Tuesday 12 November 2013

‘Breakthrough’ CGI gasoline engine to bow soon

The world’s first ‘breakthrough’ gasoline passenger car engine with a compacted graphite iron (CGI) vee cylinder block will bow in the first quarter of 2014.

The first hint of the exciting new engine came a year ago at the annual general meeting in Sweden of process control specialist SinterCast when chief executive officer Dr Steve Dawson said: “We are happy to announce that we have achieved our first high volume commitment for a CGI cylinder block in a passenger car gasoline engine.”

He added: “The engine programme has been approved. We know the start of production (SOP), the production volumes and the applications. Breakthrough would not be too strong a word to use for this. This is an exciting development and a milestone for SinterCast.”

Dawson noted that as with the appearance in the ‘first wave’ of CGI vee diesels in 2003 (Audi and Ford), so he hoped for a repeat with gasoline engines.

At the most recent SinterCast AGM this year Dawson noted: “The gasoline engine programme is on schedule for the start of production this year. This will be not just the first CGI petrol engine but the highest volume CGI engine in the world. It will start slow, but it is destined to go above 300,000 units a year.”

                                        A real splash

“We don’t know the launch plans but the OEM will come out with a real splash. It is such an impressive engine; a real benchmark for the industry and one that will motivate the follower reaction,” added Dawson.

Although CGI machinability may have been an issue in the past, Dawson noted the industry has ‘found solutions’. MAG of the US, for example, has developed expertise in machining CGI. This is the first time a passenger car CGI gasoline engine block will be machined in high numbers daily.

“That an OEM has committed to making over 300,000 engines a year shows that either CGI machining has come of age or that gasoline engines are being pushed so hard they need stronger materials – or both.”

More recently Dawson has added: “I have explained many times: ‘All our passenger vehicle diesels are vee’s; that’s because of the more severe loading.  It is therefore reasonable to assume that the first petrol will also be a vee’.  I have also said many times: ‘It is reasonable to assume that the first petrol engine will be made by an OEM with CGI experience”.

That the new engine will be the highest volume CGI engine in the world implies that it will surpass both the Audi 3.0-litre V6 diesel and the Ford 6.7-litre V8 diesel engines. The Ford engine, made at the Chihuahua Engine Plant (CHEP), Mexico, is SinterCast’s largest programme. The annual production of each of these is well over 200,000 a year, (although the Ford is just now cracking this barrier). The 6.7-litre is produced at the rate of 650 a day. The new gasoline engine is planned to be over 300,000 at mature volumes.

The identity of the OEM remains a closely guarded secret though it has to be assumed the automaker is already accomplished in CGI technology to contemplate such high volumes. Several companies come to mind – Ford has seven CGI engines, Audi six engines and Hyundai four engines. If the engine is Ford derived then it could be an EcoBoost unit.

Significantly, SinterCast’s prowess in CGI technology is without challenge. Of the 15 most recently launched vee diesels, 14 are produced with CGI blocks; one is in aluminium. Added to which, SinterCast technology is used in 38 different engines in 14 brands and delivered to eight of the top 10 passenger vehicle manufacturers.

Confirmation of high volumes is effectively endorsed in a recent disclosure from Tupy SA in respect of its foundry in Saltillo, Mexico. Tupy, the world’s largest cast iron cylinder block and head foundry group, earlier confirmed it had received an order for a new high volume CGI passenger vehicle cylinder block, to be produced at its North American base in Saltillo, Mexico. Saltillo supplies the CHEP.

Following SOP in 2013, the order called for a ramp-up to more than 300,000 cylinder blocks per year, making the new programme the highest volume CGI cylinder block in the world. The new CGI cylinder block will become Tupy’s eighteenth CGI component, further reinforcing its global leadership position for CGI product development and volume production.

For this programme, Tupy ordered a System 3000 Plus fully automated process control system from the Swedish CGI specialist SinterCast. The System 3000 Plus will automatically control the base treatment, the process control measurement and the final adjustment of magnesium and inoculant prior to casting. Process data from the System 3000 Plus, and the melting and moulding operations, will be compiled into a unique process database to provide enhanced control and traceability.

The System 3000 Plus will be SinterCast’s most comprehensive installation, with capacity for up to 15 ladles an hour and over 9 hours of production per day.

We have been informed by foundry experts that on the basis of these numbers Saltillo will be able to produce well over 300,000 CGI blocks a year.

The System 3000 was successfully commissioned during the first quarter of 2013.

Significantly also, SinterCast's Q3 report noted: "Series production was also bouyed by increased pipe-filling for the high-volume CGI Petrol engine."

“We are prevented from telling anything, but of course, as I say, we hope for another breakthrough – and that many other manufacturers will follow,” concluded Dawson this month.                                         


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