Recently I visited Fiat Chrysler’s Mack Avenue Engine Plant (Detroit) to learn about improvements that have been made to the Pentastar V6 that is built there. The engine first was introduced in 2011. It was designed starting with a clean sheet of paper, so it is somewhat surprising that only six years later it is receiving numerous modifications.
But that’s the way it goes these days in the auto industry. Escalating government regulations concerning fuel economy and exhaust emissions mandate more frequent upgrades.
Automation has always played an important role in the auto industry to help automakers make more, faster. Now it also plays a role in quality as well as productivity.
Back in the day when engines were less sophisticated and complex, quality had its place, but not like it does today. This has added to the cost of engine manufacturing but it has also brought benefits beyond cleaner air and fuel miserliness—greater power output and better responsiveness, for instance. And it’s also brought greater foresight to engine design. When the Pentastar bowed in 2011 it didn’t have exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), for instance. But it was designed to accommodate it and other advanced technology in the future—and that future is here. In fact, the components in the upgraded version of the Pentastar are 80% all-new or significantly modified.
Since engines are essentially large pumps, sealing is important to provide efficiency and power, and particular attention has been paid to sealing in the updated Pentastar. And excellent quality is crucial to excellent sealing.
The repeatability of automation helps make sure that seals are placed and seated properly. Not only does this help the engine operate at optimum levels, but automation also helps save time and money.
The auto industry has done a lot of pioneering in automation—so much so that many small to medium manufacturers think it is out of their league. But as this Pentastar example illustrates, automation can do more than just handle macro operations. It is also suitable for in-process and even post-process operations as well.
You can gain more insight on how this works in John Lucier’s Advanced Manufacturing Now column in this issue.