Providing vehicle occupant protection with advanced structural design for crash energy management is an important consideration in vehicle development. In most cases energy absorption by structural deformation requires a material that is able to accommodate high strain levels in order to prevent or limit material separation which could lead to an undesirable collapse mode and poor energy absorption. Therefore, the development of crashworthy alloys and design concepts is critical to the application of new, lightweight materials in automotive structures. To this end, analytical methods and computer simulations are widely used in the automotive industry to provide a better understanding of the crash mechanisms and to improve the overall development process.

This paper describes the development of a material failure model for efficient design of aluminum alloys, thin-wall components and structures in the consideration of crash energy management. The results of the verification studies are illustrated to demonstrate the accuracy of the failure model for various test conditions. These studies include simulations of coupons and components made from aluminum castings and extrusions under free bend, three-point bend, axial crush and lateral crush tests. The simulations successfully predicted the locations of the major cracks observed in the tested specimens and the energy absorption capability of the specimens.

The major benefits of this tool include (1) Improved alloy development and selection, (2) Reduced number of tests and (3) Decreased design time and cost. These benefits lead to a more optimized design for cost, weight and crash energy management, therefore, facilitating the implementation of aluminum components and structures into automotive applications.

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