Engine Expo in Novi Michigan 2017 review

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The Suburban Collection Showplace played host to a number of exciting technology debuts live on the show floor, as typified by Interface Performance Materials, which highlighted its new thermal insulation material, Interface TI1K. Developed using trace organics, this new product eliminates two common issues associated with thermal insulation materials. Application engineer Jonathan X Zhang explained, “The challenge with thermal insulation materials is that they cannot survive beyond 400°C and when burnt out an ash is produced. They also give off a distinctive odor.”

The project to develop Interface TI1K was initiated following a request from customer Elring Klinger, a manufacturer of heat shielding, which had received complaints from a large OEM about the smell. Interface Performance Materials’ new thermal insulation is not only odorless, but can also operate at 1,000°C without producing any smoke or ash. It can be applied more cost-effectively than other available materials as it does not require any pre-treatment.

Elsewhere on the show floor, Metal Powder Products (MPP), a company that specializes in the manufacturing of aluminum and ferrous powder metal components, provided an update on its acquisition of Thompson Machine Group, a supplier based in Ridgway, Pennsylvania.

“It’s been an extremely smooth transition,” noted Tony L Zimmerman, regional sales manager, MPP. “The acquisition enhances our in-house part finishing capabilities and enables us to provide customers with more turnkey solutions.” The acquisition, which came off the back of a long-standing partnership between the two companies, serves as a key building block for MPP, enabling further investment to support customers’ demands.

Visitors to Engine Expo were also given the opportunity to experience a new stop-start technology for medium-duty vehicles, jointly developed by show exhibitors Jacobs Vehicle Systems and Bosch and showcased on a demo vehicle just outside the exhibition hall.

“Start-stop has not typically been adopted on these types of vehicles due to high starter system requirements on load, which are inhibitive, and NVH issues,” explained Robb Janak, director for new technology at Jacobs Vehicle Systems. “The active decompression technology system eliminates engine shake at shutdown, and the decompression enables improved start-up by reducing the starter system loads.”

The innovation is claimed to reduce vibration by 90% at engine shutdown and provide a 20% reduction in starter torque. Further benefits of the technology, which can be easily integrated into multiple engine platforms, include increased fuel savings through reduced idle, increased cranking speed – up to two times normal speed for smoother starting and improved cold start – and reduced energy consumption during cranking.

For first-time exhibitor Technique, a producer of prototype parts, the show provided an ideal platform to highlight its new US manufacturing facility in Jackson, Michigan. Following the continued growth in business in recent years, the additional capacity will enable the company to meet increased demand for its products.

Investment for the production plant, which is home to around 110 employees, totaled US$7m. It took around a year to build and covers an area of 48,800m² (160,000ft²). The site is equipped with facilities for prototype stamping, tubing and welding, hydroforming and five-axis fiber laser trimming, and Technique estimates it will provide added capacity to the tune of US$5m per year.

Elsewhere on the show floor, Proto Labs, an expert in rapid manufacturing, announced the addition of multi-jet fusion to its suite of 3D printing technologies. The production-grade 3D printing technology, developed by HP, builds fully functional plastic prototypes and production parts with increased speed, high precision and consistent mechanical properties.

The technique uses an inkjet array to apply fusing and detailing agents across a bed of nylon powder, which is then fused by heating elements into a solid layer. The unique approach to binding powder results in more isotropic material properties, faster build speeds and, ultimately, lower costs compared with other powder-based 3D printing processes.

“Before introducing any manufacturing process at Proto Labs, we conduct thorough testing to develop a repeatable process and ensure we can meet our quality standards,” said Greg Thompson, global product manager of 3D printing at Proto Labs.

“We are extremely confident with the feature resolution and quality surface finishes we have seen with HP’s multi-jet fusion, and delighted to offer customers another tool to accelerate product development and reduce manufacturing costs.”

Visitor feedback

Visitors to Engine Expo in Novi, Michigan were united in their praise of the diversity of products on display, as well as the networking opportunities that the expo – now in its sixth year – presented.

“We manufacture electric motors for non-automotive applications and this event has been very eye-opening,” said David Rahusen, business development manager, Moog Components Group. “There’s so much testing of motors that has to go on, from a mechanical standpoint, so it’s been extremely worthwhile attending.”

Other visitors, such as Jeffery Konkel, an engineering technologist at Ford, had their eyes on other specific technologies to help with their test needs. “My purpose for visiting the show was to find out about torque cells for half shafts and driveshafts, and new products for strain gauge applications. I conversed with several companies about torque shafts and torque cells and a couple of different companies about strain gauges that I can use in my applications.”

Likewise, Yugandhara Joshi, a mechanical engineering graduate from Wayne State University, said, “This was the perfect place to get in front of the leading companies. My area of expertise is in fuels and lubricants but it’s been great learning about the latest powertrain concepts and forced induction possibilities, too.”

Finally, Pat Hodge, a powertrain engineer at Ford, said, “I’ve not been to a trade show in quite a few years and I was highly impressed with the number and quality of exhibitors in attendance. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m glad I came.”

Exhibitors were equally pleased with the quality of those in attendance. “It’s been great. We’ve had a good amount of traffic and have been asked a lot of great questions,” said Josh Parker, DMLS technician at Proto Labs. “We’ve met with a lot of OEMs, a lot of technical engineers, product managers and program managers; it seems to be the more hands-on customer.”

Likewise, Richard Sammut, key account manager at Cosworth, was impressed with the caliber of visitors from major OEMs: “You had engineers from the big three here – Ford, GM and FCA – which is exactly the type of people we want to put ourselves in front of.”

Meanwhile, Oz Anderson, owner of Anderson Consulting and a repeat exhibitor at Engine Expo in Novi, Michigan, not only found the show to be useful in terms of meeting prospective customers, but also for discovering ways in which to improve his own product.

“We exhibited in order to gain publicity for our single-cylinder research engine and, as we’re a small company that many people aren’t aware of, we made several good contacts. I myself was particularly interested in the latest magnetic materials, and at the show I discovered some interesting methods of building components.”

Frank LoScrudato, VP for development and operations at Nostrum Energy, left the Suburban Collection Showplace happy with the business his company conducted over the last three days. “As a startup business, we’re competing against larger companies that have larger budgets and are well known; exhibiting at Engine Expo enabled us to better establish our market presence and make new contacts through the show and the Open Technology Forum. In addition, I found three potential suppliers able to provide alternative manufacturing methodologies for components we purchase.”

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About Author

Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine + Powertrain of the Year Awards.

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