Digital tools drive thermal management innovation for automotive specialist
Image credit: TI Fluid Systems
TI Fluid Systems took E&T on a tour of its e-Mobility Innovation Centre in Rastatt, Germany, where we found that digitalisation has a major part to play in the push for electrification.
As the automotive industry transitions to becoming all-electric, a wave of large batteries will be needed to power and run such vehicles. But if you know anything about batteries, you know they have the tendency to heat up, which is not ideal when driving from one place to another. Therefore, it is imperative that there are other components within the car that help maintain the temperature of the battery.
In fact, tucked away in a German town between Frankfurt and Stuttgart lies a facility opened by the fluid handling specialists TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) dedicated to developing systems to help manage this temperature rise, thus increasing the battery’s efficiency, safety and lifetime.
The Rastatt E-Mobility Innovation Centre (e-MIC) is the first of five centres worldwide that will comprise six competencies in developing thermal management systems for EVs of the future: virtual engineering, design, processing, prototyping, product testing, and vehicle testing, to develop thermal management systems and components for electrified vehicles, all under one roof.
“There is innovation required if we are to deliver the efficiency and economic goals for the transition to e-mobility,” chief executive and president Hans Dieltjens told media at a tour of the first e-MIC location in Germany. “And central to that means putting these competencies together, combining this with our 100 years of experience with fluid handling.”
According to TIFS, uniting these six competencies in one facility will help streamline product development cycles, speed up bringing new products to market, and help customers to navigate the complex transition to electric vehicles.
TI Fluid Systems is a global manufacturer of fluid storage, carrying, and delivery systems that focus primarily on the light-duty automotive market. With nearly 100 years of automotive fluid systems experience, TIFS has manufacturing facilities in 104 locations across 29 countries and its clientele are all major global OEMs.
Under its ‘Take the Turn’ (T3) business strategy, the supplier aims to establish a network at e-MIC to showcase its growing capabilities surrounding EV fluid requirements and will allow customers around the world to visit an e-MIC in their region to discover how TIFS could help improve the performance, cost, and efficiency of their EV products.
“We developed the E-Mobility Innovation Centre with a clear goal in mind,” Dieltjens adds, “to become a collaborative space for our teams to design, simulate, visualise, prototype, and test the next generation of thermal management systems, modules, and components for the electric era.”
TIFS aims to utilise the latest innovations to help meet the demand for highly efficient thermal management architectures, and this includes the use of digital technologies such as 3D models and virtual simulations.
At the heart of the facility is a huge high-resolution LED screen for 3D simulation (see image below). The 9-megapixel panel enables engineers at TIFS to display, analyse and redesign 3D models of thermal systems and components within a full electric vehicle architecture, in a simulated environment.
“We developed this approach because we had a clear expectation that with the electrification structure, we will see a higher demand on the OEM level,” Johannes Helmich, chief technology officer at TIFS, told E&T. “We were also looking into the software market to help our customers visualise the products. Bringing this to the 3D level helps them develop a better understanding on the beta level and interact with what’s on display.”
Helmich said the virtual engineering platform allows the engineering team at TIFS to upload and preview an entire vehicle-based thermal management architecture in a 3D environment. “This technology enables us to produce highly integrated, tailor-made thermal management solutions for customers,” he adds.
Engineers and mechanics at the Rastatt site are also using simulated utilisation tools to digitalise hardware prototypes. This allows them to test and analyse the tolerances of the components and whether they meet particular requirements outlined by its customers.
Not only is TIFS using the digital tools within its engineering practices, but it is also using them across the entire company, Helmich stressed. “For a long time, TIFS has made use of digital tools, and we do our utmost to keep up with the speed of change in the world of digital technologies,” he says. “We see an enormous potential in such tools to reduce time and costs across our business, without compromising on the quality of our products.”
Other than the use of virtual simulations for developing the products up to implementing these components into the vehicles, TIFS also sees potential with digital tools within its manufacturing process. Helmich added the company also see potential in the adolescent technology of digital twins which will allow it to align product and process at an early stage of development.
Regarding the company’s overall vision with its EV strategy, TIFS hopes the Rastatt centre will help its engineers develop some of the most advanced modular systems in the world, using pioneering techniques, components, and solutions such as its virtual simulation platform.
TI Fluid Systems also commits to growing its business more sustainably, and it believes that Rastatt e-MIC is a “perfect example” of this. There are already 31 EV charging points installed outside the building, and inside there are several green energy initiatives in place, from electrical power management to a water-cooled air-conditioning system and LED lighting.
The company has further plans to deliver even greater efficiencies by the end of 2022 and to introduce further e-mobility innovation centres in the US, China, Japan, and Korea over the next few years to enhance its capacity and capabilities globally.
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