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“Ready, Set, Go!” with Kistler sensors

09 October 2017

Inspiring young technology enthusiasts to pursue careers in engineering is one of the driving forces behind Kistler’s sponsorship of automotive events. The company supports a number of regional student teams that are participating in international technology tournaments, including “F1 in schools” or “Formula Student” (FS).

4080AT - Next generation of on-board monitoring in motor racing

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Kistler measurement technology has also been used in a number of successful world record attempts, such as the fastest acceleration from 0 to 100km/h in an electric vehicle by the Academic Motorsports Club Zurich (AMZ) which was founded by students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. One of the most prestigious automotive engineering competitions at university level is Formula Student. In total, Kistler sponsors 16 Formula Student teams from all over the world. 

Founded in 1981, Formula Student is Europe's most established educational motorsport competition. Backed by industry leaders and high-profile engineers, the competition aims to support innovative young engineers and promote careers in engineering. Each team must design a race car from scratch as part of a design and business project that contributes to their academic degrees. Participating students pitch their designs to experts at Silverstone, generating vital feedback that can help the teams improve their designs. In their final year of studies, the students can see their designs become reality as manufacturing of their race car commences. The teams then go on to compete against some of the best teams in the world at Formula Student events. The teams are assessed in six categories. Before being allowed to enter the dynamics competition, the judges subject each race car to a rigorous inspection process. This final stage of the competition usually comprises 100 to 120 teams. 

Kistler supports Team Bath Racing 

Every year, “Team Bath Racing” (TBR) from the University of Bath designs and builds its very own single-seat, open wheeled race car for Formula Student competitions. The 2017 team is comprised of 21 ambitious final year engineering students. This year’s race car “TBR17” has a lot to prove: Team Bath Racing currently ranks as the top Formula Student team in the UK and the 6th out of 550 teams worldwide. In the past, TBR won the title of best team in the UK in 2007 to 2009 and 2015 to 2016. 

Kistler has been sponsoring the Formula Student Team at the University of Bath since 2014. In 2017, Kistler provided the team with its 4080A family of M6 piezo resistant absolute pressure sensors - the 4080A and the 4080AT. The precise sensors build upon the technology that is used to analyse the performance of the various powertrain subsystems. Type 4080AT, with a temperature probe and integrated signal conditioning, can be installed in the vehicle directly and provides reliable real-time data on pressure and temperature, for example in hydraulic, water or oil circuits for the early detection of problems or for monitoring critical operational conditions. 

4080A sensor for brake pressure measurements 

The team used the Kistler 4080A130 sensors to measure pressure in the front and rear sections of the braking system. This allowed them to develop a better understanding of the car’s brake bias. 

Team Bath Racing in competition

Pranav Vaswani, powertrain manager at Team Bath Racing wanted to extend the teams use of the Kistler 4080A130 sensors in the brake circuit by exploring a hydraulic brake-steer system. This required precise monitoring of pressure in each of the rear brake lines. The race team was impressed by the 4080A sensor’s compact size and light weight, which facilitated the simple installation under the pedal assembly. The reduction in size from motorsport-standard M8 to M6 ports made it easier to work in confined spaces. 

4080AT sensor for engine oil temperature and pressure measurements 

The 4080AT020 sensor was predominantly used to monitor engine oil pressure in order to ensure the continuous lubrication of the engine. The inclusion of temperature measurement in the sensors was not only used to monitor the engine’s cooling performance, but also to control the radiators’ fans and the auxiliary water pump. Both pressure and temperature signals helped ensure the engine operated within the specified parameters and triggered alarms for the driver when the values exceeded the set limits. 

Vaswani explained that its small size was the reason why the Kistler sensor was used in the oil circuit since a bigger sensor would not fit in the space available. The temperature measurements of the 4080AT were very accurate with a good response rate. The dual measurement of temperature and pressure by the same sensor helped reduce wiring clutter around the car as well as the number and size of Autosport connectors. The integrated power and ground meant fewer connections and wires were needed in the wiring diagrams. 

“Ready, Set, Go!” with Kistler sensors 

The racing team praised the advantages of the sensors. The Kistler sensors 4080A and 4080AT are clear favourites due to their compact size and low weight. They are universally applicable and easy to install. By enabling measurements of temperature and pressure on one sensor, 4080AT even reduces the amount of cables in use. 

Vaswani concludes that this year’s car was enhanced by a high pressure hydraulic system for gear shifting. To ensure precise system control, the team plans to use the compact 4080A250 sensors, one before and one after the hydraulic fluid filtration system. The pressure signals help control the pressure charging of the system accumulator. The inclusion of temperature sensing greatly reduces the design and manufacturing effort required for the implementation of a well-engineered hydraulic system. So far, the team hasn’t had any issues with heat or shock. This is especially promising since the sensors have been subjected to significant vibrations (from a single cylinder engine) and temperatures of over 100°C, but still continue to monitor important car parameters. Furthermore, the media separating measuring element has prevented contamination issues.

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