Continental invests in industrial sensor startup

Continental invests in industrial sensor startup

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Feelit offers innovative solutions for the predictive maintenance of industrial plants and machines, an essential element of the Industry 4.0 concept. Special hardware sensors and algorithms are used for this. The start-up has developed a sensor technology that is said to be up to 50 times more sensitive than current commercially available applications. Feelit uses printed, nanomaterial-based, fully integrated sensors and cloud analytics to provide real-time and remote feedback on structural and performance changes. The sensors can be integrated into battery cooling systems for electric vehicles, for example, to increase battery life and achievable range. Continental sees additional potential for remote monitoring and predictive maintenance in industrial hoses for the food and beverage industry, in hydraulic and power solutions, and in preventing unplanned and costly downtime in manufacturing.

Founded in 2017, Feelit has developed a highly sensitive, flexible, printed sensor made of nanomaterials that can be attached to static and rotating machine parts, on both flat and curved surfaces. It measures strain in ultra-high resolution as well as other parameters such as temperature, vibration and pressure.

The system is based on an industrial IoT platform for remote, real-time detection of structural changes in mechanical equipment and serves as an “electronic skin”, so to speak. As soon as it detects critical structural and operational anomalies in advance, it immediately sounds the alarm. The technology is up to 50 times more accurate than current standard market applications. It enables real-time remote condition monitoring and predictive maintenance of plant components such as valves, pipes and pumps. In this way, unplanned and costly machine downtime can be prevented.

“The investment makes an important contribution to the digitalisation of our products and processes and brings a wide range of strategic benefits,” explains Philip Nelles, member of the Continental Executive Board and responsible for the ContiTech business unit with a focus on industry. “The integration of sensors into new and existing product lines supports our continuous transformation towards smarter and more sustainable solutions beyond rubber. Products like hoses become detectors and provide real-time information about their condition.”

In addition, the Feelit technology could also be used beneficially in Continental’s traditional market, automotive technology: “This technology helps to extend the life of batteries in electric vehicles and increase the achievable range, predict maintenance needs and increase safety in production environments,” explains Nelles.

Batteries in electric vehicles operate most efficiently at temperatures between 20 °C and 40 °C. This temperature range extends battery life. This temperature range extends battery life and vehicle range. Therefore, the batteries are either cooled or heated depending on the outside temperature. To measure the temperature of thermal management systems based on oil, coolant or refrigerant, an external sensor can be retrofitted to hose line systems. The better a flexible sensor is placed, the better the temperature can be controlled so that aggregates such as the power electronics of electric cars do not overheat, batteries reach their maximum service life and occupants do not have to do without the comfort they are used to.

The investment in Feelit was made through Continental’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm. It was established in 2018 with the aim of unlocking innovation quickly and effectively to help steer and lead transformation in various industries. CVC invests venture capital in early-stage technology companies, providing direct access to new technologies, business ideas and the start-up ecosystem. Both companies have agreed not to disclose the amount of the investment.

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