The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has announced that it will renew a multiyear research award under the Advanced Technology Program to The Budd Company (Troy, Mich.) to develop a low-cost method for manufacturing polymer matrix composite automobile components, reducing cycle time, capital expenses and post-molding operations.
The NIST award renewal is for $400,000. The three-year project, begun in 1995, is projected to receive a total of approximately $2 million in ATP funding, matched by approximately $1,068,000 in industry funding.
Advanced Technology Program awards are designed to help industry pursue risky, challenging technologies that have the potential for a big pay-off for the nation’s economy. ATP projects focus on enabling technologies that will create opportunities for new, world-class products, services and industrial processes, benefiting not just the ATP participants but other companies and industries—and ultimately consumers and taxpayers. The ATP’s cost-shared funding enables industry to pursue promising technologies that otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets.
Detailed information on this project, Manufacturing Methodologies for Automated Thermoset Transfer/Injection Molding, is provided below.
The use of lightweight composites instead of metals in structural components could be the key to development of ultra-fuel-efficient automobiles, but the associated manufacturing methods are too expensive to permit widespread use of these advanced materials. For example, front fenders made of flexible, glass-reinforced thermoset materials currently are installed only on low-volume car models. The Budd Company, which supplies auto makers with these fenders as well as other components, proposes to lower costs by combining the best of three existing manufacturing processes for thermoset materials and thereby reducing cycle time, capital expenses, and the number of post-molding operations. The proposed automated process, transfer/injection molding (TIM), combines the key characteristics of compression molding, which optimizes component surface finish, mechanical properties, and dimensional stability, with the low cost and automation potential of injection and transfer molding. Technical challenges include identification of materials and processes that can produce parts with good surface finishes and mechanical properties, and development of a three-dimensional mathematical simulation of material flow during processing. The ATP funding will significantly shorten development time for TIM, which could stimulate increased use of composites in components such as hoods and doors, providing for corresponding reductions in vehicle weight and fuel usage, capital expenditures, and product development cycles. The marine, housing, recreation, agricultural, and chemical industries could benefit as well. The University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI) is a subcontractor that adds flow-modeling expertise.
The Budd Company
Technologies: Manufacturing Composite Structures
Project length: 3 years
ATP funds: $2,000 K
Cost-shared funds (est.): $1,068 K
Total project funds (est.): $3,068 K
Contact: Paul Flancbaum, (248) 643-3644