Topography Optimization of a Tractor Body Panel

The commercial vehicle industry is facing challenges in terms of performance improve-ments and at the same time meeting the legislation requirements towards emissions (CO2, GHG, particulates) reduction. Decreasing the weight of the vehicle has therefore gained importance, because all investigations show a direct link between vehicle weight and fuel consumption/emissions . On the other hand, lightweight solutions need to satisfy the performance standard, such as stiffness of the structure and impact resistance. In addition to correct material choice, design optimisation enables the achievement of weight reduction and improvement of component performance. This paper discusses the improvement of the component properties of a tractor body panel, more specifically stiffness and weight, by means of topography optimisation. The advantages and disadvantages of different types of design optimisation will be presented. The influence of different model parameters, such as bead width, load locations and optimisation strategy, have been investigated, leading to a robust design. A validation calculation on the final design shows a mass reduction of 20% and twice the stiffness compared to a reference design. These improvements are the consequence of a smart design using thermoforming, combined with the use of optimisation techniques. It is shown that, by using the correct parameters, simulation driven design is a valid method to develop the optimal design towards specific targets.

The Author

Koen Vanden Boer
Research engineer
Flanders' DRIVE