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BorgWarner's newly expanded PTC includes a torque transfer testing lab with a custom-built, heavy-duty dynamometer.

BorgWarner tech center adds testing muscle, engineering resources

Additional in-house testing capabilities and the hiring of 180 engineers and technicians at BorgWarner’s newly expanded Auburn Hills, MI, Powertrain Technical Center (PTC) underscores an ambitious strategy to reach $15B in annual sales by 2020.

“North America is a big part of that growth, and the expansion of the PTC will support many of the programs that are being launched in the U.S.,” said Christopher Thomas, BorgWarner’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. The company's 2014 sales were $8.3B.

Thomas spoke with SAE Magazines prior to the recent grand opening. The 46,000 ft(4274 m2) expansion adds two testing labs that he said will help streamline the development process for engine and driveline products, plus conference rooms, work stations, and a 4000 ft2 (372 m2) fitness center. PTC’s new Torque Transfer Lab is equipped with a heavy-duty dynamometer capable of testing all-wheel drive products, such as transfer cases and couplings.

This new asset brings durability and efficiency testing as well as clutch characterization capabilities in-house. Previously some work in this area, including aspects of BorgWarner's validation programs, was done by outside vendors, according to Michael Palazzolo, a validation development engineer.

During a tour of the lab, Palazzolo noted the 1000-hp (746-kW), two-speed dynamometer powered by three ac motors. "We can shift a gear and bump the output speed up to 7500 rpm, and we can take the torque up to 5600 N·m by using the other gear. That means we can either multiply speed or multiply torque based on the application,” he explained.

Technical specialists can run accelerated-life durability tests, based on road load data acquisition that’s been collected internally or in conjunction with an OEM customer, using the lab’s new equipment. “This allows us to ensure that the end product will meet all durability and reliability requirements at a sub-assembly level. We can then use the dynamometer system to measure the operating efficiency as well as characterize the clutch behavior if the product is equipped with this type of torque transfer device,” noted Palazzolo.

PTC’s new Friction Material Lab houses equipment for testing clutch assemblies, transfer cases, driveshafts, and other components to enable specialists to perform detailed assessments, according to Rob Petrach, a staff engineer for transmission systems engineering friction R&D.

“Most machines allow you to do brake torque-type friction development studies. But in this new lab we’re able to do the whole sub-system, so that means we can study noise behavior. And that’s important because you don’t want to hear squawk or shudder or any other weird sounds emanating from a transmission,” said Petrach.

The ability to do comprehensive material friction studies in-house also helps fast-track the product development process.

“We can do very fast screen studies on this testing machine with actual components before a vehicle is even ready to be tested. And with sub-system testing we’re also able to pull pieces apart and evaluate from a full-forensic perspective,” he said. While much of the lab's activities are concentrated on new product development, occasionally BorgWarner gets requests from suppliers or OEMs for in-depth investigations.

The friction material testing lab’s equipment can simulate high-speed test conditions. “So for example in a race car where the driver wants to go 0 to 60 mph [96.5 kph] in three seconds, we want to be sure the transmission isn’t going to fail because of that 7000 rpm clutch drop. We’re able to replicate race car-related high-speed/high energy conditions that we couldn’t necessarily test on some other machines,” Petrach said.

A chiller unit attached to the transmission friction sub-system tester expands the testing parameters. While most of the product development tests are done at operating conditions, the chiller unit enables testing at below -20ºC. That, according to Petrach, enables his team to replicate a cold start in the winter—a capability that wasn't available on other machines, he said.

With the latest laboratory and testing upgrades, the PTC has several testing areas to support the supplier’s product portfolio that includes turbochargers, electronically controlled thermal systems, and emissions systems.

Asserted Thomas, “Everything we do is focused on fuel economy, performance and emissions. And the reality is we don’t think those things are going to go out of style.”

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