As a specialist in vehicle interiors, Benecke-Kaliko replicates the natural spectrum of sunlight in a sun simulation chamber to see how dashboards, tires and other components age.
When South Korea’s high-speed HEMU 400x train carries passengers safely to their destination at up to 400 kilometers an hour, every single component must work without fail. Performance, durability and reliability are just as important in elevators that carry people up to the lofty heights of the 70th floor in skyscrapers, and often even higher. And the same is true of trucks that make their way through wintry Siberian landscapes and across hostile mountain passes. Extreme conditions like these are something systems and components by ContiTech have to deal with every day of the year.
On top of all this come tough legal requirements that have to be met. For this reason, every component – no matter how small – undergoes a series of tests before being fitted to a final product. Carried out in the labs of the natural rubber and plastics specialist ContiTech, each trial must be successfully completed. From the beginnings of development right up to final series deployment every detail has to be absolutely right – because the safety of millions of people around the world depends on it. This attention to detail is also what sets ContiTech apart.
It all starts with the right materials. Before the formula for a component is perfected, part-specific tests are carried out, and compounds are rebalanced, re-evaluated, and re-adjusted. The experts at ContiTech put every material and product to the acid test, assessing density, flexural strength, distortion, resistance to corrosion, ozone, heat, cold, scratches, and tearing, as well as static friction, burst pressure, resistance to other agents, and tensile strength – all with absolute precision.
ContiTech development engineers operate at locations around the world. Working in their own high-tech labs, they ensure all kinds of components are thoroughly tested, using scientific principles to authentically simulate virtually every conceivable situation, and even verifying details way beyond the limits that are legally required until they are able to defin new technological milestones. And when it comes to testing structure-borne sound emissions, the ContiTech Power Transmission Group is the only company in the market with the type of acoustic test bench needed to ensure that OEMs’ drive belts for electro-mechanical power steering systems in passenger cars can be tested fully and completely. Based on these tests, the ContiTech Power Transmission Group has been able to develop a slantedtooth belt for the timing belt drive of electric power steering systems. Components like this have to meet tough requirements: fitted low down in the car, not far above the road surface, they must be extremely resistant to very low temperatures. The specially developed teeth on this particular belt are angled at five degrees to keep noise levels low – and tests prove they work very well indeed.
ContiTech Elastomer Coatings drives development in functional printing.
Benecke-Kaliko employee Tang Hua works in the company lab in China, where she is investigating what factors influence emissions measurements in “bag” tests.
ContiTech uses its modular 3D test rig in Dolne Vestenice, Slovakia, to test vibration control components for heavy-duty commercial and industrial vehicles.
ContiTech research and test labs are among the leading facilities in their industry in virtually every field of business. In addition, some of them are certified and accredited by authorities, which entitles them to operate as independent laboratories testing components for other producers as well.
ContiTech also has the only lab in the world that is certified as independent for testing air suspension systems for railway vehicles. At present, twelve of its railway-relevant test processes are accredited. The strains to which air springs are exposed in different environmental situations are tested in highly realistic simulations. On the multi axial test bed, for example, the different forces that impact on the system are identified, along with the degree of distortion and the temperatures produced by the various frictional forces. Even in the early stages of a project, findings allow engineers to predict reliably how air springs will perform in the chassis of a truck, for example.
Always a step ahead
As well as carrying out tests, labs are a source of innovations and enhancements. In 2017, a new EU regulation for passenger cars will come into force that requires climate-friendly coolants for air-conditioning systems.
The tetrafluoroethane (R134a) used until now will no longer be permitted, but ContiTech already has the right hose system available to support vehicle producers as they convert the air-conditioning systems in their forthcoming fleets to the new coolant: CO2 (R 744). It’s a winning solution that minimizes coolant loss over the lifetime of the vehicle. Development work focused primarily on keeping the component light, but also on more condensed forms to enable greater overall compactness. ContiTech is already carrying out the tests to prepare for the introduction of another new coolant as well.
With the customer, for the customer
To produce components that suit customer requirements as closely as possible, the experts from ContiTech work with their partners to support the evolution of products and materials from the early stages onward. “A particular advantage of our facility is that we can respond quickly to individual customer requirements. We convert our test systems to suit their specifications so we can perform exactly the tests they need. So rather than testing the standard situations a vehicle is likely to encounter, we set up exceptional ones that really push it to its limits,” says Hubertus Gawinski, Head of Research and Development at ContiTech Air Spring Systems.
One example of a development of this kind comes from ContiTech’s own specialist, Compounding Technology. Here, engineers came up with a light-colored silicate mix that requires no carbon black and is now used in eight types of Continental tire. Fitted to industrial trucks, these tires no longer leave abrasion marks on floors. In many facilities, this is a major advantage, especially in environments that are sensitive to dust and dirt. “Tires that incorporate our compound are used in the foodstuffs and drinks industries, computer and electronics production, the solar industry, and aviation and aerospace,” explains PCT compounder Heiko Schilling.
Across national borders
As a specialist in high-quality, low-odor, health-friendly materials for vehicle interiors, Benecke-Kaliko has long supported the Chinese automobile market by helping customers to define standard measurement techniques for ensuring good air quality inside vehicles. Interior emissions in vehicles can be measured in a number of ways, and the experts from Benecke-Kaliko took a closer look at those most commonly used across Asia.
The most frequent methods were based on samples that were bagged and heated to see what concentrations of harmful substances they emit. With each vehicle producer using their own test parameters for this ‘bag method’, findings are difficult to compare, however, and Benecke-Kaliko investigated what factors have an impact on test results. The biggest influence was found to be the age of a sample and the way it is prepared. “We were able to show that this had the greatest impact on test findings,” emphasizes Roland Freudenmann, Global Head of Labs at Benecke-Kaliko. So by establishing the necessary standards and tolerances, the vehicle interiors specialist was able to devise standard methods that will deliver meaningful results in the future.
High-tech test labs for high-tech products
Another business unit that’s a leading force in the field of innovations and testing is Oil & Marine, which has unique and extremely advanced systems at its disposal. “When it comes to cutting-edge technologies like our LNG hoses for transporting liquid natural gas, test labs have to operate on the highest technological level. This gives us a major competitive advantage,” points out Kam Zandiyeah. “We developed our charge-air lifetime test rigs ourselves with the intention of serving the entire segment with them. When it comes to size, usability, precision, and energy regeneration, our system is absolutely state-of-the-art,” says Sebastian Seibold, Head of R&D with Mobile Fluid Systems.
Further examples of unique testing procedures come from Benecke-Kaliko, the only producer in its segment of industry to conduct a variety of tests, including squeak tests on covering materials and surfaces, and light-fastness and emissions tests, in its very own labs. Findings are then used to adjust developments accordingly – unlike other producers, who enlist the services of independent labs, often at great expense and with considerable waiting times and non-standardized test methods. An exact knowledge of the details and precision involved in testing and the problems that can arise speeds up the development of new, enhanced surface and covering materials.
Network: global and cross-divisional
“What sets us apart is our multifaceted simulation and measurement methods,” explains Hans-Jürgen Karkosch, Head of R&D at ContiTech Vibration Control. “They are available to us at five locations around the world. One highlight is the modular 3-D test bench in Dolne Vestenice, Slovakia, where we test vibration control components for heavy commercial and industrial vehicles.” But what if the lab is too small to accommodate the vehicles in question? To test large construction vehicles, ships and wind power systems, the mount and vibration experts have created special mobile testing systems. These can be used to conduct vibration and acoustic tests out on location under real operating conditions.
As a global player working by local principles, ContiTech has major potential for establishing research and development in the markets through additional non-central facilities. Each site works to the same, clearly defined standards, and the different business units use each other’s facilities. In addition, the expertise of the Continental Group means synergies can be used efficiently – worldwide and across divisions.