Automotive interiors are of great interest to design engineers as it remains the only factor whereby a comfort quality can be judged. Despite a vehicle integrated with latest technological gadgets and sophisticated performance systems, the likeliness of a person to opt for a particular model largely depends on the comfort characteristics.
Interior systems such as HVAC, seating systems, door panels and steering assemblies together ensure proper occupant comfort. While ergonomics and aesthetics are essentially required in interiors, the systems must also ensure passenger safety under the event of vehicle crash. With such complex design parameters to be considered while designing automobile interiors, computer aided simulations play a crucial role in considerably reducing the design time as well as provide better insights than experimental tests.
To understand the importance of computer aided engineering in automotive interiors, the article discusses about the potential areas where its application can bring significant design knowledge and innovation to achieve overall goals for a good vehicle interior, which are comfort and safety.
One of the prime components that affect occupant comfort is the seating systems. In order to ensure minimum driver fatigue and accidental injuries, seats must be designed and positioned appropriately. Additionally, the structure must withstand loads and vibrations resulting from the varying vehicle speeds. Using finite element analysis, seats can be designed considering structural and vibration factors. With suitable application of loading constraints, these systems can be simulated over the computer and stress concentration in the structure can be evaluated.
Automobile HVAC is largely different from buildings and its effectiveness for thermal comfort is dependent on variables such as human physiology, vehicle speed, time of the travel, shades and glazing as well as noise. To comprehensively understand the air flow behavior inside the vehicle cabin, experimental tests can be accompanied by CFD simulations to identify flow distribution more accurately. Moreover, HVAC components such as condenser, compressor and ducting designs can be altered using simulation results to perform better.
Doors are one of the most interacted components by occupants. Apart from providing riding comfort against outside noise, these panels are supposed to be strong enough to withstand crashes and protect the occupants from injuries. While door panels involve cyclic loadings, they must be designed against fatigue as well. Using finite element method, a door panel model can be evaluated for structural strength, resistance against vibrations and fatigue life cycle, ensuring that the design is well in sync with the safety constraints.
Steering assembly being closely in link with the wheels is bound to suffer from vibrations resulting from the road surface. Additionally, their structural strength is of crucial importance when it comes to protecting the occupants from frontal collisions. A finite element model of the entire steering assembly can be utilized to apply loading constraints and study the behavior, structural strength against deformation during collision and resistance to vibrations.
While most automotive manufacturers prefer to utilize CAE tools to quickly assess the designs, it also reduces the number of physical test trials required, which greatly reduces the design cost and time-to-market.