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ContiTech engages in pioneering work for heavyweights on the road

09 May 2016

In nearly all industries, lightweight design is both a mega trend and a key technology. Material, weight, and, in turn, cost savings are becoming increasingly important for buses and trucks as well as construction and agricultural machinery.

Lower emissions, lower consumption, reduced operating costs, an increasing pay load, and stricter CO2 emissions guidelines and exhaust gas standards are the driving forces behind innovation. 

For this reason, commercial vehicle manufacturers and suppliers are fighting over every last gram of weight, every single litre of diesel and every single gram of CO2 that is not emitted. 

In its capacity as a global supplier and development partner for air springs, ContiTech has been a strong partner to renowned manufacturers. With the development of the plastic piston with a fully usable inner volume, the company is taking on a pioneering role. At the 2nd VDI Conference Plastics in Commercial Vehicles in Mannheim, Hubertus Gawinski highlighted the potential for reducing weight through the use of air springs with fibreglass-reinforced plastic roller pistons. The innovative design of the air springs also offers the best possible damping and ride comfort.

Lightweight plastic replaces steel and aluminum

Modern commercial vehicles and buses have to meet very strict requirements regarding transport efficiency. The challenge here is to increase the pay load while ensuring compliance with statutorily limited axle loads in order to increase the efficiency of goods transportation. Here, reduced weight not only means reduced fuel consumption and, in turn, reduced operating costs. An important economic aspect is the opportunity to increase the load capacity. With ContiTech’s weight-reduced air spring family, manufacturers can save 12 to 15kg per axle. Given a service life of 400,000km, this means a 200kg reduction in CO2 emissions, describes Hubertus Gawinski from ContiTech. Compared with conventional steel pistons, the use of a special plastic can help to reduce weight by up to 75 percent. 

Another important advantage is that, just like with steel pistons, the inner volume can be used to the full in order to enhance comfort. With this optimisation measure, ContiTech ensures the best possible ride comfort because the transmission of road undulations to the vehicle is reduced. Directional stability is increased. This not only increases safety thanks to improved vehicle dynamics and easier handling but also protects the driver's health. All other components are subjected to less stress as well, and goods that are sensitive to impacts are brought safely to their destination. 

With the correct raw material, the necessary analysis skills, and an intelligent product design, ContiTech can achieve the strength that allows it to produce an open plastic system with a useful piston volume, added Gawinski. 

Extremely robust in the long term

The air spring system originally developed by ContiTech for the Mercedes-Benz Actros has already proven its usefulness. The company has now managed to persuade other manufacturers to opt for this innovation. Its calculations also allowed the company to reduced material usage, thereby leading to further savings in material costs during manufacture. ContiTech is currently working on the further development of this system. Designed even more smartly, systems with internal buffer stops will be able to absorb stronger forces. It also want to offer its air spring with plastic pistons with an integrated air damping function in Europe as well, as is already happening in series production in the U.S.A., emphasises Gawinski.  

Thanks to the use of plastic, no additional surface protection is necessary in order to safeguard the component's corrosion resistance. This protects the environment, and the durability of ContiTech's air spring system is guaranteed, even under adverse weather conditions.

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