The design of cooling systems is becoming increasingly challenging. More often than not, compact, powerful actuators are incorporated to increase the functionality of machines, resulting in higher power densities and higher requirements in terms of cooling. So far, cooling systems were mostly designed in a later stage, which led to trial-and-error solutions and over-dimensioned systems. It is far more efficient to already consider the cooling requirements in the initial stage of a machine designing process.

A systematic, model-based approach simplifies the co-design of actuators and cooling.

In the Flanders Make project OPCOPE, models of an electro-thermal engine and a cooling plate for liquid cooling were designed. These models enable system simulations to identify thermal bottlenecks and optimise the design parameters. The model was validated in a climate chamber. In this way, we could assess and, as the case may be, adjust the impact of, among others, the flow rate of the pump, the cooling channel topology or the cooling power of the radiator on the performance of a liquid-cooled plate.

The research efforts resulted in a systematic, model-based approach for developing cooling systems and defining the cooling concept. The created thermal-hydraulic models allow for a fast concept generation and evaluation.

Michel Van De Wiele NV, which builds textile machinery for carpet and velvet manufacturers, integrated the project results in the design of a tuft machine (see picture). Such machines have quite a lot of actuators for individually controlling the different threads, which used to cause major challenges for the cooling system.

Also the Picanol Group, a global company specialised in the development, production and sale of weaving machines, already uses the project results to optimise the co-design of a powertrain and corresponding cooling system.



Industry 4.0 in practice with Picanol 

Picanol manufactures high-tech weaving machines that are used across the world. Obviously, the conditions in which these weaving machines operate are not at all identical. Furthermore, the requirements and needs of end customers are becoming increasingly specific. All this requires the integration of product variation and customisation in the production processes of weaving machines. Digital technology, the so-called Industry 4.0 technology, allows Picanol to respond efficiently to specific customer requirements.

Nextto standard air-jetlooms and rapier weaving machines, the demand for niche machines for weaving specific tissues such as towelling increases. Such high product variability also significantly complicates the work of operators. It was impossible for operators at a niche assembly line building extra modules and options on weaving machines to remember all assembly steps. He regularly had to consult complex plans, which caused considerable delays.

In the Operatorinfo project, Picanol – together with Flanders Make and other partners – therefore developed a technology to offer digital, customised instructions. On the one hand, operators are connected with the corporate network through wearables and tablets so that feedback is possible. On the other hand, the instructions are adjusted to the level of experience and (prior) knowledge of the operator in question. Rare machine configurations can now be assembled in a much more efficient way and updates to existing plans can be implemented faster without first requiring extensive training sessions.