Multi-Material Size Optimization of a Ladder Frame Chassis

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Baker, Michael
Finite Element Analysis , Multi-Material , Optimization , Computer Aided Design , Ladder Frame Chassis
The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is an American fuel standard that sets regulations on fuel economy in vehicles. This law ultimately shapes the development and design research for automakers. Reducing the weight of conventional cars offers a way to improve fuel efficiency. This research investigated the optimality of an automobile's ladder frame chassis (LFC) by conducting multi-objective optimization on the LFC in order to reduce the weight of the chassis. The focus of the design and optimization was a ladder frame chassis commonly used for mass production light motor vehicles with an open-top rear cargo area. This thesis is comprised of two major sections. The first looked to perform thickness optimization in the outer walls of the ladder frame. In the second section, many multi-material distributions, including steel and aluminium varieties, were investigated. A simplified model was used to do an initial hand calculation analysis of the problem. This was used to create a baseline validation to compare the theory with the modeling. A CAD model of the LFC was designed. From the CAD model, a finite element model was extracted and joined using weld and bolt connectors. Following this, a linear static analysis was performed to look at displacement and stresses when subjected to loading conditions that simulate harsh driving conditions. The analysis showed significant values of stress and displacement on the ends of the rails, suggesting improvements could be made elsewhere. An optimization scheme was used to find the values of an all steel frame an optimal thickness distribution was found. This provided a 13% weight reduction over the initial model. To advance the analysis a multi-material approach was used to push the weight savings even further. Several material distributions were analyzed and the lightest utilized aluminium in all but the most strenuous subjected components. This enabled a reduction in weight of 15% over the initial model, equivalent to approximately 1 mile per gallon (MPG) in fuel economy.
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