastic material is recyclable.

Category Winner: Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies

Direct Exposure Laser Welding

  • OEM make and model: 2022 General Motors Co. Chevrolet Blazer

  • Tier supplier/processor: Magna Lighting

  • Material supplier/toolmaker: Various/SPM Automation

  • Material/process: Makrolon LED 2245 000000 polycarbonate (PC)/injection molding, laser welding

Direct Exposure Laser Welding

Hot-plate welding was replaced with a new process called direct epoxure laser welding to meet customer styling requirements for the light guides. Scanning lasers replace heated tools and can weld opaque lens borders without need for more costly laser-transparent materials. Additionally, clearance between internal components and weld ribs was reduced and ribs can be heated very precisely. The current design’s complex geometries would not have been possible with traditional welding proecsses. Further, scrap was reduced 40 to 50% and energy usage by 85 to 95%.

Category Winner: Sustainability

Reclaimed TPO/Foam System

  • OEM make and model: 2020 General Motors Co. Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra

  • Tier supplier/processor: Inteva Products LLC

  • Material supplier: Inteva Products LLC

  • Material/process: Inteather TGTPO ECO TPO/extrusion and repellitizing; co-extrusion of TPO sheets; vacuum forming and injection graining; press lamination; and assembly

Reclaimed TPO/Foam System

Thanks to a patented recycling process, post industrial recycled (PIR) bilaminate scrap comprised of thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) skins attached to cross-linked olefin foam is given new life in the same interior trim applications without sacrificing quality or performance. An additive package eliminates/binds/deactivates reactive residuals and trapped gases from foam. This program reclaimed over 680 tonnes of TPO resin, reducing landfilled scrap by 93%, replacing 50% of prime TPO, and lowering CO2 emissions and energy usage 48%.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like