Oct 4, 2017 | By Tess

British automotive and aerospace company GKN has officially opened a new Innovation Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The new facility will be dedicated to the development of advanced technologies for the company’s automotive business, including custom 3D printed parts, electrified drivelines, composite materials, and more.

Aimed at the creation of next-gen vehicles, the UK Innovation Centre will be the home of various manufacturing processes and technologies. One of the key areas of focus for the facility will be the advancement of electric vehicle technologies.

“Our new UK Innovation Centre will develop an array of next-generation technologies that will deliver significant benefits to electric vehicle, motorsport, and off-highway applications," commented Phil Swash, CEO of GKN Driveline. "For electrified systems in particular, GKN’s expertise will help automakers to develop lighter, quieter, and more efficient vehicles."

Additive manufacturing will be used at the new facility for the production of custom and optimized vehicle parts. As in most industries, 3D printing allows for the construction of complexly structured, small-batch parts, which makes bespoke manufacturing feasible.

GKN will therefore be using 3D printing to redesign and manufacture custom parts for its next-generation vehicles.

In addition to 3D printing, the center will also be developing advanced composite materials, which will be integrated into GKN’s driveline parts. In fact, at the center’s opening ceremony, GKN demonstrated a number of driveline elements made from advanced composites, as well as a driveshaft being manufactured using a lightweight carbon fiber material.

Other notable projects the center will be undertaking are the development of a “TorqueShift” system for electric vehicles. This, says GKN, will “mimic the seamless ‘dual-clutch feel’” of its two-speed eTransmission, “the world’s first fully electric drive system" which was developed for the BMW i8 hybrid supercar.

The UK Innovation Centre will also continue to advance GKN’s Flywheel systems, which have already been used to power hybrid vehicles at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The Flywheel system, which basically gives an extra energy boost in peak-load situations allowing for combustion engines to be made smaller and more efficient, is being adapted for use in commercial vehicles.

According to GKN, experts at the new Oxfordshire facility will be working on a prototype energy storage unit for the Flywheel system which will enable a “larger capacity at [a] lower cost” than the previous Flywheel system iterations. Ultimately, the innovative Flywheel system could be used to create electric vehicles without the high cost of a plug-in hybrid or fully electric system.

The center will also be working closely with Panasonic Jaguar Racing (an official partner of GKN) to manufacture a number of new parts for electric vehicles, including improved differentials, lightweight driveshafts, and a number of custom 3D printed parts.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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