Schaeffler has received the 2016 “Materialica Design + Technology Award” in the “Surface & Technology” category for its innovative Sensotect coating system at the international Materialica trade show in Munich. Sensotect is an innovative thin coating technology with which Schaeffler is introducing intelligent coating systems to the automotive and industrial sectors for the first time.
The jury, which was made up of representatives from science and industry, gave the Sensotect coating system the most prestigious prize, the “Best-of Award.” Sensotect allows multi-functional surfaces that are characterized in particular by their sensor properties to be created without affecting the design envelope – in other words, components that are coated with it become sensors in their own right.
“Schaeffler is a worldwide leader in the field of functional surfaces and coatings, and we are delighted that this expertise has been honored with the “Materialica Design + Technology Award” once again,” said Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Gutzmer, CTO and Deputy CEO at Schaeffler.
Data transmission in real time
“With Sensotect, the forces and torques that act on a component can also be rapidly recorded in places where existing sensors cannot be used,” explains Dr. Yashar Musayev, senior vice president Competence Center Surface Technology at Schaeffler. “This innovative coating system opens up strain and force measurement possibilities that have always been impossible with adhesive strain gauges due to their limited operating life.”
For example, torque measurements in e-bikes and wheel force measurements in passenger car wheel bearings can now be made with outstanding precision, meaning that operating conditions in the vehicle can be monitored during the journey and electronic safety systems provided in real time. This innovative measuring technology means that it is also possible to precisely determine the torque acting on drive shafts and vehicle transmissions, and to adjust the engine’s output to exactly match the occurring load. Sensotect therefore makes an important contribution to achieving energy and fuel savings, and helps to reduce CO2 emissions as well.
A coating that performs measuring tasks
With Sensotect, the actual measuring function is performed by a thin PVD (physical vapor deposition) coating that is sensitive to expansion. After the component has been coated, this layer is then created using a micromachining process. The structures that are thus created undergo the same degree of distortion as the carrier component, which makes it possible for the distortion to be measured. Schaeffler has already successfully demonstrated the function of this type of sensor system in its demonstration vehicles.
“One of the greatest challenges posed by this type of sensor coating system is the manufacturing process itself,” says Dr. Jürgen Gierl, Sensotect project manager at Schaeffler. “By using very high-performance coating sources and adhering to particularly high requirements with regard to cleanliness in the manufacturing process, we can achieve a level of quality previously only found on planar substrates in semiconductor technology even in components with narrow radii.”