A composite dual-wall-dash engine shroud is reducing powertrain noise, vibration and harshness inside the vehicle cabin of the new Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator.
Continental Structural Plastics, the Japanese-owned composites supplier based in suburban Detroit, is manufacturing the part at its 190,000-square-foot plant in Conneaut, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border.
The Conneaut plant employs 260 people and is celebrating its 50th year in operation. The facility makes structural composite parts for automotive and commercial customers.
The company said the industry-first composite shroud has several advantages over the all-steel components used in other vehicles, including moldability and design flexibility for under-the-hood packaging applications.
The 5.4 kg (12-pound), four-piece sheet molding compound composite part provides an improved sound barrier and is lighter weight than a similar stamped steel part, the company said.
"Composites are a great choice for a number of under-the-hood applications because of these properties and the design flexibility they provide," Bryan Ludwig, Continental Structural Plastics' business development director, said in a statement. "Because our glass-fiber composite is a thermoset, it actually offers better thermal properties than a metal and can be molded thin enough to fit in the tight spaces found in the engine compartment."
Continental Structural Plastics developed the SMC composite engine shroud with Ford at the automaker's driving dynamics lab in Dearborn, Michigan, where it does NVH testing for various settings.
The 2020 Explorer — introduced earlier this year at the Detroit auto show — is manufactured at Ford's Chicago assembly plant.
"We are continuously looking for ways to help our customers meet design and engineering challenges by using our composite materials," Continental Structural Plastics CEO Steve Rooney said in a statement. "Because of the superior dampening qualities offered by a composite, Ford was able to achieve a level of cabin quietness that will enhance the driving experience for Explorer and [Lincoln] Aviator owners."
Continental Structural Plastics is a unit of Japan's Teijin and is not affiliated with diversified German auto supplier Continental.