Bill AltenhofEngineering professor Bill Altenhof holds up a piece of aluminum tubular frame, cut to dissipate energy in a crash.

California software company funds UWindsor research on lightweight parts testing

A collaborative agreement between a team of UWindsor engineering researchers and a California-based software company may soon provide better insight into the crashworthiness of aluminum parts used in the automotive industry.

Professor William Altenhof and PhD candidate Matthew Bondy of the Department of Mechanical, Automotive and Materials Engineering, are receiving support and funding from the research and development department of CertaSIM, the North American distributor of the IMPETUS Afea Suite of Software Products, to develop experimental testing procedures.

Simulation software relies on accurate test data to support manufacturing and design of automotive parts. In particular, extruded aluminum tubes play an integral role in the design of crashworthy vehicles. This study focuses on extruded aluminum profiles in order to better understand how manufacturing of the extruded parts can change their material characteristics. This is important to understand as automotive manufacturers rely on multiple vendors to supply the same part, but the process they use to create the product can change how it will respond in a crash, even when the base material is the same.

The UWindsor team’s project, Concept for Modeling Crashworthiness of Extruded Aluminum Profiles with the IMPETUS Afea Solver, is using the software to overcome previous testing limitations in capturing failure and cracking behavior during vehicle impact. The software uses an algorithm to accurately model damage and fracture of various vehicle parts under such stresses as compression and bending.

“Making vehicles more lightweight through the use of aluminum alloys is an important step in enhancing fuel economy,” says Dr. Altenhof. “The challenge has always been in developing data about the crashworthiness of these materials in various uses.”

He says this partnership gives his team access to the type of software it needs to further its research.

“I applaud the efforts of CertaSIM to focus on high-quality predictive engineering tools,” he says. “Their focus on lightweight alloys illustrates their commitment to the challenges facing the automotive industry, the environment, and their eagerness to work in a collaborative fashion to enhance engineering simulation.”