One of the exhibits which drew great attention from attendees and the media alike at the 2016 North America International Auto Show in Detroit was a concept car project called the Super Sport Utility Vehicle (SSUV).
The result of a partnership between Unique Fabricating (NYSE:UFAB) and protective coatings specialist, LINE-X, the SSUV demonstrated how new cellular plastics and PU foam parts developed by Unique Fabricating can cut costs, weight and parts complexities. LINE-X demonstrated new advanced protective coatings which can be applied to both exterior and interior trim for enhanced durability. Advanced Automotive Technologies (AAT) both styled and built the SSUV Concept Car at its facilities located in Michigan.
"Unique Fabricating's TwinShape™ foam air duct technology reduces part weight by an average of 80% and offers improved thermal properties compared to conventional blow molded HDPE," says Brad Hazen, V.P. of Business Development, Unique Fabricating.
"LINE-X is always looking for new ways to disrupt the industry and be at the forefront of innovation," says Dennis Weese, President of LINE-X. "Our presence at NAIAS this year with Unique Fabricating showcased incredible advances in the way automotive parts perform, inside and out." Built from the frame up and using sustainable die cut and molded foam technology, the SSUV Concept is protected, inside and out, with LINE-X color stable coatings.
"People across the world are now discovering LINE-X's versatile impact on everything from protecting the Pentagon and troops to changing the way enthusiasts look at customizing the look, feel and durability of their vehicles," says Weese "Our presence at NAIAS this year not only showcased versatile applications for striking style and protection – but also advances in the way automotive parts perform, inside and out, through our SSUV concept."
Headquartered in Huntsville, Ala., LINE-X has a presence in over 550 locations in more than 70 countries.
Globally based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Unique Fabricating was founded in 1975 as an automotive die-cut fabricator of non-metallic materials. The company engineers and manufactures components for customers in the automotive and industrial appliance market. These include multi-material foam, rubber, and plastic components utilized in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) management, acoustical management, water and air sealing, decorative and other functional applications.
Unique leverages proprietary manufacturing processes including die cutting, thermoforming, compression molding, RIM PUR molding and fusion molding to manufacture a wide range of products including air management products, heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), seals, fender stuffers, air ducts, acoustical insulation, door water shields, gas tank pads, light gaskets, topper pads, mirror gaskets and glove box liners.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Hazen what are some of the innovative aspects of the SSUV.
Hazen: The SSUV showcases Unique Fabricating’s core process competencies and raw material expertise. By incorporating our light weight TwinShape™ duct technology, we effectively reduce component weight by an average of 80%.
AI: What interest has the concept vehicle attracted so far?
Hazen: The response from our customers and the automotive community has been extremely positive. They are
able to view the majority of our technologies on one working vehicle, as opposed to paper or electronic presentations. This makes it a more personal experience.
AI: Tell us a little about Unique Fabricatings’s solutions that are being used in the SSUV – for example your TwinShape™ technology.
Hazen: Historically, the automotive industry uses blow molding technology for air ducts. Unique Fabricating’s TwinShape™ technology utilizes a twin sheet vacuum forming process using polyolefin materials that offer lower weight, lower tooling investment and improved thermal properties. Our customers are adopting the TwinShape™ technology to reduce vehicle weight, improve acoustics and increase the thermal performance of the HVAC system in the vehicle. Unique Fabricating leverages our material and process expertise to offer our customers the most economical solution for each application.
AI: What cost, weight and parts complexity reduction do you expect automotive manufacturers to make by using these technologies?
Hazen: On average, our TwinShape™ technology provides an 80% weight savings compared to conventional blow molded plastic. We continue to develop raw materials to reduce weight and offer improved NVH performance in an effort to assist our customers in meeting the new CAFÉ standards being adopted in 2025.
AI asked Weese how the technologies showcased in the SSUV are serving to disrupt the industry.
Weese: LINE-X has long been known for tough, virtually indestructible spray-on bedliners, but our high-performance coatings are engineered to adhere to a wide variety of surfaces – as demonstrated by the SSUV concept. LINE-X protects the front and rear bumpers, rocker panels, interior tub and the seats. The use of these versatile coatings, combined with their impressive physical properties, is what makes the SSUV unique and innovative. Unlike traditional paint these coatings display extraordinary impact and abrasion resistance, yet are flexible to ensure durability. Each coating is color and UV stable, tested for over 5,000 hours of QUV which is equivalent to five years of Florida sun.
AI: What was the reaction been so far from automotive OEMs to the SSUV?
Weese: We’ve had a great reaction to the vehicle. The SSUV debuted at the 2015 SEMA Show to much interest and curiosity, and then turned heads at the Detroit Auto Show. The response has been very positive, and the industry is learning about the diversity and capability of LINE-X.
AI: How did your partnership with Unique Fabricating come about for the SSUV?
Weese: In 2014 we were asked to join Unique Fabricating on another vehicle concept, the CASP Car: Concepts for Advanced Sustainability in Polyurethanes for Renewable and Recycled Solutions. It has been a great partnership since and as innovators our products complement each other well.
AI: Tell us a little about what makes LINE-X XS-670 so innovative and how it will benefit automotive OEMs.
Weese: Some time ago we were asked by an apparel manufacturer to develop a “softer” protective material that could be incorporated into a water shoe and later a boot. This material had to be exceptionally durable, resistant to fading and UV damage, versatile, and pleasant to the touch. LINE-X XS-670 was designed specifically for this purpose. After working with foam injection molding companies like Unique Fabricating, we realized XS-670 could be an effective solution for creating highly durable automotive components ranging from seating to arm rests, engine covers and more. It is resistant to chemicals, punctures and abrasion, and as an in-mold coating it can be formed to any shape, pattern or texture.