A sheet-molded compound (SMC) engine shroud on the 2020 Ford Explorer SUV should cut engine noise and improve the vehicle’s noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH). Officials with supplier Continental Structure Plastics (CSP) say the part shows the potential for plastics in heat-sensitive locations near vehicle engines.

Developed in collaboration with Ford using the tools in Ford’s new NVH lab, the composite engine shroud creates an air gap between the engine compartment and the steel front bulkhead by wrapping around the back of the engine and meeting the strut towers on each side of the engine bay.

Similar all-steel components are common on luxury SUVs where noise performance is more important, and weight savings are less critical. Using the composite kept the Ford shroud to 12 lb, significantly lighter than the steel shrouds used for luxury SUVs.

Acoustically, the composite improves the sound barrier, and because it is made from composites, it offers the moldability and design flexibility needed to support a complex, under-hood packaging environment.

“Composites are a great choice for a number of under-the-hood applications,” says CSP business development director Bryan Ludwig. He adds that CSP’s glass fiber composite “offers better thermal properties than a metal, and can be molded thin enough to fit in the tight spaces found in the engine compartment.”

CSP CEO Steve Rooney adds, “Because of the superior dampening qualities offered by a composite, Ford was able to achieve a level of cabin quietness that will enhance the driving experience for Explorer and Aviator owners.”

The dual-wall dash is being manufactured at the Continental Structural Plastics facility in Conneaut, Ohio, a 190,000ft2 facility that employs 260 people.

Continental Structural Plastics https://www.cspplastics.com

Flexible LED lighting

Nexlide-HD (high definition) flexible 3D lighting for cars emits bright and uniform light. An automotive lighting module, made by attaching LED packages to a thin substrate, forms a hexahedron that gently curves like rubber for mounting on exterior lamps such as daytime running lights (DRLs).

Nexlide-HD emits uniform light from five directions, omitting only the substrate contact surface. Light projects 180°, an improvement from standard 100° systems.

Automakers will be able to design lights with straight lines, curves, waves, and 3D figures. Modules can be cut into thin pieces and combined into blocks to create complex shapes such as floral patterns.

Slim lighting systems can reduce the thickness of automobile lamps by up to 70% by eliminating components in the module, such as an inner lens.

LG Innotek http://www.lginnotek.co.kr

Automotive-grade plastic gear

Victrex HPG plastic gears made of polyether-ether-ketone (PEEK) in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, have won IATF 16949 certification, certifying it as automotive grade for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers.

Victrex Automotive Director Andy Walton says, “A major European car manufacturer has already taken advantage of our gear design approach, as our ability to look at the whole system, not just the gear was invaluable. We are also working on numerous other programs with global OEMs in other geographies, including the U.S.”

Compared to traditional metal-based gears, Victrex HPG based thermoplastic gear solutions for internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric vehicle (EV) platforms improved noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) performance and fuel efficiency.

Victrex USA Inc. https://www.victrex.com

Airbag design

Passenger front airbag technology could better protect occupants in various frontal collision scenarios, including angled crashes between vehicles or a vehicle and another object.

Unlike conventional airbag systems that rely on a single inflatable compartment, the new system uses four major components: three inflated compartments – a center chamber and two outward-projecting side chambers that create a wide base across the dash – along with a sail panel that stretches between the two side chambers’ outermost edges. Operating something like a baseball catcher’s mitt, the sail panel catches and decelerates the occupant’s head while also engaging the side chambers, pulling them inward to cradle and protect the head, mitigating the potential for injury.

Autoliv Inc. https://www.autoliv.com

Honda R&D Americas http://www.hondaresearch.com

FWD, AWD electric axles

The e-AAM hybrid and electric driveline battery electric vehicle (BEV) system delivers 400hp, 516 lb-ft of torque, and all-wheel-drive via two electric drive units. Two power-dense electric drive units maximize power but minimize system space and contribute to a low center of gravity.

American Axle & Manufacturing https://www.aam.com