The objective of this study is to develop a design procedure that integrates multibody techniques, the finite element method, and experimental modal analysis techniques. Multibody techniques and the finite element method are first used to develop and numerically test the performance of the proposed design. Based on this computer analysis, a prototype model can be built. The vibration modal parameters of this model can be determined experimentally and used with general purpose multibody computer programs to evaluate the performance of the design. The obtained numerical results can be compared with the results obtained previously using multibody techniques and the finite element method. Adjustments can then be made in the finite element description in order to obtain a more realistic model that compares well with the experimental data. Using the more realistic finite element model, design modifications can be made in order to improve the performance of the design model. The use of the design methodology proposed in this paper is demonstrated using a flexible tracked vehicle model that consists of fifty four interconnected bodies. In this model, the nonlinear contact forces that describe the interaction between the track links and the vehicle components and the ground are developed. The nonlinear dynamic equations of the vehicle are developed in terms of a coupled set of reference and chassis elastic modal coordinates. The flexibility of the chassis of the tracked vehicle is described using the finite element method and experimentally identified modal parameters. The results obtained using the finite element model are compared with the results obtained using experimentally identified modal parameters.

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