5/3/2019 | 4 MINUTE READ

Tech Watch

Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

Plug-and-Play Wheelsets Plug-and-play technology – or tech that can apply to a wide swath of vehicle ranges – usually applies more to software than hardware.

Share

Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

Plug-and-Play Wheelsets

Plug-and-play technology – or tech that can apply to a wide swath of vehicle ranges – usually applies more to software than hardware. A professor at the University of Waterloo didn’t get that memo. Amir Khajepour, a mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor at the Ontario university, rolled out a mechanism that melds a wheel and an electric motor with braking, suspension and steering. Those functions, and a system to control them, are contained in a single module that could simply be mounted to just about any vehicle frame.

“The idea is modularity and plug-and-play control capability,” said Khajepour. “Our wheel unit, in a sense, is a full vehicle with only one wheel. All that’s missing is a body.”

That idea might appeal to manufacturers eager to trim budgets for developing wheel systems individually and allow for more frugal ways to create specialized vehicles. The university team report they tested out the concept with two-seater urban EVs; their prototypes weigh about 40 kilograms with around 25 horsepower. Khajepour noted that while those types of cars are energy savers, they’re also generally money losers.

“Companies will be able to produce a smaller car that is cheaper, too,” said Khajepour, director of the Mechatronic Vehicle Systems Lab (uwaterloo.ca/mechatronic-vehicle-systems-lab). “Right now, we are not there. You have to pay more to get a smaller car, to get less.”

The researchers also have their eye on large utility and commercial vehicles, as well as low-volume mining and forestry/rescue operation vehicles for the modular units.

Their research paper, Development of a Novel Integrated Corner Module for Narrow Urban Vehicles,” appeared in the Journal of Automobile Engineering.


Rallying for Safety

It’s easy to forget, or simply be unaware, of the fact that rally racing accidents that claimed lives were fairly common just a few decades ago. The worst was at the 1978 Safari Rally, when five passers-by and four spectators died in a pair of unrelated accidents. Both incidents involved drivers who weren’t in contention of actually winning crashing into their competitors.

While incidents as severe as those at the Safari Rally haven’t happened since, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Siemens (new.siemens.com/global/en.html) recently linked up make sure spectator accidents are permanently consigned to history. The two organizations are working to improve fan and drivers at rally events around the world and they have a lot of ground to cover. FIA reported that last year more than 4 million spectators watched its races, which can span courses of more than 25 kilometers, often on narrow tracks and gravel roads slicing through some extremely tough terrain.

Siemens plans to combine its Intelligent Traffic Systems and PLM Software to make it easier to detect spectators in dangerous places by connecting drivers, spotters and race organizers. But before any tires kick up mud, they’ll first need create 2D and 3D simulations of the race routes using sensor-based systems deployed on both vehicle and at multiple locations on the track. A surge of data from vehicle sensors through neural networks and AI will add a safety-layer around the human-driven vehicles, according to Siemens.

The partnership won’t be limited to the rally track: Siemens sees possibilities for improving pedestrian safety in urban locations, as well.

“In the age of increasingly automated vehicles, racing will be an essential testbed for the automotive industry, which needs the widest array of data and the most challenging environments to continue to build and train advanced autonomous, connected and electric automotive technologies," says Edward Bernardon, vice president strategic automotive initiatives at Siemens PLM Software.


JuggerBot, DSM and Testable 3D

3D technology has everyone excited – well, everyone except maybe those responsible for managing the costs. For many small- to medium-scale manufacturers, the price tag often doesn’t justify the additive manufacturing utility. Further, many aren’t necessarily sure if a specific printer will suit their production needs over the long haul.

In a somewhat unusual pairing, multinational chemical firm Royal DSM (dsm.com) and Ohio-based JuggerBot 3D (juggerbot3d.com) are going to offer select customers access to industrial-grade JuggerBot 3D printers for testing DSM-engineered materials.

“While adoption of additive manufacturing in production environments is increasing rapidly, many companies continue to face challenges as they work to adopt the technology,” said Jill Cohen, Global Marketing & Sales Director Additive Manufacturing at DSM. “The two issues reported most frequently are the cost of equipment, and/or limited investment budget, and the lack of in-house expertise on various 3D printing technologies.”

The customers will receive hardware and material support during the trial, and will only be charged for materials used plus a deposit.

Based in Youngstown, Ohio, JuggerBot says its 3D printers are largely material-agnostic and contain built-in units to keep filaments dry before processing them.


Self-healing Brakes

Lowering wear and tear is pretty much holy grail for brake pad makers. When they blended carbon fibers into polymer materials, researchers say they were able to create self-lubricating brakes.

The scientists at University of British Columbia-Okanagan (ok.ubc.ca), Sharif University of Technology in Iran (sharif.ir/web/en) and the University of Toronto (utoronto.ca) report much improved frictional properties in their brake pads than those currently on the market. They believe the new material could mean smaller, more efficient and more cost-effective pads that can handle harsher friction and extreme temperatures.

"This new research looks at things like composite breakdown during high temperatures, durability, friction and wear testing," said UBC-Okanagan School of Engineering Assistant Professor Mohammad Arjmand, a leader on the research. "Our findings show that the newly designed carbon fibre polymer brakes represent an acceleration in the science of deceleration and could be a real boon for the industry and consumers alike."

The research was recently published in the appropriately named journal, Wear.