Transfrig (Valeo) launches local R&D centre

Transfrig (Valeo) launches local R&D centre

Transfrig was recently bought out by Valeo and on 4 March 2019, Valeo Thermal Commercial Vehicles established a world-class development and design centre for transport refrigeration units in Johannesburg.

By Ilana Koegelenberg 

The 4 March event was very well attended by industry stakeholders and customers from across the country who came to see what the new state-of-the-art testing facility for transport refrigeration looks like.

Peter Solomon, local managing director of Valeo Thermal Transport Refrigeration, kicked things off with a few words about the company and its history. He spoke about how the company has grown exponentially over the past two decades, doubling its number of employees.

Solomon explained the importance of foreign investment locally, which is where the Valeo acquisition ties in. Valeo is an automotive tech company providing technologies for the passenger car and commercial vehicle industry worldwide. The company designs innovative solutions for smart mobility with a particular focus on intuitive driving, reducing CO2 emissions and electrification. This new investment means that Transfrig (a Valeo brand) can now take on international competitors.

He spoke about the Cryofridge unit, sharing that more than 350 units are now running nationally for Shoprite and that sales have taken off in Europe over the last year. He invited everyone to come see a Cryo unit in operation at its premises across the road.

Solomon welcomed everyone and thanked the international visitors from Valeo in particular. He also spoke about Bill Wilson’s retirement at the end of June (read more later in the article).

He handed over to Christian Müller, director at Valeo, who also heads up the truck refrigeration systems at the company. “The inauguration of this centre is a very special occasion for us,” said Müller at the launch. He explained how they want to grow innovation, especially with regards to CO2 reduction.

In the new Linbro Business Park facility in Johannesburg, Valeo will continue to improve its products in terms of efficiency and reliability, making them suitable for new markets but also for future requirements in the South African market.

Many of the markets they are currently active in have (similar to the South African market) the highest requirements regarding robustness of the equipment and simplicity of service and maintenance for the same. Additionally, the Valeo team has to prepare its units for different voltages and extreme ambient temperatures.

“New products are currently under development to offer new refrigeration solutions for every road vehicle,” said Müller. Valeo will also continue to further develop and promote its environmentally-friendly solutions like Cryofridge and propane technology.

The plan is for the Linbro facility to be the creative centre for green, but also practical transport refrigeration solutions.

Valeo’s investment

Valeo is a leading player in the automotive industry with expertise in components for commercial vehicles. Some of those are also core components for transport refrigeration equipment. Furthermore, Valeo is market leader in HVAC systems for buses and they therefore required a service network for the upkeep. Under those conditions it was only a logical consequence to extend Valeo’s commercial vehicles activities towards transport refrigeration.

Transfrig is the market leader in South Africa for transport refrigeration equipment and has more than 25 years of experience in this field. In addition to a complete portfolio of robust and reliable conventional transport refrigeration units (direct and diesel driven), it also provides customised solutions including CO2-emission-free green technology. Therefore Valeo considered Transfrig as the ideal partner for its transport refrigeration strategy and decided to take it over.

Valeo’s Transport Refrigeration business provides a wide range of industry-leading refrigeration equipment for trucks and vans of all sizes. Its solutions are specially designed for all conditions, taking full advantage of its in-house engineering and design expertise. For more than 25 years, Valeo has successfully served its markets with its highly experienced service network.

It was a natural fit.

Engineering department

Everyone then joined Graham Wells, Valeo Thermal Transport Refrigeration engineering manager at the testing unit. Wells has the responsibility of overseeing operations of the new Thermal Transport Refrigeration Research and Development (TTR-R&D) department in South Africa.

The engineering team formally took occupation of the new premises at the start of 2019 and are constantly striving to develop its layout and functionality to align with the business’s strategy, namely to improve quality, reliability, efficiency and competitiveness of its products.

“Our new facility will, in the long run, become the global R&D laboratory for all future transport refrigeration developments,” explained Wells. “It will be transformed into a state-of-the-art facility capable of simulating real-world conditions that our equipment is subjected to on a daily basis, as well as expanding our system test capabilities.”

The mission for the transport refrigeration product line is to provide reliable, competitive and efficient transport refrigeration and service solutions. They assure the correct temperature during transport to support the highest quality of food, pharmaceuticals and other sensitive goods. They continuously improve their products to optimise life cycle costs, energy consumption and minimise emission levels.

“Our experienced engineering team is excited and motivated to use the facility to execute these mission goals,” said Wells. “We are focusing on continuously improving the quality of our products in order to adequately respond to the needs of our existing and new clients as well as develop new products in anticipation of the market demands. We do this to make everyday life better for people by ensuring our thermal systems make commuting, traveling and transporting safe, green and enjoyable.”

There are 10 people working in the R&D centre, including the site manager, a test engineer, a technical writer, an R&D engineer for mechanical, HVAC&R and software, one for electronic, two for electrical and three mechanical R&D engineers. Wells introduced the team during the event.

Test calorimeter

This new R&D centre boasts a test calorimeter to simulate any size of refrigerated body that can be found in industry. This will be used to optimise, test and validate equipment designs.

Wells explained the basics of the set-up before handing over to Louw Coetzee, test engineer, who expanded on the testing methodology and design features.

A calorimeter is a measurement platform that quantifies the refrigeration capacity or heating capacity of a device through indirect measurement of the heat transfer rate. In the case of refrigeration, the heat added to the calorimeter is measured electrically in order to quantify the refrigeration capacity.

A calorimeter can be used to achieve many purposes. These include verifying and formalising a design specification, troubleshooting a design, verifying compressor calorimeter data, and quantifying insulation properties of an insulated body.

At Valeo Transfrig, they will mainly be using a calorimeter to quantify their existing product range: the MT-, Koolvan-, Kooltube-, Cryofridge-, and R-series refrigeration machines. One of the first measurement tasks would also involve quantifying the refrigeration capacity of their newly designed Trailer unit, the VT180.

The refrigeration capacity of a machine can be measured by simply measuring evaporator air inlet and outlet temperatures as well as the air mass flow rate. Alternatively, the refrigerant-side condenser heat duty together with the compressor power can render the same result.

A calorimeter like the one at Transfrig/Valeo does not follow these approaches. Here the evaporator is placed in an insulated and climate-controlled chamber (cold chamber). The same is done for the condenser (hot chamber). This approach is used specifically to allow all components in the refrigeration machine to experience the respective chamber air temperature and humidity. This will more closely simulate real-life operating conditions for the machine.

The cold chamber is specifically sized to represent the dimensions of an insulated body for truck trailers, 15.3m (length) x 3.4m (width) X 3.6m (height). The hot chamber has functionally practical dimensions of 3m (length) x 3.4m (width) x 4.6m (height).

Several measurements are taken during the operation of the calorimeter. These include the said refrigeration capacity, the compressor suction and discharge pressures and temperatures, the condenser exit temperature of the refrigerant as well as the refrigerant pressure drops through the heat exchangers. For diesel-powered refrigerators, they also measure the torque and speed on the compressor shaft to determine the compressor power input. This latter measured quantity is used to determine the coefficient of performance (COP) of the refrigerator. All measurements are logged and processed using a data acquisition system and personal computer.

After the formalities, guests enjoyed some light refreshments and interact with the Valeo team. Some even went to the Transfrig offices for a closer look at its refrigerated and Cryo units. 


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