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Braking Becomes Intelligent

From the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology For immediate release


A Hamilton company - in a world first - has developed a trailer braking system that enables optimum control of trailers up to 3500kg. The system uses an electronic sensor fitted to the brake pedal of the tow vehicle. When the driver steps on the brake pedal, data from the sensor is fed to an under-dash mini-computer, which converts it into a voltage signal. The trademarked Sens-a-Brake uses compressed air as its energy source to produce an instant braking response in all driving situations. Kane Murray, a director of Edge International, which developed the system, says most other electro-hydraulic braking systems available do not operate a stored energy source. This means a time delay of up to four seconds before maximum braking pressure can be achieved, which is required in an emergency stop. The increasing size and number of trailer boats spurred the brake system's development. "With about 1600 new trailers in the 2000kg to 3500kg class being manufactured each year in New Zealand, there is great demand for an effective, intelligent, yet simple braking system," Mr Murray says. Technology New Zealand - part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology - supported the project through its Technology for Business Growth scheme. "Land Transport Safety Authority braking rules require all trailers with a gross vehicle mass of 2000kg or greater to have a service brake that is applied automatically when the driver treads on his towing vehicle's brakes," Mr Murray says. "They also require an independent, mechanical parking brake - and an emergency breakaway system that automatically applies the trailer brakes to stop and hold the trailer if it disconnects from the towing vehicle."

Complying with those rules has, in the past, entailed using vacuum-operated systems, electric brakes or combined electric-hydraulic braking systems. Mr Murray says these systems have drawbacks. "Vacuum braking systems can affect the tow vehicle's ABS [anti-skid braking system] and void new-vehicle warranties. Electric brakes for boat trailers are not widely used in New Zealand because of corrosion from salt water." He says many combined electric-hydraulic brakes can work for trailers over 2000kg, but have problems. "They are inertia-based systems that rely on vehicle deceleration and in most skid situations there simply isn't enough vehicle deceleration to activate the brakes correctly." Pressure sensors fitted to the brake pedal enable proportional braking and therefore total control. "This is not an inertia-based system that relies on vehicle deceleration. The Sens-a-Brake works no matter whether you are in a skid situation or reversing down the boat ramp," Mr Murray says. Edge International was set up to develop, manufacture and market the brake control system. It is affiliated to ES Plastics Ltd, a Hamilton firm that operates a plastic manufacturing service. Mr Murray says ES Plastics, which employs about 35 people, has gained significantly from the project through experience gained in the pneumatic field, electronic design, composite materials and highly technical toolmaking. The Sens-a-Brake system has been patented, and was recently launched at the New Zealand Boat Show in Auckland. The company is exploring the system's export potential. -ends-

Contact: * Kane Murray, director, Edge International, 59 Higgins Rd, Hamilton. Ph: (07) 847-6278. Fax: (07) 847-2788. Email:, * Nigel Metge, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), (09) 912-6730, or 021 454-095. Website: Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525,

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