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SAE-A hands out joint Gold Awards

Winner: GMH won a Gold Award with its Australia-first aluminium bonnet and bootlid on the VF Commodore.

GMH and Denso share top gong at SAE-A awards for innovation

28 Oct 2013

AFTER an intense round of examination and assessment, the judges of this year’s Automotive Engineering Excellence Awards came up with a dead heat.

The top award in the Society of Automotive Engineers—Australasia’s (SAE-A) professional category was shared between GM Holden and air-conditioning specialist Denso Australia.

The awards were made at a gala dinner function at Crown Casino in Melbourne.

GMH won a Gold Award with its Australia-first aluminium bonnet and bootlid on the VF Commodore.

Denso won its Gold Award for the RT1 caravan air-conditioner, the first product to emerge from the company’s recently established research and development department.

The two drivers behind the aluminium bonnet and bootlid (closures) for GMH were mass reduction and lower cost, a tough combination to satisfy.

Switching to aluminium would have met the mass reduction target, but using the traditional system for forming an aluminium panel would have been too expensive, said joint GMH winner Adam Chitts.

“In the past they have used the superheated technique. You heat up the aluminium and vacuum form it, not the traditional stamping die process,” Mr Chitts said after he and collaborator Andrew Juriansz had collected their Gold Award.

“The superheated technique is also a low-volume process. What we came up with is a first for GM, a high-volume cold stamping process.”

The aluminium bootlid saves 5kg in weight, it meets the design department’s requirement for particular lip radius size to achieve optimum aerodynamics and it can be produced in a conventional four-stage pressing process.

While the bonnet is an easier shape to form because it is relatively flat, Mr Juriansz said he and the team had to work hard to get it to meet pedestrian protection (pedpro) standards.

“The most difficult part was doing the pedpro,” he said.

“We had some pretty difficult targets because the VF has a big engine and a nice big stiff chassis. There’s not a lot of space under the hood, and the frame is quite high in the towers.”

They had to keep the bonnet low to give the driver a good view of the road, so the computer-aided engineering team had to run “a huge amount” of analyses, simulating a pedestrian’s head hitting the bonnet at many different places.

Mr Juriansz said the team came up with a little bracket at the back of the hood to protect an adult head while, at the front, they had to move the rear wall of the front beam rearward while still keeping the bonnet soft just behind the latch.

“It was a real balancing act, and we ended up making the panel 0.1mm thicker than we wanted to achieve all the requirements.” The bonnet is 7kgs lighter than the previous steel version.

The Denso caravan air-conditioner is for stationary use and uses 240V mains electricity when the van is parked, said Denso engineer Ian Lavery.

The project was a significant departure from the company’s existing product range of off-engine air conditioners fitted to cars, so Denso Australia was given permission to establish one of the few Denso R&D centres outside Japan.

“Then we kick-started the project by building a concept caravan from scratch,” Mr Lavery said. “We needed to show people what was possible, that we were serious about entering a new market.”

The RT1 heat pump is the first unit for recreational vehicles that offers the new refrigerant R-410A and a two-way thermal expansion valve, which allows it to be a heater as well as a cooler.

Mr Lavery said that, while several parts of the system are bought in, many of them are being used in new applications.

“There’s quite a lot of engineering there to make sure it’s going to survive and have the reliability, in particular the vibration testing. We basically put it through a full automotive validation, as we would for a new truck part.”

Denso has its own wind tunnel and environmental chamber at its Melbourne base.

Mr Lavery said the unit was aimed at the caravan and RV market, but could also be used in truck sleeper cabins and perhaps other locations.

“It is 240V, so it’s for stationary applications, but certainly there are special applications, vehicles that need air conditioning like outside broadcast vans, some catering vans, those sorts of applications.

“We are starting to see people discover uses for it now that it is available, and it is really a high grade, reliable and robust unit that can be used, rather than a device that has been brought from the consumer electronics or household stationary air conditioning field into the automotive area.”

Denso is currently working on new models for the European and US markets (115V and 220V respectively) and a 24V DC version.

SAE-A Automotive Design Excellence Awards:
Gold Award: Ian Lavery, Denso Australia, for the RT1 caravan air conditioner
Gold Award: Adam Chitts and Andrew Juriansz, GMH, for aluminium closures
Silver Award: Tim Newman, GMH, chassis mass reduction VF Commodore
Highly Commended: Rob Bartlett, Suncorp, vehicle repair standard program
Yong Engineer: Penny Hosken, GMH, aluminium instrument panel beam, VF Commodore
Post Graduate Award: Do Manh Tuan and Hai Wang, Swinburne University, for a steer-by-wire experimental test kit
Undergraduate award: Shing Chak Sheung, Melbourne University, for using carbon fibre panels to stiffen space frame racing car chassis

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