Dialogue participants discuss subjects with technological and future relevance
Bosch CEO Denner: “In the race for a connected world, Germany must use its strengths”
Bosch start-up platform encourages entrepreneurship in the company
Berlin – Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel has appointed the Bosch CEO Dr. Volkmar Denner to the steering committee of the innovation dialogue, in which the federal government consults with the business and academic communities. At its regular meetings, the committee focuses on technological subjects and the effect that political, economic, and social conditions will have on such things as Germany’s future innovative strength. The discussions are attended by the federal chancellor and the ministers for economic affairs, education, and special tasks on the one hand, and representatives of the business and academic communities on the other. The committee is chaired by Prof. Dr. Henning Kagermann, president of Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech). “The future of German business lies in connectivity, both technologically and organizationally. It is both appropriate and necessary that politics, industry, and academia should work together to strengthen Germany’s status as a seat of innovation,” said Denner, who is both CEO and CTO of the Bosch Group. “In particular, the close networks between business and science are one of Germany’s main strengths in the global competition among knowledge-based societies,” Denner went on.
Germany needs more innovative business models The Bosch CEO is confident that “Germany can lead the world in connectivity. We are in an excellent position to do so.” When it comes to connected manufacturing, Denner stressed that Germany still has a strong industrial base. “Our know-how in manufacturing things, combined with our expertise in IT and automation engineering, gives us a very real advantage in the race for the connected world.” However, Denner does not believe that Germany’s future competitiveness is set in stone. While German industry has always been a technological pioneer, “innovative business models still tend to be the hallmark of Silicon Valley. In the internet age, German companies also have to be innovative in their business models.”
Bosch start-up platform: encouraging entrepreneurship in the company The Bosch CEO sees a need to catch up in two areas above all: first, in technical infrastructure (e.g. poor broadband networks) and, second, in its culture of entrepreneurship, which is still underdeveloped. “The number of start-ups in Germany has fallen constantly over the past ten years. This is clearly not the development we need,” Denner said. Increasingly, therefore, Bosch is encouraging entrepreneurship within the company. Only recently, the company’s own start-up platform went into operation. It provides support to Bosch associates wanting to set up their own company. Denner went on: “Our associates have proved that they are good researchers. Now we want them to be good businesspeople as well.” While associates focus on making their innovations ready for the market, the start-up platform helps them with administrative matters such as management accounting and financing.
Some 800 associates expected to move in by the end of 2014 Project on schedule: Remaining construction and move to be completed by early summer 2015
Bosch CEO Denner: “The new Renningen location will enhance the Bosch Group’s innovative strength”
Campus-like atmosphere promotes creativity and more networking
Renningen – The time has finally come for the first researchers and engineers to move into the Bosch Center for Research and Advance Engineering in Renningen. Almost two and a half years after the groundbreaking ceremony, some 800 associates are set to start working at the new research campus by the end of 2014. The center in Renningen will be the hub of Bosch’s global research network. Until now, corporate research and advance engineering activities have been spread out at locations in Gerlingen, Schwieberdingen, and Waiblingen. With the move of the first 800 out of a total of 1,700 associates, the Bosch location is now officially open for business. By tightening its network of researchers, the global provider of technology and services aims to further enhance its innovative strength. “The new Renningen location will enhance the Bosch Group’s innovative strength. Bosch’s strategic aim is to develop solutions for a connected life. To this end, we are creating an even tighter network of researchers and engineers in Renningen and beyond,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, the chairman of the Bosch board of management. With its new hub, the research network of the global provider of technology and services will comprise eight locations in six countries from 2015 onward. Bosch is investing some 310 million euros for the new research center, which is located outside of Stuttgart.
Logistical challenge – A move in several steps By the end of 2014, Bosch researchers will have moved into buildings at the eastern end of the site, as well as into the main building. The buildings on the western half of the site will be completed in the first quarter of 2015, at which point associates will be moving in. The move to the new research campus is gradually taking place over a period of about six months, and involves mastering special logistical challenges. Many of the laboratories and research facilities must be carefully dismantled, packed, transported, and rebuilt for operations in Renningen. In total, some 1,800 machines and technical equipment from 270 laboratories are being moved from existing locations to Renningen. By early summer 2015, more than 12,000 boxes will be moved to the new research campus.
Campus with ideal research conditions “For the first time, Bosch is pooling its research and advance engineering activities in the greater Stuttgart region at a single location. This highlights the importance of research at Bosch,” said Dr. Michael Bolle, president of corporate research and advance engineering at Bosch. The new research center is tailored specifically to the needs of researchers. Based on the concept of a university campus, the buildings are generously spread out across a large site. The specially developed office concept offers an attractive work environment that promotes creativity and cooperation. “The interior design of the buildings and the floor plan reflect our innovation process. For each phase of this process, our associates will have ideal working conditions,” Bolle said. Thanks to the close proximity of office spaces to workshops and laboratories, researchers can put their ideas to the test without delay.
A powerhouse of innovation – 20 patents per working day In 2013, Bosch filed a total of 4,964 patents, an average of 20 per working day. This makes the company one of the world’s top ranking in terms of patent applications. Last year, the global provider of technology and services spent 4.5 billion euros on research and development, almost 10 percent of its sales. The company currently employs some 42,700 researchers and engineers. At locations around the world, some 1,300 associates work for the company’s corporate research and advance engineering department.
More information on the new Center for Research and Advance Engineering can be found at www.bosch-renningen.de.
New joining process is lead-free, inexpensive, and reliable
Supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Stuttgart – Thanks to a new packaging and interconnection technology (PIT), it is now possible to manufacture electronic power modules that operate reliably even at temperatures as high as 300 degrees Celsius. The new PIT is the outcome of the recently concluded three-year Hot Power Connection (HotPowCon) research project, which received funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Since control electronics have to cope with very high operating temperatures, especially in hybrid and electric vehicles, the new PIT will serve as an important foundation for the further development of electromobility in Germany.
Saving energy and cutting costs Electronic power modules such as inverters, DC/DC converters, and battery chargers are key components in electric vehicles. To push electromobility into the mainstream, the automotive industry needs power modules that are as inexpensive, energy efficient, and compact as possible. It also has to be possible to integrate logical entities such as microprocessors into the modules in order to enhance their functionality. Until now, there was no lead-free, reliable, and inexpensive PIT that was suitable for these combined logical power modules and could withstand their high operating temperatures. Existing joining techniques were either extremely expensive or used lead-based solders that harm the environment. What is more, power modules required complex cooling processes to manage the heat they generate as a result of working with high electrical output. The choice of joining technique determined the upper limit to their operating temperature.
Prepared for large-scale series production The HotPowCon consortium has now developed a system of workable tin-based pastes that permits joining by way of isothermal solidification. This means all the module’s components can be soldered in a single joining process. The new PIT is lead-free and based on inexpensive materials. Because it can withstand very high temperatures, it greatly reduces cooling requirements. That in turn reduces power consumption and helps to cut costs. In their work on this PIT – choosing what materials to use and developing the necessary process and plant technology – the researchers paved the way for it to be used in industrial series production. They used demonstrators to show that the PIT is reliable at high temperatures.
Multidisciplinary research team HotPowCon brought together large companies, medium-sized enterprises, universities, and research institutions. Robert Bosch GmbH led the project, and partners included Siemens AG, Heraeus Materials Technology GmbH & Co. KG, Chemnitzer Werkstoffmechanik GmbH, Seho Systems GmbH, the Institute of Applied Systems and Circuits at the University of Rostock, the Center for Microtechnical Production at the Dresden University of Technology, and the Fraunhofer Institutes for Reliability and Microintegration IZM and for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS. Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG were associate partners. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research provided around half of the project’s budget of 5.5 million euros, funding the HotPowCon project as part of its “IKT 2020” research program. The newly developed PIT is also suitable for use in manufacturing inverters for photovoltaic systems, and will find application in other sectors in the future.
The vehicles of the future will require higher voltages than current models. New electrically conductive lubricants will help protect electric motors and alternators from wear. Thanks to the joint efforts of basic and industrial researchers in Germany, the new substances required to achieve this have already been developed.
Stuttgart – In the future, electrically conductive lubricants will protect electric motors from the surface damage that can result from electrical discharging in the bearings. With these findings, which are the result of a joint research project, a group of German basic and industrial engineers have taken an important step toward achieving the sustainable electromobility of the future. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
The initiative was launched to prepare for the vehicles of the future, which will require higher voltages than current models. At present, 12 volts are required to provide all automotive electric systems – from lights and radios to air conditioners – with sufficient power. Within the next few years, the figure is expected to rise to 48 volts, as electric power is required for a growing number of functions. The voltage levels of electric and hybrid vehicles are even higher: these vehicles can require as much as 400 volts.
Stronger alternating electric fields “In alternators and electric motors, higher volage levels mean that alternating electric fields are stronger than they once were,” says Dr. Gerd Dornhöfer, one of the Bosch associates taking part in the “SchmiRmaL” project (Switchable intelligent tribological systems with minimal friction losses and maximum lifespan). This can cause, for instance, electrical discharge in the ball bearings of motors and alternators. When this occurs, sparks may fly that can melt tiny areas of the metal’s surface. This, in turn, leads to uneven raceways. As a result of this, the ball bearings first begin to make noise, and then to malfunction too soon. “We can already prevent this from happening reliably with the lubricants we have developed,” says Dornhöfer as he looks at the measurement results on his computer. The chief expert for lubrication technology works for the corporate research department in Gerlingen, close to Stuttgart.
Anyone who has ever gotten a small electric shock from a doorknob is familiar with static charges. When the finger is just a few millimeters from the doorknob, an electric spark jumps between the two. The higher the electric tension, the further the spark travels. The air between the door handle and the finger acts as an insulator until the finger is close enough to the knob.
Lubricant film acts as an insulator The same thing can also happen when a current is generated between the shaft and housing of an electric motor, as the lubricant coating in the bearing acts as an insulator. As rotation speed increases, the lubricant greases in the ball bearings separate the bearings from the raceway. This is comparable to hydroplaning on wet roads. Unlike on roads, however, this phenomenon is desirable in ball bearings, as it minimizes the friction generated by the bearings as well as the surface damage. However, this can also lead the bearings to recharge when the lubricant film is intact, similar to a capacitor. When the built-up voltage is sufficient, it can penetrate the insulating lubricant grease. This energy suffices to briefly melt a tiny area of metal on the bearing’s surface. If this happens repeatedly, tiny imperfections eventually appear on the bearing. “We want to prevent this at all costs, as it can result in greater damage to these spots over time,” says the Bosch scientist. Engineers refer to this as electrical pitting. The process results in damaged areas on the raceway that are comparable to potholes. In the future, the energy of these discharges may become greater as the power density and voltages of automotive electric systems increase.
In light of this potential problem, the SchmiRmal project’s strategy focuses on developing new lubricants, whose substances remain conductive even at higher voltage levels. As a result, these lubricants do not act as insulators to begin with. Voltage levels no longer build up, nor does potentially destructive electrostatic discharge.
“This can be achieved in several ways,” said Dornhöfer. “One could, for instance, add fine metal particles to the grease to conduct the current. But this would mean that the lubricant grease would also act as an abrasive, and of course we want to avoid this.” Here, ionic fluids are more suitable. In chemical terms, these comprise molecules known as ions that conduct an electrical charge. “Ionic fluids conduct electricity, and this is why we add these substances to our lubricants,” said Dornhöfer.
Resistance reduced by a factor of ten million Following countless tests, the scientists have now come up with greases that are less and less resistant to electricity. In other words: the lubricant conducts electrons as desired in the ball bearing and thus prevents the dreaded electrical flashovers. The initial material was a commercially available industrial lubricant. “By using the right ionic fluids combined with conductive carbon, its resistance can be reduced by a factor of ten million,” says the Bosch scientist. This is enough to prevent the unwanted electrical discharges.
While the new grease is black, it otherwise largely resembles its predecessor. At present, Dornhöfer is focusing in part on investigating all of the grease’s characteristics. To ensure a long life cycle, ball bearings must be heat resistant and have cold flow properties. Moreover, the new additives should not compromise the grease’s corrosion protection properties. And it goes without saying that the new grease should not pose a hazard to human health or the environment. All of this is currently being tested as part of the BMBF project. “So far, our findings have been very promising”, Dornhöfer says.
Many scientists from a broad range of disciplines and sectors have contributed to this success. “No one can find these solutions alone. We are all contributing and learning from one another,” Dornhöfer says. The project is set to run until April 2015. “Chances are high that the new lubricants will find industrial application after the project.”
A longer service life for many machine components The benefits of the project’s work go well beyond applications for electric motors. The new lubricants can also increase the service life and reliability of machine elements that experience high levels of strain, especially roller and plain bearings and transmission components. Moreover, performance can be improved for motors of the same size, or maintained if motors are smaller. At the same time, the lubricants contribute to reducing energy consumption and to increasing efficiency.
The project participants Klüber Lubrication SE & Co. KG (Munich) is one of the world’s leading and most innovative specialty lubricant manufacturers. IoLiTec-Ionic Liquids Technologies GmbH (Heilbronn) develops ionic fluids. Schaeffler Technologies GmbH & Co. KG (Herzogenaurach) is an automotive supplier that develops and manufactures rolling bearings. The company’s role in the project is to assess how new types of oil can improve the service life of bearings. Inprotec AG (Heitersheim) develops highly effective coatings that protect against abrasion. Over the course of the project, SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG (Lauffen/Neckar) is working on improving the durability of a valve. Using computer models, the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing SCAI (Sankt Augustin) is making forecasts about the potential environmental impact of new ionic fluids. Over the course of the project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM (Freiburg im Breisgau) is focusing mainly on the potential lubricating effect of ionic fluids. Bosch is applying these new lubricants and testing their suitability under real-world conditions.