18th May 2017 by Richard Yen
For our second look back at last year’s Enlighten Award nominations. I wanted to review an interesting approach taken by VE Commercial Vehicles. While the vast majority of our nominations concern passenger vehicles, it’s always revealing to receive an entry from other sectors of the automotive industry. Truck manufacturers are also under pressure to save weight and not just for fuel efficiency purposes.
VE Commercial Vehicles nomination concerned the placement of front and rear cross members on a 31 ton truck’s frame. The team wanted to explore the potential of using design optimization techniques to find not just the optimal location of the cross members, but also their ideal shape to maximize performance without compromising performance.
The frame was given as a design space in OptiStruct (areas of the structure where the optimization technology was free to explore design variations) and loads were applied based on the harsh in use conditions of the vehicle. The technology guided the design team, showing where material should be placed and crucially where it can be taken away, allowing the team to extract the optimal position and shape. As a result, the frame was changed completely from a Ladder Structure to X-Type Structure. This led to a weight saving of 160kg and improved frame stiffness leading to better ride and handling characteristics.
The weight save here is extreme but of course trucks have significantly more weight saving potential the passenger vehicles. For truck makers, a lighter commercial vehicle has the potential to carry more load which in this industry can be a crucial business advantage. I expect that the issue of weight will continue to be felt in this sector.