Tenneco is a leading multinational manufacturer of state-of-the-art shock absorbers, suspension systems and exhaust systems for the automotive industry. The conglomerate includes prestigious brand names like Monroe, a world leader in the manufacturing of suspension control systems for original equipment vehicles, or Marzocchi, specializing in mountain bike suspension systems. But what does Marzocchi have to say about this?
Located in Ermua, Vizcaya, and covering 30,000 m2, the plant of Tenneco Automotive Ibérica and Tenneco Innovación has more than 600 workers. They manufacture several products, including shock absorbers in small series and, in particular, electronic shock absorber control (ESAC) systems.
Semi-active suspensions for cars
Electronically controlled suspension systems are semi-active systems improving the comfort/stability ratio by adjusting suspension to road condition and vehicle movement, taking into account factors like speed, rotating and revolving movements, and driver demands. ESAC systems use a series of variable electromechanical valves that respond to extremely high speed in just 10 milliseconds, changing the behavior of suspension systems according to such parameters as road condition or in response to stimuli like swerving or jamming the brakes on.
At the core of ESAC systems there is an electronic control unit (ECU) processing the driver’s orders and the data collected by the sensors in various parts of the vehicle. The sensors are equipped with speedometers and suspension-integrated position sensors that transfer data to the ECU about steering wheel angle, vehicle speed, pressure on the brakes and chassis control. The ECU uses control software to process the information from the sensors in real time, sending signals to adjust the absorption level in each valve. The shock absorbers are adjusted instantly, ensuring comfortable, steady driving and a firm control of the vehicle.
And what’s all this for? If the best vehicles in the world have semi-active suspension systems, why can’t we dream of mountain bikes having them?
Will Marzocchi someday be able to apply the technology available in the automotive industry to mountain bikes? It’s hard to imagine such ahead-of-the-curve systems in mountain bike suspensions right now. But still, could we be able to develop semi-active electronic suspension systems responding to terrain or rider needs?
We’ve been doing some research…
At Tenneco Innovación we’ve analyzed the behavior of suspension systems in some of the leading mountain bike models now available. With the help of Tenneco’s best analysis techniques and machinery, we tested the performance of forks and shock absorbers and then drew conclusions for the development of new, groundbreaking suspension systems by Marzocchi. The new developments would be miles ahead of mountain bike suspension systems as we know them today. Where will all this take us? Can you imagine what mountain bike suspension systems will look like in the future? Ladies and gentlemen, make your bets. There’s no charge for dreaming.
In Tenneco Innovación we have been testing and analyzing the behavior of shocks and suspension forks, testing its performance with some of the best machines available. The aim is to improve the simulation model for the Advanced Dynamics software to optimize the design of full suspension bikes. Both forks and shocks have been measured in force-travel and force-displacement curves as well as friction analysis from all suspension elements. We have also mounted a wheel in the fork with a tire inflated to different pressures to make calculations that will lead us to be more precise in our analysis tools.