The following is an excerpt.
When a shiny new car model is rolling off the factory floor, it is also a compact example of research with high utility value. Recently, vendors in car-dealer Møller Bil got a presentation on how scientists at SFI CASA contribute to ever safer vehicles.
«It is fascinating to get insight into the processes that happen before Audi designs a new car». It is especially interesting that the research and development in Trondheim, Norway’s Technology Capital , is part of it», says Bengt Røhmesmo.
He is head of markets Audi at Møller Bil in Trondheim. The company is a part of Møller Group, the largest chain of car dealers in Norway.
Car sellers and researchers work at opposite ends of the process from the design stage of a car until it leaves the production line. The two groups met when CASA’s director Magnus Langseth recently invited a group of visitors from Møller Bil. Their brands are Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi; the latter being one of SFI CASA’ 5 automotive partners.
ADDS SOME EXTRA PRIDE
«To have a demonstration of the researchers’ work was quite unique», Røhmesmo says.
It can take 5 years from a new car sketched on the drawing board until it rolls out like a brand-new factory model; full of research-based technology that makes it safer for drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike. As experts on how materials and structures behave under an extreme impact, SFI CASA researchers are contributing to the development of ever safer cars.
«In my opinion, the visit at CASA makes us more aware that a lot of knowledge exists here in Norway and in Trondheim. I think that will give us a feeling of pride when we talk to our customers about the cars we are selling», says the representative of Møller Bil.
LARGE INVESTMENT IN RESEARCH
The automotive industry is among the world leaders when it comes to money spent on research and development. According to the Norwegian Car Importers’ National Association, the sums are on par with the pharmaceutical -, the electronics- and the IT industry. In recent years, the automotive industry in Europe alone has spent around 85 billion Euro per year. Seven car manufacturers are on the top 25 world-list of enterprises spending the most resources on research. Among these are also automotive partners of SFI CASA.
TEST IN THE KICKING MACHINE
Professor Magnus Langseth and Associate professor David Morin explained to the guests how the Centre works with computational simulations and how these are implemented by the automotive industry.
After the presentation, they performed a crash-test in the test-rig called «the Kicking Machine».
«Nowadays, the technology is much more transparent than before. Also, it is visible for the end-user. The visit at CASA gave insight on the journey that leads from technology development to innovation – and finally, how research is put to use in an Audi», says Bengt Røhmesmo.
CERTIFIED ON ALUMINIUM
Panel beater Stian Jonassen Høydal was very attentive to the presentations and the experiment in the Kicking Machine. He paid particular attention to all that has to do with the increasing use of aluminium in cars. The 26-year old was trained at Audi in Neckarsulm, Germany in 2017 and is certified to repair structural damage to aluminium cars.
«It is very cool to observe that you actually can feed all the information into a computer and run a crash simulation reflecting what happens in a real crash. Very interesting to see», Jonassen Høydal says.
ALUMINIUM REPLACES STEEL
As more and more aluminium replaces steel in cars, his skills on aluminium welding come in handy. Every 3rd year he has to recertify, and labour samples of his are sent to Germany for approval. According to the Jonassen Høydahl, aluminium is more challenging to work with than steel, especially when it comes to straightening. It is much lighter and less dense and possesses a thermal conductivity much higher than steel. According to the panel beater the process of welding has to be more accurate. It is of strict importance that the surfaces are absolutely clean to avoid uncleanness and pores in the welding.
FROM NANO-LEVEL TO A BRAND-NEW CAR
«It was fascinating to see a live performance of a crash-test at 40 kilometres per hour. I have never seen that before», Stian Jonassen Høydahl says. Although 40 kmph is not very fast, the experiment clearly showed that components like this absorb a lot of energy in a collision at this speed. The crash box was utterly deformed.
Bengt Røhmesmo is impressed by the fact that the Centre’s knowledge on the behaviour of aluminium reaches all the way down to the nano-level. He finds it exciting to acquire knowledge on how the behaviour can be transferred and be simulated on a computer.
«Now, we see that these tools can contribute to better development processes, and at the same time, contribute to safer cars and cost savings».
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MORE GREEN MANUFACTURING
He also thinks that the information gained during the visit will be of great interest to their customers.
«Today’s customers are very interested in technology. This applies not least to electric car customers. They want a lot of information, and do a lot of research on technology and product before they buy a car», he says.
Røhmesmo notes that the research at CASA leads the automotive industry in a greener direction. An Audi e-tron model saves 620 kilos in weight, due to the replacement of steel with aluminium. The fact that the cars become lighter and that a test crash on a PC can replace physical tests also helps to protect the environment.
«This is, of course, of great importance», Bengt Røhmesmo underlines.
FROM CRASH TO COMPUTATIONAL MODELS
Nowadays, crash safety requirements of automotive structures also involve chassis parts. These requirements mean that the suspension system of the vehicle, including the wheel and rim, becomes part of the solution to manage the energy from the impact.
Special numerical techniques are needed to ensure optimal accuracy of the numerical simulations used to design an automotive structure. Again, this leads to a need for reliable test facilities for computer code validation. CASA possess such facilities. The Centre has developed a test rig for impact testing of cast aluminium rims to validate a novel modelling approach for aluminium castings. Audi has provided the tested rims.
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CASA has also conducted pioneering research on modelling the behaviour of glass under an extreme impact. Automotive partners have already put this research to use in standard Roof Strength tests.