Braking Technology: What’s next?
No one really expects a huge paradigm shift in braking technology any time soon, but there are some ideas on the horizon that certainly tweak the interest:
The Electric Wedgie
The German company Siemens VDO is working on bringing an electric wedge brake to the market, in which the brake pad is pushed against the rotor by a wedge-shaped plate. The faster the disc turns, the more slope of the wedge is applied, so the more firmly the pads are pushed. This lightweight and small-sized system does away with hydraulics and all the ABS paraphernalia, relying purely on electrics and a computer, freeing up all sorts of space under the body for designers to get their clammy little hands on. No word as yet on what happens if there’s a short, but I’m sure Siemens is considering redundant systems in such an eventuality.
Full Contact Discs
One whisper that’s floating around automotive forums is the development of full-contact disc brakes by NewTech, a Canadian company. Their website has gone down since announcing this radical step forward, but the gist of their model is instead of having only part of the disc’s area acted on by the pad, why not engage the whole disc?
The circular six-pad assembly itself is what spins with the wheel, while the static disc is pushed onto it by a diaphragm mechanism containing another six pads; the twelve total pads cover about 75% of the disc contact surface area. A range of frictional materials are used in the pads to account for various conditions and a complex design of cooling fins redistribute the heat. The benefits of this design are fairly obvious to any that have struggled this far through the overview: fantastic braking ability in all sorts of conditions, much better cooling, stronger, with reduced vibration and noise.
Though units were sold and implemented in heavy goods vehicles and buses, there was never a model produced for production automobiles. Saleen were the first company to look at the design but ended up opting for a more conventional configuration on their new S7 supercar. Renault and Nissan have also expressed interest. A similar design was considered as an optional extra for the Bugatti EB110 in 1991, but the unique design meant the brakes would have doubled the EB110’s hefty $350,000 price tag.
(Word on the street (or I should say information superhighway) is that the braking on cars so fitted is so unbelievably efficient it’s actually beyond the capabilities of the average driver. Which suddenly makes braking sound more salivating than dreary. I have visions of seatbelt mounts ripping from the chassis and entire families catapulting through windscreens at every red light.)
So we could be on the brink of big things in the brake world. After years of piecemeal improvements it’s about time we saw some radical notion sweep convention aside and perhaps introduce a slightly different kind of revolution to rotational dynamics.
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6th International Congress Intelligent Braking 2011
Don’t miss the “6th International Congress Intelligent Braking 2011”,
28-30 September 2011 at the Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne, Germany.