Shinde, S., Bandi, P., Detwiler, D., and Tovar, A., "Structural Optimization of Thin-Walled Tubular Structures for Progressive Buckling Using Compliant Mechanism Approach," SAE Int. J. Passeng. Cars - Mech. Syst. 6(1):109-120, 2013, doi:10.4271/2013-01-0658.
This investigation introduces a methodology to design dynamically crushed thin-walled tubular structures for crashworthiness applications. Due to their low cost, high-energy absorption efficiency, and capacity to withstand long strokes, thin-walled tubular structures are extensively used in the automotive industry. Tubular structures subjected to impact loading may undergo three modes of deformation: progressive crushing/buckling, dynamic plastic buckling, and global bending or Euler-type buckling. Of these, progressive buckling is the most desirable mode of collapse because it leads to a desirable deformation characteristic, low peak reaction force, and higher energy absorption efficiency. Progressive buckling is generally observed under pure axial loading; however, during an actual crash event, tubular structures are often subjected to oblique impact loads in which Euler-type buckling is the dominating mode of deformation. This undesired behavior severely reduces the energy absorption capability of the tubular structure. The design methodology presented in this paper relies on the ability of a compliant mechanism to transfer displacement and/or force from an input to desired output port locations. The suitable output port locations are utilized to enforce desired buckle zones, mitigating the natural Euler-type buckling effect. The problem addressed in this investigation is to find the thickness distribution of a thin-walled structure and the output port locations that maximizes the energy absorption while maintaining the peak reaction force at a prescribed limit. The underlying design for thickness distribution follows a uniform mutual potential energy density under a dynamic impact event. Nonlinear explicit finite element code LS-DYNA is used to simulate tubular structures under crash loading. Biologically inspired hybrid cellular automaton (HCA) method is used to drive the design process. Results are demonstrated on long straight and S-rail tubes subject to oblique loading, achieving progressive crushing in most cases.