From inception to the marketplace, the development of ARB’s range of Frontier polymer diesel fuel tanks has been a long five year journey.

The idea of developing Australia’s first polymer long range diesel fuel tank for four wheel drives came about when Stewart Thompson (ARB Product Manager for the Frontier tank) was visiting Automechanika in Shanghai, China in 2011. It was here that Stewart noticed a stand with rotomoulded plastic diesel fuel tanks designed for use in Chinese tractors.

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Rotomoulded polymer tanks have many advantages over steel tanks – they are light and tough, and intricate shapes can be achieved to maximise fuel capacity without sacrificing ground clearance. This is why OE fuel tanks are manufactured from plastic. For an aftermarket long range polymer tank to be successful, Stewart and Paul Cooper (Frontier tank Product Development Engineer) knew that it would not only have to offer the above advantages, but also be priced competitively against existing steel long range fuel tanks.

Only a couple of months after returning from Shanghai, Stewart and Paul set about developing a polymer tank to suit the Toyota HiLux. They shaped a tank out of a foam block in order to develop a mould and organised to have the prototype manufactured. That prototype proved to be remarkably strong, and Stewart and Paul knew they were on to a good thing.

There were still several challenges ahead, the biggest of which, according to Paul, involved getting the sealing right around the fuel pump and the filler neck. Eight or so different concepts were tried and tested until a successful solution was achieved; a seal that wouldn’t leak no matter what temperatures or situations the tank was subjected to. Remarkably, this process took around three and a half years, with Stewart and Paul painstakingly and thoroughly testing every aspect of every sample.

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Eventually all of the development and manufacturing was brought in-house and Frontier tanks are now made in one of ARB’s facilities in South Australia. In fact, it only took four weeks from setting up the manufacturing equipment in this facility to getting the first orders out, according to Paul Cooper. “The Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-MAX were the first Frontier tanks to be released,” he says. “This was followed by tanks for the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Toyota HiLux, LandCruiser 79 Series, and Isuzu MU-X, and since then the Colorado 7, VW Amarok, Nissan D40 Navara, NP300 Navara and the new HiLux.

Making a tank

These are the steps involved in developing a new Frontier tank model:

  • Sculpt a model of the tank from a block of foam that fits into the vehicle
  • Incorporate intricate details to maximise the amount of space that can be used under the vehicle
  • Ensure maximum capacity with minimum impact on ground clearance
  • 3D scan the foam model (the buck) and ensure capacity meets requirements
  • Send scan data to SA based manufacturing facility who generate CAD model
  • Develop vehicle-specific mounting system, brackets and hardware for tank
  • Ensure components fit into vehicle
  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA) testing
  • With CAD design finalised, have the tool manufactured
  • Get off-tool sample from the mould and validate the hardware and components
  • Validate durability of tanks and components under off road conditions with FEA testing
  • Impact and deflection tests

“We’re now in the process of developing tanks to suit several new model vehicles,” says Paul. Paul Cooper reckons it’s not easy to convince the marketplace that rotomoulded polymer tanks are tougher than steel tanks. “The idea of making it out of plastic was to make it better, not cheaper,” he says.

Watch the ARB Frontier Tank Torture Test:

If you want to see for yourself just how tough the Frontier tank is, you can watch it being pounded by a 50 plus-tonne centurion tank below.

 

Watch how easy and economical ARB Frontier long range tanks are to install. The roto-moulding process enables designs that feature more intricate shapes to be created, increasing overall tank volume:

 

ARB Frontier Tank

For more information about the ARB Frontier tank, head into your local ARB store, or visit: www.arb.com.au/frontier

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