Driving Innovation: The Century of Ricardo

Drive for success

Celebrating 100 years of innovation and technology in 2015, Ricardo is renowned for delivering class-leading, cutting edge services and products to customers in sectors such as transportation, energy and scarce resource

The history of Ricardo stems back to the childhood of Harry Ricardo, who from a very young age was interested in all things propulsion and even built steam engines as a child. As Harry’s passion for propulsion continued, he went on to design and build his first combustion engine by the age of 17; this was used to pump water from the well at the family home. Forming Ricardo in 1915, Harry became one of the foremost engine experts of his generation and received a knighthood for his work in internal combustion engineering in 1948.

The first major project for Ricardo took place in 1915, when Harry was commissioned to apply his advanced combustion knowledge to the mark five tank engine. To solve the issue of smoke emission, Harry came up with an engine that not only significantly lowered the copious amounts of smoke but was also far more powerful; more than 8000 of these engines saw military service since 1917, making it the first engine to be mass produced. Following this innovative development, the company went on to create the turbulent cylinder head during 1918 and 1919; this was a low cost combustion system that increased the power of side valve gasoline engines. The variable compression ratio E35 research engine, developed in 1919, followed, and enabled the combustion properties of fuels to be accurately analysed; this innovation also laid the groundwork for today’s octane rating system.

Over recent years, the company has strengthened its foothold in the motorsport arena, a development caused by the Ricardo’s invention of viscous coupling in the 1980s. Viewed as one of the company’s most significant transmission innovations, viscous coupling transformed world rallying in the pioneering group b rally cars. The runaway success of these four wheel drive cars led to a whole new market sector for all wheeled drive passenger cars and led to Ricardo assisting the likes of Bugatti and McLaren in delivering high quality, high specification engineered solutions.

In 2001 the company assisted Bugatti in the design, development and manufacture of driveline, a highly advanced, four wheel drive, dual clutch driveline system, for the world’s most powerful road car, the Bugatti Veyron. “This project is a clear example of our ability to engineer and manufacture complex and high value systems. A lot of traditional tier one companies can provide a full engineering service for their components or subsystems, but we offer something unique in our ability to take a clean sheet concept through to production and onto supply into the market. For the Bugatti Veyron project we provided all engineering, supply management and warranty management services for Bugatti throughout the lifecycle of the Veyron,” says Mark Garrett, Chief Operating Officer at Ricardo.

Using this expertise, Ricardo went onto collaborate with McLaren on the design, development and manufacture of the M838T 3.8 litre twin turbo V8 engine; as part of the project, Ricardo also developed a dedicated assembly facility to supply the engines within a timeframe of 18 months. This groundbreaking engine has three times been named international Engine of the Year in the three to four litre category.

While continuing to supply transmissions to many motorsport formulae and deliver worldfirsts in four-wheel drive systems, the company also works in a range of sectors. One notable example of this is Ricardo’s work with JCB to deliver a groundbreaking solution for the JCB DieselMax in 2006. With the JCBDieselMax powered by two JCB444 backhoe loader diesel engines, the two companies worked together to boost the power to produce a total of 1500 horse-power from the two engines; in 2006, this vehicle took the FIA international diesel powered land speed record of 350.092 miles per hour.

Having previously demonstrated its whole vehicle design capability with the US FED Alpha protected vehicle which delivered over 70 per cent fuel savings vs the current HHMMWV, Ricardo went onto deliver innovative solutions in the defence sector with the development of the Ocelot/Foxhound for the UK Ministry of Defence. The Ocelot/ Foxhound was created from a clean sheet of paper through to full production in less than two years. “Another example of our ability to engineer and manufacture complex and high value systems is our successful project with the British Army on the Foxhound/Ocelot light protected patrol vehicle. Developed to support troops in Afghanistan, we were involved in the project from the start, working with Force Protection Industries, now part of GDLS, to bring this vehicle to market. In total we manufactured 376 vehicles, which are in service with the British Army today,” highlights Mark.

At the heart of Ricardo’s success in a number of demanding business sectors is its forward thinking approach to market trends, its commitment to innovation and its cross industry skills, the latter of which has resulted in the development of novel technologies that are then carried over into other business sectors. “One example of our cross industry skills is our strategic decision to bring sensor technology from the wind industry into the rail industry, which has resulted in the monitoring and performance of the rail network and the ability to sense cracks appearing in rails before they become an issue,” reveals Mark.

Another major strength of the company is its continued investment in facilities. In fact, the company marked the start of 2016 with the launch of a newly expanded engine assembly plant. While another state-of-the-art facility based in the Midlands has the equipment and machinery necessary to produce complete transmissions and driveline systems or produce separate components on a ‘make to print’ basis for a range of sectors. Ricardo is keen to stay ahead of the competition and has made further investments throughout the year. These include machine tools to ensure the machine shop can offer full prismatic facilities of turning and milling as well as wire erosion, shaping, hobbing, spiral bevel-axles, computerised heat treatment, grinding and gear grinding.

The prismatic machining offers 16 CNC and conventional lathes as well as 12 milling stations/ machining centres, which includes five axis and both horizontal and vertical capability; the horizontal machines with pallet change means that HPTP (High Performance Transmissions Products) Division are able to carry out transmission case machining. Furthermore, the new Hofler PROMAT 400 machine offers non helical form or spur gear grinding. “We take a very pragmatic view in how we will continue to invest in our in-house manufacturing, but one of the most important aspects is our ability to support our programme development that in turn results in product development for our customers. The ability to machine one-off prototype components for engines, transmissions and hybrid systems gives us the flexibility and speed in then bringing products to market,” says Mark. “We also have high performance transmission production and manufacturing capability, which is an intense machining and heat treatment capability that enables us to develop high quality, high spec components for customers. In this area we do a lot of gear sets for motor sports as well as actuation components for the aerospace industry; we are also able to machine large castings, gear cases and transfer cases so we can manufacture and supply full transmission systems for our customer base in batch volumes.”

Complementing these strengths is the company’s commitment to collaboration, whether that is with customers or organisations such as the University of Sheffield. “We are currently involved in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre collaboration, otherwise known as AMRC, which is affiliated to Sheffield University that was funded originally by Boeing. We have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop highly advanced manufacturing technologies that will allow the automotive industry to both make complex high value components in a cost effective manner. We have teamed up with AMRC to bring its background knowledge in high quality aerospace systems into the automotive space, which is then complemented by our expertise in the automotive sector. By applying this knowledge and experience that this joint partnership will bring some real added value to customers,” comments Mark.

“AMRC has a lot of experience in complex machine tool processes, tool vibration and cutting speeds that enable them to look for fundamental improvements to machining processes and thus reduce operation times; the organisation also works with carbon fibre reinforced composites, complex assemblies and robotised assembly systems, which is where our knowledge of the automotive application and process advancements can bring something unique into the automotive sector,” he adds.

With the project beginning in October 2016, Ricardo will remain focused on collaborating with some of the UK’s leading academic research groups, while also seeking out its own fuel efficient solutions to bring forward cutting edge technologies for the future generation. As demand increases for a more green planet, the company is committed to playing an integral role in the delivery of a lower carbon and increasingly sustainable transportation sector.

Products: Manufacture engines, transmissions, vehicle systems, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and hybrid & electric systems