Case Study

Keeping pace with the popularity of continuously variable transmissions

Van Doorne Transmissie

NX and Teamcenter help this Dutch company quickly develop customer-specific test systems required for new transmissions

Transmission innovation

Van Doorne Transmissions (VDT) is best known for its continuously variable transmission, a concept that has become increasingly more sophisticated and popular over the years. In fact, production capacity cannot keep up with current demand. Low fuel consumption and noise levels, together with excellent comfort, contribute to the success of the CVT. In addition, these transmission systems can handle higher torque ratings than other types of transmissions. Interest in VDT’s transmission concept originated mainly in countries where automatic transmissions were popular, such as the USA, Japan, India and China, although interest in Europe is rising. In Japan, 80 percent of all automatic gearboxes are equipped with one of VDT’s drive belts.

VDT’s customers include both the automobile OEMs as well as Tier 1 suppliers. Formerly part of the DAF group, VDT became affiliated with Bosch in 1995. VDT employs 1000 people, 150 of whom work in research and development. The R&D departments are responsible for the design of CVT drive belts, CVT technology and CVT testing. Another 850 staff members work in production and production engineering.

The company recently produced its ten millionth drive belt. VDT’s annual production volume reached approximately 1.6 million belts in 2006, having followed an upward curve for many years. An expansion of production capacity is planned in order to achieve an output of 2.5 million belts, which even then isn’t expected to completely meet demand. Since 1990, VDT has been relying on technology from Siemens PLM Software in its attempt to keep pace with the popularity of its products.

Testing new products

Push belts consist of two types of components: rings and elements. VDT’s expertise lies in the material and process technology applied to the links and belts, as well as to high production accuracy. “In addition to supplying high quality drive belts, VDT’s added value also lies in how we support our customers’ entire development process,” says Marc Bos, head of the company’s ETP4 Mechanical Engineering, Testing and Prototyping Department.

Bos’s team is primarily responsible for the mechanical engineering of test systems as well as the production of hardware in the tool shop. “We are responsible for everything that is needed by a specific customer to test a drive belt,” explains Bos. “This includes mechanical parts such as housings, bearing components, pulleys, tools and seals as well as the relevant strength analyses and the measuring instruments. The customer provides us with a basic design or a specification and we produce the so-called ‘test box’ that is used to test the system.” The test box might be used to validate a new product concept or for life testing of new customer applications. The ETP department also supports changes at the production plant where rings, elements and belts are made.

“In the automotive sector, speed and correctly coordinated design versions are crucial,” says Bos. “This is why, back in 1990, we adopted the precursors of our current software, the NX™ digital product development system and the Teamcenter® digital lifecycle management solution.”

Visualizing the designs

Test boxes, which contain approximately 350 parts, are designed in NX.Wherever possible, standard components are used. Part families are also widely used. “Approximately one-third of the components are standard and suitable for re-use,” says Bos. “When building a test box we design it on the basis of a top-down structure. This is detailed in such a way that we use the parametric functionality of NX to be able to introduce changes rapidly.”

The development of a test box demands approximately four hundred hours of engineering time. The lead time is twenty weeks, including production of the hardware. “This involves a great deal of communication with the customer,” explains Bos. The test box design, which forms part of the complete test configuration, is explicitly approved before it is released for testing purposes. To simplify communication with customers, VDT uses Teamcenter visualization functionality. The company’s sales and support departments have found visualization to be useful in their communications.

VDT also uses Teamcenter to manage the engineering change process. “We observed that once change management was handled by Teamcenter, the production and management of test systems reached a much higher level,” says Bos.

People who need product information access it through Teamcenter’s web interface. “We manage top-down structures, components and parts lists as well as standard parts and product specifications in Teamcenter,” Bos adds. “We also manage non-geometric data such as project documentation. With Teamcenter, at the click of a button, everyone can display accurate and up-to-date information on their screen.”

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