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‘Tech Crawl’ Shows Off Auto Industry’s Latest

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Kenworth's most aerodynamic big rig ever is shown in Detroit for the first time at AutoCom Associates' Tech Crawl 2012

Kenworth’s most aerodynamic big rig ever is shown in Detroit for the first time at AutoCom Associates’ Tech Crawl 2012

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DETROIT — The automotive public relations firm AutoCom Associates introduced the automotive press corps to nearly a dozen of its clients Tuesday in what the company called “Tech Crawl 2012.”

The event started and finished at the Detroit Athletic Club, with other stops at the Renaissance Center, the Detroit Port Authority, the Detroit Public Library Skillman Branch’s National Automotive History Collection, and Comerica Park.

The event ran from 8:30 a.m. to the conclusion of the Tiger game, and yours truly couldn’t attend that long. But here are the highlights from midday:

* Franklin-based software developer Saphran Solutions Inc. announced that it is on pace to more than double its revenue in 2012. Founded in 2004, Saphran has developed unique software that combines multiple views of historical data, future sales, production outlooks, industry and market analysis and internal metrics for quotes, orders and shipments, to produce accurate predictions about the future prospects and needs of a business. The company says its systems allow companies to develop forecasts based on overall market trends, seize market opportunities and avoid operational disruptions. Vice president of operations Sue Lines said the software, among other things, allowed a client to respond quickly to the aftereffects of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant disaster in 2011.

* Fortech Products, a provider of corrosion resistant coatings, metalforming lubricants and contract packaging services for the auto industry, has moved into a new 80,000-square-foot headquarters on a 27-acre tract in Brighton that includes direct rail access. Founder, president and CEO Creighton Forester said that will help him cut costs to remain competitive. The company has also purchased a plant in Brazil to manufacture for the South American market. It now has 55 employees and is growing.

kenworth truck interior Tech Crawl Shows Off Auto Industrys Latest* Paccar Inc. and its Kenworth Truck Co. subsidiary unveiled an absolutely gorgeous new Class 8 heavy-duty truck, supposedly the most aerodynamic truck ever built, and discussed in detail a unique engineering partnership with Troy-based Behr America. The new truck features a new thermal management system developed by engineering teams at Behr America in Troy and Kenworth in Kirkland, Wash. It was the first time Kenworth’s T680 had ever been shown in Detroit. The truck features 65 percent more storage capacity, a 50 percent larger windshield, 40 percent less interior noise, 30 percent larger door openings, a 10 percent improvement in aerodynamics than its predecessors, and best-in-class forward lighting. It also featured a sleeping compartment in the back that rivaled any high-quality RV, complete with full-size and twin-size bunk beds, refrigerator, microwave and flat screen TV. It’s almost enough to make a guy who loves to drive consider a career change.

* Hella, the German auto supplier, showed off a variety of high-tech LED lighting for both interior and exterior lighting applications. The company predicted that affordable, flexible LEDs will usher in a revolution in vehicle design. Hella also showed off technologies like battery sensors and power converters to boost automotive fuel economy.

Other news releases at the event included:

* Novi-based Kemet Corp., a manufacturer of capacitors for use in the auto industry, said it had taken steps to secure and stabilize its tantalum supply chain by acquiring a tantalum powder manufacturing plant in Carson City, Nev. Kemet also has agreed to secure tantalum ore from conflict-free Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and will process the ore in a conflict-free region of South Africa. Kemet also plans to invest $1.5 million in the social infrastructure of the mine site in the Congo, building schools, a medical clinic, fresh water wells, solar street lighting and more.

* GKN Driveline, the United Kingdom-based auto supplier with a technical center in Auburn Hills, gave an update of last year’s $440 million acquisition of all-wheel-drive technologies and plants — including one in Sterling Heights.

* The century-old factory and office where Henry Ford created his groundbreaking Model T is now welcoming visitors with extended opening hours. Ford’s plant at 461 Piquette Ave. in Detroit has been restored and opened to the public by a group of preservationists and Ford history enthusiasts who have worked for a decade to renovate it. Saved from the wrecking ball, it is now owned and operated by a non-profit corporation. More at www.tplex.org.

* A massive document collection recording the American automobile industry’s role in World War II is now open to historians, researchers and journalists at the Detroit Public Library’s Skillman Branch at 121 Gratiot in downtown Detroit. And that’s just part of the National Automotive History Collection, which contains more than 600,000 documents and photographs related to automotive history, design, marketing, engineering and the automobile’s impact on society.

* EB Elektrobit discussed the release of EB Guide 5.3, released two weeks ago at the Telematics Detroit conference in Novi. The software helps automakers develop user interfaces. Elektrobit is based in Oulu, Finland, with an office in Farmington Hills that is currently planning to add more than 100 high-tech jobs over the next two to three years. More at www.elektrobit.com.

* The Italian luxury automotive supplier Alcantara S.p.A. will be a sponsor of a social media based student design competition developed by General Motors and Car Design News. An executive from Alcantara’s trend and design department will be one of five judges during the final phase of the CDN-GM Interactive Design Competition next January at the North American International Auto Show. More at www.cardesigncontest.com/gm.

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