“Cooperation creates huge added value for all parties”
What will the shock absorbers of the car of the future look like? Which requirements will an autonomously driving vehicle set to its suspension? These and other issues are major focus points for shock absorber manufacturer Tenneco. “Flanders Make supports us in our search for answers”, says Ride Control Technology Director Koen Reybrouck.
“When in 2003 we launched our semi-active suspension, the development of a fully active system was the logical next step”, explains Koen. The few active suspension systems already existing at that time were heavy and very energy-intensive. Tenneco first built a proof-of-concept on a quarter-vehicle test set-up. Then it was time for the next step.
“The REVAS project of Flanders Make gave us the opportunity to incorporate this technology in a moving vehicle." REVAS stands for Research Vehicle for Active Safety. The research project explored the possibilities of new technologies in the field of active safety and vehicle dynamics. The project brought together several companies, each with their own specialty: Flanders Make, Tenneco, Triphase, the former LMS, Ford, NXP, Melexis... "Together we worked on a car full of breakthrough technologies. Each partner integrated and tested its share of state-of-the-art technology."
Setting out your course is crucial
A few years later, Tenneco joined the VISION project. The ambition of this project was to build a camera-based vision system with which the suspension of the vehicle from the REVAS project would be able to anticipate bumps and dips in the road surface. “We learned a lot, particularly about the course we did not want to embark on. But that is as valuable as the direction you do want to take”, argues Koen. “It led our research into a different direction.” This resulted in a new cooperation between Flanders and Tenneco in the Locovision project. Its purpose? Developing a generic image processing framework using 1D-sensors that would enable constant online situation, process and product quality monitoring.
How does Koen look back on the cooperation with other companies in these projects? “It was and is profoundly interesting. The contacts that we established then are still useful to us. We also learned a lot: we may be specialists within our area of expertise, you cannot be the best in everything. Thanks to the other companies we acquired knowledge and got insight in aspects that are not that familiar to us but that are relevant within the broader picture of active suspension systems."
And what about the cooperation with Flanders Make? “Thanks to Flanders Make we could realise things that we would never have been able to realise on our own. We got new impulses. If you start navel-gazing, you run the risk of turning into a dinosaur. Flanders Make has the know-how to guide and support this type of complex projects and to bring them to a successful conclusion. Not only for one particular research project but also when looking at the broader picture. They help us to stay up-to-date. And thanks to the research departments of the 5 Flemish universities, there is of course a strong link with the academic world.”
“If you start navel-gazing, you run the risk of turning into a dinosaur. Flanders Make gave us new impulses to realise projects that we would never have been able to realise on our own.”
Koen Reybrouck, Tenneco
And Koen concludes: “For Tenneco, REVAS came at the right moment. Many projects were put on hold because of the financial crisis but REVAS could be continued as planned. It is there and then that we gained a competitive edge over the market, among others because Flanders Make gave us the opportunity and support to continue to develop our technology.” Result: the fully active suspension system ACOCAR, a higher turnover and additional personnel.