Photo - Veemala Rethinasamy, Malaysia National Sales Manager, Asia Pacific, Ford Export & Growth Operations.
According to The Ford Motor Company, it is the first to use tiny cell technology, invented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a vehicle's instrument panel to help deliver additional fuel economy.
Called the MuCell process, the technology has been developed for commercial use by Trexel, and has been used in Ford's new Kuga, said Veemala Rethinasamy, Malaysia national sales manager, Asia Pacific, Ford Export & Growth Operations.
The use of microscopic cells helps to save weight, as well as fuel in future Ford vehicles, starting with the instrument panel of the new Kuga model. It is the first time the MuCell process has been used in an instrument panel, the largest automotive component moulded using the process.
Acquired by Trexel in 1995, the MuCell process involves the highly controlled use of a gas such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen in the injection-moulding process, which creates millions of micron-sized bubbles in uniform configurations, lowering the weight of the plastic part.
"Ford is focused on leveraging innovations in materials that save weight and boost fuel economy, helping our vehicles travel farther on less," said Rethinasamy. "MuCell is a great example of this effort."
Creating the instrument panel structure in microcellular foam saves about US$3 per vehicle in the United States versus solid injection moulding. Weight is also reduced by more than 500g, moulding cycle time is reduced 15 percent and moulding clamp tonnage is decreased by 45 percent. This microcellular foaming technology also saves petroleum as well as reducing overhead and energy costs by reducing the amount of time it takes to produce plastic parts.
Plastic parts to save weight
"We are pleased that Ford recognises the immense potential MuCell holds for vehicle cost and weight savings," said Trexel president and chief executive officer, Steve Braig. "We're now working with Ford to apply the MuCell process in a strategic way for many more applications as they incorporate MuCell into their design guidelines."
MuCell use in the instrument panel (IP) of the new Ford Kuga helps to reduce the weight of the IP by 450g. The use of plastic parts without sacrificing strength, durability of function, helps to incrementally deliver weight savings.
The MuCell process has already been used successfully in Ford vehicles in Europe for valve covers, along with heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.
Image - The first application of the MuCell process in an instrument panel on the new Ford Kuga.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.