CW Blog

As innovative as the CarbonPro pickup box is (see more about its design and development in “Chopped carbon fiber, polyamide and innovation redefine the modern pickup truck bed”), it’s certainly not the only game-changing feature on the GMC Sierra Denali pickups from General Motors Co. (Detroit, Mich. U.S.). While it shares aluminum doors, hood and standard tailgate with “sister” Chevrolet Silverado models, visually the GMC models differ from Chevrolet counterparts through the use of asymmetrically-shaped wheel arches, distinctive sickle-shaped LED running lights, a “fanged” front grille and a more luxurious (but still durable) interior featuring leather-appointed seating with contrast stitching, and trim using real wood and aluminum accents.

Both models are taller than their predecessors, with wider beds, more cargo space (1.8 cubic meters), an extra 7.5 centimeters of rear-seat legroom and rear seats that fold forward to reveal hidden storage space. High-end trim levels for both 2019 Silverado and Sierra pickups are powered by a 3-liter/6-cylinder diesel engine or a 5.3- or 6.2-liter V8 gasoline engine. The gasoline engines feature Dynamic Fuel Management, a feature allowing between one and seven cylinders to be shut off to boost fuel economy while the vehicle is running. The diesel and 6.2-liter gasoline engines are mated to 10-speed automatic transmissions developed in partnership with Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, Mich., U.S.). Blind-spot warning systems, pedestrian detection and automatic braking at low speeds are additional safety features common to Silverado and Sierra platforms. However, a host of additional safety and convenience features are where the two platforms really start to diverge. 

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Auto industry explores engineering thermoplastic performance improvements

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE, Bethel, Conn., U.S.) met in Troy, Mich., U.S., on May 7 to hold its 14th Automotive Engineering Plastics Conference (AutoEPCON). The one-day event bridges the performance gap between SPE’s Detroit area TPO Automotive Engineered Polyolefins Conference (Auto TPO) and its Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE).

AutoEPCON’s 2019 technical program featured four keynotes plus 27 technical talks in three parallel sessions. During morning and afternoon breaks, 325 attendees visited 21 exhibits and networked, then attended an evening reception.

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The trade name for Sereebo, Teijin Ltd.’s (Tokyo, Japan) carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) sheets used in the manufacture of the CarbonPro pickup box, is an acronym for the English phrase “Save the Earth, REvolutionary & Evolutionary carBOn.” And company officials indicate that saving the earth was indeed a motivation for developing the material.

“Environmental concerns such as CO2 emission reductions and improvements in fuel efficiency are now global issues, so accelerated development of tough, lightweight eco-friendly composite components is a pressing task in the automotive industry,” explains Akio Nakaishi, Teijin Group corporate officer and Teijin Ltd. general manager of the composites business unit. He notes that carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) already is widely used to reduce mass in many aerospace/aviation and industrial applications. However, thermoset-based CFRP composites are rarely used for products with high production volumes owing to their slow processing times and recycling challenges.

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With the new and innovative design of the carbon fiber composite CarbonPro pickup box comes a new manufacturing process´╗┐ (see more about its design and development in “Chopped carbon fiber, polyamide and innovation redefine the modern pickup truck bed”). Starting with preforming at a Continental Structural Plastics’s Huntington plant (CSP; Huntington, Ind., U.S.) and finishing with pickup assembly at the Fort Wayne Assembly plant of General Motors Co. (GM; Roanoke, Ind., U.S.), here’s what we know.

The process of converting 2D sheets to 2.5D/3D parts begins with waterjet cutting of Teijin Ltd.’s (Tokyo, Japan) Sereebo carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite (CFRTP) sheets to a near-net shape (See Steps 1 and 2 of the manufacturing process at CSP above; equipment from Shape Process Automation, Auburn Hills, Mich., U.S.).

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Earlier this year, Trackwise (Gloucestershire, UK) shipped a 26-meter long multilayer flexible printed circuit (FPC) —believed to be the longest ever produced — for distributing power and control signals across the wings of a solar-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). In fact, Trackwise supplied more than 50 FPCs for this vehicle, cutting weight by 60% versus using conventional wire harnesses for aircraft power and control.

This weight savings enables the US-made UAV to achieve higher payload and/or improved speed and range. Trackwise manufactures the FPCs using Improved Harness Technology (IHT), a patented, reel-to-reel manufacturing technique. IHT overcomes conventional manufacturing limitations which have kept most FPCs below two meters in length, and enables Trackwise to produce FPCs in unlimited lengths.

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