Physical testing as a technique for validation of engineering design methods can be a valuable source of insights not available through simulation alone. Physical testing also helps to ensure that design methods are suitable for design problems with a practical level of detail, and can reveal issues related to interactions not captured by physics-based computer models. Construction of physical and testing of physical prototypes, however, is costly and time consuming so it is not often used when investigating new design methods for complex systems. This gap is addressed through an innovative testbed presented here that can be reconfigured to achieve a range of different prototype design properties, including kinematic behavior and different control system architectures. Thus, a single testbed can be used for validation of numerous design geometries and control system architectures. The testbed presented here is a mechanically and electronically reconfigurable quarter-car suspension testbed with nonlinear elements that is capable of testing a wide range of both optimal and sub-optimal design prototypes using a single piece of equipment. Kinematic suspension properties can be changed in an automated way to reflect different suspension linkage designs, spring and damper properties can be adjusted in real time, and control system design can be changed easily through streamlined software modifications. While the specific case study is focused on development of a reconfigurable system for validation of co-design methods, the concept extends to physical validation using reconfigurable systems for other classes of design methods.

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