TROY, MI – An industry consortium consisting of the Detroit Big Three auto makers, a motorcycle manufacturer, two Michigan-based universities and key automotive suppliers wins a $4.9 million federal grant to develop high-tech engine-manufacturing technology.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is awarding the grant to the Powertrain and Engineering and Mfg. Alliance to partially fund the 3-year, $12 million research program.
PEMAlliance includes General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC, Harley-Davidson Inc., Coherix Inc., Roush Enterprises Inc., the University of Michigan and Kettering University.
Additional funding comes from Coherix and several other companies, officials say.
Holographic-imaging technology will be used to create 3-dimensional renderings of engine components that will reduce variability in the parts, thereby improving quality, says PEMAlliance President Butch Dyer at an event here announcing the grant.
“A long-term objective is to reduce the capital, operating and warranty costs of automotive powertrain programs by 30% or more,” he says. “We’ll also be working to contribute to the future growth of Michigan’s economy.”
The program, slated to launch Nov. 1, includes teams of post-graduate students at the two universities working in conjunction with teams from the participating companies, Dyer says, noting the engine-manufacturing technology has the potential to save the Big Three more than $1 billion annually.
The ultimate goal is to reduce production variances on the micron level, Dyer says.
“Automotive engines are designed and manufactured with production variations of up to 12 microns or even more,” he says.
“The introduction of high-definition imaging systems to monitor machining center quality will enable manufacturers to dramatically reduce defects, improve launch times and increase operating efficiencies by achieving tolerance levels of two microns or less.”
By working together, the Big Three will be able to achieve engine quality levels that could surpass industry leaders Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp., says Robert Lee, Chrysler vice president-`powertrain product engineering.
“It will absolutely help us be more competitive,” he says.
Joining together on such an important project shows a newfound trust is being established among the auto makers and the two universities, says Tony Hain, associate provost-graduate studies, at Kettering University.
“You can imagine the power of this paradigm and what’s going to come of this,” he says. “I’ve never seen (cooperation) before to this extent.
“The ultimate goal is to make engines the same,” Hain adds. “If you’re working plus or minus one micron, quality problems go right out the door.”