The day is drawing near when we say goodbye to driving our vehicle to a mechanic for a wheel alignment or tweaking the suspension manually. All this thanks to a newly developed active wheel alignment system.
World's First Active Wheel Alignment System
The Active Wheel Alignment System (AWAS) project, developed by Melbourne-based company Doftek, is the first of its kind in the world. This system is set to replace the vehicle's standard suspension mounts and tie rods with electromechanical components if everything stays on track.
With a control unit, adjusting the angle of the wheels can then be done on the move. This will include adjustments of wheel caster (longitudinal tilt), toe-in (latitudinal angle), and camber (longitudinal angle). This is achieved through a three-mode selector switch that meets the demands of specific terrains, tyre loads, and driving style. The driver may choose from three settings - normal, sport, and sport-plus.
The company focuses on implementing this active suspension system in passenger vehicles.
Active Wheel Alignment System Fitment & Capabilities
Doftek claims that the active wheel alignment system will be compatible with various types of standard suspension set-ups like double-wishbone, MacPherson strut, and multilink configurations. It can adjust the wheel camber by up to three degrees between normal (0°) and sport+ (-3°), with a sport mode taking a middle ground of camber angle -1.5°.
Some of the aspects that the technology will seek to improve on include handling performance and fuel mileage while minimising emissions and tyre wear.
The company's project leader Geoff Rogers explained that the AWAS project deals with the shortcomings in previous attempts, including issues on compatibility, cost, and weight.
Doftek is also in the process of signing up one of the world's biggest luxury automakers, although the pandemic stalled the progress of this undertaking.
According to Rogers, the brains behind the project, they initially intended the system to enhance a tyre’s grip by optimising its contact with the surface before they transformed it into an active wheel alignment system. Per Doftek’s data, the AWAS brings about a 10% decrease in rolling resistance, 15% cornering performance increase, and 10% decrease in peak tyre temperatures, which extends tyre life.
A Second AWAS Version in the Works
The company is also developing a more sophisticated 2nd-gen system that will be more dynamic (semi-active) and adaptive (real-time). It is expected to deliver almost twice the cornering performance (29% to 30% increase) of a vehicle.
The system's most viable market is luxury performance vehicles, but Geoff Rogers is optimistic that the technology will find its way to hybrid, electric, and autonomous cars. This upgraded version will enhance battery life and provide novel driverless solutions.
Putting Australia’s Auto Industry on the Map
It took Rogers and his team over two years to develop the active wheel alignment system, which has been tested thoroughly and proved to be reliable.
The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) in Victoria had been instrumental in developing the project. It has continually shown support by extending financial aid and pushing the project to its commercialisation phase. Geoff Roger's partner Priscilla Rogers also spoke of the support they have received from AMGC, citing their network, experience, and leadership skills.
The organisation’s managing director Dr. Jens Goennemann pointed out that Doftek is proof that the country's automotive industry is still competitive on a global scale even though it lost Ford and Holden's manufacturing arms.
Commercialisation of the Active Wheel Alignment System
Doftek is looking to have OEMs test a prototype of the AWAS in a test vehicle, a crucial step in its bid to become a supplier for future vehicles. The project also creates at least 40 employment opportunities. Five will be at Doftek, another five at its suppliers, while the rest spread across other project partners.
Some of the project partners include:
• Flexicut Engineering that will be involved in the production of purpose-built parts
• 3D Systems whose role will be to create prototype parts and introduce 3D printing skills
• On Point Engineering that'll bring on board expertise and experience from the Supercars Australia competition
• Erntek that'll be involved in the supply and commission of electric motors
AMGC jointly funds the prototype unit as part of the Australian Government's Industry Growth Centre Initiative. This prototype is set to open the way for the commercialisation of the technology. Follow us at Carpart.com.au to stay updated about active suspension systems and other upcoming technologies.