Product and process simulations can reduce development time and costs
Simulations allow us to focus on the performance, weight and cost requirements – and on the trade-offs that usually emerge. The tests give us the ability to solve problems before prototypes are made. This is particularly useful for structural components such as crash boxes.
When we are looking at automotive aluminium applications such as structural body parts, bumpers, longitudinals and other crash management components, side sills, rockers, engine cradles and sub-frames, simulations are useful and cost efficient.
Simulation models vs. physical part testing
Today, physical part testing is done at a minimum. Volvo only runs physical testing in its last development cycle.
The reason is that simulation models are reliable and robust. Improved computer capacity is also an important factor that is taking the virtual simulation forward.
We focus product simulations on optimizing performance and weight and cost. But process simulation also is important.
Process simulation helps predict aluminium’s behavior in a specific operation, such as hot metal gas forming or bending. This helps to design and optimize the forming tool, thereby shortening lead time and reducing costs in the development process.
Higher quality product and process simulations
Let me give you an example of how we use simulations for a crash management component: a crash box.
Our starting point will always be the energy, or force, targets set by the automotive OEMs. We optimize weight by playing around with geometry – mainly wall thickness – and with different alloys. This is done in several iterations.
Normally, you have two or three designs that you run through a simulation, to understand different behaviors. You test different concepts. It is kind of like a feasibility study.
When you identify the favorable one, you carry out more simulations, now with more detailed wall thickness optimization. You also run the simulation with finer mesh size, which gives higher resolution and quality in the result.