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Aston Martin partners with Domin on AM-enhanced active suspension

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The iconic British sports car manufacturer Aston Martin, and the engineering specialists at Cranfield University have partnered with Domin to develop a world-leading suspension system within a demanding six-month timeframe. Using Domin’s patented technology, this state-of-the-art system promises to shock the automotive industry.

For some time, Domin has backed AM, namely EOS’ metal laser PBF, in order to lead the transformation of the fluid power industry towards creating a more sustainable future. The Domin team expects that the targeted application of AM will realize this vision and has been creating systems that are significantly more efficient, faster and smaller than anything previous.

The EOS M 290 system in Domin’s facility.

AM enables hydraulics designs that were not feasible with previous manufacturing technologies. In particular, the AM process has removed the cost restrictions of incorporating complexity into hardware design solutions needed to achieve performance and efficiency improvements.

This follows the path established in electronic hardware and software solutions through the 20th century. High-speed digital control together with sophisticated fluid power management provides a breakthrough in virtually all power control and transmission applications.

The need for active suspension

Current suspension systems are both big and heavy. By nature of their passive design, their optimal response occurs only in a narrow frequency range. It can only meet the needs of constantly changing road surfaces through a combination of variable damping and spring rate. Only an active system provides this and, while attempts have been made in this area, active suspension is not yet an industry standard.

The aptly named FAST (full active suspension technology) project aims to make this system the industry standard for luxury driving. Exceptional performance characteristics will distinguish the FAST unit from other active systems. Providing infinite variability in damping, with a step response as fast as 0.015 seconds, and all in a package weighing under 4kg per unit.

Serious performance gains

Working with a company as highly regarded as Aston Martin demonstrates the huge potential of the project. Domin will work side by side with Aston Martin, using their expertise to set the specifications of the unit. Furthermore, the suspension will also be tested fully fitted to one of their extensive range of luxury sports cars.

In addition, Domin has partnered with Cranfield University, which will provide the vehicle modeling and early-stage validation. The FAST project is funded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles through the Niche Vehicle Network. With commercial, educational and government backing, this further reinforces the direction of travel for future suspension systems.

Fast Track to manufacturing

The iteration of designs can now be rapidly validated digitally, saving time and cost compared to when this had to be done with physical bench-tests. The image above describes one such example. It is part of a study of a miniature rotary actuated valve developed at Domin. CFD modeling led to a 40% reduction in torque from flow-force optimization around the spool whilst maintaining flow capabilities. It is with the extensive use of modeling techniques such as those shown here, that Domin fluid Power designs and develops high-performance products with the flexibility and complexity of AM.

The design of this suspension system will be based upon Domin’s patented valve technology. Twenty-five fluid galleries operate in unison to transport hydraulic fluid throughout the system, all of which are encased within a fully additive manufactured core.

The curvilinear nature of the unit internals is achievable only through additive manufacture, which also allows for its exceptional mechanical properties. Combined with sophisticated electronics and control, and Domin’s advanced machining capabilities make this project possible.

Real-world testing will be undertaken on a bespoke test rig. Its capabilities will include replicating the precise modes of resonance and simulating the conditions the unit will undergo in use. With the rig complete, the high-performance characteristics will be put to the test, whilst also ensuring the unit mechanically robust.

Looking ahead

Following the completion of the FAST project, we will be reporting back to showcase the complete suspension system and its performance in testing. After this milestone, Domin will be turning its attention towards producing a production unit, with the end goal of becoming the industry standard for suspension.

This project underlines Domin’s continuing commitment to pushing the boundaries of hydraulic valves and systems by leveraging the firm’s unique engineering design and additive manufacturing capabilities.

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