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The Kassel, Germany, assembly facility uses increased technology and automation to assemble the axles.

Daimler launches intelligent truck axle with active oil regulation

Daimler has announced the first intelligent truck axle for its European Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks. The axle contains New Final Drive (NFD) technology that actively controls oil regulation inside the unit, which boosts fuel economy by up to 0.5%. The new axle will be assembled at a brand-new assembly line in Kassel, Germany, and in Detroit, MI.

“The second generation of the Integrated Powertrain from Daimler Trucks—consisting of engine, transmission and axle—has already resulted in fuel savings of up to 6% for the Mercedes-Benz Actros and ensures the lowest possible total cost of ownership (TCO),” said Dr. Frank Reintjes, head of Global Powertrain and Manufacturing Engineering Trucks. “The world's first intelligent truck axles even enable us to reduce fuel consumption by a further 0.5%.”

Reduced fuel consumption to increase TCO was the goal of the new Integrated Powertrain in the Actros trucks. Improvements to the OM 470 and OM 471 engines paired with an optimized twelve-speed transmission with improved Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) shift strategy help produce the 6% improvement.

The quantity of oil in the NFD axle is supplied depending on the speed, torque and temperature demands. A throttle valve inside the axle controls the amount of fluid in the bowl that encapsulates the ring gear. This intelligent oil management minimizes the swirl of the fluid in the final drive, which results in a smoother mating surface and reduces friction loss from the gears turning in the oil bath. The NFD axle is the first implementation of this active oil regulation in a final drive unit.

All parts are new for the axles, according to a Mercedes-Benz Trucks spokesperson. “Besides the needs-based variable oil supply, the other important changes are the laser welded ring gear (no bolt heads stirring up oil anymore), new gear teeth geometry for reduced friction and FE-optimized pinion bearings,” the spokesperson told Truck & Off-Highway Engineering.

Not only is this a new technology, but the axle is being assembled in a brand-new assembly line in Kassel. Daimler invested 30 million Euros in the assembly line at the production facility, which is Europe’s largest commercial vehicle axle plant. The investment provides the latest production technologies and higher levels of automation. New laser technology provides welding capabilities of the ring gear rather than traditional bolting requirements. Employees at the plant are trained using smart glasses with recorded video and images provided to ensure correct assembly.

“The new truck axle with active oil regulation is the first axle of this type and offers our customers a clear competitive edge thanks to reduced fuel consumption," said Ludwig Pauss, site manager of the Mercedes Benz plant in Kassel. “We also benefit from this at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Kassel. Cutting-edge product technologies and extensive investments in production facilities ensure that the site will remain profitable and competitive in the future.”

The NFD assembly line in Detroit, which celebrated start of production in December 2016, has received similar state-of-the-art technology and high levels of automation to first efficiently laser weld the differential and then assemble the front and rear tandem axles for all configurations and ratios.

Daimler is taking a holistic improvement approach to their Integrated Powertrain for the Actros trucks. While the engine and transmission have traditionally received the majority of research and development investment, the intelligent axle proves there are additional efficiencies to be gained in other drivetrain components. The NFD and assembly line improvements vaunt Daimler’s commitment to reduced consumption and TCO for trucking customers.

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