January 26th, 2023
by Christian Elz
As a sponsor of KA:RaceIng e.V., we have for many years been supporting a project that is just as unique as the client: The construction of critical components for a competition-ready race car for the international Formula Student. The special thing about it: the association KA: RaceIng e.V. consists exclusively of students who develop, construct, organize and market their vehicle by 100% on their own. And we're not talking about a cheap soapbox here, but a race-ready car whose material and input value easily break several million euros and which competes in the Formula Student Series for one of the coveted places on the podium! Remember: this is the Formula 1 of students worldwide...
Formula Student car
Our experience with thrust washers led to the first inquiry from the students’ association a few years ago and since then we have been a proud partner of this highly professional group every year. Our own expertise in the automotive market with collaboration and co-designing with major manufacturers enable us to apply our knowledge and respond with pinpoint accuracy to design flaws and design weaknesses.
Normally, due to the injection molding technology we use, we operate exclusively in the area of high-volume customized components for our customers. For this project, however, we make the regular exception and jointly design an individual product in very small quantities.
Our expertise in tribology ultimately raises the efficiency of the race car to a new level - and as we all know, success supersedes all arguments.
Motor Gear unit with our Thrust Washers
Planetary gearboxes - also called epicyclic gearboxes - are the core of classic automatic transmissions and in their simplest form they consist of at least 3 coaxial shafts interacting with specially arranged gears. The innermost of these gears, called "sun gear", is connected to the innermost shaft and interlocked with the gears orbiting it, the "planet gears". This system of sun wheel and planets is arranged in the planet carrier, the entire construct is framed by an internally toothed ring gear. The interlocking of all components - ring gear with planet, planet with sun gear - results in the fact that the speeds depend on each other: with two given speeds, the third results inevitably.
In two-shaft operation, one of the shafts is not rotatable and the other two shafts are responsible for input and output. A single planetary gear set can therefore be used to represent several transmission ratios. In an automatic transmission, this property is exploited by varying which shaft is rigid and which is responsible for input and output.
In three-shaft operation, all three shafts move and enable a drive via two shafts - an equal-load drive is impossible in that case. Typically, this results in front- or rear-loaded drives.
Thrust washers are to be regarded as axial bearings in terms of their function. They are arranged axially between two gear elements and absorb forces resulting from gear movements, such as impacts or the helical gearing. In this way, these inconspicuous discs made of high-performance plastics (PAI) ensure that no metallic contact occurs and that the wheel hub gearbox functions perfectly.
The special feature of the concept developed by the KA:RaceIng e.V. engineers is the compact combination of electric motor and planetary gearbox, which requires equally delicate yet robust individual components. The power density is correspondingly high and our thrust washers have to withstand speeds of up to 20,000 rpm with up to 300 Nm of torque – that’s actually impossible! But the perfect symbiosis of design, material and manufacturing process nevertheless allows the race car to be built and moved safely and highly performant.
Saint-Gobain Thrust Washers used in current project
The inquiries from KA:RaceIng e.V. always represent technically very demanding challenges on a high level to our engineers. But understanding the technology is only half the story, because just like in industrial projects in the automotive environment, there is also a development process that involves agile component changes and adaptations. Ultimately, it's all about delivering the absolute best, because at this point the same understanding prevails: only if all components perfectly match, things will run.
As a sponsor, we support KA:RaceIng e.V. not only with our components, but also with the manpower and advice needed to produce the right product. We also learn with every new project and train our own budding engineers on the entire process of exclusive components. It is particularly impressive to see how year by year a new "start-up (student) company" is formed, which turns new technologies and (at first glance) crazy ideas into reality, successfully implementing all the tasks of an entrepreneur - from financing to production and marketing.
It is both an honor and a pleasure for us to work that close with engineering students and to be in the first place when inventiveness meets dedication. The "reward" for all the hard work is hopefully a place in the top ranking at the end of the season.
For us, the champions have already been determined.
Christian Elz is Technical Business Development Manager since 2021 and leads the innovation team for new products and services. As graduate engineer in mechanical engineering and plastics/elastomer technology, he has many years of professional experience in the design and development of polymer components in the automotive industry. With this expertise, he accompanies our company in the transformation to e-automobility and, as an expert in the field of thermal management, he is significantly involved in our innovative developments.
pictures of motor & video: courtesy of KA:RaceIng e.V.
January 26th, 2023