Design of Multifunctional Body Panels in Automotive Applications : Reducing the Ecological and Economical footprint of the vehicle industry

Abstract: Over the past century, the automobile has become an integral part of modern industrializedsociety. Consumer demands, regulatory legislation, and the corporate need togenerate a profit, have been the most influential factors in driving forward the evolutionof the automobile. As the comfort, safety, and reliability of the automobile haveincreased, so has its complexity, and most definitely its mass.The work within this thesis addresses the twofold problem of economy and ecologywith respect to sustainable development of automobiles. Specifically, the conflictingproblems of reducing weight, and maintaining or improving noise, vibration, andharshness behaviour are addressed. Potential solutions to these problems must also beexecutable at the same, or preferably lower production costs. The hypothesis is that byreplacing acoustic treatments, aesthetic details, and complex systems of structural componentsboth on the interior and exterior of the vehicle with a single multi-functionalbody panel, functionality can be retained at a reduced mass (i.e. reduced consumptionof raw materials) and reduced fiscal cost.A case study is performed focusing on the roof structure of a production vehicle. Fullvehicle and component level acoustic testing is performed to acquire acoustic functionalrequirements. Vibro-mechanical testing at the component level is performedto acquire structural functional requirements complimentary to those in the vehiclesdesign specifications. Finite element modelling and analysis is employed to createa model representative of the as-tested component and evaluate its acoustic and mechanicalbehaviour numerically. Results of numerical simulations are compared withthe measured results for both acoustic and mechanical response in order to verify themodel and firmly establish a set of acoustic and mechanical constraints for future work.A new, multi-layered, multi-functional sandwich panel concept is proposed which replacesthe outer sheet metal, damping treatments, transverse beams, and interior trimof the existing structure. The new panel is weight optimized to a set of structural constraintsand its acoustic properties are evaluated. Results show a significant reductionin mass compared to the existing system with no degradation of the acoustic environment.A discussion of the results is presented, as is a suggestion for future research.