Tire-Coupled Road Simulation, Then and NowMTS product manager Sterling Anderson discusses the past, present and future evolution of this essential vehicle testing technology pioneered by MTS.
Q: Where did tire-coupled road simulation technology begin and how has it evolved?
Anderson: MTS pioneered tire-coupled road simulation in the early 1960s, initially as a means for vehicle designers to efficiently evaluate the durability of their designs. This evaluation was accomplished by simulating the conditions of a test track in the controlled, repeatable environment of a test lab. These full vehicle simulators were configured with a total of four actuators, one vertically mounted under each tire. Critical to their success were the nascent control systems and algorithms that guided the specimens through the necessary motions and forces used to measure vehicle durability.
As test technology and techniques matured, and durability test techniques were optimized, manufacturers wanted to do more with vehicles under development as a means of differentiating their products. Tire-coupled road simulators migrated to the next level of sophistication to aid in the evaluation of squeaks and rattles, noise and vibration, and passenger comfort. Tire-coupled road simulators of today can be set up to generate demanding durability test cycles in the morning, and be automatically switched to produce ride profiles that can detect noises and ride quality issues in the afternoon.
As the simulator value became known, vehicle manufacturers enlisted MTS to develop a production-line quality-assurance testing tool, seeking a practical alternative to hiring a driver and taking a vehicle off the assembly line out onto a test track. MTS’ First Road™ was designed to meet this purpose. A dynamically pared-down version of our tire-coupled road simulator, the First Road system is an economical addition to the assembly line.
Q: As tire-coupled simulation technology continues to increase in sophistication, how has it remained affordable?
Anderson: The affordability results directly from MTS’ singular depth of experience and breadth of existing products in tire-coupled simulation. We pioneered tire-coupled road simulation and have delivered more than 250 such systems to date, with nearly a dozen industry firsts to meet the evolving needs of our customers.
Because we have such a wealth of engineering knowledge and exciting products at our disposal, we do not have to develop new configurations from scratch. This depth of experience allows us to control development costs, which in turn permits us to confidently offer innovative solutions at economical price points.
Tire-coupled road simulators save both time and money, while providing repeatable testing across time or geographies, a flexible platform for meeting a variety of testing needs, and high uptime.
Q: Where does tire-coupled simulation technology appear to be going next?
Anderson: Control algorithms are under constant development. For instance, race teams are using MTS’ special seven-actuator technology to simulate real-time aerodynamic effects on their cars. In addition to the actuators under each wheel, there are three pull-down actuators used to simulate aerodynamic loading at differing speeds. MTS expertise is being used by teams to gain an edge in vehicle race performance.
Another factor influencing the direction of technology development is the test lab productivity requirements which have become increasingly important as development cycles shorten. MTS strives to meet customer demands to make test equipment easier to use. MTS is planning on a future where test setups become greatly simplified, employing smart networks for control and data acquisition. Also, since drive files are routinely used by our customers in their far-flung operations, we continue to enhance our file management software to facilitate global transitions.
As MTS continues its close collaboration with customers to meet unique, global testing needs, and its leadership position in hardware development, control systems and complex algorithms, you can confidently partner with MTS for new or conventional tire-coupled simulation solutions.
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