Century Engineering Unveils Breakthrough Manufacturing Process

As Seen at the SAE 2004 World Congress

Century, Inc. unveiled a single station production process designed to revolutionize the way fuel cell bipolar plates are manufactured. The new process was on display in the U.S. Army National Automotive Center (NAC) booth at the SAE World Congress at Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI, March 8-11, 2004.

Century, a supplier of global extrusion systems, has received a $2 million contract from the NAC for the ongoing research and development of the new process. "Century, Inc. was selected to join us in our military fuel cell partnership based on the company's experience and manufacturing record," said Dennis J. Wend, executive director for the NAC. "Century has demonstrated innovative breakthroughs in extending the life of production tools and processing equipment while raising the quality and reliability from those tools.

Until now, the ability to produce precision fuel plates, critical to the overall efficiency of a power unit, has been one of the major challenges for researchers.

"Our challenge is to overcome processing limitations such as cost, reliability and functionality, necessary before commercialization of current technology can occur."

According to Janis, the future of American automotive manufacturing depends in part on the seamless integration of manufacturing processes for producing plastic components which deliver higher quality and productivity by eliminating discontinuous and redundant processing steps. Improved productivity is realized from fewer processing steps, reduced transportation and inventory costs, and improvements in process yield.

Using a specially designed RingExtruder and a lean systems approach, Century engineers demonstrated to SAE Congress attendees their continuous mixing technology that enables the transition of previous single batch processing to an integrated manufacturing process which produces finished consumable goods.

Janis said Century's unique 12-screw mixer, the RingExtruder, provides an ideal platform for the research and development of emerging advanced materials and materials processing to be used in fuel cell manufacturing. The National Automotive Center is looking to Century, Inc.'s research and development activities to help improve the materials in the conductive fuel cell housing bi-polar plates and the Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM), both of which are constructed of resin components or composites. Improvements in the resin composites can reduce fuel cell manufacturing costs and enhance product performance critical to the military for future battlefield vehicles.

"The Century RingExtruder's exceptional energy management and mixing capabilities should succeed with these processes and enhance fuel cell research and development where other mixing technologies have failed," Janis said.

The Army and the National Automotive Center are spearheading these collaborative activities with the automotive and transportation industries.

Once used exclusively in space exploration, fuel cell technology will soon be used as a power source in common electronic equipment such as cell phones and lap top computers.

The National Automotive Center is the Army's official link to commercial and academic partners to generate vehicles that will provide the Army with the mobility, survivability and agility it needs to operate efficiently and effectively in today's new threat environment. For the military, the NAC's partnership approach makes it possible to improve performance, safety and endurance while reducing design, manufacturing, operational and maintenance costs. For commercial partners, the application of jointly-developed technologies has similar impacts: safer cars and trucks, and more advanced manufacturing capability.

Headquartered in Warren, MI, the NAC is part of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive and Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). TARDEC is the nation's laboratory for advanced military automotive technology. For more information on NAC, visit www.tacom.army.mil/tardec/nac.