UTRECHT, The Netherlands - SKF AB and Brembo SpA expect to have a brake-by-wire system in volume production on a European luxury car by 2004.
The Swedish bearings specialist and Italian brake company have been working together for some time. They join a race for 'by-wire' technology that also includes Bosch, Continental Teves and Delphi Automotive Systems.
Brake-by-wire technology eventually will supersede traditional hydraulic brakes. The brake-by-wire system is based on the brake pedal generating an electrical signal to act on electromechanical actuators placed in the brake of each wheel.
European vehicles are at the forefront of brake-by-wire development. Bosch is expected to be first with a brake-by-wire system designed for the Mercedes-Benz E-class sedan. Production is scheduled for the 2002 model year.
Brembo has 60 percent of the global market for high-end, high-performance brakes. It also supplies half the teams on the Formula 1 grid.
It produces some 25 million brake discs worldwide and also makes complete wheel assemblies including calipers, discs and knuckles.
SKF is the biggest supplier of bearings in the world with around 20 percent of the market. It has been going through a period of restructuring and has been adding systems capability to its expertise.
Speaking at the company's technical center here, SKF President and CEO Sune Carlsson said: 'In mid-1998 it was obvious the company needed to change direction. The first phase of that restructuring is now complete.
'We have moved out of loss-making areas and reduced the work force worldwide. In the first quarter of this year we hit our target of 8 percent profit margin.'
Being involved in leading-edge systems, such as by-wire technology, was also vital, Carlsson added.
'All the big suppliers will be required to have some expertise in electronics,' he said. 'By-wire is clearly an emerging technology.'
The first-generation brake-by-wire systems will be hybrids, keeping a hydraulic back-up system. A complete electromechanical brake-by-wire system is not expected for between eight and 10 years.
This would eliminate the need for hydraulic cylinders and lines - which are time consuming to install and fill - by using electric motors to activate the calipers. A caliper is a piston-operated mounting that holds the brake pads and pushes them onto brake discs to slow or stop a moving vehicle.
Brake-by-wire systems would also simplify vehicle design. Engineers believe pure electromechanical systems will be housed entirely in the caliper, allowing suppliers to design easy-to-assemble corner modules.