4. Research and development
Schaeffler has further expanded its global network of development locations, further strengthening the foundation for forward-looking innovation. The statistics demonstrating our strengthened innovative ability are impressive: At the end of 2011, nearly 6,000 R&D staff were employed at 40 development locations worldwide. More than 1,700 inventions reported internally were the result, a significant increase over the prior year. As a consequence, we are expecting a further increase in the official patent statistics of the German Patent and Trademark Office (“Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt” – DPMA), again putting us in a top position in Germany.
Our innovation management is an important cornerstone of our research and development and was awarded the Best Open Innovator Award of Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen in 2011 for the best overall concept. Open innovation is systematically, strategically and deeply rooted within Schaeffler. Particular recognition was given to our wide portfolio of methodologies within a comprehensively structured overall concept.
Schaeffler also follows a holistic approach in the field of electric mobility and has concentrated [--break--] the required expertise in its eMobility Systems division in 2011. Aggregating our wide-ranging [--break--] expertise across the Industrial and Automotive divisions in one place facilitates accessing [--break--] the market at the systems level. Schaeffler is initially expanding its development capacity to 300 employees, focusing on the German locations Herzogenaurach, Buehl and Suhl. We are [--break--] also reinforcing our electric mobility activities in China and North America.
Apart from electric mobility, we consider surface technology another trend of the future. That is why Schaeffler has increased capacity for developing multi-functional coating systems by expanding its Surface Technology Competence Center in 2011. New coating equipment and development facilities create the basis for expanding Schaeffler’s leading position in technology and in the market.
4.1 Automotive division
In the future, mobility will be equally driven by electric mobility and optimized combustion engines. Schaeffler rises to these challenges by providing solutions for the drive train of today, tomorrow and beyond under the slogan “efficient future mobility”.
For instance, Schaeffler considers conventional combustion engines to have potential for improvement of up to 30 %. That potential can be realized by optimizing thermodynamics, minimizing pumping losses and frictional resistance, using power-on-demand auxiliary units, targeted thermal management, downspeeding, downsizing and the start-stop-function. This is done by using intelligent solutions reflected in a large number of components, modules, and systems that help to significantly improve consumption and emissions of modern automobiles.
The significance of innovative attention to detail in the field of internal combustion engines was demonstrated in 2011 by the PACE Award, which Schaeffler received for its lightweight balancer shaft with rolling bearing supports. The rolling bearing supports with reduced friction characteristics significantly improve energy efficiency compared to the plain bearings that were used previously. Less need for oil cooling makes pressure lubrication redundant, and the weight-optimized layout of the balancer shaft reduces its mass by approximately one third. In addition, [--break--] the filigree design minimizes the shaft’s rotational inertia, reducing the required driving force.
Schaeffler is also giving due attention to the field of electric mobility, which is becoming increasingly important. One example of this is the concept vehicle ACTIVeDRIVE, which premiered in 2011. It is a purely electric vehicle with four-wheel drive based on the Škoda Octavia Scout. The core of this prototype is its active electric differential, which has been named the eDifferential. It combines the electric drive with the possibility to selectively control drive power for each wheel, also called torque vectoring. The eDifferential significantly improves power transmission when driving on surfaces with different friction coefficients. It also supports the steering function and has a positive effect on driving dynamics, safety and driving comfort. With the solution shown in the ACTIVeDRIVE, Schaeffler is a pioneer in this type of electric concept for vehicle drives.
The wheel hub drive “ eWheel Drive” is even more future oriented. Schaeffler received the eCar Tec Award, the Bavarian State Award for Electric Mobility, in the category drive technology, [--break--] electrical systems and test systems for the eWheel Drive in recognition of Schaeffler’s innovative expertise. The eWheel Drive is a wheel hub drive that enables the development of future-oriented vehicle architecture and interior concepts, particularly in electric city vehicles. In [--break--] addition to increasing the useable space and improving maneuverability, further advantages [--break--] of the eWheel Drive are its braking assistance function, which increases driving safety, and a [--break--] more rapid response. Its unique technological feature is the highly integrated design with the drive motor, power electronics, liquid cooling, friction brake, and control system all installed in the wheel.
4.2 Industrial division
The test rig “ Astraios”, the largest and most powerful large-size bearing test rig in the world, which was put into operation in 2011, impressively demonstrates the strengthening of Schaeffler’s development expertise in the field of renewable energy. The test rig is particularly suited for testing rotor bearing supports for wind turbines under realistic conditions in order to better understand the system as a whole, influencing factors and interrelations in wind turbine drive trains. The technological know-how will lead to the development of bearings with lower friction and increased design safety.
The increasing importance of renewable energy generation is driving the growing demand [--break--] for production equipment that can be used to reliably and efficiently manufacture the required components. Turning large and heavy components in particular is proving challenging. An innovative Schaeffler solution for this issue, a rotary table bearing support based on the ball roller bearing, is on its way to mass production. The benefits to machine tool manufacturers include increased rigidity and accuracy, simplified assembly processes and potential for reducing system cost. Following the successful completion of the internal validation process under test rig conditions, the final tests are being conducted under realistic conditions in the actual machine. The first rotary table bearings are being tested by selected pilot customers.
In the field of direct drive technology for machine tools, Schaeffler has developed an innovative [--break--] solution – the new IDAM RKI motors. The drives have 30 % higher torque levels than conventional [--break--] torque motors. Speed and mechanical power have been increased by a factor of five, while power loss is reduced by up to 60 %.
Combining these drives with the new rotary table bearings permits doubling the speed and creates the highest performance rotary axis in the world. It opens up possibilities for turning and milling that were impossible with standard components.
Schaeffler has strengthened its technological leadership in the field of needle roller bearings with innovative new developments. The new steel cage in the X-life machined needle roller bearing increases load ratings by up to 25 %. The cage is designed such that both the number of needle rollers and their load bearing length can be increased while maintaining identical bearing dimensions. The new machined needle roller bearing with the plastic TWin Cage provides higher efficiency as a result of lower friction. Two short needle rollers can be inserted next to each other in one cage pocket, reducing friction by up to 25 % compared to conventional needle roller bearings. The new slimline drawn cup needle roller bearings reduce friction by up to 60 % [--break--] and have a radial section height of only 1.5 mm, making them particularly suitable for replacing [--break--] plain bearings in automatic transmissions. At the same time, they simplify the adjacent construction noticeably.
In 2011, Industrial aftermarket presented “FAG SmartCheck”, an innovative measuring system that permits the cost-efficient real-time monitoring of small, redundant or non-redundant units for the first time. The system records not only the standard parameters – vibration and temperature – but also other operating parameters such as pressure or flow rate. This provides a broad basis of information which permits experts to make a very accurate assessment of a machine’s condition that contributes to optimizing processes and reducing life cycle cost. Typical fields of application include electric motors, pumps, compressors, ventilators, fans, and gearboxes.