Design Engineering – March-April 2019

(Jacob Rumans) #1
March/April | 2019



wheel units to slash

EV development costs


esearchers at the University of Waterloo announced they
have developed a modular wheel unit that’s affordable
to produce and removes much of the complication associated
with electric vehicle design.
The self-contained unit combines a wheel and an electric
motor, along with braking, suspension, steering and control
assemblies to form a modular unit that can be bolted to any
vehicle frame.
“The idea is modularity and plug-and-play control capa-
bility,” said Amir Khajepour, a mechanical and mechatron-
ics engineering professor at Waterloo. “Our wheel unit, in a
sense, is a full vehicle with only one wheel. All that’s missing
is a body.”
According to Khajepour, a mass-produced wheel unit, or
corner module, would significantly reduce production costs
while also opening up space for passengers that would oth-
erwise be devoted to mechanical components. At present,
the prototyped units weigh about 40 kilograms, have about
25 horsepower and feature active wheel cambering.
The next step, Khajepour said, is to scale wheel unit for

Prof. Amir Khajepour stands next to a vehicle containing his new

large utility and commercial vehicles. That would pave the
way for more cost-effective production of low-volume, spe-
cialized vehicles with customized bodies in fields including
mining, forestry and rescue operations.
“It’s an economy of scale problem,” said Khajepour, who
serves as director of the university’s Mechatronic Vehicle
Systems Lab. “Corner modules would allow us, without
enormous development costs, to make vehicles that are spe-
cific for each application, for each function, by concentrating
only on the design of the body and the user interface.”


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.S. Army researchers are looking into metal additive man-
ufacturing to create steel alloy as a way to transform
combat logistics. At the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Devel-
opment Command’s Army Research Laboratory, materials
manufacturing scientists say this technology may change
everything, although readily printed reliable 3D parts are still
in the future.
“You can really reduce your logistics footprint,” said Dr.
Brandon McWilliams, a team lead in the lab’s manufacturing
science and technology branch. “Instead of worrying about

carrying a whole truckload, or convoys loads of spares, as long
as you have raw materials and a printer, you can potentially
make anything you need.”
Using powder bed fusion, the Army researchers are building
parts from an alloy, called AF96, in powder form. The Air Force
initially developed AF96 as an economical yet high-strength
and hardness alloy for bunker-busting bomb applications. The
resulting steel alloy parts are approximately 50 percent stronger
than those commercially available, McWilliams said, but they
have yet to be battlefield tested.
“We’ve printed some empeller fans for the M1 Abrams [Main
Battle Tank] turbine engine and we can deliver that part—they
can use it, and it works,” McWilliams said. “But it’s not a qual-
ified part. In terms of a battlefield scenario, that may be good
enough to be able to get your tank running again for hours or
days if that’s important to the mission, but on the other hand,
we still need to be able to answer, does this perform as good as
the OEM part? Does this perform better?”
Currently, McWilliams said the laboratory is working with
industry and academic researchers to model new alloy designs
and perform computational thermodynamics.

Army researchers foresee AM as

transformative for battlefield logistics

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