Automotive

Plastic camshaft module is claimed to be lighter and greener than aluminum

Plastic camshaft module is cla...
The module is available to interested parties as a functional demonstrator
The module is available to interested parties as a functional demonstrator
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A look inside the module, which houses the existing camshaft
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A look inside the module, which houses the existing camshaft
The module is available to interested parties as a functional demonstrator
2/2
The module is available to interested parties as a functional demonstrator

If there's one way of getting automobiles to use less gas, it's by lowering their weight – and the engine is a particularly heavy part of the car. With that in mind, European researchers have now created a plastic camshaft module, which they claim offers more advantages than simply being lightweight.

The prototype component was designed in a collaboration between Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology, automotive parts manufacturer the MAHLE Group, the Daimler automotive company, Belgian plastics manufacturer SBHPP/Vyncolit, and French plastics company The Georges Pernoud Group.

Instead of the usual die-cast aluminum, the new module is made of a fiber-reinforced thermoset polymer – "thermoset" means that it starts out as a soft resin, which is cured into a solid through the application of heat.

And yes, the finished camshaft module is indeed lighter than a comparable aluminum product. Given that it's located on top of the engine, this is a particularly important consideration, as it not only reduces the engine's total weight but also lowers its center of gravity.

Additionally, though, the plastic module is reportedly better than aluminum at absorbing noise-producing vibrations, it requires less energy to manufacture, the molds used in its production last longer, and it requires much less in the way of finishing work after the casting process is complete. As an added bonus, it can be manufactured all in one piece, reducing assembly time.

A look inside the module, which houses the existing camshaft
A look inside the module, which houses the existing camshaft

It should be noted that the fiber-reinforced thermoset polymer is just one quarter as stiff as aluminum, although the design of the camshaft module is claimed to compensate for this shortcoming. When all was said and done, one of the prototypes reportedly "demonstrated flawless functionality in a state-of-the-art internal combustion engine" after 600 hours of bench testing.

The module was specifically claimed to stand up well to high engine temperatures, along with mechanical and chemical stresses. More testing is planned, though, to see how the gas forces created by the combustion process affect its noise-reducing characteristics.

Source: Fraunhofer

9 comments
paleochocolate
can't wait to put one of these bad boys in my kle
Spud Murphy
All of these tweaks to IC engines are just sticking lipstick on a pig - it's still a pig. FFS, just go electric and stop messing with dino burners, they are killing the planet and everyone on it - air pollution kills more than 1 million people a year globally, and a lot of it is from ICEs. Evcen a 100% coal fired power driven EV is cleaner than the average ICE vehicle, and there are almost no places on earth with 100% coal power, most grids are much, much cleaner and getting cleaner every year.
Karmudjun
In reading the article, I kept looking for the construction breakthrough of a rotating camshaft constructed from a non-metallic polymer - and when I saw the back side of the module, I realized "module" referred to the "camshaft surrounding structure", not the camshaft itself. Still - a polymer that can be completely cast in one mold and hold up to the demands of high revving internal combustion engines is a breakthrough. Thanks for the article, I thought I'd mention my misinterpretation of the title as I really clicked on this to find out how they achieved the wear tolerances of a high friction rotating part with plastic - now THAT would be a real game changer. Then we would have to figure out how to use sustainably manufactured plastic ingredients to produce, and the carbon footprint of such a power plant would drop even more!
drhall
Spud said it best, lipstick on pig!
(ICE - I Can’t Evolve.)
Geoff NH
This is not the first use of Polymer cam covers, both GM and Ford have built them back in the '90s...lots of sound deadening and also much lighter. I have one bank cam cover from a Mustang Twin cam Yamaha engine from an SHO.
With the newer polymers and fiber fillers Glass/Carbon/CF and metallic inserts for better supports and wear/deflections. Mahale is a great company to be working with Fraunhofer and Mercedes.. all fully recyclable into newer parts.
Pablo
Yup, and in 9 years your $75,000 Mercedes will be worth $4500 and need a $10,000 repair, so you'll trot to your local dealer and trade it in... Ford's been using plastic for manifolds, water distribution, and other stuff for years. Works terrifically for about 10 years, then get ready to replace it all when it warps and starts to crack from the heat. Planned obsolescence at it's finest! There are going to be very, very few "classic" cars from this era vying for those last few drops of gasoline..
John In Toledo
Spud -
Don’t you think people should be free to drive what they want? And to design and develop what they want? EVs have already come further than I thought they would (due to limitations of battery chemistry and the existing power distribution grid) and they still have further to go. But as the transition to a more electric based future continues, there will inevitably be competition between EV and ICE technology - and they will both be better for it.
John
Expanded Viewpoint
drhall, have you ever studied the ICE in depth? They first began using gun powder for fuel, then coal dust, but they were extremely hard to throttle and often blew up on the test bench. Then they had the idea of using liquid fuels, and Rudolph Diesel came along and used the heat of compression of the air to ignite the fuel. When his prototype engine blew apart due to more combustion pressure than he anticipated, the shards of metal cut him badly and almost bled to death. Then, Sanford A. Moss at GE built the first gas turbine engine in 1917 by putting a turbocharger on a car engine. Do you see any evolution taking place here yet? We went from flat head engines with low compression ratios to multiple cams and valves in heads with high compression ratios. See any evolution yet?
How much fuel is burned to mine and process Lithium and make batteries for cars? How do you propose to recycle those expensive batteries when they wear out? How much gasoline could you buy with all of the added expenses of electricity powered cars? How much additional infrastructure is needed to be installed to make them common place items? How much will that cost us? Who will pay for it all?
suadkasami1995
plastic camshaft is that recyclable ?