I eventually got to the point where I did a lot of new stuff. I was the first operator in Auburn Hills, the first guy to go out there and get the place set up. I was known as the guinea pig, and I was pretty cool with that.
They put in a six foot MAST (Multi Access Simulation Table) for testing parts, shaking parts like a vehicle buck; it was set up like the front of a car, with an engine in the buck, mostly testing motor mounts. It was neat. They built this table in the powertrain area, that’s why they got one of the operators to go out there. I did that for around a year and a half, starting with the engine mounts for the new Neon. That was a pretty exciting little deal.
It was a small scale shaker. They had the big shakers that did the vehicle shaking like you’re driving down the road; then they put a small cell in by us, and I got tagged… asked if I would do that.
I went to the company that built the table. I had to sign off on it before it got shipped to Chrysler. It’s a metal table on multi access hydraulic legs, and you could program it to move up and down and side to side, the whole bit, you can make it move this way, that way, at a certain frequency, it was just incredible what you could do. But if there was a hiccup on you, at all, if it went nuts on you, it could launch things.
We went out to the company and ran through a certain sequence of tests out there. One test they couldn’t do during normal working hours. I couldn’t figure out why.
Then they said, “Okay, we’re after hours and everybody’s gone home, put your ear plugs in and put your head muffs on. We’re going to do a certain Hertz (frequency) now.” I’m like, okay.
During the process, our salesman came down — he was in a different part of the building — he had heard running. He didn’t figure a six foot table [would make this much noise]… it’s like a big speaker, and you move the speaker back and forth, you create sound waves. And this thing would move so fast, it created a level of sound that was pretty piercing.
That thing was smoking. There was a seismic mass in the floor, down 20 feet into the ground, and there’s a certain mass of concrete to keep the ground happy, and you could start feeling the ground move. That was pretty cool, and the guy was telling us that one company wrote a program for this table to play the song, “Come on baby, light my fire.” As you programmed the table to move, the different frequencies create different levels of sound, and as you moved the different frequencies, you’d find a pitch.
Then he programmed the computer to move the table that fast to play the song. I thought that was pretty cool. I said, “Well, I’d like to have that.” He answered, “I can hook you up with the engineer, and maybe he can send you the files.” But… he never did.
Later on, we got a table installed and set up, and we took a Neon car and cut the front end off, so all I had was the sheet metal part of the front frame. I had to make up all the mounts for it. I had to get it so it would clamp load onto the table.
We had a four cylinder engine in there. We were testing all the motor mounts… Chelsea would send the data based on movements of the engine and then have you record the levels of movement and the stress levels and what have you.
We would put all that onto the table, and run the testing on the table, so you could pop in a file for the gravel road, a file for the bumpy road. You’d run the test and you’d see that thing just bounce.
They had to test the newer mounts for wear and tear, you could run it 24 hours a day, put it on a schedule, and they had the sensors on the set up where if one of them had to fail, it would trip at a certain number; if it went over its number, the thing would stop dead, just sit there. You’re supposed to mount it up with some initial mounts to get it going, then once you get the program correct, then you put on your test mounts.
One engineer I had, she wanted to skip to the first process and go right to the test mounts. The ones that you were going to test out… the unique ones. Sure enough, the thing hiccupped on her, and broke two of the three mounts, because it just went [gestures]… it moves six inches. If you take six inches and if you have a fixture on a table there, and all of a sudden you move that platform six inches, like snap! Well, this stays there and the platform moves. Something’s going to fail.
I think she got spanked for that. But you don’t do your testing until you know you got your test is looking error free, and maybe it’s a hiccup in the system too, and it may have been the fault of the actual system. All it takes is a little bit to go wrong, and the next thing you know it’s moving faster than it should be.
That’s why you never stand at the table during the power up, because if it’s powered up, you never put yourself on that table, in case of hiccups, at all. It will snap your legs, and break bones.
They used it later on for doing seat testing. Anything you want to shake big, you put on there, so it does. I did that for about a year and a half and then get out of there, back in the dynos. It was a fun process. It was kind of neat to learn about that. It was kind of cool.
After something like direct injection is developed for an engine, and the designs are completed, how long does it take to get tested and certified?
Even after you get the drawings done, you have to figure out what you need to have for controls, not only the hardware but the software. That’s not going to happen overnight. There’s some things you can do on paper or a computer. Some things you have to actually do physical testing for.
Marc: “I was the first operator in this building to help get it up and running, in 1979-80. The engine is the 2.2 liter four-cylinder made in Trenton. This building worked well in a number of ways. It was the first large-scale use of computers; the older cells were using standalone IBM PCs.
We could literally change engines in 15 minutes.
... I worked in this new building during my layoff in March 1980. I was off for 19 months! I ended up working for Modern Engineering as a contract employee, and worked at the GM proving grounds for a couple of months before being sent to AMC Engineering [AMC joined Chrysler in 1987] to build up the new Renault Alliance cars. I was working there when I was called back; I never took separation, like some guys did, and it worked out well for me.”
I worked for the Advanced Engine group doing testing for the last three or four years, and that gets really hairy when you start doing that. Our people are just looking for numbers to put into the computer to figure out what we need to have for stroke, for bore, for compression, for camshaft duration. What do you need to have to make that engine have packaging, the performance? The weight, too, aluminum versus iron. A lot of factors go into those decisions.
It’s just amazing what they do, really, and it’s done faster these days, they combine all the different things together, and make that final product pretty good. It’s a lot of work. It takes some minds and some computers to get it to work properly and work well together and come out looking pretty sweet in the end.
Chrysler did some of the work on the engine they had on the [first generation] Mini Cooper. That was done primarily by Siemens and us, together. We had a lot of involvement in that. One of our engineers was pretty heavily involved in doing the testing on that. We did it in our complex, and the engine came out to be one of the top five that year, or whatever.
It was a joint project back then, but we did most of the testing. The engineer did an excellent job on it, and he was really into the motors, and the Mini Cooper got the recognition, not Chrysler, because people didn’t realize that Chrysler had a big involvement in that.
He went on to do the 2.4 turbo for us, later on, and the SRTs, that same engineer, he did a great job on that stuff. But now he’s working for GM, right now. He took the buyout… we have lost some good guys, because of this [before Fiat] downturn … that’s the hard part, too, when you start losing people like that. It depends on the market; what was going on with different companies, and Chrysler’s not been easy. People have decided to leave the company for a number of reasons, they go somewhere else, a lot of them go and come back again, too.
That all affects the programs. The guy’s doing a really good job and a good guy… if the guy’s good, he got a good name for himself, he can go to different companies. People come looking for him, and he gets a better offer, and I can’t blame him for going.
But there’s no guarantee the next company he goes to can come out smelling any better. He may go there and the next thing you know, he’s laid off from there. That’s happened before, too, and guys come begging back for jobs again, because they went to different companies, and also had issues there.
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