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Friday
Apr072017

2018 Audi A8 Lightweight Tech

Carbon fiber bulkhead varies from six to 19 layers, and improves body rigidity by 33%.The spaceframe for the 2018 Audi A8 luxury sedan will use a mix of aluminum, steel, magnesium and — for the first time — carbon fiber. Compared to its predecessor, this multi-material mix increases torsional rigidity by 25%, though the weight of the body-in-white is up 112 lb. due to the need to meet ever stricter crash standards, and accommodate new powertrains. The new A8 is expected to have a 48-volt electrical system, as well as offer full hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. This required adding structure to protect the lithium-ion batteries.

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Friday
Mar102017

Weego: Rethinking the Jump Starter

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Weego's N Series family. From left to rigiht, 44, 66, 22 and 22S.Gerry Toscani is the CEO of Paris Business Products, a leading supplier of paper and business products for sale to both the general public and commercial customers. Things like DocIt organizers, PrintWorks paper, DocuGuard Security products and more. The company was established as a continuous forms producer in 1964, but has branched out since. However, its latest venture is somewhere out in left field, having nothing to do with its main line of business.

“Our business is still very strong, but the paper industry is in decline,” says Toscani. “Branching out into a new market, one with a lot of room to grow, made sense for our long-term viability.”  And that business is portable power products. Things like jump starters and battery packs. Products with very little paper, even in the packaging.

“I got into this business,” says Toscani, “because there are nearly one billion batteries in use between cars, trucks, boats, notebooks and tablets. There’s a lot of opportunity.” A lot of opportunity that you’d expect established names like Energizer and Duracell, who dominate the throw-away alkaline battery market, to take advantage of by using their size, name brands and position in the market. However, as Toscani discovered during the research phase of building his business plan, the established players were more than happy to stick to what they were familiar with, and license their brand names to others.

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Friday
Feb102017

GKN: Drifting, from AWD to eAWD

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Ford Focus RS: Torque vectoring all-wheel drive makes it fun in the dry and in the snow.Ray Kuczera, Senior Vice President, Engineering and Technology at GKN Driveline, has a bittersweet relationship with all-wheel drive systems. “The first complete AWD system that we supplied was in 2002 for the Chrysler minivan. I was the engineering manager for that program, and it lived for a whole two years until some clever guy invented Stow-N-Go seating, and took the space where the propshaft used to go.” Undaunted, GKN kept plugging away, getting the contract to supply the complete AWD drive unit for the GM Sigma platform, Fiat Panda, Range Rover Evoque, Jeep Renegade/Fiat 500X, and MG’s compact SUV. It also supplies the rear drive module and power takeoff for Volvo’s XC90 and S90, Cadillac XT5/GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse, and — perhaps its most well-known — the Ford Focus RS.

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Wednesday
Jan112017

Fact and Fiction: Autonomous Vehicles

By Christopher A. Sawyer

“Many of the technologies we are using for automated driving are actually active safety systems,” says Andrew Whydell by way of explanation as to why automated driving is at the cusp of realization. As Global Director, Vehicle Systems Product Planning, ZF TRW Active and Passive Safety Division, Whydell has seen the proliferation of safety systems throughout the vehicle, as well as calls from regulators and safety organizations to make some of the necessary technologies standard equipment. As they have matured and tied in to other units in order to increase system capability, they have been joined by new features that make autonomous control of a vehicle possible.

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Friday
Oct212016

A Drop in the Buckets

Over the past five years, Ford Motor Company has recycled over nine tons of modeling clay, with 5,070 lb. recycled last year alone. That five-year total is enough to build a dozen full-size clay model car exteriors, while last year’s total would be enough to do almost three full-size clays of the Raptor.

Modeling clay, which isn’t clay at all, is made up of waxes and oil with filler, and does not contain water like traditional ceramic clay. Until the early 2000s, it also contained sulfur, though that escaped from the mix when heated to a temperature that made the clay malleable. When it did, it wreaked havoc on electronics, causing numerous malfunctions in milling and other machines. And, until whale hunting was banned, it also used to contain whale blubber.

Most of the recovered clay comes when milling machines follow math data to create the vehicle’s silhouette. These chips are collected in blue bins that surround the model and recycled. Because impurities can have a massive effect on the finish of the model, only the chips collected in the blue bins are reused. All the rest (Ford uses about 90 tons of modeling clay each year) is discarded.

The  clay recycling machine uses multiple blades to compress and churn the clay chips. This removes any air pockets that might be trapped within the material. It is then pushed through a heated nozzle that returns the clay to a malleable consistency, and columns are extruded and stacked for reuse. — CAS