SPE Automotive Division Announces Hall of Fame Winner 2014
The first global implementation of a blow-molded, thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) constant velocity joint (CVJ) half-shaft drive-axle boot seal used on 1984 model year Buick Riviera, Cadillac Eldorado, and Oldsmobile Toronado sedans (E/K platform) produced by then General Motors Corp. was selected as the 2014 Hall of Fame winner by the Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) for the group's 44th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Competition.
To be considered for a Hall of Fame award, an automotive plastic or composite component must have been in continuous service in some form for at least 15 years and preferably have been widely adopted within the automotive or ground-transportation industries. This application certainly meets the criteria: it has been in continuous use on GM cars and trucks for 30 years, and 85% of front-axle CVJ boot seals on light-duty vehicles worldwide now use TPE in this application to replace polychloroprene rubber. Many recreational and commercial vehicles also use the technology.
The basic function of CVJ boots is twofold. First, it protects bearings in the constant-velocity joint by keeping out dirt, water, salt, ice, snow, mud, stones, and other road debris. Second, it keeps lubricating grease inside the CVJ as the drive axle rotates and propels the vehicle. At the time the application was developed, rubber boot failures accounted for the majority of drive-axle repairs. The team set out to develop a new boot that would solve performance problems inherent to the incumbent material.
The success of the first TPE CVJ boot is the result of a co-operative development effort that drew on the strengths of tier 1 Nexteer Automotive, formerly GM Saginaw Steering Gear Division (plastics, steering/driveline expertise), tier 2 ABC Group (process innovator and part manufacturer), and materials supplier E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. (Hytrel thermoplastic copolyester elastomer (TPC-ET, a type of TPE) supplier). The team's work ― which began in 1977 with joint development of the first blow-molded TPE rack & pinion steering boot ― was led by Nexteer with boot design, testing, validation, and correlation to vehicle performance. The result was a very successful introduction of a far more robust CVJ sealing solution that also was lighter, more durable, and less costly than the injection-molded rubber boots it replaced.
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