The Long Run Advantage of Designing Custom Plastic Parts for Heavy Trucks with Reliability and Longevity in Mind
On the open road, it’s still endless entertainment for kids traveling in cars to hear heavy trucks blow their air horns as they pass. Do you remember signaling to get a trucker to honk? Surely, on long trips where heavy trucks rack up miles and miles trekking across the country, drivers don’t mind a bit of amusement and interaction.
The reality is, for today’s heavy trucks traveling from coast to coast, a service life of a million miles or more is standard. Compare that to the 25,000 miles the car transporting kids racks up annually, and you begin to gain some perspective: at that rate, it would take forty years for the car to cover a million miles.
Just imagine all of the wear and tear a heavy truck’s internal components are subjected to over a million miles. Add heavy loads, high speeds, high operating temperatures, extended idling, and the need for high reliability, and you have conditions capable of challenging the best designs and materials. That’s why reliable performance is so important when it comes to custom plastic parts for heavy trucks.
In addition to performance,
When it comes to your custom plastic parts and assemblies for heavy trucks, our design engineers partner with you from the very beginning — essentially becoming an extension of your engineering department. Our primary focus is longevity and reliability when it comes to your custom plastic or rubber parts. In the past, our engineers have even successfully redesigned parts, resulting in considerable savings and enhanced performance for customers. With that, let’s take a look at different examples of custom parts we’ve provided as solutions to manufacturer problems.
Custom Bell Housing Parts for Heavy Trucks
A manufacturer of heavy-duty diesel engines needed to reduce the weight and cost of expensive steel castings and formed metal tubing used for oil distribution within the oil pan.
Our talented team employed highly specialized materials, innovative design techniques and sophisticated computer analyses to develop molded plastic components. The newly designed parts performed as well as the metal components in the extremely demanding operating environment. The project was successful and resulted in dramatic reductions in component weights and costs.
Custom EGR Venturi Cover for Heavy Trucks
A diesel engine manufacturer needed assistance developing an improved cover for a venturi casting.
Our team developed a component that eliminated a foam insulation and blanket assemblies from the part — improving cost, heat retention, aesthetics and vibration performance. The team performed extensive Finite Element Analysis (FEA), including static analysis, model and forced frequency response.
Wiring Channel for Heavy Truck Applications
A manufacturer of heavy trucks faced problems with loose, frayed electrical wires from rubbing on the engine flywheel.
We designed and developed a wiring channel that holds a wire harness that maintains proper clearance and offers additional protection to the wiring. A single mold design can produce three variants of the component through the use of mold inserts.
Oil Fill Tube Assembly for Heavy Trucks
A manufacturer of large diesel engines was faced with a leak on a metal oil full tube assembly part. In desperate need of an improved seal, the manufacturer partnered with our team of engineers.
Our team not only corrected the sealing problem with the custom plastic part, we also had the opportunity to offer various innovative ideas that led to a plastic tube with an extending insert and attached screw on cap. Our product solved the leak issue and created popularity with the company’s customers.
Custom Plastic Bellows for Heavy Trucks
An original molded rubber part functioned well, but was too large and created additional expenses when made of rubber.
We created a more efficient part — thus
reducing the cost. Our product design team utilized advanced computer modeling
to test a variety of options. Ultimately, we determined the optimal way to
create the part was to blow mold it using thermoplastic elastomer, and the
results were excellent. In fact, the customer received a component that worked
equally well, but was much lighter and less expensive.
EGR Venturi Cover
A diesel engine manufacturer needed help to develop an improved cover for a venturi casting.
Our talented team of engineers eliminated foam insulation and blanket assemblies from the part, which improved cost, heat retention, aesthetics and vibration performance. In addition, our design team performed extensive finite element analysis (FEA) for the project, including static analysis, modal and forced frequency response. In addition, we assembled the part in-house.
These are just a couple of examples of success we’ve shared with manufacturers when it comes to custom parts heavy truck applications.
Now, let’s take a look at the kinds of heavy truck components we’re capable of supplying. In doing so, you’ll see the advantages these parts, and others like them, bring to the manufacturer of heavy trucks. Let’s jump in.
Custom Lubrication Systems for Heavy Truck Applications
There are a number of components in the lubrication system that our design engineers have successfully redesigned, resulting in considerable savings and enhanced performance for our customers.
For a plastic oil full tube application for an engine manufacturer, we created success by optimizing performance and cost. In this particular project, the original oil tube was metal, and the customer was dissatisfied with the part’s performance. Our team of engineers suggested replacing the old metal part with one that would use a high-strength engineering plastic material. From beginning to end, our engineers collaborated with the customer’s designers to create a completely new design that dramatically enhanced the function and appearance of the part.
A related project involved a pick-up tube located in the engine’s oil pan. Once again, the existing component was made of metal. Many such assemblies have gasketed connections that rely on numerous bolts to effect a seal. Our engineers successfully designed a lighter weight plastic system that uses a radial seal which requires no bolts, can use standard o-rings and is easier to tool.
Air Intake System for Heavy Trucks
The air intake system of a heavy truck engine is complex, and it must provide an adequate volume of very clean air for — as we have seen — perhaps a million miles or more. Our team will design, engineer, and supply a number of air intake components that yield higher performance and lower costs. One example is a throttle coupling that utilizes molded rubber and plastic to combine multiple components into one, eliminating potentially service-intensive joints. Installation is simplified, service is reduced, and as with the oil tube designs, meaningful weight reduction is achieved.
Design Considerations for Heavy Trucks
There are two important design and engineering-related aspects of this discussion. First, to obtain the greatest benefit when converting a component or assembly from metal to plastic (or to a combination of plastic and rubber), the conversion should be approached as a system, not as simply replacing a metal part with a plastic part. Second, such a conversion requires a high level of design, engineering and testing capability. As we’ve mentioned, when you take the advantage of this capability from the earliest concept and design stages of a project, you maximize the benefit of the new design while minimizing time and cost.
This is especially true when a component or system is subject to US and European safety standards. These standards continue to evolve, usually becoming stricter, and staying current with them, and even anticipating them, is key to a successful design.
And what about hoses, caps, gaskets, seals, covers and the many plastic and rubber parts that are used, or could be used, in heavy truck applications? Do they have special requirements? Yes, certainly. The expected service life of heavy truck components, as reflected in product testing, is as much as five times that of passenger vehicles.
One way to illustrate this difference is creep testing. When a plastic part is put under sufficient load in the presence of heat, oil, water or a combination of these environmental factors, it may deform permanently. A maximum amount of deformation is permitted over the span of the test. Automotive creep requirements are typically 1,000 hours, while heavy truck components must often be tested to 5,000 hours. Similar requirements extend to rubber components, which must pass extended compression set and/ or tension set testing.
Let’s return to cost for a minute. It’s no secret that enhanced performance and service life can cost more, primarily because premium materials are more expensive. Fluoropolymers and fluoroplastics, chlorosulfonated polyethylene, polysulfone — these familiar engineering materials are well-known to our team of engineers. Sometimes they’re the best choice, but with our material testing capabilities and depth of materials knowledge, coupled with a systems approach, you won’t be faced with purchasing a part made with a more costly material when a less costly material, used in an optimized design, will provide the same service.
Here’s a final thought: one of the defining characteristics of the heavy truck industry is its interlocking relationships between truck makers and engine makers, and its often complex supply chains, with engines, drivetrains, brakes and other systems being manufactured in plants all over the world. As an international company, we understand what it takes to design and manufacture not just parts but to provide fully integrated solutions to the challenges faced by today’s heavy truck industry. When we partner with your engineering department, you’ll see our team is there with you every step of the way to continually provide a fresh outside perspective.