Curtiss-Wright. The Winning Formula Since 1986!

For more than 70 years, Curtiss-Wright Industrial Division has provided creative solutions for position measurement and control. The company’s continuing success in world markets is a testament to its combination of innovative technology, creative design, manufacturing excellence and interactive customer support.

Its experience in providing control and feedback solutions across a wide variety of markets – from aerospace, automotive and motorsport, mining and process control to medical science, broadcasting, and recording – allows customers to specify Curtiss-Wright knowing that its unrivalled experience is industry-proven in thousands of applications throughout the world.

Thanks to the experience Curtiss-Wright has gained from its aerospace division – where reliability is paramount in mission critical applications under extreme and hostile conditions – the company’s sensors have also become a benchmark for motorsport applications and are used in numerous race series, including Formula OneTM racing.

From the moment a leading F1 racing team adopted a bespoke Penny + Giles (a legacy brand of Curtiss-Wright) sensor for its, at the time, revolutionary active suspension system, through to today’s bespoke design Inductive and Hall effect position sensors, the company can proudly boast that it was the first position sensor manufacturer to enter motorsport and has supplied every championship winning team since 1986.

Yet despite nearly 40 years of experience in the race series, Curtiss-Wright stresses that every car presents a unique challenge because, in effect, every car is a prototype. With designers and engineers focused on performance, weight and size, sensors must fit into any free space that’s available. Sensors need to deliver 100% reliability in a two-hour operational race window, in environments where running temperatures can exceed 130°C, with soaks of over 150°Cwhen cars are stationary in the pits or on the starting grid. 

Today, the turbo charged, four-stroke 1.6-liter V6 hybrid electric engines rev to a maximum permitted 15,000rpm, generating as much as 1,000bhp, with each piston completing 250 cycles per second. Brake discs must withstand operating temperatures exceeding 1,000°C, stopping the car from 200mph to 0 in just four seconds. Gears can be selected up to 3,600 times per race, with a gear change taking as little as 30 to 50 milliseconds. 

Success in motor racing therefore depends on tens of thousands of components working together at peak performance under the most extreme operating conditions. Much like the cars, Curtiss-Wright’s continuous development of its LVDTs and Hall effect rotary sensors have seen reductions in size and weight to suit the ever-changing motorsport environment. The physical volume of sensors has reduced by as much as 50%, with weight reduced up to 60% from previous designs. They have also embraced new technologies to eliminate the electrical ‘noise’ associated with the original potentiometer-based technologies. 

Of the 80,000 or so components in a typical high-performance race car, there are over 100 sensors linked to more than a kilometre of cable. Of these, position sensors are essential in controlling the car and monitoring systems that supply information to the team’s race engineers to help trim all too precious tenths of a second off lap times.

An impressive statistic for the 2023 season is that Curtiss-Wright Hall effect no-contact rotary and linear sensors and LVDT inductive sensors are being used by nine teams – in what is probably the world’s best-known race series – representing 18 of the 20 cars on the grid. Here, control and feedback applications for Curtiss-Wright sensors include gearbox sensing for forward/reverse gear select position. Brake sensing including pad and disc wear and master cylinder stroke; engine and pedal sensing including engine throttle and throttle pedal positioning; power steering spool and rack position; steering angle and front/rear suspension sensing; and hydraulic reservoir actuator sensing. 

Curtiss-Wright’s race-proven rotary and linear position sensors feature the latest Hall effect ‘System-on-Chip’ technology, and are ideally suited to providing control and data acquisition systems with clean, robust signals for throttle angle, steering angle and gear select position indication. Their combination of low mass, high strength materials, compact mounting styles, sealing systems and cable connections ensures survival in the most rugged of motorsport applications, with the two-piece, no-contact sensing system providing low electrical noise and exceptional levels of accuracy and repeatability under the extremes of humidity, shock and vibration, and operating temperatures to +170°C over a long operating life. 

Curtiss-Wright high-performance ratiometric LVDTs can be supplied in a range of shaft and body configurations to suit clutch, gearbox, engine and braking applications. With operating temperatures up to 200°C, they benefit from the extensive experience the company has gained in fly-by-wire control systems for flight-critical aerospace applications; using high-integrity coil, screen and connection assemblies, combined with welded and vacuum brazed stainless-steel construction. 

Despite its claims for individual sensors, and having its own NAMAS-approved test laboratory on site in Christchurch where engineers can ‘shake, bake and shock’ its sensors, Curtiss-Wright still can’t reproduce a race car environment. The design of each new sensor therefore relies on the company’s innovative design and engineering capabilities, which are gained from an unrivalled wealth of experience and partnering with the team’s individual engineering experts, rather than the proven, tested parameters provided by last season’s solutions.

In summary, Curtiss-Wright will continue to build on its decades of motorsport experience and is committed to a long-term strategy of continual development, which means it is always searching for the next technology and improving ways of applying the technologies that it already owns. The vast knowledge, experience and technical innovation driven by the demanding world of motorsport also guides and enhances the designs of the market leading position sensors that Curtiss- Wright offers to its industrial customers for their on- and off-highway vehicle applications

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