Just try it!
According to an old German saying, nothing is too difficult for an engineer. But how are engineers supposed to develop automotive parts when nobody knows what vehicles will be like in the future, what will power them, or who’ll be driving them? Innovation Manager Falk Heitling and his colleagues in the technology department have been searching for answers.
Falk Heitling and his colleagues in development are celebrating a special moment: One of the components they have developed has been chosen in a number of tenders. The component is a rotor – part of an electric engine that turns the engine axle. Heitling is confident that with this development, thyssenkrupp will considerably advance the efficiency of electric vehicles. Heitling works as a Technology & Innovation Manager at thyssenkrupp Components Technology, a business unit that supplies many automobile manufacturers. For projects such as this rotor, however, many thyssenkrupp divisions work together: “During development, our motor experts worked closely together with our colleagues from the steel division,” explains Heitling. “The result is a lightweight, highly efficient, modular rotor.”
Electric mobility keeps us on our toes
Experts in the Technology, Innovation & Sustainability division have long been occupied with economic, lightweight construction for efficient motors. At the moment, however, they are particularly interested in electric mobility: “We are specifically looking at how we can improve electric motors and find solutions that will increase convenience and safety in future generations of electric vehicles,” says the 38-year-old engineer. However, the ever shorter development cycles that automobile manufacturers now take for granted pose huge challenges for research and development work. “In order to remain successful, we have to bring our products to market increasingly quickly,” explains Heitling, “while being constantly confronted with new technology – particularly when it comes to engines. Nobody knows which type of engine will be the one to break through in the end.”
Test vehicles speed up the test process
This poses a question for the team: if we cannot predict in which direction the sector and market will develop, how can thyssenkrupp ensure that its resources for research and development are being used in the most sensible manner? Heitling’s answer: “We have to be able to integrate new components into current and upcoming vehicle generations without having to design a whole new vehicle every time.” In order to achieve this, thyssenkrupp is currently developing flexible test vehicles that developers can use to test new chassis and engine components quickly, agilely and efficiently – regardless of the shape and size of the parts and systems. What these test vehicles look like is a secret. But it is a huge advantage that his team can test research projects individually and in combination under real conditions: “This really makes it easier for us to understand the mobility of tomorrow and prepare ourselves for upcoming challenges.”
A matter of trust
One of the greatest factors in whether development work is successful or not isn’t the research laboratories – it’s the customer. The greater the trust between the customer and the thyssenkrupp developers, and the closer the cooperation, the more innovative and pioneering the end result of the cooperation will be. “Sometimes we work together with the customer to find a solution, sometimes the customer has an idea but can’t accomplish it alone, another time we may approach the customer with a promising development.” The division can always make the most of the comprehensive tools and system knowledge of the whole company and the expertise of a number of colleagues from many different departments. That is because thyssenkrupp covers the entire value chain like virtually no other company: from the right materials, components and system construction with increasing software competence, up to suitable production facilities. “And with our new platform, trying out our ideas will soon be easier than ever before,” adds Heitling. “This fits in perfectly with our mentality of simply trying out new ideas and allowing mistakes to happen so that we can progress quickly. And in the end, that’s the real benefit for the customer.”
thyssenkrupp will be writing about the issues the company is addressing for the future of the car on the engineered blog during the weeks leading up to the IAA. After all, the company has consistently boasted pioneering automotive solutions throughout its history stretching back over 100 years. At the IAA 2017, thyssenkrupp will give particular attention to innovative topics such as intelligent chassis, electromobility, autonomous driving and cutting-edge assembly and production processes. In the coming weeks, thyssenkrupp will be introducing the people behind these pioneering products and materials, demonstrating its successful cooperation with bigger and smaller customers, and offering exclusive insights into the future of the company.https://www.thyssenkrupp.com/automotive