Executive Viewpoints: Keeping cool in 2020

  • 06-Aug-2009 12:09 EDT
Terry Dolberg.jpg
Terry Dolberg, Market Manager, Heavy Duty Vehicles, SPAL USA

A key to success in most businesses is to stay one step ahead of market demands. That couldn’t be more true than in the off-highway industry, where constantly changing regulations and advancing technology are expected aspects of the job.

Although there is no crystal ball for our industry, SPAL—always a leader in advanced cooling systems—is continuously innovating products in preparation for the off-highway mobility world of tomorrow. As we head into 2020 and beyond, SPAL sees the demand for efficient distributed cooling systems greatly increasing.

The main driving factor for efficient distributed cooling systems is the significant increase—estimated between 30-50%—in the underhood temperature of agricultural, construction, industrial, and mining equipment, among others. This increased temperature is the result of efforts across the country to make these machines greener. The U.S. EPA has spent the past several years focusing on ways to make the diesel engines used in on- and off-highway applications better for our environment. Engine manufacturers are using a combination of new and proven technologies, such as selective catalyst reduction (SCR) and diesel particulate filters (DPFs), to greatly improve efficiency. Because this trend for more efficient engines, and thus higher engine temperatures, is expected to continue beyond 2020, SPAL sees an important need for smart, distributed cooling systems.

Here’s how it works: With a distributed cooling system, each cooler is moved to an optimized position with dedicated fans to provide the ideal amount of airflow when and where required for maximum thermal performance. The basic idea behind distributed cooling is that each core (radiator, charge air cooler, transmission oil cooler, EGR cooler) gets its own fresh ambient airflow that is both more efficient and allows for better placement around the vehicle chassis. This distributed cooling approach has been shown to cut the kilowatt cooling power needed almost in half.

At SPAL, our research has shown the best distributed cooling system is an electronically controlled brushless fan that ensures flexibility, efficiency, and optimized control. We have taken robust and proven industrial motor concepts and commercialized them to build a product with a higher operational temperature range and smart dc-motor efficiency. In fact, a brushless motor delivers a 35% reduction in motor density as well as a reduction in moving parts vs. a dc motor.

SPAL’s new SBL300 brushless fan incorporates fully sealed motors and multiple protective features designed to increase efficiency and reduce the number of wear components. The SBL300 features IP6K9K-certified waterproof construction, integrated power and signal electronics, a low-inertia inner rotor, reduced axial dimensions, low weight, high efficiency, low noise, and improved resistance to NVH levels.

It has been designed to meet the highest engineering standards for both performance and durability and is recommended for off-highway equipment as well as car, bus, and truck applications, and also allows SPAL to address the needs of new markets, including hybrid vehicles, new-generation internal combustion engines, and advanced HVAC systems.

The brushless technology has advanced control features that maintain rotation speed, acceleration, and temperature. It also incorporates a smart soft-start technology that provides a reduced inrush while still protecting against stalled/stuck fans.

Celebrating 50 years as a leading manufacturer of high-quality fan and blower products, SPAL was founded in 1959 and initially specialized in plastic mold design and production. Soon after, SPAL began designing and manufacturing high-performance axial fans and centrifugal blowers as cooling solutions for a wide range of applications. Our first fan customer, Ferrari, set the stage for SPAL’s commitment to manufacturing excellence. Focusing on quality assurance and vertical integration—encompassing everything from in-house tool design to final assembly of the fans and blowers—SPAL supplies to a host of OEM companies, including Audi, BMW, Bombardier, Harley-Davidson, John Deere, Polaris, and Thermo King, among others. Headquartered in Italy with a North American distribution center, the company also maintains global facilities in Delhi, India; Saint Petersburg, Russia; São Paulo, Brazil; Shanghai, China; and the U.K.

Where airflow is a key requirement for engine/oil cooling, HVAC, and ventilation, SPAL products are designed, and can be adapted, to meet specific dimensional and performance needs. We control all areas of manufacturing—from R&D and lab test capabilities, rapid prototyping, in-house mold design and plastic injection molding, to high-volume serial production—to ensure the quality and performance in every product we produce.

SPAL’s R&D departments integrate all the required core competencies, including fluid-dynamics, thermodynamics, electromagnetic, electronics, and mechanics.

The company’s 500,000-ft2 (46,500-m2) corporate headquarters houses the engineering, manufacturing, product research and development, sales, and testing facilities. There are several automated production lines to support assembly operations, giving SPAL the capacity to produce more than 5 million fans and blowers annually.

As the efficiency of each machine’s performance (fuel use vs. power) becomes more and more relevant, the need for highly efficient cooling systems will become the standard, not the exception. SPAL will be a critical supplier in these new cooling systems today and in the future.

Terry Dolberg, Market Manager, Heavy Duty Vehicles, SPAL USA, wrote this article for SAE Magazines.

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