Modular Research Platform: From good to even better
thyssenkrupp’s Modular Research Platform (MRP) is now established as a valuable tool for chassis development.
The compelling idea behind the first MRP generation also attracted a great deal of interest among the company’s automotive customers. For one of these customers, the team led by project manager Carlo Miano has now built two more models of the innovative research platform. And because nothing is ever so good that it can’t be improved, the new model generation is a targeted upgrade.
Since 2018 thyssenkrupp has been using its own Modular Research Platform for the development of driving dynamics functions. The MRP test vehicle has proved invaluable for software testing, in particular in the areas of alternative steering functions and vehicle motion control. Project manager Carlo Miano affectionately refers to this in-house development as the “Lego car”, because its modular design allows chassis components such as steering systems, brakes and dampers to be swapped out quickly, and the platform also permits every conceivable chassis layout with virtually no restrictions in terms of packaging space or the like. The MRP enables thyssenkrupp to test and compare systems and functions at a very early stage of development under real conditions, without having to wait until the finished customer car or at least a prototype is available as a test vehicle. The advantages this offers – not least significant cost and time savings – haven’t gone unnoticed. In response to a concrete order from an OEM for two models, Miano and his team have now developed a new MRP generation, which will include improvements and further functionalities identified by the work with the first MRP edition.
New MRP generation offers better performance and greater comfort
As one of the key development goals for the new models, the experts from thyssenkrupp focused on significantly improving performance. “Performance limits were to be defined not by the power of the drive but by the grip of the tires,” says Miano. So four electric motors with a combined capacity of 500 kW provide more than ample power output and offer a wide range of configurations for a variety of test applications, enabling the two vehicles for example to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in around 3 seconds. But much more importantly: “The higher performance allows our engineers to carry out long-term tests in higher speed ranges. That provides far wider opportunities for development, especially when it comes to brakes,” says Miano.
Experience gathered with the first MRP also led to improvements in the chassis area. “It’s now easier to set various setup options,” says Miano, “and at the same time we’ve optimized the packaging.” The two new MRPs also feature improved software. The fully redundant system control, based on a 12 volt electrical system, was developed in-house by thyssenkrupp, with two controllers offering a fail-safe backup solution.
Another area addressed during development of the new platforms was comfort. The cockpit of the two-seater now offers more room. After all, some of the engineers who will be involved in working for customers using the MRP test vehicles are 1.90 meters or taller. And while the first generation of the Modular Research Platform was a very basic roadster with virtually no bodywork and no roof, the two new models feature a much more “closed” design, making testing in bad weather possible for the developers.
New MRP generation attracting envious looks – including from inside the company
The two vehicles are being used at two different customer sites. This improves knowledge sharing and technology transfer between thyssenkrupp as a tier-1 supplier and the OEM, which in turn further reduces development time and costs. Having Mobile Research Platforms at both sites makes it easy to swap hardware and software components, for example for validation purposes.
As soon as the two customer MRPs were completed, Carlo Miano and his team got to work on building a third new model – for internal use. The development progress achieved by the platform was so convincing that engineers from thyssenkrupp also wanted to enjoy the benefits for their own work. “Our new MRP has exactly the same drive units as the two customer MRPs,” says Miano. “And the software platform is also identical, which makes it easier to exchange data. But some details of our own model have been adapted to our special requirements.” These include the ability to drive the thyssenkrupp model with no mechanical fallback level for the development of steer-by-wire solutions. In addition it permits the use of both electro-mechanical brakes and a hybrid variant with electro-hydraulic support as well as the integration of an active chassis.
But that doesn’t mean the original MRP has now been condemned to the scrap heap: it is still being used for testing alongside the new model. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon, because it is uncertain when thyssenkrupp will be able to expand or upgrade its own MRP fleet: inquiries have already been received from other OEMs who would also like to have their own MRPs.