Innovations Get Ovations at the 31st Annual SPE Awards Program

29 November 2001

Innovative people, plastics products and parts were honoured this week for their roles in improving the cost, weight and function of automotive systems at the International Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Division's 31st Annual Innovation Awards Program, held at Cobo Center before approximately 1,000 people. Six category awards, a Hall of Fame Award, and the Grand Award for a new class of reinforced plastics were presented, along with the first-ever ""Lifetime Leadership Achievement Award"".

The Grand Award (and Materials category winner) for plastics innovation, selected from more than 60 nominations by an independent panel of industry experts and analysts, was presented to General Motors for adopting a newly developed nanocomposite thermoplastic olefin (TPO). The new material, developed jointly by General Motors and Basell Polyolefins, uses microscopic clay particle reinforcement to increase stiffness and improve ductility. Blackhawk Automotive Plastics, Inc. molded the step assist for the 2002 Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans in this new material, resulting in parts weight savings of over 10 percent, enhanced appearance and improved part performance.

General Motors received the Body Exterior Award for the 2001 Chevrolet Silverado composite pick-up box, developed and produced by the Budd Company and Meridian Automotive Systems. The multi-material application, including reinforced reaction injection molded composite (RRIM), structural reaction injection molded composite (SRIM) and sheet molding compound (SMC), includes materials from Dow Automotive, Bayer, Ashland Specialty Chemical Company, SAI, and Owens Corning. It represents the industry's first full-size pick-up with an all-plastic truck box and the largest one-piece SRIM part ever made. It eliminated the need for a plastic bedliner, and even the liftgate is an all-composite construction. The patented part was made possible by innovations in process technologies.

The new truck box outperforms steel in over 2.5 million miles of road testing and offers a total weight savings of 50 pounds versus steel. The truck box is designed with a patented snap-fit fender assembly.

General Motors won the Process/Enabling Technologies Award for the Hybrid ThermoPlastic Composite (HTPC) Rear Bumper Beam on the 2001 Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Montana and Oldsmobile Silhouette vans. Plastic Omnium processes the materials to produce this new hybrid thermoplastic composite that combines two materials with complimentary behaviors. This process offers application performance benefits, weight and cost savings, better impact performance and greater structural integrity than the previous composite product used for this application.

The new process combines Twintex continuous glass fiber fabric (supplied by Vetrotex) known for stiffness and impact resistance with Asahi-Thermofil polypropylene. The process equipment includes a Husky 2350 ton injection molding machine, two Kuka robots, two infra-red ovens, one water-jet cutting machine, plus finishing equipment for the beam's mass production.

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