DEARBORN – Ford researchers and interior component engineers have been investigating using microcellular or MuCell technology for injection molded parts to reduce component weight, a key Ford strategy to help increase fuel efficiency.
HOW IT WORKS: MuCell, developed and patented by MIT and now owned by Trexel Inc., involves the highly controlled use of a gas such as CO2 or nitrogen in the injection molding process, which creates millions of micron-sized voids or bubbles in uniform configurations.
• In Ford research trials, the microscopic bubbles reduced component weight up to 10 percent for a non-visible part, without sacrificing dimensional integrity
• Using MuCell technology also eliminates pack and hold times in the molding/cooling process, reducing cycle times. With MuCell, the typical time to mold a part during trials improved up to 30 percent
• The MuCell process also requires less clamping force, allowing a reduction in injection press size by up to 50 percent; reduced cycle times and clamping forces translate to energy savings and reduced CO2 emissions associated with production
POTENTIAL CONSUMER BENEFIT: Overall vehicle weight affects fuel efficiency, a top purchase consideration for buyers. Yet consumers don’t want to give up comfort, convenience, performance, appearance or technology. So automakers must look at every aspect of a vehicle, from the smallest bracket to the engine that powers it for potential weight savings.
• Ford is committed to reducing vehicle weight between 250 to 750 pounds depending on vehicle line by 2020; increased usage of high-strength steels, aluminum, magnesium and other platform efficiencies has already begun to meet these goals
• Ford has four nameplates with EPA-certified 40 mpg-plus (Focus SE with SFE package, Fiesta SE with SFE package, Fusion Hybrid, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid), more than any other full-line manufacturer
WHAT’S NEXT: Ford will continue to research potential uses of MuCell technology for production of interior components. Ford also has patents filed on improvements to the MuCell process.