Intellectual Property: Top 5 patents & innovations from thyssenkrupp
Engineering | innovation | Worth knowing | For the fifth time in a row thyssenkrupp is among the 100 most active companies in the annual ranking of the European Patent Office. In 2019 alone the group filed more than 600 patent applications worldwide. For Intellectual Property Day, we present five remarkable thyssenkrupp innovations from 125 years of patent history.
In the past years, the thyssenkrupp business areas have created the basis for a portfolio of more than 22,000 patents and utility models with their inventiveness. The patenting of these innovations is important to protect all the group’s technologies.
Here are our top 5 thyssenkrupp innovations and patents of recent years.
How our elevators keep their traction
The architecture of modern cities demands ever more of elevator systems – buildings are getting taller, passenger volumes are rising. Conventional elevators with rope drives are quickly reaching their limits. This is why the elevator industry considers linear drives to be a forward-looking alternative. The MULTI – the world’s first ropeless, sideways-running elevator for high-rise buildings – also runs with a linear drive. In the course of its development, our experts have paid special attention to the consequences of this type of drive on passenger safety.
Their solution: the patent with the file number PCT/EP 2017/071339 and the title “Method for operating a lift system”. Put simply, this patent is about gentle and safe braking of the elevator. When traveling upwards, an elevator car may only be stopped at an acceleration of gravity. In fact, when an elevator is slowed down, additional downward breaking forces may impact the car. As a result, the elevator, unlike its passengers, is stopped with decelerating forces greater than the maximum acceleration of gravity.
Similar to a parabolic flight, passengers in this situation would lose their grip on the ground and be exposed to a considerable risk of injury. To prevent the elevator ride from turning into an excursion into space, thyssenkrupp experts have developed a process that continuously reduces the linear drive power during the braking process and monitors the acceleration of the rotary field. This allows countermeasures to be taken at an early stage and to keep the deceleration during the braking process significantly lower than the acceleration of gravity.
By the way, this does not apply to conventional elevator systems with rope drives. Here, a counterweight continuously pulls the car upwards and prevents a parabolic flight from occurring.
How we increase the hardness of our slewing bearings
While fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce, the demand for energy is growing worldwide. Limited resources and rising energy prices are global challenges and an inspiration for our experts at thyssenkrupp rothe erde to create innovative solutions. As resilient components, slewing bearings and rings in wind turbines, hydroelectric and tidal power plants and solar energy systems make a significant and sustainable contribution to global resource conservation and climate protection.
To make large-diameter bearings particularly resistant to their use amid the forces of nature and to prepare them for all axial and radial forces acting on them, our experts have developed a special process to increase the hardness of the bearing rings. The patent “Method for the production of a bearing ring for large-size rolling bearings” with the file number PCT/EP2006/001266 describes how a bearing ring is heated in the electric field of an inductor during its manufacturing and then cooled – thus obtaining a high degree of hardness over its entire surface.
While earlier processes already used two counter-rotating inductors for hardening bearing rings, that were moved over the bearing ring in the feed process, they reheated an already hardened area when the inductors met again. The result: a so-called slip – a small segment that is incompletely hardened due to the process and where the bearing ring remains softer.
The solution from thyssenkrupp experts: In an automated process, at least two induction coils uniformly heat the bearing ring to hardening temperature. In addition to the two coils, a third induction coil is provided which, through swinging movements, ensures a uniform heating zone and constant heating depth in the slip area. Moving sprinklers attached to the two induction coils can then cool the material evenly.
Through these coordinated movements, the process achieves a uniform and common heating surface. Coordinated cooling prevents slippage.
How our dampers provide more driving comfort
In 1954, thyssenkrupp BILSTEIN revolutionized damping technology and has since been impressing customers with its top quality and top performance in motorsports and as original equipment for major car brands. For customers such as Mercedes-Benz and other premium manufacturers, our experts have developed the BILSTEIN DampTronic X® automatic damping force adjustment system, which has been patented under file number 10 2015 102 478.0.
DampTronic X® is a damper with an electromagnetically adjustable damping system. This makes the damping harder or softer as required, thus increasing driving comfort and vehicle stability. The result: the vehicle is always optimally adapted to the respective driving situation.
At the heart of the patented technology is an electromagnetically controllable separate bypass for the damping medium. This means that BILSTEIN DampTronic X® offers maximum safety thanks to its high power reserves and is perfectly suited to series production use in vehicles from Mercedes-Benz and other vehicle manufacturers. Particularly in minivans, SUVs or MPVs that tend to sway, the technology ensures greater comfort and a smooth and even ride.
How we turn metallurgical gases into something valuable
thyssenkrupp has set itself a clear goal in terms of climate protection: We want to become carbon neutral by 2050 and reduce our emissions by 30 percent by 2030. One focus is on steel production – after all, this is where around 95% of the group’ s CO2 emissions are released. Under the name Carbon2Chem the experts from the thyssenkrupp steel and plant engineering businesses have jointly created a sustainable solution to help turn the unpopular “climate killer” into valuable raw materials.
Since 2018 their innovation has been registered as a patent with the European Patent Office under the number PCT/EP2014/003318 and the name “Combined system for producing steel and method for operating the combined system”. For this process, the developers do not regard CO2 as harmful waste, but as a valuable material. After all, the carbon contained in CO2 is an important primary material for organic chemistry and essential raw material and by-product of steel production.
Simply explained, the patented plant network is used to break down the waste gases from steel production – also known as metallurgical gases – into their chemical components and, with the right process, turn them into so-called synthetic gases. These synthetic gases are valuable chemicals that serve as precursors for the production of methanol, ammonia or polymers. Substances which can then be used to produce fuel, fertilizer or plastics.
These chemical processes sometimes require more hydrogen than is contained in the metallurgical gases. The additional hydrogen required is produced by water electrolysis, in which water is split into oxygen and hydrogen using electricity. Therefore, according to the invention, it is planned that the plant network will also have an energy storage system to cover the electricity demand.
The result: the climate-damaging CO2 is no longer released into the atmosphere and instead is transformed into something valuable. The fossil resources that currently still provide the carbon for the chemical industry are thus no longer needed. In addition, the plant network allows large industrial plants such as steel or chemical plants to be used as energy buffers.
In the Carbon2Chem pilot plant, the patented process is already being used in practice today. In five to seven years Carbon2Chem will be ready for industrial-scale use. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the project with more than 60 million euros.
How we reduce by-catch and protect the oceans’ ecology
Even today, deep-sea fisheries are still under great pressure to fish both sustainably and cost-effectively. Above all, unwanted by-catch is a major problem in the industry: despite sophisticated technology on board and years of experience, captains can never know for sure exactly how a shoal of fish in their proximity is composed. The result: in addition to the target fish, large quantities of other fish species and marine animals go into the fishermen’s nets and cost them valuable revenue. This is because the by-catch cannot simply be thrown back into the water. Instead, the fishermen have to bring their unloved prey ashore and sell it at low prices to fishmeal producers. A situation that neither fishermen nor fish are happy about.
To make fishing more lucrative for fish farms and protect the ecology of the oceans from unnecessary by-catch, developers at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems have developed an autonomous underwater vehicle called oXeanpedia which allows fishermen to check exactly what kind of fish swarm is in their immediate vicinity before casting their nets. The patented technology uses a camera to determine fish species and size ranges so that the fisherman can avoid catching a shoal of juveniles or a mixed shoal containing fish which are considered to be by-catch.
This basic technology has already been protected by patent DE 10 2017 216 608 B3. In the meantime, seven further patent applications have been filed, covering topics such as efficient production methods, navigation, optical detection or resumption of the underwater vehicle. For example, oXeanpedia uses underwater intelligent algorithms to traverse the shoal of fish particularly efficiently and to get a representative image of the fish. To identify the fish, methods based on artificial intelligence are used. This enables the system to quickly learn which fish it sees in a swarm.
In order to make oXeanpedia easy to use in everyday fishing, the underwater vehicle has been designed to be easily thrown overboard by a fisherman alone and easily retrieved back onto the ship. This way thyssenkrupp is making a small contribution to minimizing the impact of fishing on the ecology of the world’s oceans.