5th July 2016 by Richard Yen
In today’s look back at the nominations for the 2015 Altair Enlighten Award, we’re reviewing Dana Holding’s entry which concerned an innovative use of plastics to replace a traditional metallic or solid plastic cylinder head cover.
Clearances and tolerances for the cover were extremely tight and required a combination of complex tooling and dimensional stability to achieve a functional part. In addition to the tight clearances, the head cover structure presents a unique challenge to designers in order to achieve the required stiffness with plastic materials.
To address these challenges, Dana utilized a unique manufacturing process called ‘MuCell’. MuCell is a microcellular foam injection molding process that utilizes nitrogen injected in a super critical state to create microscopic gas cells within plastic structures.
Based on the complexity of the part’s geometry, tolerance requirements, and placement in the vehicle, converting the part from magnesium to plastic would have been increasingly challenging, if not impossible, and resulted in a lower weight savings, had the MuCell process not been part of the solution.
The resulting foamed structure replaced what would otherwise have been a solid plastic or metallic part. The new design, enabled by the MuCell process creating improved product design flexibility and decreased use of plastic material to achieve an overall weight reduction.
As the automotive industry looks to replace more components with lighter weight plastics and other more exotic materials, the need for innovative new manufacturing methods is only going to increase. Dana’s entry impressed the judges with the potential impact that the MuCell process could have for car makers looking into material replacement strategies.
Download a PDF of this nomination here – Dana Holding Corporation