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Most four-stroke piston engines today employ one or more camshafts to operate poppet valves. The lobes on the camshafts operate cam followers which in turn open the poppet valves. A camless (or, free valve engine) uses electromagnetic, hydraulic, or pneumatic actuators to open the poppet valves instead. Actuators can be used to both open and close the valves, or an actuator opens the valve while a spring closes it.

As a camshaft normally has only one lobe per valve, the valve duration and lift is fixed. The camshaft runs at half the engine speed. Although many modern engines use camshaft phasing, adjusting the lift and valve duration in a working engine is more difficult. Some manufacturers use systems with more than one cam lobe, but this is still a compromise as only a few profiles can be in operation at once. This is not the case with the camless engine, where lift and valve timing can be adjusted freely from valve to valve and from cycle to cycle. It also allows multiple lift events per cycle and, indeed, no events per cycle—switching off the cylinder entirely.

Camless development

Camless engines are not without their problems though. Common problems include high power consumption, accuracy at high speed, temperature sensitivity, weight and packaging issues, high noise, high cost, and unsafe operation in case of electrical problems.

Camless valve trains have long been investigated by several companies, including Renault, BMW, Fiat, Valeo, General Motors, Ricardo, Lotus Engineering, Ford, Gongda, and Koenigsegg's subsidiary FreeValve.[1][2][3][4][5] Camless systems are commercially available, although not yet in production road vehicle engines. In the spring of 2015 Christian von Koenigsegg told reporters that the technology pursued by his company is "getting ready for fruition", but said nothing specific about the time-table.[6][7]

Camless engines in marine and power stations

MAN Diesel & Turbo are producing engines which make use of electrohydraulic valve control rather than camshafts, rocker arms and pushrods.[8][9][10][11][12] As well, many Wärtsilä engines have electronically controlled common-rail systems for fuel injection and valve actuation.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19]

The advantages of the engine the camless system gives are comprehensive:

  • Superior performance parameters due to variable electronically controlled timing of fuel injection and exhaust valves at any load.
  • Improved emissions with lower NOx and smokeless operation.
  • Easy change of operating mode during engine operation.
  • Simplified mechanical system with well-proven traditional fuel injection technology.
  • A control system with more precise timing, giving superior engine balance with equalized thermal load in and between cylinders.
  • Monitoring and diagnostics of engine for longer overhaul intervals.
  • Lower rpm possible for ship maneuvering.
  • Superior acceleration, and crash stop performance.
  • Upgradeable with software development over the lifetime of the engine.
  • A lighter and shorter engine as the camshaft timing belt, sprockets and camshaft are eliminated.

Camless engines in car

The Swedish company Freevalve AB (formerly Cargine) are developing a camless system and have successfully implemented the system on an existing SAAB car engine.[20]

See also


  1. "United States Patent: 6871618". Retrieved 2009-10-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Valeo tests camless system for gas engines; supplier hopes to produce fuel-saving technology by '08: AutoWeek Magazine". 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2009-10-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "View Item : » Managed Content » Lotus". Retrieved 2009-10-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Cargine". Cargine. Retrieved 2009-10-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Progress in Camless Variable Valve Actuation with Two-Spring Pendulum and Electrohydraulic Latching," SAE Int. J. Engines 6(1):319-326, 2013, doi:10.4271/2013-01-0590".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "New order for ME-engines" (Press release). 2002-05-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "New Milestone in MAN B&W Diesel's history" (Press release). 2003-02-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "First Order for an ME Engine in Japan" (Press release). 2003-03-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "ME Engines – the New Generation of Diesel Engines" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "ME Engines - Electronic headway of two-stroke diesels" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Increasing numbers of Sulzer RT flex engines" (Press release). Wärtsilä Corporation. 2001-11-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "More electronically-controlled Sulzer low-speed marine engines" (Press release). Wärtsilä Corporation. 2003-02-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "First electronically-controlled large diesel engine in Japan" (Press release). Wärtsilä Corporation. 2003-03-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "The world's most powerful Engine enters service" (Press release). Wärtsilä Corporation. 2006-09-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Wärtsilä extends engine portfolio with 62- and 72-bore electronically controlled low speed engines" (Press release). Wärtsilä Corporation. 2011-05-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "First Wärtsilä X35 low-speed engine successfully started up at Yuchai Marine Power in China" (Press release). Wärtsilä Corporation. 2011-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Wärtsilä extends X-series portfolio to a 92-bore electronically-controlled low-speed engine" (Press release). Wärtsilä Corporation. 2012-04-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links