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Show review: Vehicle Dynamics Expo 2011
News and views from the Stuttgart dynamics showcase, including a wealth of new product announcements
by Graham Heeps
Held at the new Stuttgart Messe's Hall 3 from 17-19 May, Vehicle Dynamics Expo 2011 was once again the scene for numerous product launches, technology demonstrations, and fascinating presentations in the Open Technology Forum. It remains the must-attend exhibition for engineers working in the field of chassis engineering and vehicle dynamics development. Here are some of the highlights!
ThyssenKrupp Bilstein had two new versions of its innovative DampTronic adaptive damping systems on show for visitors to Messe Stuttgart’s Hall 3. The high-end DampTronic sky product features two independent, continuously switchable solenoid valves per damper, but makes do with just a single ECU, reducing cost and weight. It’ll make a first production appearance in 2012. Meanwhile the DampTronic select (due in 2013) is a lightweight, entry-level adaptive damper with a button-switchable, two-stage setup.
A new exhibitor this year was Cadolly. Aside from contracts with OEMs in its domestic market, the Chinese supplier has already made inroads into Japan, Korea, and the USA with its high-quality CV boots. Now it’s looking to replicate the success of its trade-show appearances in Russia, which have led to business in that country, by showcasing in western Europe the products already used by the likes of Brilliance and BYD.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics was back at the show once more, launching new Norglide bearing technologies. Of particular interest to chassis engineers was the innovative yoke bearing for automotive steering applications. The PTFE material, in combination with the ‘Modified Gothic Arch’ shape, evenly distributes load over the area of the bearing to improve wear-resistance, lower friction over the lifecycle of the steering system, and reduce the power demands from the EPS motor.
Expo regular Mechanical Simulation Corporation gave showgoers a sneak preview of version 8.1 of its popular CarSim software, which is due to be shipped in June this year. The new release has a better animator than earlier incarnations, new options for developing active engine mounts, and more options for use with driving simulators. The latter are a growing business for Mechanical Simulation, whose software now features in some 200 simulators worldwide, including the one built for Geely by E2M. This simulator was used to demonstrate Geely’s Blowout Monitoring Braking System at the recent Auto Shanghai show in China.
Tenneco’s Sandro Paparelli was delighted to receive the company’s Vehicle Dynamics International Award for Supplier of the Year 2011 from magazine editor, Graham Heeps (pictured). It’s been a strong year for the ride control specialist, with its conventional dampers appearing globally on the new Ford C-car platform, not to mention the well-publicized use of Kinetic H2-CES on the McLaren MP4-12C. Paparelli promised that an even more advanced version of this ‘halo’ product is now in development.
At present, Subaru’s test team are monitoring mules that are up and running in the USA and Japan. And aside from it being Subaru’s first mass-produced front-engine, rear-drive product, Matsuda says that the three greatest challenges to the program so far have been “how to maximize performance from the engine; ensuring cost reduction; and thirdly, it’s never easy to undertake collaborations with other car makers!”
New at the show this year was eAAM, the joint-venture between American Axle (67%) and Saab (33%) that was formed in 2010 around a group of ex-GM and Saab advanced powertrain engineers to develop and market innovative electric drive systems and all-wheel drive technologies. A highlight of the Trollhättan-based company’s booth was the all-new eRDM (Rear Drive Module), a compact rear-axle electric drive module. The unit comes in a range of powers, from a 28kg, 15kW hybridization module with optional torque-vectoring function, to a 100kW, up to 2,700Nm unit for pure EVs. High-volume applications are the target, with costs kept under control via software-only customization to individual powertrains and vehicles, and modular hardware architecture. Saab will be the first customer for the Poland-built eRDM from 2012.
With one of the most colorful displays on the show floor, Continental’s air suspension systems business was celebrating impressive growth in the US market. Volumes for the Jeep Grand Cherokee have risen sharply in 2011, and Conti expects to supply air springs, ECUs, and compressors for 50,000 of the SUVs this year. And a second Conti-equipped car will hit the streets Stateside at the end of 2011 in the form of the Tesla Model S, which will be the first EV with air suspension.
Regular visitors to Vehicle Dynamics Expo have come to expect some innovative suspension concepts from Magneti Marelli. This year’s offerings were a passive steer wheel mount, featuring areas of flexible steel plate to give some toe-in during cornering on a twist-beam rear axle, and composite-steel front control arm that weighs only 50% as much as the steel equivalent, and costs only 20-30% more than an aluminum one. The control arm comprises an internal steel plate to give ductility in the event of an impact, and a composite exterior created by a thermoforming operation integrated into the stamping process. Both of these new ideas are in the early research stages; the first driveable twist-beam prototype is due on the road this summer.
The Flexible Steering System (FSS) was a brand new concept presented at the show by ixetic. It’s designed as a failsafe system for a steer-by-wire setup, but comprises a hydraulic link between steering wheel and rack, rather than a mechanical one, offering an obvious packaging advantage and installational flexibility. There’s normally no pressure in this mini-hydraulic system, but a turn of the steering wheel in an emergency situation generates 200 bar of pressure via a screw-and-nut drive-actuated piston, providing a maximum transferable steering torque of 120Nm – enough to override a malfunctioning EPS, for example. In other news, ixetic has begun pump production at its JV plant in India, and is scheduled to do likewise at a Chinese factory in November this year.
Finally, a key product at the Bourns booth was a non-contacting, Hall effect sensor that combined torque and steering-angle measurement. Bourns is currently riding high after some important contract wins, including one to supply 1.2 million chassis level sensors a year to GM. Eventually, twenty-six different brackets will be required for all the unit’s different applications; five are in production already, including one for the Chevrolet Camaro. The sensor feeds into an adaptive damping system or an adaptive forward lighting system, depending on the application.
What they said: views from Vehicle Dynamics Expo 2011
“It’s my second year here and again we had very good traffic and questions come through the booth. We’ve had some beneficial discussions on potential supply partnerships, but also some very good discussions on potential new OEM business going forward.”
Martin Reder, director, brake systems engineering, BWI Group (exhibitor)
“I’m very impressed. I saw a lot of interesting things for our development work, including some new things, and I watched an interesting conference presentation too. I would have liked to have been able to stay for longer!”
Michael Lugert, steering and suspension test and development manager, Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Center (visitor)
“The organization is very good and we’ve had more people visiting us than last year.”
Andrea Santini, engineering and innovation manager, Magneti Marelli suspension systems (exhibitor)
“It’s very interesting for me because I can find new suppliers for us and see innovations in our field. The presentations are really good too; I want to be back next year!”
Ozan Alcicek, suspension project chief, Tofas-Fiat (visitor)
“The show’s been really good. We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people coming to see us. We’ll be back next year.”
Paul Goossens, director of advanced engineering applications, Maplesoft (exhibitor)