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Economic Impacts of Flow-Control Machining Technologies: Early Applications in the Automobile Industry



M A. Ehlen


Cast-metal parts that carry fluids in interior passageways often have imperfections which decrease their functional precision and ultimate performance. Finishing processes exist which correct these mistakes, but they are time consuming and costly, restricting the processes to high-value, low production applications. The goal of the Flow-Control Machining (FCM) Project is to develop two new automated and cost-effective finishing processes which--by smoothing, sizing, and balancing pasageways--markedly improve the precision and performance of these parts. If the goal is achieved, the new processes have potentially wide application in the automobile, aircraft, diesel, and rocket engine industries. The first application of the FCM processes is to airflow components in auto and light-truck engines and is, therefore, the subject of this study. The new processes will allow automakers to manufacture engines that have higher precision and performance. The processes can be used to increase the horsepower or fuel efficiency of a given engine by 6 percent. This study estimates the economic impact of implementing the FCM processes in the automobile industry. The study finds that under current market conditions automakers will likely use the two FCM processes to increase the fuel efficiency of their large, light-truck class of vehicles such as minivans, pickup trucks, and large utility vehicles. These vehicles are highly demanded and profitable, but federal Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) fuel efficiency requirements limit their production. Adoption and implementation of the two processes will allow automakers to increase production of these vehicles and still satisfy their CAFE reqirements. Analysis indicates that implementation by automakers between a niche market of 216,000 vehicles (a representative line of vehicles for Ford and GM) and a full market of 80% of all light trucks would increase long-run domestic product (GDP) by between $142 million and $1.9 billion, create between 1,800 and 28,500 new manufacturing jobs, and increase personal income by between $196 million and $2.0 billion.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 6373
Report Number


advanced technology program, automobile industry, CAFE, economic impacts, evaluation, fuel efficiency, government technology programs, macroeconomic analysis, technology impacts


Ehlen, M. (1999), Economic Impacts of Flow-Control Machining Technologies: Early Applications in the Automobile Industry, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD (Accessed July 12, 2024)


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Created October 1, 1999, Updated February 19, 2017