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GM Powertrain:GM Announces Top Innovators of 2005

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DETROIT - Ten innovative ideas that will enable General Motors to continue to drive game-changing improvements in safety, design, manufacturing flexibility and technology leadership are being announced today as the winners of the "Boss" Kettering Award. ...



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GM Announces Top Innovators of 2005

DETROIT, Michigan. - Ten innovative ideas that will enable General Motors to continue to drive game-changing improvements in safety, design, manufacturing flexibility and technology leadership are being announced today as the winners of the "Boss" Kettering Award. These innovations showcase the creative talent of GM's diverse workforce and illustrate the company's core values of teamwork, innovation and continuous improvement.

The "Boss" Kettering Award is GM's highest award for recognizing GM technical inventions and innovations. Its purpose is to honor individuals from every region of the globe whose outstanding inventions and innovations have demonstrated identifiable and substantial benefit to General Motors during the previous year. Awardees join an elite group at GM, becoming part of a tradition of innovation stretching back to GM's earliest days.

The prestigious internal award is named for the legendary Charles F. "Boss" Kettering, who launched GM's Research and Development organization in 1920. A prolific inventor himself, Kettering held more than 140 patents. The 2005 "Boss" Kettering awards recognize 65 employees for their outstanding contribution and commitment to GM's core value of innovation.

2005 "Boss" Kettering Award Winners:

Dual-Depth Airbag

Pedestrian Protection Innovation in Zafira II

Math-Based Crash Sensing Technology

Two-Mode Hybrid Core Control System

Virtual Flexible Fuel Sensor

Virtual Road Load Data Acquisition

Math-Based Reactive Maintenance Staff Estimator

Net-Formed Helical Gear Extrusion Process

Panoramic Windshield Programmable Pogo Welding


In current production on the 2006 Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne, Dual-Depth Airbags provide a means for protecting small occupants while sitting in the front seat and addressing in-position occupant challenges. Dual-Depth Air Bags result in improved real world in-position performance for forward and rearward sitting occupants, reduced system development time/burden to allow focus on critical conditions, and the potential for increased architectural flexibility by enabling top-mount module locations in tight interior vehicles, shorter front end lengths, forward knee bolster locations, increased windshield rake, and longer seat track travel.

The Dual-Depth Airbag team includes Scott Thomas, William Barnes, Stephane Vitet, Mike Wolanin (retired), Darrell Rogers (retired), and Daniel Faust (retired) all from Product Development in Warren, MI.


The inventors at the International Technical Development Center in Rüesselsheim, Germany, have developed a more pedestrian-friendly "soft-nose" design for the new Opel/ Vauxhall ZAFIRA B to comply with the new legal requirements in Europe and Japan Phase 1. Specifically developed passive deformation elements absorb impactor energies and other components may collapse to decrease stiffness and increase deformation space. The components are designed to ensure decreased acceleration values for the head impactors together with more homogenous stiffness. In the lower bumper fascia area a spoiler improves the lower leg impactor kinematics by reducing knee bending.

These innovations will help future GM products to be pedestrian-compliant and competitive in pedestrian protection consumer tests. They have significantly increased GM's expertise in developing engineering solutions for pedestrian-compliant vehicles. This technology has enabled a significant step in pedestrian protection and provided considerable knowledge for further vehicle development.

The Pedestrian Protection Innovation in Zafira II team includes Thomas Enderich, Jörg Fuge, Helmut Haas, Klaus Hock, Thomas Kistinger, Viet-Hung Nguyen, Martin Sachs, Claus Steller, Dr. Grace-Mary Thompson, Dirk Tiemann, Jürgen Vollhardt, and Thomas Wanke all from GM Europe Engineering in Rüesselsheim, Germany.


This industry-first invention enables vehicle programs to use finite element simulation results to develop and calibrate crash sensing systems for new vehicle programs. It reduces the number of test properties required by the vehicle development cycle and renders a faster vehicle development process and a more robust sensing system.

The math-based crash sensing calibration capability consists of three enabling technologies: 1) finite element modeling techniques that can generate high fidelity, low frequency crash responses using a single vehicle model, 2) crash sensing algorithms that use only low frequency crash responses as input, and 3) a math-based tool, called Variation Manager, that can estimate the effects of sensing system variation.

Direct cost savings expected from the use of this technology total more than $19 million. (Includes current and future year projections.) Intangible cost saving potentials for this technology include: 1) reducing the vehicle program risk in an environment of fewer and fewer vehicle hardware tests, 2) achieving a more robust sensing system, 3) ability to evaluate added content, e.g., brush guards, police packages, plows, within the program life-cycle, 4.) ability to evaluate the effect of late structural changes on sensing, 5) better assessment of cost reduction proposals, and 6) improved selection of "worst-case" conditions.

The Math-Based Crash Sensing Technology includes Dr. Jenne-Tai Wang, Dr. Mark Neal, Dr. Chin-Hsu Lin, Dr. Dorel Sala, from Research and Development in Warren, MI; Dr. Peter Erb and Dr. Thomas Kiefer from GM Europe International Development Technical Center, and Raymond Kleinberg from the North American Product Development Center in Warren, MI.


The Two-Mode Hybrid Core Control System optimally manages the energy flow between the electric motors, battery, and internal combustion engine in a hybrid vehicle to meet the customer demand for performance, fuel economy, low emissions, and battery life. The control system selects the optimal hybrid mode and transmission ratio; it then selects the optimal engine torque, electric motor torques, and resulting battery power for the hybrid system; finally, it seamlessly transitions between hybrid modes.

These innovations in hybrid control system technology are central to GM's strategy to standardize the Two-Mode Hybrid (AHS2) within the automotive industry. The inventions formed the foundation for the Two Mode Hybrid Core Control System used by hybrid collaboration partners GM, DaimlerChrysler, and BMW.

The Two-Mode Hybrid Core Control System team includes Gregory Hubbard, Dr. William Cawthorne, Anthony Heap, Dr. Jy-jen Frank Sah from GM Powertrain Product Engineering in Milford, MI; and Dr. Tung-ming Hsieh from GM Powertrain Product Engineering, Indianapolis, IN.


The Virtual Flexible Fuel Sensor algorithm replaces a sensor used to measure the concentration of ethanol in the fuel supply of the vehicle, and automatically adjusts the fuel control system to account for that concentration. This allows the sensor to be eliminated from those vehicles capable of ethanol fuel.

This innovation is being applied to flexible fuel (ethanol & gasoline) applications beginning in the 2006 model year. The Virtual Flexible Fuel Sensor allows GM to realize a savings of approximately $47M in MY2006, along with continued cost avoidance for all future ethanol applications.

The Virtual Flexible Fuel Sensor team includes Dr. Jeffrey Sell, Julian Verdejo, Mark Carr, Joseph Dulzo, Michael Svestka, Ian Macewen, Onassis Matthews, Christopher Graham, and Richard Jess all of GM Powertrain Product Engineering in Milford, MI.


The Virtual Road Load Data Acquisition ( vRLDA) drives efficiencies in product development by having high fidelity structural loads available prior to hardware development. The essence of the invention is that these loads are predicted purely with math models and require no vehicle level hardware measurement at all to "seed" the simulation. These loads are used to drive design decisions, evaluate program status relative to quality, reliability and durability targets, and provide driving forces for component, sub-system, and full vehicle laboratory testing of hardware.

The vRLDA benefits GM in two fundamental ways: first, the data provided at the early phases gives the product development organization a source of high fidelity data to use in designing first time capable structural components, reducing rework in later program phases and promoting higher quality, robust designs. Second, this change in methodology for obtaining structural loads has reduced the structural cost in North America by $4 million and it is expected that these savings will carry forward to future years as well.

The Virtual Road Load Data Acquisition team includes Glen Babiak, Robert Geisler, Rajanagaprasad Kodali, Dr. Joseph Schudt, Dr. Hyung-Joo Hong, all from Product Development in Warren, MI; Timothy Peat and Dr. Sam Scime, Jr. from Product Development in Pontiac, MI; and Dr. Ulrike Warnecke and Dr. Ralph Stenger from GM Europe Rüsselshiem, Germany.


The Math-Based Reactive Maintenance Staff Estimator is a new methodology utilizing real-time data analysis and state-of-the-art maintenance modeling. It was developed and validated to accurately estimate maintenance-related downtime. The new tool, called RM Expert, is employed to determine reactive maintenance staffing requirements without sacrificing throughput. It uses real-time plant data to simulate plant operations and estimate the required workforce zone-by-zone. The RM Expert was applied to 22 GMNA assembly plants in 2005 indicating a potential reduction of $45 million in structural cost.

The Math-Based Reactive Maintenance Staff Estimator team includes Dr. Pulak Bandyopadhyay, Dr. Stephan Biller, Qing (Cindy) Chang and Dr. Xiao Guoxian all from GM Research and Development and Strategic Planning in Warren, MI; and JoAnne Pritchard, Dr. Daniel Reaume, Gordon Redmond from GM Manufacturing Engineering in Pontiac, MI.


This ground-breaking cold extrusion gear process results in stronger and more reliable gears that have better wear characteristics and are less costly to produce both in piece cost and capital investment. This process produces a stress free surface thus increasing the power density of the gear, allowing for improved durability within the same gear envelope. This innovation provides several benefits: cost savings approaching $24.3 million per year, significant component performance improvements, and eliminates the need for ID broaching and OD gear cutting finishing operations.

The Net Formed Helical Gear Extrusion Process innovator is Young Kim of Powertrain Advanced Engineering in Ypsilanti, MI.


The Panoramic Windshield is an innovative windshield/roof concept that promotes a completely new driving experience with the same structural stiffness as the base car and a non-parallel guided sun-shading system with integrated sun visors. The new windshield concept extends uninterrupted to the middle of the roof on the new Astra GTC. The Panoramic Windshield provides a "pilot-view" experience and strongly supports the positioning of the Astra GTC as the best looking, most exciting 3-door Hatchback in the Compact Segment. The Astra GTC with the Panoramic Windshield is the image leader for the entire Astra range demonstrating dynamic design and industry-first leadership. The Astra GTC with the Panoramic Windshield demonstrates GME's capability to bring well-received concept cars into reality.

The Panoramic Windshield team includes Matthias Hallik, Stefan Felzer, Jan Beyersdorfer, and Holger Thums all from GM Europe's International Technical Design Center in Rüesselsheim, Germany.


Programmable Pogo Welding is a key enabling technology for achieving a truly flexible underbody welding system. The resulting reduction in floor space requirement and investment contribute significantly to enabling General Motors to achieve industry leadership in manufacturing flexibility and efficiency for body-in-white manufacturing.

In a typical underbody resistance spot-welding operation robots are used to position a weld gun to make welds at various positions around the part. In order to reach the center or tunnel area of the floor pan, the throat of the weld gun must be sufficiently large to clear the outboard edge of the floor pan and allow pinching of the tunnel area. Traditional weld guns with sufficient throat depth are extremely large, heavy, and cumbersome for the robot to move into position. The use of Programmable Pogo Welding has increased weld density by 30%, led to significant floor space reduction, reduced weld gun maintenance, reduced weld equipment, and reduced set-up lead time.

The Programmable Pogo Welding team includes Peter Sun, Douglas Linn and Daniel Hutchinson from Manufacturing Vehicle Operations in Warren, MI, Pei-Chung Wang and Charles Wampler, II from GM North American Research & Development & Planning in Warren, MI.


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