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Automotive Materials Testing A Huge Variety of Specialized Challenges May 10,2023

Automotive Materials Testing A Huge Variety of Specialized Challenges

Why is materials testing for the automotive industry so challenging?

The automotive industry involves complex products that must be carefully engineered to ensure safety and performance across a variety of crucial subsystems. This imperative for meticulous engineering is only amplified by the high level of competition in the industry, which pushes automotive manufacturers to innovate constantly in pursuit of continuous product improvement.


In this context, material testing takes on added importance. Materials need to be specified as precisely as possible to ensure optimal cost, weight, and performance. And testing results need to be of the utmost quality to avoid errors that could drive costly recalls (or worse, safety issues).


Automotive manufacturers face an imperative to maintain reliable, precise, accurate, and repeatable procedures across a huge variety of required tests. We cover some of the most important across several categories below. This list only begins to cover the vast number of tests ultimately required by auto industry manufacturers, but it helps illustrate just how complicated testing requirements are for automotive OEMs.


Automotive Materials Testing: Body

Vehicle bodies are becoming increasingly complex, employing high strength materials including steels, aluminum, and fiber-reinforced plastics. Engineers face a continuous competition to utilize the most lightweight materials possible without compromising passenger safety.


Representative solutions for automotive body testing include machines for testing sheet metal forming properties and crash structures.


Automotive Materials Testing Machines: Chassis

An automotive chassis is instrumental for overall vehicle safety, driving comfort, and fuel efficiency. Consequently, they are a particular focus of inspections, and materials need to be engineered meticulously for each and every chassis component.


Representative testing needs for automotive chassis include:


Spring Testing: key spring testing requirements cover compression coil springs, pneumatic springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers. A variety of spring testing capabilities (including force measuring platforms, servo-hydraulic testing machines, and multi-axial testing) are needed to evaluate attributes like friction, wear, and service life.


Testing for Wheels, Rims, and Tires: as the direct link between a vehicle chassis and the road, wheels, rims, and tires transfer all forces and torques experienced by the vehicle. All of these components come with their own testing requirements, ranging from tensile/tear growth tests for tire elastomers, to compression tests for rim flanges and break pads, to tests for the entire wheel assembly.


Steering Systems: steering systems attributes like stick slip effect, maximum torsion angle for steering shafts, and the reliability of steering column height adjustors must all be carefully tested for this safety-critical control system.


Automotive Materials Testing: Interior and Safety Components

From seat belts, to headrests, to brake pedals, every part of a vehicle interior needs to be designed for optimal usability, comfort, and safety.  Automakers must navigate testing for a vast array of components including:


Seat and Interior Components: crucial seating components need to perform under extensive long-term use in operating environments that can range from sub-zero arctic temperatures to scorching desert sun. Testing processes need to cover attributes including fatigue strength for seat materials, foam hardness tests for headrests and other cushioned surfaces, and stiffness for headrests.


Safety Components: safety systems including seatbelts (with tests strictly regulated by UN/ECE-R16), air bag fabrics and connectors, and anti-pinch sealing systems for doors/windows all require an extensive array of testing capabilities to ensure reliable operation even after years of use.


Operational Controls: pedals (clutch/brake/gas), emergency break levers, and control switches all need to be precision engineered to ensure ease-of-use with optimal haptic, optical, and acoustic feedback for associated user actions. Doing so successfully requires specialized testing capabilities like curved-force actuators for pedals and specialized servo actuator grips for emergency brake lever testing.


Automotive Materials Testing: Engines and Drives

Engines and drive assemblies play an essential role in determining performance, efficiency, and emissions. Auto makers are pressed to design lighter and faster engines, even as features (like supercharging and hybridization) become more complex.


Engine Components: crucial engine component testing capabilities include fatigue tests at a variety of temperatures for connecting rods, crankshafts, and valve springs. Additional testing capabilities are needed for engine-related systems like elastomer bearings, exhaust systems, and catalytic converter mats.

Drive Train: drive train testing must capture specific properties at high speeds, torques, and temperatures. Vital drive train testing capabilities include clutch testing, torsion testing on drive shafts, hardness/fatigue tests on gears, and torsion tests on rubber-metal elements.

Alternative Drives: as hybrid vehicles proliferate, automotive manufacturers are investing in achieving more efficiency in traction motors, which requires specialized testing capabilities for components like energy/hydrogen storage systems and electromagnetic actuators.

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