ZKW reaches second place in European patent applications
Wieselburg-based lighting systems specialist among Austria’s most innovative companies The ZKW Group filed a total of 74 innovations for international patent in 2021 – 41 of which were new entries. This puts ZKW in second place in Europe among all Austrian companies that have filed inventions. In Lower Austria, the lighting systems specialist leads the 2021 patent ranking. At the top of the patented developments are high-resolution LED lighting systems and sensor solutions that mark the path to autonomous driving. “Research and development are of central importance at ZKW. Innovative solutions are crucial in order to bring premium lighting systems to the market and stay ahead of the competition,” explains Dr Wilhelm Steger, CEO of ZKW Group GmbH.
High-tech optics In the European Patent Office’s 2021 annual report, ZKW once again secured a top position. A showcase patent among the many inventions submitted is the “quadruple projection lens system” for headlights that solves the problem of chromatic aberration. The technology is used in the high-resolution MicroZ module, which is based on an LED light source with thousands of individually addressable pixels. This allows road users to be masked out much more accurately. In addition, the system allows any kind of symbols or animations to be projected onto the road. “The goal was to develop a compact, temperature-stable and cost-efficient lens system that delivers high efficiency and imaging quality,” says Stefan Miedler, project manager in advanced development at ZKW.
Sensor technology for camera Current sensor technology for autonomous vehicles is relatively expensive, so ZKW has developed a depth perception solution using two cameras installed in headlights. “The stereo camera system works similarly to how our eyes capture images. This allows self-driving vehicles to create an image of their surroundings as well as accurately determine the distance to objects,” explain inventors Oleksandr Chistov and Martin Brandstetter from ZKW.
Self-healing solder With its “Solaris” patent, ZKW has developed a solder in which only small areas melt while the outer shape remains intact. Thanks to this effect, the consequences of material ageing in circuit boards, such as the smallest cracks or changes in the structure, can be “healed” automatically. The super alloy was developed in intensive cooperation with the Vienna University of Technology and the Materials Center Leoben. The material is to be used for connections of high-power LEDs and other power semiconductors for the automotive industry. ZKW develops and manufactures such electronic assemblies – such as control units and light modules – at the ZKW Elektronik GmbH site in Wiener Neustadt. “The goal is to make electronic assemblies more reliable and durable. Such fundamental developments in the field of connection technology secure ZKW a competitive position in automotive electronics,” says project manager Holger Rottmann.
Austria as a country of inventors Worldwide, Austrian companies registered 11,031 patents last year. Austria ranks 5th in the EU. 2,480 inventions were filed at the domestic patent office last year. In an EU comparison, Austrian companies perform particularly well in the “plastics”, “semiconductors”, “electrical engineering” and “furniture” sectors. In addition, the annual report records a high number of climate protection patents.