Flanders Make and Tenneco: research on intelligent suspension technology
Intelligent suspension systems adjust damper settings continuously in varying road and driving situations to provide maximum comfort and vehicle control. During dynamic maneuvers like cornering and lane changes, it automatically gives higher priority to vehicle control. It maximises contact between the tires and changing road surfaces, making the vehicle more responsive and providing the driver with extra confidence in challenging conditions. The car senses the road surface and the way of driving in real time. It uses that data to deliver exactly the response the driver want and provides a driving experience that is more dynamic, controlled, comfortable and above all more enjoyable.
During a non-stop research collaboration of more than 10 years on intelligent suspension technology, Tenneco and Flanders Make worked together on electrification and hybridisation, optimal energy storage and harvesting, methods and tools to efficiently evaluate alternative lightweight concepts, control algorithms for vehicle dynamics, low-cost 1D smart vision sensors, system integration and functional safety, to innovate the ultimate ride experience in an emerging age of shared mobility and autonomous driving scenarios. Let’s take a look back.
The research collaboration dates back to 2008 when Flanders Make, Tenneco, Siemens Industry Software, Melexis and Triphase joined forces to develop the first research vehicle for active safety in Flanders. The research project explored new technologies in the field of active safety and vehicle dynamics. Impressive levels of body control and roll angle reduction were achieved, while at the same comfort levels and stability were improved. The research results allowed Tenneco to further develop their active suspension system with excellent control bandwidth and improved energy consumption.
While working together on technologies for GPS positioning, Tenneco started using Time-of-Flight (ToF) cameras for monitoring the road surface and height estimation of obstacles on the road. This resulted in a new collaboration with Flanders Make to develop an image-processing framework with smart 1D vision sensors that allows continuous online status, process and product quality monitoring and feed forward control for semi-active and active suspensions that optimally adapt themselves to the conditions of the road surface.
Model-based design approaches allow to achieve a TCO-optimal solution making the tradeoff between several design parameters and requirements, including compliance to ISO26262 standards. We applied this methodology for the development of active electromagnetic shock absorbers and electrical storage systems. Tenneco integrated a prototype electro-magnetic semi-active shock absorber with energy harvesting functionality. We jointly developed a proper local and sophisticated control strategy. This was experimentally validated to ensure shock absorbers with maximum energy recovery while improving the ride comfort and handling of the vehicle.
Achieving a substantial weight reduction requires the development of new innovative concepts. In the concept phase of a product development process, the degree of freedom is typically very high, whereas the knowledge on the product to be built is rather limited. This makes the evaluation of new concepts challenging, even more so when new designs, materials and/or joining technologies are involved. Flanders Make research is still ongoing and provides Tenneco with know-how, development methods, design repositories and tools to automatically generate and efficiently evaluate alternative cost-effective and lightweight design concepts for tube struts aiming to achieve a faster response to the market or customer requests.
Due to the trend towards more complex safety-related products that combine mechanics, electric components, electronics and software, the design and development of these products becomes more complex. This leads to longer development times and higher costs, as well as greater potential risks on errors due to highly manual safety engineering processes. That is why Flanders Make and Tenneco are working together on the development of an automated hazard and risk assessment topology for controllers of electro-magnetic dampers. The new methodology helps to reduce engineering time. In parallel, the capacity to perform reliable and fast hazard analysis and risk assessment investigations is a key competitive asset for OEMs.
Tenneco examined the possibilities to integrate collaborative robots (cobots) and digital work instructions in their manufacturing lines. Making use of the Flanders Make mobile MAKE LAB, several types of cobots were tested to check their functionalities against the specific requirements. The selected model was implemented in the MAKE LAB and complemented by a digital instruction system. The functional demonstration set-up could literally be brought to Tenneco’s workplace so that both management and employees could try the new technologies. The biggest challenge was to convince the entire organisation. Because everyone could participate in the demonstrations and could in an accessible manner familiarise themselves with the cobots and the new way of working, Tenneco definitely succeeded.
Tenneco is a long-standing member of the Flanders Make company network and is steering member for the four competence clusters. That means that Tenneco not only has a privileged access to the results of Flanders Make’s research projects and topics on the research agenda, but that the company also steers technological research from the front row.
Following Tenneco’s expected separation to form two new, independent companies, an Aftermarket and Ride Performance company (DRiV) as well as a new Powertrain Technology company, DRiV will be one of the largest global multi-line, multi-brand aftermarket companies, and one of the largest global OE ride performance and braking companies. DRiV’s principal product brands will feature Monroe®, Öhlins®, Walker®, Clevite®Elastomers, MOOG®, Fel-Pro®, Wagner®, Ferodo®, Champion® and others.
DRiV research and development is headquartered in Sint-Truiden, Belgium. The original equipment business, known as ‘Ride Performance’ is one of the world’s largest ride performance businesses, developing, manufacturing and supplying leading global original equipment manufacturers (OEM) with shock absorbers, struts, NVH performance materials and brake friction. After the spin-off, the remaining Tenneco businesses will focus on powertrain systems technology and will retain the Tenneco name.
Bert Dexters - Account Manager
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