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.

Source – Wikipedia 2021(NHTSA Press Release)
Source – Wikipedia 2021(NHTSA Press Release)

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.

Source – Aplustopper.com
Source – Aplustopper.com

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.

Crash testing incorporates all impact directions and is used to evaluate vehicle performance for 5-Star ratings and consumer rankings.
Crash testing incorporates all impact directions and is used to evaluate vehicle performance for 5-Star ratings and consumer rankings.
If we look outside of the vehicle, pedestrian impact testing includes using adult and child headforms and legforms for both the upper and lower body to figure out how to protect people in the case of a struck pedestrian.
If we look outside of the vehicle, pedestrian impact testing includes using adult and child headforms and legforms for both the upper and lower body to figure out how to protect people in the case of a struck pedestrian.
FMVSS 201L/ECE R21 testing uses a different head impact device (inverted pendulum or linear impactor) to evaluate instrument panels, seats, armrests, consoles, sunvisors, grab handles, and door trim for head injury.
FMVSS 201L/ECE R21 testing uses a different head impact device (inverted pendulum or linear impactor) to evaluate instrument panels, seats, armrests, consoles, sunvisors, grab handles, and door trim for head injury.
crash test dummy
Sled testing uses the vehicle crash pulse to simulate the same energy on the interior of the vehicle where engineers can focus on developing restraints systems like seat belts and airbags to better dissipate the required energy. This tool is extremely useful in supplying FEA engineers’ necessary data to support simulated crash events.
Drop tower and impact sled testing can accommodate high speed, mass, and energy in a controlled environment. Components such as battery enclosures, side rails, tires, wheels, rims can all be developed well before a vehicle is built.
Drop tower and impact sled testing can accommodate high speed, mass, and energy in a controlled environment. Components such as battery enclosures, side rails, tires, wheels, rims can all be developed well before a vehicle is built.
Staying with head impact, FMVSS 226 Ejection Mitigation testing uses a very specific impactor that tests the ability of the side curtain airbag (or other countermeasure developed) to contain the occupant in case of a rollover event.
Staying with head impact, FMVSS 226 Ejection Mitigation testing uses a very specific impactor that tests the ability of the side curtain airbag (or other countermeasure developed) to contain the occupant in case of a rollover event.
Impact sled testing evaluates component in the crumple zone effectively and allows for quick design confirmation prior to conducting crash tests. The most difficult part of this setup is the fixturing of the test part. High-speed carriages can be utilized to test components up to 30 kJ.
Impact sled testing evaluates component in the crumple zone effectively and allows for quick design confirmation prior to conducting crash tests. The most difficult part of this setup is the fixturing of the test part. High-speed carriages can be utilized to test components up to 30 kJ.
Now if we go inside the vehicle, that is where variety and ingenuity lead to interesting ways to simulate and evaluate different body parts. The first test is the FMVSS 201u Free Motion Headform testing. This test device simulates the human head and is used to test upper interior components such as pillars, side rails, headers and the roof for head injury.
Now if we go inside the vehicle, that is where variety and ingenuity lead to interesting ways to simulate and evaluate different body parts. The first test is the FMVSS 201u Free Motion Headform testing. This test device simulates the human head and is used to test upper interior components such as pillars, side rails, headers and the roof for head injury.
For the driver, the BLAK Tuffy Dummy test (ECE R12), measures the force of a driver’s chest on the airbag and steering wheel in the event of a frontal crash event. In this case, the airbag is deployed the impact event is synchronized with the timing of full inflation.
For the driver, the BLAK Tuffy Dummy test (ECE R12), measures the force of a driver’s chest on the airbag and steering wheel in the event of a frontal crash event. In this case, the airbag is deployed the impact event is synchronized with the timing of full inflation.

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.