Sensing Larger Opportunities

German manufacturer STW to market cylinder pressure sensors for large engine applications

A specialist in sensors for pressure and temperature based on measuring cells with thin-film strain-gauge technology, STW has produced thin-film sensors for cylinder pressure measurement for about 20 years. The company is expanding its activities in large engines.

BY ROBERTA PRANDI

Sensor-Technik Wiedemann (STW), a specialist in measurement technology, control, automation, telematics and electrification of drivelines and auxiliary drives, announced it will expand its activities in sensors for large engines based on its own thin-film technology. This will include new routes to the market for the company, based in Kaufbeuren in the South of Germany.

The decision to more closely address this market is based on a few key considerations according to STW’s Head of Business Unit Sensors and Measurement Solutions, Wolfgang Pelzel. “There are advances underway in engine technology which will require that sensors are taken to the next level,” said Pelzel. “Also the scope of application of our sensors is set to grow into new areas of engine and power system technology, well beyond the cylinder pressure sensors that we have so far supplied to the large engine market in collaboration with a partner.”

 

STW has produced thin-film sensors for cylinder pressure measurement for about 20 years, with many of the products used in off-highway and stationary equipment.

 

Since its start-up, STW has specialized in sensors for pressure and temperature based on measuring cells with thin-film strain-gauge technology. STW has produced thin-film sensors for cylinder pressure measurement for about 20 years and the products are used in large diesel, gas, and dual-fuel engines. Over the years these components have added functional layers specially developed for these types of applications, such as a more robust structure and connections, as well as a patented technology for the reduction of loads on the sensor membrane caused by the temperature shock wave occurring during the combustion process.

“Complementing this, our manufacturing methodology offers an attractive combination of measurement accuracy and long service life, it is also well suited to economic series production,” said Pelzel.

One of the advantages of marketing these components directly is that STW can bring in its experience in its other fields of activity, Pelzel said. “We also see great possibilities for our other technologies,” he added. “There are many potential synergies between our sensors offering and our automation, electrification and connectivity capabilities in other markets.

“For years we have been active in mobile engine-powered machinery — mostly construction and agricultural equipment — and our sensors have also been developed and continuously improved according to STW’s competences and knowledge in these applications.

“We are also pioneering remote data management in cloud-based solutions for off-highway machinery and we feel it is a natural progression to bring this knowledge and these capabilities to larger engine applications.”

In practice, STW is capable of offering standard products with the associated economy of scale, adding the possibility of customizing several aspects, among which are the component’s interfaces and footprint to adapt to the available installation space.

“Working directly with the developer of the basic sensor technology is going to be a distinct plus for customers, especially in terms of application engineering and in keeping pace with future product evolution,” said Dr. Matthias Hawraneck, project manager at STW. “These considerations apply not only to OEMs, but also to existing users.

“A lot of things about sensors are standardized, such as threads, bores, and proprietary cable connectors. We are confident that we can engineer products which are fully interchangeable and compatible with those already on the market.”

With both new equipment and retrofits in mind, there is a large market opportunity for STW’s sensors in cylinder pressure measurement in both marine and stationary applications, where the population of gas and dual-fuel engines is rapidly growing.

Hawraneck said the company expects to focus immediately on gas engines, especially traditional spark-ignited and dual-fuel, as well as the newer bi-fuel engines. “There is research and development taking place on new forms of gas-burning engines that indicate increasing cylinder pressures,” Hawraneck said. “This applies of course to diesel engines as well, with the effects of higher fuel injection pressures and turbocharging pressure ratios, but slightly longer term, we think. We feel we are well equipped to assist this trend.”

Overall, STW said it has had a positive response within the large engine market to its first exploratory moves and is already pursuing projects on sensors for large engines and their applications outside cylinder pressure measurement.

For its thin-film technology, STW focuses on the technical coating of substrates with very different materials and the processing of these with structure widths of 10µm. The company uses its own cleanroom for the development and manufacture of sensors.

“STW has a tradition of long-term partnerships with its customers,” Pelzel said. “This is exactly the approach the company is willing to take with this new venture: long-term cooperation in developing products that fit perfectly with what the customer needs and wants.

“We are responding to increased demand for sensors, due to the growing trends for digitalization, system integration, electrification and remote monitoring and control of power systems based on large engines. These technologies will be central in the marine shipping sector to achieving the 30% increase in overall vessel efficiency by 2025, as prescribed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).”

Once more, the key to this progression will be for STW to offer direct contact to the customers towards a common development strategy over an extended period. “Sensor signals are increasingly used as an input to engine control as well as engine monitoring,” Pelzel said. “As applications for our sensors grow generally and cylinder pressures are rising in both diesel and gas engines, there is a perceived need for direct cooperation between STW and large engine builders, their system and component suppliers, their service providers, and the OEMs in related technologies.”

www.sensor-technik.de

 

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