Most people have seen a video of a crash test on TV. This destructive image typically evokes emotions such as fear and concern but sometimes surprise and wonder especially if no one gets seriously hurt or killed. With driving being the most used form of transportation for both work and leisure, the safety of a vehicle is always top priority for global vehicle manufacturers. For automotive designers, the crash test is the ultimate test of every system and component in the vehicle working together to afford protection to the vehicle occupants as well as those around it like pedestrians and vulnerable road users.
Road safety has taken great strides since 1975 in reducing road fatalities. In 2015, data released by NHTSA shows a staggeringly low road fatality rate when compared to VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled). Automobile manufacturers who already invest millions of dollars on active and passive safety features in today’s vehicles are always looking for more ways to protect people both inside and outside the vehicle.
From purely a test lab perspective, it is interesting to look at not only the crash test as the ultimate indicator of potential injury but also look at how manufacturers get to that final confirmation using many types of impact tests. These “component” tests are developed to assist designers and engineers in FEA analysis, computer modeling and simulation, product decisions, aesthetics, comfort, etc. The key to providing impact protection to drivers and passengers is to figure out how to absorb energy and deflect it away during a crash. This deflection of energy also applies to pedestrians as well. There are so many ways to evaluate energy absorption in the industry today and if we look specifically at high energy dissipation, you can simulate any type of impact scenario to better understand the component or system properties that will enhance the safety of the vehicle.
At MGA, practically every component and subsystem on a vehicle is tested and almost every human body part has been simulated in the impact test laboratory from foot, knee, thorax, rib, shoulder, and many others. The following impactors are available today for designers and test engineers use to effectively evaluate energy absorption performance.
Other types of unique impactors include knee bolsters to evaluate glove boxes, rib, pelvis, and thorax sections to evaluate door trim for side impact protection, and even a foot impactor to evaluate pedal crush . Material characteristics of a foam, metal, plastic, or composite can be easily obtained using high energy flat or hemispherical impactors. This data is used to directly correlate FEA models to real-world material behavior.
Impact testing is never boring and trying to solve engineering problems in this way allows designers to think broadly about how the impact environment can be useful. If you interested in discussing component-level impact testing at any of our nine North American locations, please complete the contact form.