Tuesday 14 January 2014

The Lion roars again

Blog readers with a good memory will recall the arrival of the Lion diesel engine from Ford’s Dagenham Engine Plant – the first Ford production engine to use compacted graphite iron (CGI) for the cylinder block material.

Now Ford has repeated history with the arrival of the first gasoline engine with a CGI block. Ford, ever resourceful and expansive in its choice of words, uses the word first liberally. The new 2.7-litre gasoline engine is not the first gasoline engine with a CGI block, but it might just be the first ‘production’ gasoline engine with CGI.

The material CGI has been used in racing engines for some time and the UK prototype foundry Grainger & Worrall (G&W) in Bridgnorth, Shropshire has played a major, but by the nature of its work, an ever-secretive role in the development of these engines. The UK foundry, proud of its connection with motor sport, has had, and still does play a major role in the development of CGI engines.

In December 2010, G&W quietly announced a V8 cylinder block made for General Motors’ first purpose built NASCAR racing engine had won the UK’s Casting of the Year Award 2010. Cast in CGI by G&W the thin walled, complex casting won for a combination of technical achievement, including +/- 0.75 bore concentricity and ability to withstand thermal loading on the core which is 2.4mm between cylinder bores, and the role the component has played in GW’s success dominating the sector as the majority suppler of its cylinder for the NASCAR grid.

The judges noted that cast using the Sintercast process control which Grainger & Worrall has championed since 2004, the success of this casting is the culmination of investment, commitment and development by the company in all stages of production.”

G&W was in at the ground floor of the development of Ford’s Lion family some 15 years or more ago. It was the first prototype foundry to install the SinterCast process control technology that is the only route to high-quality CGI block and cylinder head castings

Nearly all NASCAR teams have, or are running, CGI engine blocks, or blocks with CGI liners. These liners are usually plated with a hard-surface coating. It has been reported that some NASCAR teams are able to run a whole season without having to re-bore the blocks.

The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) campaign had the Craftsman pick-up truck. This 5.8-litre V8 CGI engine block weighs 89 kg (195 lb), had a 3 mm (0.118 inch) cylinder wall thickness and produced 650 bhp (83.5 kW/litre). For comparison purposes, standard CGI diesel engines will soon be producing 66kW/litre.

General Motors’ Opel subsidiary in Germany way back in the 1990s used CGI for the engine block of its 2.5-liter V6 DTM racing engine. Experience has shown that CGI engine block can be fabricated lighter than an aluminium block for equal power densities.

And an 0.5-litre Suzuki Grand Prix motorcycle engine has had a crankcase fabricated from CGI. Nothing is put on these racing machines that would pose any kind of a weight penalty; such is perhaps one of the extreme examples of the real potential of CGI applications.

Ford’s Lion engine family was developed and manufactured at Ford's Dagenham Diesel Centre for use in PSA Peugeot Citroën vehicles (as DT17 as part of joint venture begun in 1999), Jaguar Cars (as the AJD-V6), and Land Rover vehicles. The engines share the same bore/stroke ratio, with the V6 displacing 2.7-litres and the V8 displacing 3.6-litres. The V8 was later expanded to become the 4.4-litre diesel engine manufactured at Ford’s Chihuahua Engine Plant which now makes the 6.7-litre PowerStoke diesel – also with a CGI block.

The V6 was launched in 2003 while the V8 arrived in 2006. The V6 engine meets the Euro IV emissions standards. A 3.6-litre was added is based on the 2.7-litre.

                                Engine details

The 2.7's block is about 18 inches from front to rear, including the front cover and flywheel. The two-piece block has CGI on the upper section, while the lower half is made from die-cast aluminium. The block including the bearing caps are cast together. Indeed the 2.7-liter is the first to have main-bearing caps that are fracture-split, a technique that enables extremely precise tolerances and adds strength.

Ford is not talking engine powers and torques at this stage for its new-born 2.7-litre EcoBoost in the 2015 F-150 pick-up truck family. Ford just wants to get the engine out into the biting fresh air of Detroit. But with 365bhp and 420lbft easy from the 3.5-litre EcoBoost, one might expect the new 2.7-litre gasoline engine to develop at least 300 bhp with much more on the way if Ford’s development guys have their way.

But according to Ed Waszczenko, Ford's engine systems supervisor for the 2.7-litre engine, the engine’s output is roughly equal to most other automakers' "mid-level" V-8s, which might put the 2.7-litre engine’s output as high as 350 to 400bhp.

"This engine has taken the same features from the 6.7-litre Power Stroke and the European 1.0-litre and other technologies under EcoBoost umbrella and married them all into this new design," added Waszczenko.

And as to production volumes, Ford group staff are equally guarded. Ramp-up volume output could soon edge up to 100,000 a year – it is not worth doing a new engine for less – and with further targets of 200,000 and beyond that to 300,000 could be in sight if downsizing gathers momentum in the US. This is all good news for the so-far-unnamed CGI foundry and engine component suppliers.

At the time that Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroen launched their new vee diesel 2.7-litre Lion V6 HSDI engine for installation into the Jaguar “S” type platform, engineers claimed the engine was developed to provide market leading noise, vibration and harshness whilst simultaneously providing high power density and meeting the Euro 4 emissions requirements.

Then, Ford engineers raced against time with rival engineers at Audi AG in Germany (part of Volkswagen AG), also keen to install vee CGI cylinder block castings in their passenger car diesels. This time for Ford engineers in Dearborn no competitor was in sight. They have jumped clearly into the lead and given rival engineers at Chrysler and Fiat in North America and Italy something to scratch their heads about. Now the Ram 1500 pick-up truck has a rival to tweak its nose. Ford's F-150 should easily stay out in front.

According to SinterCast, the unveiling of the 2015 Ford F-150 pick-up truck, North America’s best-selling vehicle for the last 37 years, makes new 2.7 litre EcoBoost V6 petrol engine the smallest engine in the pick-up truck sector while still providing the power of a mid-range V8. The company adds that the introduction demonstrates the downsizing capabilities of CGI.

The company adds that the announcement confirms the first-ever high volume application of CGI for a gasoline engine cylinder block as outlined in SinterCast’s announcement of the gasoline breakthrough at the 2012 Annual General Meeting of the shareholders. However, SinterCast gave no hint of the foundry which will be supplying the ground-breaking vee cylinder blocks.

“January in Detroit is always important for industry insiders and enthusiasts, but this year is more special for SinterCast,” noted Dr. Steve Dawson, president and chief executive officer of SinterCast. “Walking through the halls, I counted 13 different vehicles with ”SinterCast-inside”, and even more positive feedback from OEM partners who appreciate the contribution that SinterCast has made.

And so once again the Ford Motor Company’s Product Development System (PDS) has pulled the rabbit from the hat and made the lion roar again. 

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