For decades, automakers have been trying to reduce the mass of major engine components. For the most part casting cylinder blocks and heads in aluminum rather than the traditional iron has been considered the preferred approach. The problem is that aluminum is not as tough as iron and when you have pistons reciprocating several thousand times per minute, it tends to wear away quickly. The most common solution to the wear problem has been the use of iron or steel cylinder liners, but they adds weight and cost.
Ford retiree James Baughman and Dr. David Cook, Keith Kowalsky and Daniel Marantz of supplier Flame-Spray Industries have been awarded the 2009 Inventor of the Year prize for their work in developing a new coating system for aluminum cylinders. The Plasma Transferred Wire Arc coating system that eliminates the need for liners cuts the weight of a 6-cylinder block by six pounds, and also helps reduce friction, further aiding efficiency.
The process can also be applied to older aluminum and iron blocks during remanufacturing allowing them to be re-used and cutting total life cycle manufacturing energy use. PTWA is being rolled out to Ford's North American powertrains over the next year.
ENERGY-EFFICIENT ENGINE TECHNOLOGY WINS FORD TEAM NATIONAL INVENTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
* The Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation is honoring the inventors of the Ford-patented Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) technology used to apply coatings on engine cylinder bores with the 2009 National Inventor of the Year Award
* Ford's PTWA thermal spray coating process for aluminum engine blocks replaces heavy cast iron liners which improves an engine's fuel efficiency by reducing engine weight and internal piston friction losses
* Ford has 95 issued and pending patents related to the new PTWA coating technology and will introduce it on its North American powertrain lineup within the next year
CONTEXT / BACKGROUND:
* An aluminum engine block offers a substantial weight savings to a vehicle, making it an attractive option for automakers looking for ways to reduce curb weight, and in turn, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. However, most aluminum engines require heavy cast iron liners because of aluminum's low wear resistance, somewhat offsetting the block's initial leaner weight.
* A Ford-patented thermal spray coating process for cylinder bores replaces these heavy liners with a low-friction, wear-resistant coating that makes the engine lighter and more efficient. This technology has the potential to reduce vehicle weight, increase fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, which are all key elements of Ford's plan to deliver more sustainable solutions that can be applied to millions of cars and trucks in the near term.
James R. Baughman
The Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation's 36-year-old National Inventor of the Year Award program recognizes individuals that epitomize American traditions of technological leadership, and increases public awareness of current inventors and how they benefit the nation's economy and our quality of life.
The 2009 Inventor of the Year award goes to Ford and Flame-Spray Industries for the collaborative development of the spray apparatus for use with Ford's patented production-ready Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) thermal spray coating process for aluminum engine blocks.
This accomplishment puts Ford and Flame-Spray Industries in elite company with medical and pharmaceutical powerhouses as well as agricultural and chemical standouts, among others. Past Inventors of the Year, for example, include Dr. Raymond Damadian of Fonar Corporation for the development of Upright MRI technology and Dr. Ihor Lys of Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions for his development of a more efficient LED lighting system.
The team of inventors being honored at the National Inventor of the Year Award ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 28 is Ford retiree James Baughman and Dr. David Cook, Keith Kowalsky and Daniel Marantz of supplier Flame-Spray Industries. Cook was a member of the Ford team when the spray device initially was developed.
How it Works
The Ford-patented PTWA thermal spray technology for cylinder bores replaces the heavy cast iron liners typically required with aluminum block engines with a low-friction, wear-resistant thermal spray coating. The plasma-sprayed coating offers several advantages, including:
* Engine weight reductions – the coating can reduce the weight of a V-6 engine, for instance, by approximately six pounds
* Reduced friction between the piston rings and cylinder bore, which has been shown to deliver measurable friction reduction
* Improved oil and fuel economy
* Improved engine performance due to better heat management
In addition, the PTWA coating process has been used to recycle damaged and worn aluminum and cast iron engine blocks by applying the wear-resistant coating to the cylinder bore surface. Remanufacturing engines using the PTWA process requires 50 percent to 80 percent less energy to produce compared with a new manufactured engine block – demonstrating another step toward Ford's commitment to reducing its manufacturing CO2 footprint.
Aerospace Meets the Road
Thermal spray coatings have been used for years, popular in the aerospace industry for increasing the durability and performance of aircraft turbine engines.
Ford researchers began collaborating with Flame-Spray Industries and other suppliers in the 1990s to transfer this efficient, lightweight aerospace technology to a low-cost, high-volume application suitable for the auto industry. One of the challenges was to create a robust coating applicator since commonly-used thermal spray devices were not capable of coating cylinder bores of automotive engine blocks.
The innovative PTWA spray torch technology was a significant enabler of making this high-volume coating process more reliable for automotive applications, while offering the economies of scale for low-cost coating of engine cylinder bores.
Earlier this year, a new study by the world's leading patent analyst, The Patent Board, found that Ford Motor Company outperformed all other automakers in the quality and significance of its technology patents.
Ford's leadership in developing PTWA thermal spraying further demonstrates why Ford continues to surpass the competition in the patent arena. Ford has more than 95 U.S. and foreign issued and pending patents related to the PTWA thermal coating method and application, alone.
Ford will introduce the PTWA thermal coating process to its North America powertrain lineup within the next year, adding to the company's growing list of in-production powertrain technologies that are improving vehicle fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance.
* Ford EcoBoost gasoline engine technology, which combines turbocharging and direct injection to smaller displacement engines that offer improved fuel economy and fewer emissions, yet deliver performance feel of larger displacement engines. EcoBoost engine production began earlier this month at Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1.
* Aggressive Deceleration Fuel Shut-Off, which temporarily turns off fuel to the engine when the driver releases the accelerator pedal to slow down, resulting in an efficiency improvement of approximately 1 percent. This technology was first featured on the 2009 Ford Flex.
* Cam torque actuated variable cam timing (iVCT). Ford is the first to use camshaft torsional energy rather than traditional pressurized oil to phase the camshafts, for lower parasitic energy loss and improved fuel economy. The technology debuted on the 3.0-liter V-6 engine on the 2009 Ford Escape.
"Without the intense cooperation between Ford and our suppliers, this technology would have never made it to production. This award is a great honor and recognizes the tireless effort of all involved to deliver on key elements of Ford's sustainability plan."
– Dr. Gerhard Schmidt,
Vice President, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering
"Flame-Spray Industries and Ford have enjoyed a close working relationship that has facilitated the successful development of the PTWA technology. The implementation of this technology offers significant possibilities to improve performance and fuel economy on future aluminum engines."
– Dr. David Cook,
Vice President, Flame-Spray Industries
"We are pleased to honor this team of inventors with this year's award. Given the concerns about the environment and the global competitiveness of the American auto industry, we feel it is more important than ever to point out that the tradition of innovation in this industry continues, as reflected by the commercialization of this important invention."
– Phil Johnson,
President, Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation