Steve Sattler, MTS Applications Engineer, in the MTS Flat-Trac CT Plus R&D Lab
The new Flat-Trac CT Plus features a high-response, high-output electric motor for applying driving and braking torque
The Road AheadAdapting to an evolving tire testing landscape
MTS Application Engineer Steve Sattler, an expert in tire testing, explains how the needs of the industry are changing, how test methodologies are evolving to meet these new requirements, and what MTS is doing to stay ahead of the curve
Q: How is the tire industry changing?
Sattler: The primary concerns are the same as they have always been with a renewed focus on vehicle safety and fuel efficiency. What is changing is how these objectives are regulated around the world. We are moving toward a uniform set of global tire performance standards, instead of varying standards in numerous individual countries. That makes sense, and it’s more efficient for both vehicle manufacturers (OEMs) and tire makers. There are also other regulations that are profoundly affecting how tires are tested.
Q: Can you give us an example?
Sattler: Electronic stability control (ESC) will be mandatory for all cars sold in the U.S. in 2012. Of course, this applies to cars made in the U.S., Asia and Europe, so it affects the entire industry. In the past, tire selection and validation of the vehicle’s dynamic performance occurred toward the end of the development cycle. Today, OEMs need to understand handling and tune ESC systems before developing a prototype. They can’t wait until they get to the proving ground, in other words. That means OEMs are doing more work in simulated testing environments, where tire models are used to evaluate the impact of different tire designs on vehicle performance.
Q: Is this shift toward simulated testing changing how test systems are used?
Sattler: Absolutely. OEMs and tire makers still need to measure tire characteristics independently of the vehicle, but they are becoming more concerned with dynamic testing and simulating driving events. They need to simulate a specific vehicle, a specific tire and a specific maneuver. For example, tire performance affects the parameters of ESC systems, so our customers are looking at how tires react to extreme, high-rate maneuvers: slipping, sliding, J-turns. Previously, customers would have to use test track data or extrapolate much more repeatable indoor test machine data. Now they expect to do it with higher performance indoor testing systems and computer modeling, without extrapolation.
Q: How is MTS responding to all of these changes?
Sattler: We’re continuing to invest in technologies and test methods to help our customers achieve their goals while keeping the total cost of testing under control. Across the industry, tire testing solutions are employed for a variety of purposes, from quality control to research and development. But our focus at MTS is on precision measurement and simulation — complex tests that are critical to developing new tire designs. We are currently developing our next generation of Flat-Trac® force and moment test systems, the Flat-Trac CT Plus. We chose to make this investment by building our own machine and test lab so we could properly develop the system and perform other R&D projects.
Q: How are customers using these test systems today?
Sattler: OEMs rely on our force and moment measurement to develop computer models of tires, which are integrated with full-vehicle models to determine overall handling as well as identify new tire requirements. Tire makers use the same force and moment measurement systems to ensure tires meet OEM requirements, which vary depending on OEM. In the same way, OEMs use our rolling resistance test systems to establish fuel efficiency targets, and tire makers use them to make sure new tires hit those targets.
Q: Can you describe the range of testing solutions available?
Sattler: We have an entire family of Flat-Trac systems for force and moment measurement. The latest addition is the Flat-Trac CT Plus, which was developed in response to the growing need for greater tire loading and more dynamic testing. It measures all the forces and moments tires generate, and it has a high-response, high-output electric motor that applies high driving and braking torque, reducing the need to extrapolate data. We also offer MTS Tire Rolling Resistance Systems, which measure energy loss as tires roll and flex. We recently expanded this line to allow customers to impose slip and inclination angles, as well as choose an all-electric configuration.
Q: What is the significance of the electric configurations?
Sattler: In addition to meeting regulatory and performance requirements, OEMs and tire makers are looking to minimize their overall facility costs and not have the environmental concerns of a hydraulic system. An all-electric configuration not only delivers the test capabilities they need, it allows them to reduce their energy consumption and not have the concerns of oil in their testing environment.
Q: What else is on the horizon for tire testing?
Sattler: Our systems are moving toward hybrid simulation, or “hardware in the loop” testing with, for example, a Flat-Trac system running in tandem with a full-vehicle computer model. The virtual vehicle executes a maneuver, which the Flat-Trac system replicates on a real tire, and then the tire’s response is fed back into the model to make it more accurate. We are also developing a new software platform to support this kind of dynamic testing, as well as new ways to control simulations more precisely. To do all of this, we will use our own in-house Flat-Trac CT Plus test system. We work with our customers to perform both the tests they currently conduct and the tests they wish they had the capability to do. That’s how we stay in the lead.
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