Shedding light on prototypes

Rochester Hills, MI — Headlights tend to define the personality of an automobile so companies like Visteon, a leading Tier 1 Auto supplier, make efforts to ensure that the headlamp assemblies are right. A recent project took 20 design fine tunings, scores of meetings and reviews over a period of 18 months.

This project involved a vehicle with a long lineage of high performance and cutting-edge styling, meaning every element got tight scrutiny to ensure the result was perfect. This design wasn't merely a styling whim, because the new system incorporated the latest in lighting technology, materials to be used and the manufacturing processes. This made having prototypes a vital necessity to Visteon engineers.


Even with design changes prototype headlamps are made on time.
Click here to enlarge image

The company chose Urgent Plastic Services (UPS) of Rochester Hill, a specialist in rapid prototyping of injection molded plastic components. Steve Kelly, senior sales engineer at UPS, relates, "With our rapid prototyping capability, we're geared for fast turnarounds, with two- to three-week concept-to-delivery schedules being the norm. But for us to work on the headlamp assemblies for a period spanning 18 months was remarkable." Taking into account the 20 design alterations made over the 18 months, UPS response was fast by any standards.

For this project UPS produced 50 components, including the following: headlamp lens, parking light/turn indicator lens, park/turn reflector, headlamp housing and the headlamp bracket. Visteon provide the bezel, sealing gasket and all the optical components.

Visteon submitted a CAD file of the part design for UPS engineers to review for possible changes that could aid manufacturing or lower costs. After approval of changes, design files are sent to one of UPS' stereolithography (SLA) machines so that a model part can be checked for fit, fixturing and machining requirements.

The next step is the building of aluminum injection molding dies. Aluminum is chosen because its machinability allows fabrication of dies at fast speeds yet the dies retain the durability needed to process thousands of parts. UPS also uses its own injection molding systems to produce prototypes.

Prototypes produced were accurate as to size, shape and fit and had near production quality levels as to clarity, giving Visteon a means to compare values that bear on production runs. UPS also preassembled the pre-production pilot run off as the production supplier geared up his tooling and equipment.

UPS (www.urgentplastics. com) is associated with 3-Dimensional Services and Urgent Design & Manufacturing so they can undertake full prototyping services, including laser cutting and welding.

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