ATP Helps Develop Flow-Control Machining to Increase Fuel Economy
||Extrude Hone Corporation, Irwin, PA; Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, MI;, General Motors, Detroit, MI; University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE; University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Roush Industries, Livonia, MI; CMI Castings, Southfield, MI; Alcoa, Pittsburgh, PA
Duration and Cost:
funding amount: $3.9 M
- Industry cost-share amount: $4.08 M
Report of the Completed Project:
In the mid-1990s, internal automotive engine parts often had manufacturing imperfections (such as roughness, size, and balance) that decreased performance. Finishing processes to correct the imperfections were time consuming and expensive. Extrude Hone Corporation formed a joint-venture partnership with Ford Motor Company, General Motors (GM), the University of Nebraska, and the University of Pittsburgh to develop two new, automated, and cost-effective finishing processes for cast-metal parts that carry fluids in interior passageways. Called abrasive flow-control machining (AFCM) and nontraditional combustion chamber sizing (NCCS), the processes could increase the precision of airflow and fuel blends, leading to a six-percent increase in fuel economy, as well as improved performance and reduced emissions. However, the technologies had high technical risks: researchers would need to develop new computer-generated models, new methods of manufacturing control, and new forms of abrasion used to smooth the parts. They would need to devise methods to monitor the flow rate of the abrasive medium in real time. “Machining to function,” or taking measurements in real time to reach specifications, represented a radical departure from industry practice.
and Economic Impacts
Extrude Hone accomplished most of its abrasive flow machining (AFM) technical goals. Although automated, real-time machining did not fully succeed, Extrude Hone made advances in relating media flow with air/fluid flow, optimizing the media, measuring performance outcomes, and developing algorithms to predict future performance.
- For these technical accomplishments, Extrude Hone was awarded seven issued patents for work developed in the ATP project.
One particular process developed during the ATP project was Orbital AFM Polishing. Orbital AFM produces a surface finish that is 20 to 30 times smoother than the original. Average surface roughness can be reduced to 0.01 μm or less. This process produces superior surface finishes in one-quarter the time and cost. This was one example why Extrude Hone received two technical awards and three business awards for accomplishments developed through the ATP project, including:
- 2003 “Entrepreneur of the Year” in the master category awarded to CEO of Extrude Hone, Lawrence Rhoades by Ernst & Young. Mr. Rhoades was recognized for growing a small company he bought in 1969 into Extrude Hone, which grew at an average annual rate of nearly 20 percent over 20 years. Steady growth continued despite a 63-percent drop-off in U.S. consumption of machine tools from 1997 through 2002. During that period, Extrude Hone more than doubled sales from $24 million to more than $50 million while employing more than 400 employees by 2003.
As a result of Extrude Hone’s technical and business growth, the commercial side of the company was acquired by Kennemetal in 2005. The research and development arm was spun off into a separate company, ExOne. Extrude Hone has developed several commercial processes to benefit manufacturers:
- MicroFlow AFM, released in 2000, is suitable for small-hole applications, such as fuel systems, particularly fuel spray-injector nozzles. Spray nozzles can be fine-tuned to a very close tolerance size and flow rate. Spray nozzle holes are much smoother (with a higher quality surface finish) than standard processed holes.
- AutoFlow regulates the speed the media passes through a component to generate more consistent, predictable results. Extrude Hone uses AutoFlow in aerospace, dies, molds, and medical applications (such as machining implantable devices, pharmaceuticals, or a slot on a staple slide for surgical instruments used to close incisions).
- Orbital AFM polishing provides rapid, precise polishing and finishing on the edges and surfaces of complex shapes, such as bottle molds, coining dies, and aluminum wheels, with ultra-fine precision, uniformity, and accuracy. For example, Orbital AFM enables the U.S. Mint in San Francisco to obtain an ultra-fine finish on its proof sets. In 2005, Extrude Hone was awarded a three- to five-year contract to machine exhaust ports and heads using Orbital AFM for General Motor’s (GM) supercharged Cadillac STSV, beginning with the 2007 model year. GM expects to sell 7,000 units per year. Semiconductor manufacturers and medical applications also use Orbital AFM.
- Orbital AFM polishing was applied to the engines of the space shuttle Atlantis before its launch in 2002. The aerospace industry uses the process to improve the strength of blades, disks, hubs, and gear shafts.
Economic case study results:
In an economic case study using the Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) macroeconomic model, economists at NIST simulated the total national impact of adoption of the Flow-Control Machining technology for large and small side-valve engines in the lawnmower industry. The macroeconomic model computes the total effect over time on the economy resulting from a change to a component of the economy. The model is based on economic theory, input-output (I/O) accounting, and econometrically estimated, time-dependent relationships between components of the economy. A comparison of the combined macroeconomic effects across the economy of Flow-Control Machining technology versus conventional technology shows the following:
Date created: December 4, 2006
- For both small, side-valve engines and large, side-valve engines, adoption of Flow-Control Machining technology is less costly to GDP, employment, and income in meeting the EPA regulations compared with adoption of conventional technology.
- For small, side-valve engines, there is a savings of $261 million in GDP, and $244 million in personal income over the three years 2007 to 2009 from using Flow-Control Machining technology.
- For large, side-valve engines, there is a savings of $982 million in GDP and $878 million in personal income over the five years 2003 to 2007. For these engines, the Flow-Control Machining technology saves 93% of GDP, employment, and personal income that would be lost using conventional technologies to address the EPA regulations.
December 4, 2006