ContiTech Press Releases
Innovative ContiTech Air Spring System Saves Weight in the New Actros
Hanover, August 10, 2011Up to 12 kg less per truck axle • New air springs with plastic pistons increase riding comfort • Improved material technology and innovative simulation method paved the way for innovations
ContiTech Air Spring Systems succeeded in mass-producing truck air springs with an innovative plastic piston, the interior volume of which can be used entirely for enhancing comfort. Up to 75% of the weight of conventional steel pistons is saved by using a special plastic and employing a new simulation method, leading to savings of up to 12 kg per axle. The innovation is being used for the first time on the drive axles of the new Actros from Mercedes-Benz. “We had to spend a long time looking around in the market before finding a raw material manufacturer with the relevant know-how for the material and the necessary analysis skills,” says Diethelm Bauch, the segment manager in charge at ContiTech, talking about the development process. “We carried the idea around with us for a long time.”
The breakthrough came around five years ago when the advantages of improved material technology with a completely new type of simulation method cleared the way for a product innovation. “Thanks to the close, partnership-based cooperation with the customer's chassis developers, development of this product proceeded very quickly,” says Bauch. The new Actros is today based on a completely revised drive and chassis concept in which the ContiTech air springs with plastic pistons play a decisive role.
Revolutionary use of the inner volume
Air spring systems with plastic pistons have been used for many years now, particularly in trailers. However, these conventional systems only use the bellows volume for riding comfort. The associated pistons are generally completely closed. “Not until we had found the right raw material, the necessary analysis skills and an intelligent product design could we achieve the strength which allows us to produce an open plastic system with a useful piston volume,” emphasizes Diethelm Bauch. “This revolution gives the Actros, together with the sleeve-type air springs produced by us for supporting the driver's cab, much greater riding comfort and also gives our company a clear edge over many of our competitiors.”
Benefits in terms of weight and price
The potential which this innovative system holds for the development of commercial vehicles becomes particularly clear when the weight is low. “The chassis developers are very interested in obtaining this advantage for themselves,” emphasizes Bauch. In addition to the potential fuel saving, the weight reduction also opens up space for installing further components without increasing the overall weight or reducing the useful load. In addition, the use of plastic reduces dependency on the price of steel and creates a clear price advantage.
International technology leader
As the leading global supplier and development partner for air springs and with a workforce of around 1,400 at seven locations on three continents, ContiTech Air Spring Systems produces components and complete systems for adjustable air suspensions in commercial vehicles, buses, trailers, rail vehicles as well as for machine, system and apparatus engineering. “In order to further strengthen our international market position, we are planning to set up production locations in India and Brazil next year. This will allow us to continue exploiting opportunities in the future and achieve clear growth in the markets of the future as well,” forecasts Bauch.