We conducted a group interview with Joe Matecki, Product Manager, Mark Stephens, Product Development Engineer, and Dee Parson, Commercial Manager all from exhibitors Shape Corp. to get the latest on market growth, new trends and key challenges faced by those in the industry.
Joe Matecki is a graduate of the Padnos school of Engineering at Grand Valley State University. He has worked in the automotive industry and gained extensive experience in automotive structures, crash energy management, and is familiar with a wide spectrum of materials including metals, plastics, and composites. Joe has recently been focusing on crash protection structures for electric vehicles but in the past been an innovator in bumper structures and other BIW components.
Mark Stephens has been associated with the development of electric drive vehicles for both the military and automotive industry since 1998. A graduate of Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, Mark has lead the “ground up” design and development of hybrid electric drive military platforms from concept through prototype testing. He has also launched high-volume battery management systems in a global automotive market. His current focus at Shape Corp combines his extensive electric vehicle experience with his experience with lightweight structures from the aerospace industry in the development of crash-protected battery enclosure systems.
Shape Corp. is a full service supplier of custom metallic, plastic, composite and hybrid solutions. A tradition of process, material, and engineering advancements have positioned the company as a roll-forming pioneer and impact energy management experts. Shape primarily serves the automotive sector, but also supplies a diversified collection of non-automotive industries. Founded in 1974, the company remains a privately owned, family company. Shape employs more than 3,500 global associates in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Which customer or market demands were the biggest drivers of your company's growth during the past three years?
All major OEMs (Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda, GM, FCA, BMW) were drivers of growth during the last three years for Shape. Among those OEMs, light-weighting, increased crash performance, electric vehicles, and new product and process innovations lead the way in growth opportunities.
Do you anticipate that those demands will continue to be your biggest growth drivers for the next three years, or are you anticipating new trends?
We see continued positive trends for our current products with traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles and strong demand for new products around electric vehicles. Lowering mass and creative combinations of composites and metallics are a large growth opportunity, both domestically and globally.
What are your areas of R&D focus, and what timeline do you anticipate for bringing your next new products to market? Can you tell us anything about those products?
New products are coming to market constantly. We have a large team dedicated to R&D and have specific products that have launched or are launching in the near future. Carbon fiber and other composite applications, along with aluminum and steel products, are launching now. All of these products do and will benefit the electric vehicle market, and will result in improved safety and higher efficiency (lower mass, cost). Additional products include body-in-white structural components, active grill shutters, bumper reinforcements, and hitches.
What new trends do you anticipate and what market demands do you see evolving/changing over the next five years?
Electric vehicle trends continue to evolve rapidly. From a regulatory standpoint there will be more pressure to meet fuel economy standards and also meet public demand to create more environmentally conscious modes of transportation.
The continued technological developments from suppliers in Korea, China, and other Asian nations are critical to our success domestically. Much work on optimized electrification techniques (battery pack flexibility, durability, optimization, range, etc) has already occurred and advanced beyond our domestic efforts. Infrastructure and the technologies required beyond traditional fossil fuels and coal burning technologies (possibly hydrogen fuel cells are an example), are important for us to continue to understand.
What would you say are the key challenges and opportunities currently faced by the industry?
The likes of a rapidly changing technology such as electrification of vehicles has not been experienced before by global automotive OEMs. There are several challenges facing the industry in terms of charging infrastructure for the automotive industry, the costs associated with high-voltage batteries – especially with the eventual reduction of subsidies – the production methods of batteries, and ensuring the environmental impacts are minimized. End-of-life concerns with recyclability, packaging of large lithium-ion battery packs, weight, cost, and range of these packs are other challenges requiring innovative thinking.
To combat these rapid changes and the still unknown, Shape is working to offer solutions that can scale as trends emerge and automakers continue to identify what EV technology to apply and what technology can be modulated or adjusted to changing demands. Our products, processes, and engineering support is positioned globally to support these rapid changes.
What is your company's approach to strategic partnerships or joint ventures, and what kinds of partnerships are you most open to exploring?
We have many strategic partnerships and currently work with companies as either a true joint venture and/or technical partnership. This type of activity is central to our innovation process at Shape. Our innovation process is not only specific to new and disruptive products and processes, but also focuses on alliances with the right companies in the right locations, globally.
What products will you be featuring at the show this year and what response are you expecting?
During this year’s show, we will be unveiling new products, processes, and technologies around our capabilities in battery pack packaging and protection for electrified vehicles. We expect to receive a lot of excitement, as our products will be highly unique and highly differentiated as compared to all other exhibitors at the show.
Why are you exhibiting and what connections do you hope to make there?
We are excited to exhibit so that we can educate the industry on why our unique battery tray technologies are important. We are hoping to talk with folks who make batteries, who make cells, potential customers, other large tier 1 suppliers and integrators who could become partners in supplying the automotive industry with battery protection systems of the future.
Shape Corp are exhibiting at The Battery Show at booth 1303
View the full exhibitor list here.