Knowledge accumulation enables us to further develop Dana's competence centre

Transmission manufacturer Dana Belgium, which is part of the larger multinational Dana Incorporated, is established in Bruges. Apart from a production plant, Dana Belgium also includes a large engineering department with about 80 employees who work on transmission projects and research projects for shafts for commercial vehicles. From their division in Bruges, Thomas Vyncke and Steven Dumoulin both manage several competence groups worldwide that focus on mechatronics. “Partly thanks to Flanders Make, Dana Incorporated recognised that its division in Bruges offers huge potential in the field of mechatronics”, says Steven Dumoulin.

“Dana Belgium is working together with Flanders Make for quite some time now”, explains Steven. “Every year, we cooperate in at least two to three projects. A good and also important example of our partnership throughout the years is a project aiming at the optimisation of the gear changing behaviour of transmissions.”

Thomas Vyncke continues: “In the early 2000s, we noticed that big players in our industry were continuously trying to optimise the gear changing behaviour of their transmissions. At that time, we were still working with calibrated, tuned gear changes that had to be re-calibrated for each individual driveline, taking into account certain conditions. There was nothing really wrong with this working method but it was not optimal under all conditions, precisely because we could never take into account all loads, slopes, etc.”

Steven continues: “We joined forces with Flanders Make to examine what we could do in two areas. On the one hand, we wanted to perform research into the possibilities of self- learning behaviour because, due to for instance wear, a transmission undergoes minor changes and, if successful, the system would be able to make the necessary adjustments itself. On the other hand, we wanted to realise an open- instead of a closed-loop control system, which would enable us to adjust the gear changing behaviour during shifts.”

From theory to practice

Thomas: “After a research period of about four years, in which we mainly applied a theoretical approach, we started several follow-up projects in which we could use the acquired theoretical knowledge to develop a controller for concrete vehicles. We then made the resulting controller ready for production in our own engineering department by converting it into a cost-effective system. We adjusted the very advanced control logic to make it work on a less performant platform and we also made it more robust. The algorithm is now ready for production and will be introduced on new transmission models.”

“Thanks to Flanders Make, we have not only been able to eliminate a competitive disadvantage compared to other market players. We could also save time for us and our customers because calibrations at the customer are no longer required given the self-learning character of the algorithm. Moreover, the gear changing behaviour is now robust under all conditions.”

Leaving the beaten tracks

“Throughout the entire research period, Flanders Make showed itself to be a particularly valuable sparring partner. Thanks to this form of cooperation, we were able to leave the beaten tracks and study different control technologies before making and elaborating on a final, motivated choice. This research would never have been feasible all by ourselves. And thanks to this overall approach, we also gained knowledge that can be used beyond our own specific field of expertise. More, the knowledge accumulation that we realised together with Flanders Make enables Dana Belgium to further develop its own mechatronics competence centre.”