13th May 2016 by Richard Yen
This week we’re wrapping up our review of Volvo-Eicher’s (VECV) entries to last year’s Altair Enlighten Award with its fourth and final nomination; the design of a lighter weight axle for commercial trucks.
For commercial trucks, the front axle is considered a ‘dead axle’, as it’s not part of the drive train but is instead free-rotating and is used strictly for load bearing purposes. Its weight contributes to the unsprung mass as part of the overall mass of the suspension system. While considering the axle as a potential area where weight savings could be achieved, it is vital to ensure that any design changes do not negatively affect the ride, comfort and handling of the vehicle.
To explore the weight saving potential VECV initiated a design optimization study to identify a new material efficient geometry for the axle. The most important factor of achieving weight saving were the dimensions of the I cross section of the axle beam. These were identified as design variables for the optimization run.
Optimization using morphing of mesh was used for the first time at VECV, enabling the company to directly give dimension of the axle beam as design variables which led to a result which did not require extensive interpretation work from the optimization results.
VECV achieved impressive results through this project with the axle’s mass successfully reduced from 50 kg (110 lbs) down to 9 kg (20 lbs).
What impressed the judging panel with this entry was the fact that the team had not only achieved a significant weight (and subsequent cost) saving through the optimization process but had also managed to improve the ride comfort at the same time. The nomination demonstrated the power of modern optimization technologies which allow engineering teams to design weight out of a product or system from the outset, rather than trying to fix problems once they’re found to be overweight.