Methods and Processes

ZF is one of Germany's most innovative companies. Learn more about ZF's research activities and development processes.

Simulation and testing procedures

For enhanced safety and comfort

Complete vehicle simulation
In addition to functional analysis and finite element analysis, dynamic simulation is an important element. The complex interrelationships between vibration systems, wheel suspension and cab suspension on trucks require collective consideration for optimum layout of the kinematic parameters.

Load simulation on four column unit
A wide range of state-of-the-art testing equipment is available for function and endurance tests on all vehicle components. The multi-axle test bench and the four column testing unit allow simulation of operating loads on the vehicle axle as well as on the complete vehicle.

Shifting on test bench
The selecter lever for the automatic transmission is designed to ensure comfortable and convenient operation for the driver. The resistance force when moving the lever is configured so that it is perceptible for the driver and remains constant over the entire life of the vehicle.

Advanced materials

Reduce weight, increase stability

Material characteristics are decisive factors for progress in terms of the performance and quality of ZF products. Digital analysis and evaluation methods are used to specify the right material for every application.

Every gram saved is progress
Within the construction space available engineers systematically develop components with maximum rigidity and minimum weight with the aid of optimization programs. For example, a calculation model was used as the basis for optimizing the layout of a transmission cover.

Stable lubricants make oil changes superfluous
In an effort to preserve our natural resources the oil change intervals for many assemblies are being increased step by step - all the way to life-time lubrication. Systematic analysis of all test stages provides ZF with precise knowledge of the changes in the properties of the lubricants and their effect on the overall system.

Lightweight construction
The handing characteristics and operational stability depend on suspension components including control arms. ZF uses aluminum and sheet-metal components for weight reduction. Modern calculation methods guarantee optimum weight and reliable design of components and systems.

Ecological production processes
Gas-quenching processes are being used to an increasing extent for heat treatment at ZF. Elimination of the liquids required previously for quenching and washing reduces pollution and component processing and installation can continue immediately without washing. Process and material studies guarantee maximum quality.

Electronic control system

The basis for intelligent technology

System communication
Electronically controlled drive trains and suspension systems continuously exchange information such as sensor data and control commands in the vehicle network. For example, the electronic transmission control communicates with the engine and brake control. ZF engineers simulate the behavior of the entire drive train and suspension to optimize and test higher priority functions. Perfectly coordinated interaction between the electronics, hydraulics and mechanical systems ensure shifts that are hardly perceivable.

From model to virtual transmission control prototype
The virtual prototype allows simulation of the software control functions on the complete vehicle model, without the existence of a real vehicle. Driveline and chassis functions are developed virtually with the aid of a computer. With rapid prototyping these functions can then be further tested and optimized in the real vehicle with the aid of special hardware. This ensures the quality of control system functions for automatic transmissions, etc. Due to the large variety of customer vehicles and requirements, over 200 different software versions are developed each year for control systems.

Mechatronic systems

Assistance features for maximum safety

Integrated mechatronic systems provide new features: New control concepts for actuators and new procedures for evaluating sensor signals in the electronic component are integrated into these systems.

Integrated mechatronic systems for new features
Spatial and functional integration of sensors, actuators and signal-processing electronic circuitry allows new, optimized systems features. This allows some mechanical components to be eliminated. Examples include regulated load assumption and shift-by-wire for the automatic transmission. Hydraulic servo systems for steering are being replaced by electric motor-driven power steering with superimposed steering angle. In addition to increasing convenience and optimizing efficiency, electronic controls provide new operating concepts for the human-machine interface and active intervention options to enhance safety.

Intelligent modules and systems
Assistance systems help drivers safely master critical situations. In consideration of the driving dynamics, external conditions and actions of the driver, the assistance systems continuously regulate the drive, steering and suspension. Self-regulating ZF components offer significant potential for increasing driving safety. The basis for this is provided by intelligent control software in combination with state-of-the-art sensors and actuators.

Virtual product development

From the first idea to mass production

Virtual product development allows engineers to simulate the behavior of components and systems under various operating conditions and optimize the components before progressing to the prototype phase. First the prototypes of individual components are tested alone. In the next test step the prototype is then integrated into the system on the test bench and finally tested in the complete vehicle.

The virtual prototype is based on 3-D models
ZF engineers design components and assemblies directly using 3-D CAD programs for representation corresponding to the function and process. Design of the components is therefore accomplished hand in hand with computer-aided planning of the production, testing and assembly processes. Simulation of the function and load are also computer supported.

Component optimization with computer models
The load factors for the individual component versions are calculated using the Finite Element Method (FEM). The illustration shows the point on the housing subject to the highest load, indicated by the red area. This method eliminates tension peaks and increases the service life through optimization of the geometry.

Vehicle simulation
A software tool simulates the effects of various driving strategies or transmission configurations for each vehicle concept, providing information on the fuel consumption and performance of a new transmission design even before realization of the hardware.

Measured values under actual conditions
Real conditions and load collectives are simulated on the test bench and measurements performed on the vehicle during operation. Experimental results are generally compared with calculations to save engineering time. The knowledge gained flows into further development of the series.

Optimum meshing

For maximum smoothness and service life

Virtual analysis of meshing
Simulation of the tension and deformation forces on gears serves for further improvement of the rolling and excitation characteristics and therefore to an increase in the transfer capabilities, running smoothness and service life.

Gear on pulsator
The mechanical load bearing capacity of the gear tooth is tested at different load stages for influences such as the production process, material and heat treatment.

Minimizing noise to increase comfort
ZF uses special acoustic testing benches for analyzing and eliminating noises in the drive train. This enables ZF engineers to use state-of-the-art computer-aided methods for analyzing noise and introducing measures into the design to reduce the noise in the drive train.

Further Information