Anyone strolling past DuPont Automotive's SAE booth during the last eight years has "interfaced" with the robot that patrols the perimeter hawking Dupont materials, flirting with the ladies and ambushing unsuspecting foreign engineers.

Crowds gather across the aisle from DuPont when FRW Corp. demonstrates its airbag system, complete with a startling "kaboom." Expect more of the same at the late-February SAE '96 at Detroit's Cobo Center, because the high-technology presentations are nearly as impressive as the leading-edge automotive hardware on display.

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) continue's its tradition of live presentations with a show intended to answer engineering and design questions about the UltraLight steel auto body (ULSAB). ULSAB is a cooperative effort by 32 steel companies that would shave body-in-white weight by24%, reduce its cost by $154 and increase rigidity by 34%.

Interactive computer displays will further explain the innovations represented in the ULSAB project.

In addition to the multi-lingual robot, DuPont's SAE '96 exhibit features an antique du Pont automobile to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. auto industry. Displays of components made using Dupont materials harken to the present and future of the industry.

Also under die Dupont SAE umbrella is Ford Motor Co.'s first thermoplastic window-lift motor gear housing, which is manufactured by United Technologies Automotive from Dupont Zytel, and the world's first plastic throttle body, a new inlet manifold and a fuel rail for the Rover Group 1.4L engine.

Other major material suppliers with exhibits include Dow Chemical Co., BASF Corp. and Bayer Corp.

Rogers Corp. displays its specialty materials for automotive applications highlighted by powertrain applications for its MPC, a recyclable, glass-reinforced phenolic molding material. The company's booth also features Poron, a high-performance elastomer for gasketing, sealing and vibration control. Components on display include gaskets and seals for instrument clusters, steering columns, switches, buttons and others.

Rogers also plans to tout its prototyping capability and the recycling service it's offering to customers. Durel Corp., a joint venture between 3M Corp. and Rogers, will display electroluminescent lamps fashioned from Durel 3 at the 3M booth. The lamps provide the backlight for the Taurus/sable's integrated instrument panel.

Thyssen AG and its Budd Co. subsidiary are unveiling an electronic vehicle model display they call "Otto." Otto demonstrates what the companies call "the multifaceted capabilities of Thyssen/budd Automotive" and comes with an interactive computer directory. When a visitor punches a button on the screen Otto lights up his corresponding component or system.

Advanced Forming Technology (AFF) exhibits a hybrid technology it calls metal injection molding (MIM), which combines powder metallurgy and plastic injection-molding techniques. MIM uses fine metal powders that are blended with a binder system to create a compound that can be molded in conventional plastic injection-molding equipment. Finished parts are typically 96% to 99% of the metal's theoretical density, says AFI.

Tricon Industries Inc. is expected to explain its approach to insert molding during SAE 96. The process produces singlepiece, encapsulated finished parts by molding one or more shots of an engineering-grade resin around one or more metal cores.

More than 70 nations are represented on the SAE '96 show floor. The French pavilion includes at least 11 companies and two regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Among the lead suppliers in the French delegation is ECIA, a supplier of exhaust components and systems, instrument panels, steering wheels and front-end exterior parts. Others in the French contingent include Sagem SA, Le Profil Industries, Thompson-CSF, Allevard Ressorts SMPI, Setforge, Bouverat Andre & Fils, Siccom, Q. Ex Corp. and Rhone-Poulenc VSI Silicones.