Knott: The Bespoke Brake Company
· Knott designs and manufactures a large range of custom wheel brakes for special vehicles. Knott´s second division, which is actually larger designs and manufactures equipment for mainly small road- going trailers
· Knott has some 2,000 employees worldwide, with about 400 in its corporate base in Germany. Most work for the company’s trailer technology group, designing and producing equipment for small trailers.
· Knott has production sites in Europe, the United States and India, and agencies in Japan and Brazil.
·Knott has been making brakes since the 1950s and benefits from long-standing relationships with key customers. Its main manufacturing facility is in Eggstätt, Germany.
Knott doesn’t make brakes for cars or standard commercial vehicles. Instead, it focuses on custom brakes produced in small batches. “Each brake that we supply to customers is a bespoke brake. We do not sell brakes off the shelf,” says Franz Schweiger, the head of design for Knott’s brake division. “Every brake is designed for a certain purpose.”
One impressive example: Knott makes bespoke brakes for dump trucks that operate in mines. The trucks weigh up to 500 tons fully loaded with tire radius up to 1.58 meters. The disc brake uses a rotor that is 620 mm in diameter to keep the laden truck stationary on a slope of up to 18% with just two SAHR calipers. Within the calipers, the piston diameter is up to 180 millimeters.
In addition to mining equipment, Knott brakes appear on vehicles used in agriculture, construction, material handling, and other market segments. Knott also designs brakes for military vehicles.
According to Schweiger, the company breaks its brakes into some 17 families, with about 180 different versions total. In each version, there are several different variants. The company, depending on customer requirements, can also make actuation systems and hydraulic components. “So we have an extremely wide range of brakes, and all the brakes are produced in small to mid-sized quantities,” he says.
One new addition to the family is electromagnetic brakes for forklifts and other material handling tools. Knott has set up a new subsidiary in India in cooperation with Vortex Engineering.
A Leader In Bespoke Brakes
Some of Knott’s production batches are as small as ten brakes or even less. A large production run for the company is 1,000 brakes.
Schweiger outlines a typical process. “We get an inquiry for a new tractor or mining vehicle, for example, that needs a brake. There’s an existing brake from an older version, but meanwhile, the weight has increased. So we make basic brake calculations — what size do we need now, what lining material should we select. Then we propose a new upgraded brake and then we start discussions, first with 3D models, rapid prototype samples, and then we discuss with the customer his requirements and try to fix the best solution.”
The company has extensive manufacturing capacity in-house. Knott can do all the machining, including all stamping, cutting, and welding. Knott even creates custom pressing and stamping tools when necessary. The bonding of the brake lining to the brake shoe is done at Knott as well, along with some surface treatments, like coating and priming with color.
Knott also refurbishes some of the brakes made by the company. “Especially on more complicated brakes, like some hydraulic spring caliper brakes, after a while in operation it’s worthwhile to make a complete refurbishment,” says Schweiger.
The many demands placed on employees means that everyone at Knott needs to have a high level of knowledge. Schweiger says most employees have extensive experience with brakes, and that many have been with Knott for decades. Schweiger has been with Knott since 1985.
“Working for Knott means every-day new challenges with new and unique applications for our brakes,” Schweiger says. “Only with our excellent team of very experienced and motivated engineers and technicians is it possible to meet all requirements of our customers. I enjoy our close cooperation in all stages of an project, from sales, purchasing, design, testing, production and customer service department.”