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The Grand Finale

Participating in Hyperloop, a competition sponsored by SpaceX, a team of students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich have developed a model for a vehicle that could carry passengers from Zurich to Geneva in only 15 minutes.

Source: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich

Since 2015, more than 100 teams of students around the world have developed concepts for a vacuum capsule.

In 2018, the ETH team once again qualified for the final at the end of July at the SpaceX site in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, in the summer. It will probably be the last SpaceX competition. In addition to the ETH team, which includes members from other Swiss universities, there are 20 other teams from universities around the world.

Swissloop 2018

‘Escher’ is followed by ‘Mujinga’

For this year's speed competition, the students have developed a completely new transport capsule.

The three and a half meter long white-blue pod is called ‘Mujinga’. The transport capsule is now driven by four electric motors. Together they deliver over 540 BHP, which is about two and a half times the power of a Bugatti sports car. Power is supplied by two batteries with a total of 700 volts and a capacity of more than 1,500 iPhone batteries.

The new pod was named in honor of Swiss athlete Mujinga Kambundji. At 11.07 seconds for 100 meters, she is the fastest Swiss woman of all time. Like ‘Escher’ before it, ‘Mujinga’ was financed largely by sponsors from industry.

“We have learned a lot this year and, unlike last time, were able to test all the subsystems in advance,” says Ilyas Besler, ETH student and technical director of Swissloop. “Our interdisciplinary team, ETH know-how and cooperation with industry are our recipe for success. We are really looking forward to Los Angeles, but our long-term goal goes far beyond this competition.”

“Our interdisciplinary team, ETH know-how and cooperation with industry are our recipe for success.”

Developing solutions together

Bucher Hydraulics always strives to set new standards in technology, quality, manufacturing, delivery and customer care. For more than 100 years, we have achieved success by being a reliable partner and supplier of customized hydraulic systems and control solutions.

As a Gold Partner, we are supporting the Swissloop team in the development of the braking system. Braking systems ensure the controlled deceleration and safe standstill of the entire system and its movable components. As safety-critical elements, they have to satisfy the very highest requirements. Reliability and durability are of prime importance for the safety and quality of the whole system.

The development of the braking system

The hydraulically actuated, very fast and powerful brakes on the pod slow it down by pressing the brake pads onto the guide rail.

The particular development challenge this year was to use as little energy as possible. That meant designing smaller and lighter components so that the reduced weight would enable higher pod speeds to be achieved. The completely new concept for the braking system now uses cylinders developed specifically for Swissloop, and braking only needs a short current pulse.

New in 2018: Their own test track in the Innovationspark in Zurich.

The solution developed jointly by Bucher Hydraulics and Swissloop works without needing a pump to run continuously to supply oil. By using pressure accumulators, the pump for the braking system, together with an electrical supply from a rechargeable battery, can all be dispensed with. It was thus possible to plan for a significantly smaller and more compact battery in the pod, with the added benefit of saving weight.

The 2017 braking system valve block, designed specifically for Swissloop.

The pressure accumulators are charged with a hand pump before the test run. The absolutely leak-free valves from Bucher Hydraulics ensure that the pressure is maintained during the entire period of operation. For braking, the valves open and apply pressure to the brake cylinders.

Working together on the braking system right up to the commissioning stage in 2017 and 2018.

Swissloop 2017

Never give up! Team Swissloop is in the final

The finished prototype – known as the ‘pod’ – was due to be unveiled to the press and sponsors, but until just a few hours before this event the team had resigned themselves to not being able to test their pod in California. They thought that they would be traveling to California as exhibitors only.

Then something happened that no one had anticipated:

Huge delight in Team Swissloop about the good news.

Having faced many setbacks, Team Swissloop succeeded in passing the stringent safety check and was thus approved for testing on the test track!

The grand finale

Of the original 1,200 applicants from all over the world, Elon Musk invited 27 teams to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Los Angeles. In the space of six days, their transport capsules – known as pods – were put through exhaustive tests there. Only three student teams passed all the tests and were awarded the right to send their capsule through the 1.25 kilometer long vacuum tube in the final on August 27. The Swissloop team achieved third place with ‘Escher’, their first prototype!

Remembering some small start-up difficulties, this result made all the team members very happy. Not least because the Swissloop crew had no testing facilities before the final and was the first team to risk the test run with a cold gas drive.

Your partner for innovative concepts

“At Bucher Hydraulics we are very happy to support new and innovative projects and to promote young talent.”

We have used our technical know-how and experience to support Team Swissloop's product development efforts from the early planning phase right through to the finished machine. We specialize in applications with technically demanding solutions that satisfy the highest requirements and quality standards.

We wish our Team Swissloop good luck and success on the test track in California!

Created By
Gabi Olpp
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