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Variations in piston structure

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The piston is at the heart of the reciprocating internal combustion engine – it draws in the fresh charge, helps to expel the burnt combustion products and forms an important part of the combustion chamber itself, fundamentally affecting flow and combustion. The structure of the piston has also been the subject of a lot of work by various suppliers in recent years, and this comes on top of a great deal of evolution in the previous three decades although, with few exceptions, aluminium...

How many rings to use?

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If we look at sectioned drawings of some old piston engines, we might be able to count many more piston rings being used per piston than we would find these days. We might see multiple rings placed above the piston pin (as we would find now) but these might also be augmented by one or more rings below the piston pin, placed towards the bottom of the piston skirt. Cylinder sealing was much worse in years gone by – oil leakage past the rings was very bad, and rates of blow-by of...

Pin bores

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I’m sure someone will argue a different point of view, but my opinion is that the piston is probably the single most demanding component in an engine in terms of detailed design. There is so much at stake in terms of performance if the piston is too heavy or creates too much friction that people push piston design more than any other component. The penalties of getting any single design aspect wrong can turn an otherwise good piston into a liability. The pin bore is a case in point. If...

DLC coatings

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Diamond-like carbon, the initials of which are used to describe the ubiquitous DLC coating, has found very wide acceptance in motorsport, especially in engines. Initially, it was suitable only for steels with relatively high tempering temperatures – high process temperatures would have led to many steels being ‘over-tempered’, losing strength and durability. However, in recent years much work has been done to reduce process temperatures, and this has meant that DLC coatings...

Are there alternatives to the circlip?

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The vast majority of race engines, and propulsion engines in general, are of the reciprocating type and, for almost all of these, the piston pin is retained by (and has its end-float controlled by) a pair of round wire circlips. The subject of circlip design has been considered in a previous RET Monitor article; however, there are alternatives to the wire circlip which are either in current use or which have been used previously, either for racing or series production. There are two...