Since the IDI C6 VRV (Vacuum Regulator Valve) was discontinued years ago, they are becoming scarcer and scarcer. I’ve been working on developing a new IDI-Online VRV based on the old design for the 6.9 and 7.3 IDI, but with a few enhancements to make the part simpler and easier to maintain.
(Ford Part Nos. F0TP-7B200-AA, F0TP-7B200-A, E7TA-7B200-AA, E7TA-7B200-AB, E7TA-7B200-AC, E8TP-7B200-AA, FOTP-AA or International Part No. 1801361c7)
The older VRV is plastic and eventually breaks down. Since there are no replacement parts for sale, this leaves the IDI owner with a tough decision: either replace the transmission with the inferior E4OD or scrap the vehicle. My goal is provide a new VRV that takes the place of the older part.
I’ve been documenting all the work I’ve been putting into this project, so that you know it’s been a royal pain in the ass. LOL. It’s basically a hobby of mine that turned into an obsession, but it’s still a hobby. I appreciate everyone’s support through all of this, and I also appreciate everyone’s patience. Remember, this is not my main job, so if I take a day or two to get back to you, I apologize.
Ultimately, when this is done, I’m going to provide two types of products. First, I have produced an inventory of replacement cams, cam links, covers, and parts for the existing VRV. Next, I’m going to provide finished product VRV’s, that are custom designed by me to eliminate some of the unnecessary components that either wear early, breakdown, or really don’t need to be included on the VRV for the IDI IP. I’m hoping to have functioning prototypes soon, and if all goes well, new IDI-Online VRV’s for sale by the end of summer.
If all goes well, I might develop an aluminum VRV, that should last substantially longer than any plastic part.
I’ll continue to post more information on my progress as things develop. I hope to have the first round of prototypes mailed to me in a few weeks.
I got all the stock parts modeled and prepped. It was a lot of work. I’m pretty happy with the detail I was able to model, including all the weep holes, notches, ports, etc. I was even able to get the housing completely designed in 3D, which was probably the most complex solid-model that I even built.
Using assembly design, I was able to virtually-test the model and its action. Everything pretty much worked out, except the castle nut and cam housing cover. I used the 3D clash detection to make sure everything fit just right, and made adjustments accordingly.
So far so good. After testing various mesh resolutions, I found a good balance of file-size and mesh detail. Checked it in another program before sending the files off for prototyping.
I chose three different types of plastic for the testing phase of this project. I’m going to make these in what-they-call “Professional Plastic.” They claim the nylon plastic is good up to 350 deg F, watertight, tensile strength (up to 6960 psi), and chemically resistant (to oils, greases, allphatic hydrocarbons, and alkalies). Ideally, I need these VRV Parts to be high-temp rated and have good abrasion resistance, but I ordered two other types of plastic that I’m pretty confident won’t work. I’ve done quite a bit of prototyping, and the cheaper plastics won’t hold up in an engine bay. But regardless, I ordered them just to see how they compare to the professional-style plastic prototypes. I’ll post images once they arrive.
If the prototypes work out, I’ll order a bulk shipment and begin the first phase of this VRV project. I’ll set up a store selling replacement parts for the VRV, like new cams, cam-links, housings, etc. Then I’ll work on new diaphragms for the VRV. Also, I’m doing some legwork for finding decent spring replacements. And ultimately, I want to get to work on my custom VRV design.
I’ve been working with another plastics supplier to figure out an alternative for the diaphragm setup on the stock VRV. We’ve narrowed it down to two types of plastics/resins, and we are developing a strategy to prototype an array of thicknesses to optimized the flexibility where it counts. Also, there are other factors in the prototyping process that make this really difficult to produce; like flexibility, durability, longevity, and rigidity. The sales rep and engineer at my supplier have been instrumental in making sure I can model up something that will suit my needs for the VRV.
I’ll keep on moving forward. This diaphragm resin is pretty expensive (along with the other prototype plastics), but I’m willing to make the investment to make sure I get a diaphragm that is the precise thickness to ensure 5 in-hg to 13 in-hg as per the service manual specifications.
The first round of diaphragm 3D models got approved, so I progressed with modeling an array of various dimension and shape diaphragms for prototyping.
Also, I’m still debating on how to connect the diaphragm to the camlink. I’m testing springs and different elastic plastics. I’ve been talking to a large spring manufacturer in the hopes they have something VERY similar to the stock spring already exists in their inventory. Maybe with a bulk purchase, I can make this assembly somewhat affordable.
With the latest prototyping processes, I can make pretty much any amalgamation I can think of. So to simplify the whole component, I’d like to explore concepts that reduce the overall count of parts in the VRV. Less parts usually means less possibility for failure.
Once I get more of the prototypes, I’ll learn more of capabilities of the plastics, and then I’ll keep progressing on IDI-Online version of the VRV.
The latest set of prototypes is “in production.” I snapped some photos of the facility’s mesh reading software….
Looking good! They estimate delivery of the rigid plastic prototypes around June 29.
Still no word back from the diaphragm plastic cost estimates yet. Their facility is a little smaller so I’m cutting them some slack. I run my own business and know how hard it can be to keep a balance of work-and-life. I’m hoping for the estimates any day now.
Some bad news. The diaphragm 3D model didn’t pass the more advanced examination. Something about the connection material was too small for the resolution of the printer. I’m not really sure how to resolve this yet, I’m brainstorming a new solution. I don’t have a lot of options, because the diaphragm diameter is really small, so extending it will mean creating a larger footprint, thus reducing the flexing capacity of the diaphragm plastic. Back to the drawing board.
As for the spring manufacturers, I’ve been going back and forth on that whole ordeal. We have tried to get some early cost estimation, but since the springs are so odd, they don’t have a good number yet. I’m currently at the point of modeling up the current springs and producing some drawings to aide their bidding.
Some set backs, but I’m going to keep moving forward. The first quote for the springs came out to $400-500 per spring. LOL.
I’ve been trying to make sure that all my products are American Made. So I’m shopping around for more spring manufacturers anywhere in the 50 states. Any suggestions, leave a comment below.
I’ve made the latest revisions to the diaphragm prototypes and sent them off for approvals. I have four different designs (2-way flat disc, 4-way flat disc, 2-way domed-disc, and wide slot flat disc). I’m still confounded on why the last two prototype meshes were rejected, and their explanation was really enigmatic. If they reject this latest design, then I’m going to have to talk directly with their production team, because the sales staff is giving me the run around. Also, I might have to move toward building my own metal mold and pouring my own diaphragm plastics/resins…. Until then here are some pictures:
The first round of prototype plastics arrived!
I’ll start testing the plastics for their longevity, durability, etc.
Update July 20, 2018
Got the diaphragm prototypes. Lots of issues. Those parts will require a full redesign, with the orientations revised.
Update August 3, 2018:
I’ve done an early assessment of the prototypes, and there are issues. I need to revise the 3D models and send out for a 2nd batch of plastics to make sure the proper tolerances are met. Some of the 3D printers must have varying printing tolerances that are affecting the sizing of these meshes, but overall, I’m pretty pleased with the output. Maybe a less fastidious designer would accept the models as is, but I want to make sure they fit together perfectly, and that means more prototyping. I’m quite sure this means I won’t have anything ready for sale by the end of August, but Autumn 2018 is definitely in play.
The first round of plastics were considered “Professional” plastics, with supposedly quite good heat, vibration, and tensile resistant properties. If the product ever went up for sale, I would insist I use this material, because structurally, it is supposedly the best of all the printable plastics I could find. The only downside to this material is the graininess. The material comes in grey and black, and in the future, I’ll just stick with the black. The grey looks really speckled and odd. I’m not really impressed with that variation.
With respect to mating tolerances, the castle nut and VRV Cap models appeared to have printed perfectly, thus allowing for a great fitting.
With the castle+cap combined, the top housing threaded on with ease. One issue here was the tolerance on the threads. It made the cap wobble a bit, but knowing my stock VRV, the cap wobbles on that too. I think I’ll adjust the 3D offset tolerance on that in my parametric 3D model when I send for the second round of prototypes.
Unfortunately, the cam seems slightly off with this particular printed plastic. I would like that to fit a little better and more snug, rather than the slop that is visually apparent in the previous photo.
Also, the Cam Cover fit well, but it appeared to be too thick. Or maybe the receiving-groove in the main housing wasn’t deep enough. Regardless, if I revise that, the top surfaces would be slightly more flush. Not a big deal, just had to mark down in my notes for revising the 3D Parametric model.
The second type of plastic I tested was the white “processed” plastic. This too had a good deal of graininess that I really didn’t want to see. I’m worried this kind of abrasiveness would inhibit good cam and cam-link movement and possibly induce premature wear on the system. I don’t know until I conduct extensive materials testing.
At least with the processed plastic type, the tolerances seemed to fit better. The cam sizing was perfect, so that wouldn’t require any additional prototyping remodeling. Also, the rotation of the cam with the cam-link was smoother. I guess with proper lubrication, the abrasiveness of the printed plastics might not be an issue. In fact, it might help the grease cling to the pockets in the plastic, thus allowing for a better lubricity and retention of parts. Just speculation at this point. I’m still hesitant to lube this up until I get better diaphragm prototypes (see below) and some company to accept my drawings for spring production.
With the white plastic, the cam-link BARELY fit in the housing grooves. The black plastic was actually QUITE sloppy, so that’s one of the differences with the two plastic printing types. The tolerances might be off by as much as 1/64″ which is kind of unacceptable. I need this to be good down to at least 0.005″ if this is going to reproduceable and viable for sales.
Just like the black and grey castle-cap assy, the white parts fit perfectly and snuggly spun. Also, the white cap fit on the cruciform of the main housing snuggly, so it didn’t wobble. I liked it a lot better. No need to adjust the threads on this plastic.
Sadly, the white VRV cap didn’t have a proper vacuum port. The plastic must have gotten stuck in the hole when they pulled it from the bed. Bummer. Looks like Professional Plastic is the only way to go for the cap.
I also invested in the cheaper clear plastic as well. It appears to be far superior to the other two plastics in terms of smoothness. It is really spiffy, but it doesn’t have much for heat and strength resistance. I gave it a shot anyway just to try it out.
One thing that was kind of cool was the ability to see the cam and cam-link thru the transparent plastic.
Sadly, as I was simply trying to push the clear plastic castle on the cap, it broke rather easily. I basically handled this part for less than 5 seconds before it broke. I think this confirms that the clear plastic cannot be trusted on this project.
My diaphragm connector testing went well. The closest plastic to match the elasticity of the stock spring is the second and third shaft, but I need to freeze these and try the materials testing all over again. If the temp affects the elasticity, then I’ll have to find a different solution.
Well, the diaphragm prototypes were all basically a bust. They all had some kind of odd dimpling that was a result of the flexible printing process. Bummer. I talked to the manufacturing staff and we think we might have a solution. I hate to have to send out for another batch cuz they are just so darn expensive, but if I remodel it, I think we can make it work.
Even with the dimpling though, I was able to install one of the thicker test diaphragms and see if it held against the vacuum pump. IT DID! That was pretty cool. Now I just need to get the second round of flexible plastic prototypes and reinsert them into the plastic VRV cap and calibrate if for 5-7 in-hg. Almost there!
Lots more to go, but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel here. If I can get my suppliers to reign in the tolerance issues, and get my models refined, this could be a good Autumn.
I’ve been remodeling the 3D Model to compensate for the different tolerances for each plastic type. Due to the parametric modeling, it’s slower than typical modeling, but it will allow me to adjust the tolerances with a simple click of a parameter.
The latest round of prototypes have allowed me to figure out the proper diaphragm orientation to remove the stipulation from the mating surface. Now I need to improve the cap housing 3D model to adjust the interior routing of the channels. Sadly, the channels do not always come back from the supplier with a clear tube. Either I need to increase the tubing radius (that would exceed the design spec), or I have to post-drill these caps one-at-a-time on my press. Ideally, I want to eliminate any human postprocessing when I get these from the supplier, but it’s looking like I have to consider that option if I want these made for a reasonable sale price. If in the end, I order a thousand of these, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to post-drill these in a premade jig in a day or so. I don’t know. Just a little discouraged by the claims of these suppliers and their quality assurance/quality control.
I’ll keep on working on these designs.
I obtained another VRV that had a busted nozzle. Since the unit is broken, I don’t feel to bad about cannibalizing it for research purposes.
I tore down the diaphragm and carefully measured and tracked everything. Now I have a solid understanding on how the pressure regulation is conducted. I’m not too thrilled about their solution, and I’m confident that I can make something that does all this without all the parts. I think 3D printing will open up avenues for regulating pressure that weren’t available when they first designed this VRV.
This VRV had a “cap cover,” which I hadn’t seen on any of my VRV’s in the past. I’ll model this up in the future and include it in my inventory. It appears to have protected the VRV cap well, so I would recommend keeping yours if you have one.
Using the cannibalized VRV Cap, I was able to measure every part down to three-to-five thousandths of an inch, and 3D model the whole cap assembly with the diaphragm.
It’s a rather convoluted design. There is a coil spring that retains the “rod” that opens and closes the vacuum pressure valve in the cap.
Also, the rod has two flanges that secure its place in the center of the diaphragm.
I’m not sure why the diaphragm, coil spring, extension spring, and retainer are all necessary. Seems like three layers of moving the diaphragm when all you need is one. Regardless, I finally have a COMPLETE VRV model:
For something that fits in the palm of a hand, this thing has a lot of parts. I digitally modeled the springs as well, and inserted them in the assembly.
In the image below, you can see how the whole assembly connects from the top of the cam-link, through the extension spring, through the bottom holes in the valve rod, through the coil spring retainer assembly, and into the cap hole in the center of the top.
I’m going to send off for more prototypes with this new and enhanced cap 3D model. Also, I’m going to try and do some metal prototypes for the coil spring in the VRV cap, but I’m not expecting much. The coil spring was only 0.009″ thick, and that was hardened steel or iron. I don’t think anything printed in metal can be done that thin, and even if they can, I doubt it could endure the metal fatigue that is likely from constant use on an IDI IP.
I’m glad I tore down this VRV Cap, even though I broke it for good. I learned a lot, and it just confirmed that I want to develop my own VRV cap design that doesn’t use all the internal components. My next goals are: 1.) build an inventory of VRV Cap parts for people that want to keep their older style VRV, 2.) build a custom VRV cap that uses new tech to make something less convoluted, 3.) design the new VRV cap to be backward compatible with old VRV housings, and 4.) do enough materials testing to verify it outputs the proper vacuum pressure at the right rotation of the IP throttle.
I’ve finished optimizing the meshes for prototyping.
While I was exporting the meshes and verifying their units for prototyping, I decided to use the 3D modeler’s sectioning tool to see how the assembly works. This image really captures the assembly, and how the cam pulls the cam-link, which tugs on the long spring, which retracts the diaphragm rod, which pulls the diaphragm from the under-ceiling of the cap. The flat spring acts as a protector so that the diaphragm doesn’t completely pull out from the cap underceiling. Image below:
I finally got all the geometry sent to the prototyper and some had some geometry issues. I tried to clean them up as much as possible, but we won’t see until they arrive. This will be the first time I’ve tried to print metal for the diaphragm rod and flat spring assembly, so this is a truly interesting experiment.
There is still some more optimization that I can do to combine geometry to reduce redundancy and minimum prototyping costs, but I’ll wait to see how these turn out first. I don’t want to print a hundred of these diaphragm rods just to find out they don’t fit the spec. Regardless, I decided to combine prints on this test to 8 diaphragm rods and one flat spring assembly, since it would cost me the same to print one anyway. If they happen to fall into the spec, then I got extra. If not, it wouldn’t cost me any different. Model:
I also added some branding to some of the models. I’ve been getting broken and damaged VRV’s from clients, and I notice that all of them have different part numbers from different manufacturers. I figure I should have some identifying characteristics on my replacement parts so that people know where they came from.
The supplier said I won’t get this round until the end of March. I have a month to find more suppliers for the springs and bolts. Fastenal, Grainger, and McMaster don’t have the required bolts for this beast. It’s like pulling teeth finding this seemingly innocuous screw. I don’t want to go with an alternative (like an allen screw or torx screw), but it’s beginning to look impossible to find a 3/16″ hex head screw with a flange. If you know a small screw supplier, post a note in the comments.
Planned modifications for the fifth round of prototypes:
- Add fillets to the flat spring assembly and fill in the gaps on the compressed portion.
- Add threading to the bolt holes that matches whatever screws I can find from suppliers.
- Verify the flexibility of the prototyped flat spring and if 0.009″ is printable.
- Find the optimal layout for grouping the smaller components, notably the cam-link, castle nut, diaphragm rod, and flat spring.
- Reinforce the cap ports to compensate for prototyping deficiencies
- Remodel the diaphragm to orient in a way to prevent dimpling.
I just got off the phone with a spring manufacturer that is compiling a reasonable quote. We’ll finish discussions tomorrow. This could be a big relief.
Also, I found another manufacturer that is going to provide an improved diaphragm plastic. We are working on another round of prototypes and thicknesses. We worked together on how to limit the dimpling on the surface so that it doesn’t release any of the vacuum pressure at WOT. No fancy images to show on this update. It was mainly just phone calls and boring stuff.
Update 3/19/19 and 3/21/19
Huge news!!! Negotiations are complete for both spring orders, and I’ll be getting a few hundred replacement springs to improve my inventory. This would be huge, because there are no VRV springs out on the market today. Big thank you to James Rooks for suggesting Northwest Spring. They had great customer service and really went out of their way to work out a reasonable deal.
Also, I am adding some more VRV-related items to my inventory. I’m currently modeling up the VRV vacuum hose adapter, that connects to the cap nozzle. I figure while I’m making all this stuff, I might as well add anything else that is plastic/rubber in the IP area. I’ll post some pictures in a little bit.
I’ve also modeled up the elbow connectors that attach to the nozzle connector. Since these are basic vacuum tubing accessories, the elbows are not really that special or unique. However, they do fit perfectly in the vacuum connector, so I figured why not model it up. I’ve sent out for more prototypes of these new accessories which should be returned by April 20th.
I got a notification that my 5th round of prototypes has been shipped and should be at my door any day now. That would contain the latest metal objects in the cap. I’m very curious to see if the metal is compatible to the VRV setup. It’s supposed to be reasonably strong, and considering theses VRV’s are not loadbearing, I think it should work out fine. I’m curious to see how these crimp or bend too. I wonder if they are brittle. I did get a message from my supplier that some of the metal components were just too thin to print with steel, and they wouldn’t survive the manufacturing process. I’m kind of in a rut there. Haven’t figured out a solution to that yet. It might be something that I literally have to machine in my shop.
Also, I’m working with a shop here in Los Angeles that can lasercut a portion of the assembly for me at a reasonable cost. There is a portion of the VRV that is so thin, that it cannot survive the extraction process when it is produced. I’m hoping the laser version will not only work, but be cheaper if the prototyping method had actually functioned as specified.
I’m contemplating modeling an entire VRV cap or partial cap containing metal to resist against nozzle breakage. The only way I seem to be able to get it to adapt is if the entire cap is metal, but the cost of that would push the whole VRV into several hundreds of dollars per item. I’m not prepared to do that yet.
The latest and greatest news was my supplier getting a new plastic production process for flexible materials, and they are graciously including me as one of the exclusive testers of their new machinery. Only a handful of high-level clients get this honor, so I’m on the ground floor. If these work the way they say they will, I won’t have all the dimpling and stipling that occurred on the 2nd round of prototyping.
Current Inventory :
For the time being, I am gradually becoming prepared to sell portions of the VRV to people willing to give my prototypes a shot. What that means: I can sell you (for a reduced rate) these parts of the VRV:
Contact me to discuss options and shipping. If for example, you cracked the main housing flanges overtightening it to the IP, I could sell you this main housing. You would have to transfer the old VRV parts over to the new housing, but this could fix your problem. You would have to pay for shipping..
Inspecting and Rebuilding VRV’s:
I could rebuild your VRV if you ship it to me. I would need to examine the piece to figure the problem out. Inspection costs $42 and I’ll give you an assessment of the VRV before I do any work on it. You pay for the shipping to my shop (I recommend insuring it for $250, just in case). Rebuilding costs are determined by what needs to be replaced, maintained, or lubricated. I use a plastic-safe lubricant to unsure any surfaces won’t degrade. Contact me to discuss options and shipping.
|Inspection including return shipping*||$42.00|
|Cam & Link Cleaning||$15.00|
|Cam & Link Greasing||$10.00|
|Castle Nut Calibration||$25.00|
|Part(s) Replacement Estimate||***|
*You pay for the shipping to my shop, and I pay for domestic USPS return shipping. However, if you want it overnight or 2nd day or international or anything other than regular USPS domestic shipping, you’ll have to cover that.
***Depends on the results of the inspection.
If you decide to join in this prototyping project, you’ll need to sign an Authorization to Work and Waiver. I charge $99/hr, calculated quarter-hourly. If I only work on it for 15 minutes, then I only charge $25. If you send your VRV to me to rebuild, I’ll be sure to return all your original parts. If in the event you don’t like my prototype, you can revert back to the original parts. Considering that Ford and aftermarket manufacturers have no plans to restart selling these VRV’s, I think you’ve got not much to lose. Best case: it fixes your VRV; Worst case: the replacement part doesn’t regulate the vacuum pressure, and are back to where you were.
What I still don’t have ready for sale yet, but soon:
- Cap and Cap Cover (Potentially in April 2019)
- Diaphragm Carriage (Potentially In April 2019)
- Diaphragm (Potentially in April 2019)
- Springs (Potentially in May 2019)
- Housing cover hex-screws
- IP mounting bolts
- IP throttle connecting rod
- Complete, bolt-on, ready-to-go VRV Replacement Assemblies
- VRV Testing Gauge Block (Part No. T83T-7B200-AH)
- VRV vacuum hose connector (Potentially in May 2019)
Springs are on the WAY!
I’m also desperately looking for a small screw company with the 3/16″ hex screws. These are almost nonexistent! (I’m basically giving up on these darn screws. I’m going to find some kind of alternative phillips head screw. I hate to use anything other than original parts, but no place has these 3/16″ hex screws from the 1980’s).
For more reading on the process of adjusting, calibrating, and inspecting an IDI C6 VRV, click below: