It is not without good reason that innovative plastics are today the standard in automotive construction: In addition to their reduced weight and associated reduction in fuel consumption, they're faster and easier to produce than metal components. Inside vehicles, sophisticated components made from plastic especially feature a pleasant look and feel. As a full service supplier to the automotive industry and a specialist for highly complex plastic solutions, Weber Group has many years of experience in the construction of moulds for the automotive sector. The company based in Dillenburg fabricates innovative plastic components for a number of automotive manufacturers, and these components are used in the interiors, exteriors and drive trains of premium class models. One of the latest projects by the plastics expert involves the development and manufacture of modern air vents that provide a breath of fresh air to a variety of MINI models, including the MINI One and the MINI Cooper.
Easy to use with just one hand, and softly swivelling with attenuated movement - these were the requirements set down by the automotive manufacturer on the new air vents. They should also maintain a minimum leakage air value of 20 litres a minute and feature a surface that is pleasant to touch and precious to look at. "The automotive manufacturer's specifications called for an innovative air vent concept that we implemented by rearranging the horizontal and vertical slats of the rectangular central cockpit vents flanking the MINI models' infotainment system," says Thomas Hinze, Project Manager at Weber. "We also combined all of the mechanisms - including the opening and closing functions as well as the air flow directional adjustment - into just one button which is equipped with a joystick-like mechanism," says Hinze. Weber also satisfied all of the other demands made by BMW thanks to its in-depth knowledge in the fields of kinematics, material mixes and plastics processing. To deliver smooth-as-silk operation and a high-quality look and feel, the components in the air vents are made as hard/soft components. With their matt surface they harmonise seamlessly with the car's interior, delivering maximum functionality and gently attenuated operation.
The systems supplier has also thoroughly revised the design of the round air vents, which are situated on the respective outer sides of the dashboard. The great feature is that the air vents are now supplied as identical parts for the driver and the passenger side. By modifying the arrangement of the closing flaps, Weber was also able to minimise the number of individual components.
Specially dedicated to the series production of the air vents Weber set up a production area in which fully electronic, dual-component machines deliver the required precision. Testing robots check the minimum tolerances of the leakage air values during continuous production, as well as the rotational and swivelling forces that affect the air vents during operation. This ensures consistently high product quality. The reduced volume of materials used, more efficient machine utilisation and the more streamlined assembly led to appreciably reduced production costs.
"We are delighted that we have once again been able to deliver on MINI's wishes and specifications," says Thomas Hinze. "The new air vents, with their improved functionality, greater usability and the use of high-quality, sophisticated surfaces, are bringing a breath of fresh air to the MINI models."