Firestone Industrial Products, a leading manufacturer of advanced air springs with headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, has developed a system that helps eliminate vibration in transportation applications. In collaboration with Knorr-Bremse, it introduced what is reportedly the first-ever fully integrated intelligent air spring sensor at the 67th Bi-Annual IAA Commercial Vehicles Conference in Hannover, Germany.
According to FSIP officials, the air suspension and leveling system is one of the most valuable components on commercial trailers, so almost all European trailers are equipped with leveling control systems that are mounted between the trailer axle and trailer chassis. This traditional setup is exposed to harsh environments and is susceptible to wear, misalignment and faulty installation, which can lead to incorrect vehicle height settings and, ultimately, suboptimal vehicle operation.
The new “smart” air spring sensors overcome these limitations and provide commercial customers with real-time trailer height data. The unit relies on time-of-flight sensing technology. (The time-of-flight method measures the distance between a sensor and an object, based on the time difference between the emission of a signal and its reflection off the object and return to the sensor.) In this design the sensor, which measures 28 mm in diameter by 13 mm high, is imbedded in the air spring bead plate. It provides a height signal to 1 mm accuracy at 100 ms. For commercial purposes FSIP uses CAN output, although PWM is also available.
FSIP’s new intelligent air spring sensor is the key enabler for electric height control, and company experts predict it will make an impact on electric vehicles of the future. It also reduces air compressor run times by up to 80%. Air is saved through using electronic height control rather than typical mechanical valves. Mechanical valves constantly inlet and exhaust air as the suspension bounces while a vehicle travels down the road. Electronic control valves do not leak or use air unless specified to correct ride height. In fleet trials on Bridgestone over-the-road vehicles, FSIP engineers recorded compressor data from truck and trailer combinations to determine the air consumption values. The end result is substantially lower air usage and greater fuel and overall vehicle efficiency.
Intelligent air spring sensors are completely integrated into the air spring, removing the possibility of environmental wear. Requiring an easy, simplified installation, the sensors provide fleets with enhanced reliability and greater leveling accuracy on challenging road conditions.
The air spring sensors also let FSIP take advantage of connected technology. The sensors have capabilities including load detection, pressure sensing and predictive maintenance to provide fleet owners with as much information as possible. This allows owners to accurately monitor total vehicle health in real time and improve the safety of their drivers and cargo.
“Intelligent air spring sensors will take the guesswork out of predictive analytics for commercial trailer drivers and fleet owners and will become a key element for the connected vehicle of the future,” said Craig Schneider, president, FSIP. “The first-ever intelligent air spring sensor to fully integrate into the electronic leveling system is just the latest example of our industry leadership, which dates back to the 1930s, when FSIP patented the first pneumatic suspension device.”
Firestone Industrial Products manufactures air springs and related products for commercial trucks and trailers, cars, sport utility vehicles, light trucks, mini vans, motor homes, buses, agricultural equipment, rail and industrial applications.
Firestone Industrial Products