Felix Heinrich Wankel (August 13, 1902 – October 9, 1988) was a German mechanical engineer and inventor after whom the Wankel engine was named. He is the only twentieth century engineer to have designed an internal combustion engine which went into production. Wankel was born in Lahr, Baden, in the upper Rhine Valley. He was the only son of Gerty Wankel (née Heidlauff) and Rudolf Wankel, a forest assessor. His father fell in World War I. Thereafter, the family moved to Heidelberg. He went to high schools inDonaueschingen, Heidelberg, and Weinheim, and left school without Abitur in 1921.
He learned the trade of purchaser at the Carl Winter Press in Heidelberg and worked for the publishing house until June 1926. He and some friends had already run an unofficial afterwork machine shop in a backyard shed in Heidelberg since 1924. Wankel now determined to receive unemployment benefits and to focus on the machine shop. One of his friends, who had graduated from university, gave his name and transformed the shop into an official garage for DKW and Cleveland motor bikes in 1927, where Wankel worked from time to time until his arrest in 1933.
Wankel was gifted since childhood with an ingenious spatial imagination, and became interested in the world of machines, especially combustion engines. After his mother was widowed, Wankel could not afford university education or even an apprenticeship; however, he was able to teach himself technical subjects. At age 17, he told friends that he had dreamt of constructing a car with "a new type of engine, half turbine, half reciprocating. It is my invention!". True to this prediction, he conceived the Wankel engine in 1924 and won his first patent in 1929.
He never had a driver's license, because he was extremely near-sighted. He was, however, the owner of an NSU Ro 80 with a Wankel engine, which was chauffeured for him. In 1969, Wankel was granted an honorary Doctorate of Engineering from Technical University Munich. He was known for his championing of animal rights and opposition to the use of animals in testing. By 1951, he got funding from the Goetze AG company to furnish the new Technical Development Center in his private house in Lindau on Lake Constance. He began development of the engine at NSU (NSU Motorenwerke AG), leading to the first running prototype on February 1, 1957. Unlike modern Wankel engines, this version had both the rotor and housing rotating. It developed 21 horsepower. His engine design was first licensed by Curtiss-Wright in New Jersey, US.
On January 19, 1960 the rotary engine was presented for the first time to specialists and the press in a meeting of the German Engineers' Union at the Deutsches Museumin Munich. In the same year, with the KKM 250, the first practical rotary engine was presented in a converted NSU Prinz. At this time the "Wankel engine" became synonymous with the rotary engine, whereas previously it was called the "Motor nach System NSU/Wankel". At the 1963 IAA, the NSU company presented the NSU Wankel-Spider, the first consumer vehicle, which went into production in 1964. Great attention was received by the NSU in August 1967 for the very modern NSU Ro 80, which had a 115 horsepower engine with two rotors. It was the first German car selected as "Car of the Year" in 1968. In Japan, the manufacturer Mazda solved the engine's chatter marks problem. The engine has been successfully used by Mazda in several generations of their RX-series of coupés and sedans, including the R100, the RX-7 and more recently the RX-8.
Wankel became a success in business by securing license agreements around the world. By 1958 Wankel and partners had founded the "Wankel GmbH" company, providing Wankel with a share of the profits for marketing the engine. Among the licensees were Daimler-Benz since 1961, General Motors since 1970, Toyota since 1971. Royalties for the Wankel GmbH for licensure were 40%, later 36%. In 1971 Wankel sold his share of the license royalties for 50 million Deutschmarks to the English conglomerate Lonrho. The following year he got his Technical Development Center back from the Fraunhofer Society. From 1986 the Felix Wankel Institute cooperated with Daimler Benz AG. Daimler Benz provided the operating costs in return for the research rights. He sold the Institute to Daimer Benz for 100 million Marks.
The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine using an eccentric rotary design to convert pressure into rotating motion. Over the commonly used reciprocating piston designs the Wankel engine delivers advantages of: simplicity, smoothness, compactness, high revolutions per minute and a high power to weight ratio. The engine is commonly referred to as a rotary engine, though this name applies also to other completely different designs. Its four-stroke cycle occurs in a moving combustion chamber between the inside of an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing and a rotor that is similar in shape to a Reuleaux triangle with sides that are somewhat flatter.
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Wishing the engineer a happy birthday whose social networking platform was named after him !!!