Vehicle structure and safety: design, simulation, optimization and tests

The research group is specialized in the analysis, modeling, design, construction and subsequent experimental characterization of structures for motor vehicles under the double target of safety and lightweight. The structures of the vehicles are atypical compared with other structures in the mechanical sector as they are characterized by high complexity due to the specific configuration, the use of box-section thin walled structures and more recently of hybrid structures (that is, constituted by parts made with materials of different type) for which it is necessary to use methods of specific structural joints and to take into account the constraints imposed by the production technology.

The design activity of vehicle body structures includes the study of innovative architectural solutions, hybrid and multi-material solutions, lightweight solutions. It also includes the on board devices, such as airbags, seat belts, knee bolster, ...) designed to increase the safety of passengers.

Of particular relevance is the work done in the biomechanical field devoted to the modeling of the human body in order to study the effects of accidents in terms of trauma, and the development of biomechanical models for the assessment of the injury risk in case of impacts.

The research activities carried out in the years include the development of theoretical and Finite Element models, specifically suited to treat highly non-linear dynamic problems, and of experimental measurements for the characterization of the materials of interest, and for the structural analysis of prototypes.

Methods of structural analysis are combined with methods of structural optimization aimed at identifying the optimum value of the design variables to maximize the performance of the structure. To this aim, computational tools have been developed both for the topological optimization, for the shape optimization, and for the optimization of the geometric parameters of the structure, the latter also in presence of strong non-linearities.

The experimental activity is based on a solid competence in experimental mechanics (from the classical strain gage measurements, to the dynamic measurements and the image analysis) and includes various types of tests both quasi-static and dynamic, and  impact tests, devoted to the characterization of the materials of interest (metals, steel, aluminum, composite, plastic, structural foams just to mention the ones for which most of the investigations have been carried out) and to the characterization of the structural response of components, with particular attention to the response in the elastic range, to the identification of collapse loads and to the post-collapse behaviour until its final failure. We have also developed equipments and test systems, sensors and acquisition systems dedicated to the structures and components under investigation.

It is worth of note that many research activities are developed in cooperation and synergy with the research group “Mechanics of materials and joints: models, fatigue, impact and tests

Research areas