The technology behind motion control
Gas springs and hydraulic vibration dampers have quietly enabled designers to provide drivers and their passengers with ever greater levels of comfort and convenience. Take the humble glove box, as a useful example. Before the development of low-cost and reliable gas springs, they opened downwards, and invariably spilled their contents over the passenger’s feet when over-filled, and the retaining mechanism had worn out. Or the trunk lid – their size and configuration was governed by the power engineers could build into a complex steel spring mechanism. Today, many trunk lids or rear doors opens smoothly at the touch of a button. The same technology can be found in interior applications such as center consoles, armrests, and seat adjustors, and door openers. Further refinements are being added by Tier 1 suppliers in response to ongoing challenges from OEMs to refine the technology. One such refinement is the development of electromechanical drives, which have made it possible for motorists to effortlessly open and close rear gates and trunk lids doors, lids and hoods at the press of a button. An example is BMW, which adds value to the X5 by offering an automatic opening and closing function for the tailgate and automatic soft closing for the doors. In Europe, Audi offers a power tailgate and trunk lid option on its new A6, among other models. Remote tailgate openers and lifters are also found in volume models produced by most of the major OEMs. With that comes greater customer expectations of comfort at entry level. Tier 1 suppliers are constantly challenged to raise the bar when it comes to the design and supply of the gas springs and hydraulic dampers which have become indispensable design elements that make life more comfortable for the driver and passengers during long commutes and road trips. And, as always in the automotive industry, functionality, reliability and cost-effectiveness are simply the ticket to the game. In order to play, the suppliers have to continuously reduce size, mass, failure rate and – of course – pay close attention to cost and price. Oh, and they have to be maintenance-free. All for components which are barely mentioned in any of the OEMs marketing material for their vehicles.