Ford is moving to a 100% plastic grab handle in the F150 pickup truck, replacing a steel insert overmolded with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The new design reflects a trend toward simplification, cost reduction, weight savings and replacement of PVC.
It’s described as the industry’s first standalone full plastic gas assist grab handle. Ford engineers say there is no compromise in structural integrity compared to the steel-reinforced grab handle on the B Pillar.
The technical challenges included:
- Meeting head impact requirements,
- Providing comparable haptics, or feel, without steel insert,
- Converting the handle to a one-piece design,
- Maintaining dimensional stability,
- All of the interfaces (sheet metal, trim) had to remain the same, and
- Maintaining a robust attachment scheme without a grommet inserted in the part.
“What this did for us is amazing,” says Greg Borchich, Ford enginer. Weight savings are one pound per part and two pounds per vehicle. Cost savings are $1.30 per part and $2.30 per vehicle. Cycle time to mold the part is reduced by 10%. The new design removes use of 750,000 pounds of steel per year.
The grab handle is a finalist in the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Innovation Awards program. Winners will be announced at a banquet in Livonia, Mich. Nov. 7.