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Vehicle Evaluation of the

Performance of Magneto
Rheological Dampers for Heavy
Truck Suspensions
David Simon
Mehdi Ahmadian
Advanced Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory,
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Virginia Tech, MC-0238,
Blacksburg, VA 24061

This study is intended to complement many existing analytical studies in the area of
semiactive suspensions by providing a field evaluation of semiactive magneto rheological
(MR) primary suspensions for heavy trucks. A set of four controllable MR dampers are
fabricated and used experimentally to test the effectiveness of a semiactive skyhook suspension on a heavy truck. In order to evaluate the performance of the semiactive suspensions, the performance of the truck equipped with the MR dampers is primarily compared
with the performance of the truck equipped with the stock passive dampers. The performance of the semiactive system and the original passive system are compared for two
different driving conditions. First, the truck is driven over a speed bump at approximately
811 kmh (57 mph) in order to establish a comparison between the performance of the
MR and stock dampers to transient inputs at the wheels. Second, the truck is driven along
a stretch of relatively straight and level highway at a constant speed of 100 kmh (62 mph)
in order to compare the performance of the two types of dampers in steady state driving
conditions. Acceleration data for both driving conditions are analyzed in both time and
frequency domains. The data for the speed bumps indicate that the magneto rheological
dampers used (with the skyhook control policy) in this study have a small effect on the
vehicle body and wheel dynamics, as compared to the passive stock dampers. The highway driving data shows that magneto rheological dampers and the skyhook control policy
are effective in reducing the root mean square (RMS) of the measured acceleration at
most measurement points, as compared to the stock dampers. DOI: 10.1115/1.1376721

Introduction
Historically, heavy trucks have exhibited poor ride quality as
compared to passenger cars. This poor ride quality can have many
detrimental effects, such as increased operator fatigue, damage to
the operators body, and cargo damage. Therefore, the trucking
industry has, in the past decades, investigated many ways to address this issue with ideas ranging from improved use of passive
suspensions to use of active elements with sophisticated control
strategies 16.
In the design of traditional passive primary suspension systems,
there is an inherent trade-off between the two qualities of ride
comfort and vehicle stability, as shown in Fig. 1. If a primary
suspension is designed to optimize the handling and stability of
the vehicle, the operator may perceive the ride to be rough and
uncomfortable. Alternatively, if the primary suspension is designed to be soft, the vehicle will be comfortable but stability
during vehicle maneuvers may be compromised. A primary suspension can only be optimized for one set of driving conditions.
To bypass this performance trade-off and achieve better performance, suspension designers have increasingly looked towards
adjustable, semiactive, active, or adaptively controlled suspensions. Each of these types of suspensions has different advantages
and disadvantages. Initially, fully active dampers devices that
draw large amounts of power to generate a force proportional to
variables other than the relative velocity across the damper were
of the highest interest. These devices commonly use a hydraulic
actuator to generate a force according to sensor feedback and a
control strategy 710. In a study by Chalasani 11, a quarter car
model was used to investigate the performance gains that are posContributed by the Technical Committee on Vibration and Sound for publication
in the JOURNAL OF VIBRATION AND ACOUSTICS. Manuscript received Oct. 2000;
revised Feb. 2001. Associate Editor: H. S. Tzou.

Journal of Vibration and Acoustics

sible with an active suspension system. In this study, the road


input was modeled as a white-noise velocity input. The study
found that within practical design limitations, an active suspension could reduce the root mean square RMS acceleration of the
sprung mass by 20 percent. This suspension configuration exhibited approximately the same level of suspension travel and wheelhop damping ratio as a lightly damped, passive suspension. In
another study, Chalasani 12, similar simulations and analyses
were performed for a full car model. This study estimated that
active suspensions could reduce the RMS value of the sprung
mass acceleration by 15 percent.
Primarily because of the large power requirements exhibited by
fully active dampers, many studies have focused on controllable
dampers. These dampers draw relatively little power to vary the
damper parameters, allowing the ratio of exerted force to applied
relative velocity to be externally varied 1316. This class of
systems, commonly called semiactive systems, was first developed in the early 1970s 17. This study investigates the use of a
semiactive primary suspension on a heavy truck.
Test Hardware. The semiactive suspension system that was
used in this study consists of a passive spring element and a controllable variable damping element. The most important elements
of this system were:
Magneto rheological dampers,
A controller,
A system of sensors.
We will elaborate on each of the above elements next.
Magneto Rheological Dampers. Since the amount of force
that a damper exerts against an applied velocity is a function of
both the valving of the damper and the viscosity of the working
fluid, a controllable damper must have a mechanism by which

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Fig. 1 Ride comfort and vehicle handling compromise for passive dampers

either the valving or the fluid rheological properties can be varied.


The dampers that were designed and fabricated for this study are
based on the use of magneto rheological MR fluid, a fluid in
which the shear strain rate can be varied by the application of a
magnetic field 18. MR fluids were originally developed in the
1940s 19, but were not extensively developed until much more
recently 20. The MR dampers used in this study were twin-tube
dampers with two electromagnetic coils, one located at the upper
end of the damper that controls the amount of extension damping,
and another located at the lower end of the damper that controls
the amount of compression damping, as shown in Fig. 2. Figure 3
shows the physical assembly of one of the MR dampers used in
this study alongside a passive stock damper from the test vehicle.
As Fig. 4 illustrates in a general sense, the range of the MR
damper force includes the original damper force of course, the
larger the force range, the greater the ability of the MR dampers to
affect the vehicle dynamics.
The four dampers fabricated for this study achieve maximum
damping force with three amps of current corresponding to a
supply voltage of 10.5 volts and a power draw of 31.5 watts
supplied to the electro-magnets imbedded in the damper, and have
a minimum damping force that is smaller than the stock dampers.
Figure 5 shows a comparison between the range of the damping
force for the MR dampers and the stock dampers. The data presented in this figure represents testing performed using a Materials
Testing Systems MTS load-frame.
Real Time Controller. According to an on-off skyhook control policy, an embedded controller determines the damping force
of each controllable damper. Skyhook control, which has been
discussed extensively in many past studies, effectively attempts to
control the damper forces such that the configuration shown in
Fig. 6 is emulated. Mathematically, the on-off skyhook control
policy can be described by:

Fig. 2 Schematic of twin-tube magneto-rheological dampers


for heavy trucks

366 Vol. 123, JULY 2001

Fig. 3 A side-by-side comparison of magneto-rheological


MR and passive stock dampers for heavy trucks

V 1 V 1 V 2 0

Chigh damping

V 1 V 1 V 2 0

Clow damping

(1)

In this equation V 1 is the velocity of the sprung mass the frame


of the truck and V 2 is the velocity of the unsprung mass the axle
and wheels. This arrangement of skyhook control is called on-off
control since the damper is switching back and forth between two
possible damping states. When the upper mass is moving up and
the suspension is in jounce the suspension is compressing, the
damping constant should ideally be zero. Due to the physical limitations of a practical damper, a damping constant of zero is not
attainable and a low damping constant is used. When the sprung
mass is moving down and the suspension is in jounce, the skyhook control policy calls for the maximum attainable amount of
damping. Likewise, when the suspension is in rebound extending, the damper constant is high only when the resulting force
will act in the direction opposite to the velocity of the sprung
mass. The overall effect of using the skyhook control scheme is to
minimize the absolute velocity of the upper mass.
Control Sensors. In order to control the dampers according to
the on-off skyhook policy, it is necessary to sense the velocities at
each end of the controllable dampers. Since absolute velocity is a
difficult quantity to measure in a moving vehicle, the sprung mass
and axle accelerations are measured and integrated high-pass filtering to eliminate the resulting DC offset to obtain velocity.
Eight accelerometers, one at each end of the four controllable
dampers, were used to capture the data needed to control the four

Fig. 4 Ideal performance of MR dampers used in this study

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Fig. 5 Comparison between the MR damper force range and passive dampers force

dampers, as shown in Fig. 7. Four of the accelerometers were


mounted on the trucks frame rail within inches of the top of each
of the four MR dampers, and four were located on the front and
rear axles, approximately below the accelerometers mounted on
the frame rail. Based on the sign of the relative velocity across
each damper and the on-off skyhook control policy in Eq. 1, the
controller supplies either a zero or a three-amp current to the
damper.

cab floor, as shown in Fig. 8. This position is commonly chosen


for truck ride evaluation, because it allows measuring vertical,
lateral, and fore and aft accelerations at a location near the drivers upper body. The eleven channels of accelerometer data were
sampled at 6000 Hz and recorded for the duration of the test using

Data Acquisition System. The accelerometers used in this


study PCB Piezotronics model 333A have a sensitivity of 100
mV/g. The signals from the eight accelerometers used for skyhook
control, along with three accelerometers inside the vehicle for ride
evaluation, were recorded for the test duration for post-test analysis. The three measurements inside the vehicle were from accelerometers arranged in a tri-axis configuration located at the
B-post, directly behind the driver, 89 cm 35 inches above the

Fig. 6 Passive-damper approximation of skyhook control


dampers

Journal of Vibration and Acoustics

Fig. 7 Rear passenger-side accelerometers

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tion of the MR dampers on the test vehicle. The four MR dampers


were wired to a controller located in the sleeper cab of the test
vehicle.
Testing Arrangement. The effects of the semiactive dampers
were investigated with respect to both transient and steady state
dynamics. In the transient dynamic tests, the truck was driven
over the speed bump shown in Fig. 14 at vehicle speeds of 811
kmh 57 mph. Driving over the speed bump induced large amplitude oscillations of the test vehicle, which were then damped
out by the suspension system. The steady state portion of the test
consisted of repeatedly driving the test vehicle along a relatively
straight, level road at a sustained highway speed of 100 kmh 62
mph. Other types of suspension inputs can be looked at as combinations of these two basic types.
Transient Testing. The transient test, which was performed
repeatedly to increase the accuracy of the results, was performed
for four cases:
Fig. 8 Tri-axis accelerometer location behind the driver

1 The MR dampers on the truck, operated according to the


on-off skyhook control policy outlined previously.
2 The MR dampers on the truck, continuously operated in their
off zero current state.
3 The MR dampers on the truck, continuously operated in their
on three amp current state.
4 The original passive dampers in place i.e., stock dampers.
Since the quantities to be compared from one test case to another
are averaged across similar data sets i.e., the testing results from
case 1 are concatenated, as are the results from case 2, etc . . . ,
the number of data sets from one test to another does not need to
be the same. The above four cases represent one semiactive case
and three passive cases. The three passive cases represent hard
damping MR dampers in their on state, soft damping MR
dampers in their off state, and medium damping stock dampers.

Fig. 9 Instrumentation and data flow schematic

a Digital Audio Tape DAT recorder. A schematic of the instrumentation as well as the flow of data is shown in Fig. 9.

Road Testing
Test Vehicle. The test vehicle used in this study was a heavy
truck, shown in Fig. 10, which included a 14.6 m 48 ft box
trailer that was unladen for our tests. The tractor weighs 20,000 kg
44,000 lbs and the legal limit on the gross vehicle weight for this
vehicle is 36,290 kg 80,000 lbs. The primary suspension of the
Volvo VN heavy truck has six dampers, one located at each end
of the three axles. Of the six stock dampers, four were replaced
with controllable MR dampers as shown in Fig. 11. The four
positions chosen were the two front wheels and the rearmost
wheelset. The two MR dampers in the rear allow control over the
dynamics of the rear wheel set without the added cost and complexity of replacing all four. Figures 12 and 13 show the installa-

Steady State Tests. The steady state tests were conducted for
cases 1, 2, and 4 mentioned above. Case 3 was not performed with
a steady state input as the expected performance can be extrapolated from the measured performance of cases 2 and 4, and running the dampers continuously in their on state would add unnecessary stress to the MR dampers. The data was processed in the
same manner for both the transient and steady state test cases,
with the exception that the transient test case data was analyzed
with respect to displacement in addition to acceleration.
Data Reduction. The time domain analysis of the transient
data was performed with respect to both acceleration and displacement in order to examine aspects of both ride and handling.
The first steps of the data processing are the same for both. These
first steps included decimation of the data to facilitate further
processing by first passing it through a low-pass filter and then
re-sampling it at a lower frequency. The low-pass filter used for
the decimation was a thirty-point finite impulse response FIR
filter chosen for its low passband ripple and steep attenuation at
higher frequencies. The data was then re-sampled with a decimation factor of 60 i.e., every 60th point was used, moving the new
Nyquist frequency to 50 Hz. Then the decimated data was passed
through a digital filter in order to eliminate both high frequency

Fig. 10 Volvo VN heavy truck, Model 770 with the test trailer

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Fig. 14 Speed bump test

Fig. 11 Location of MR dampers on test vehicle

Fig. 15 Sample plot of acceleration data


Fig. 12 MR dampers installed on the front axle

though the zero phase forward and reverse filtering induces


greater discrepancies at the start of the data set than does standard
filtering, it is more effective at preserving the transient character
of the data.
The remainder of the data processing differs depending on
whether it is acceleration or displacement that is of interest. The
acceleration data was mean-zeroed and plotted versus time to obtain the summary information. The summary acceleration information consists of:
The acceleration maximum during the ten second data block,
The time corresponding to the acceleration maximum,
The RMS value of the acceleration for the time period of one
second before and after the acceleration maximum.

Fig. 13 MR dampers installed on the rear axle

noise and low frequency drift. A Chebyshev bandpass filter was


created with a bandpass of 1 to 15 Hz, steep attenuation on either
side of the passband, and near unity magnitude within the passband. The low end of the bandpass was chosen to be 1 Hz to
match the low end of the useful range of the accelerometers. This
filter was applied to the data in the forward direction, and then the
data was reversed and the filter reapplied a process that is commonly called zero phase forward and reverse filtering. This eliminated phase distortion and modified the magnitude by the square
of the filter magnitude. Since the bandpass filter had near unity
magnitude within the passband, the data was not distorted. AlJournal of Vibration and Acoustics

A sample acceleration time trace is shown in Fig. 15, highlighting the two-second period in which the RMS acceleration is calculated. The acceleration signal was from the frame of the truck
on the front passenger side. Values of both the maximum and
RMS acceleration were averaged across like data sets for each
channel, in order to minimize the effects of any noise still in the
data. Nine data sets were taken in which the test truck, equipped
with MR dampers and skyhook control, was driven over the same
speed bump. The tests in which the MR dampers were continuously operated in the on state were repeated five times. The peak
acceleration amplitude and RMS acceleration of each accelerometer position from like data sets were again averaged together. For
the MR dampers in the off state, the tests were repeated four
times.
There were six data sets in which the test vehicle with the stock
dampers was driven over the same speed bump. This data serves
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Fig. 16 Acceleration results: average RMS acceleration for the test vehicle wMR dampers and skyhook
control policy

as a baseline for evaluating the effectiveness of the MR dampers.


Figures 16 and 17 show the average RMS acceleration at each
measurement point for the cases where the test vehicle is equipped
with MR dampers/skyhook control and the original dampers. After analyzing the acceleration data, it was re-examined in terms of
displacement. In order to correct the discrepancies introduced at
the beginning and end of the data set by the filtering, the value of
the acceleration of the first and last one second of data was set to
zero, and the data was again mean zeroed. The data was then
integrated to obtain velocity, refiltered/mean zeroed, and integrated again to displacement. Next, the displacement data was
plotted and the summary information extracted. Sample displacement time traces are shown in Fig. 18 for the cases where the test
vehicle is equipped with MR dampers operated with skyhook control and the original passive dampers. The acceleration signal was
from the frame of the truck on the front passenger side.
The summary displacement information consists of:
The global displacement maximum during the eight second
data block,
The time corresponding to the displacement maximum,
The RMS displacement for the time period from one second
before to two seconds after maximum displacement.
The frequency domain analysis of the transient data was based
on an averaged fast Fourier transform FFT that was created for
each set of acceleration data. This was created by decimating the

data set twenty times by a factor of sixty, each time starting three
elements later than the last. The FFTs of each of these sets were
averaged together, and then combined with the averaged FFTs of
data from like tests. This led to a single, averaged FFT for each of
the four test cases; although only the cases of the truck equipped
with the original dampers and MR dampers with on-off skyhook
control will be discussed here. The averaged FFT for each of these
cases was examined in terms of the average peak intensity in each
of four frequency bands. The average peak intensity for a frequency band was defined as the sum of the product of the magnitude of the acceleration at each frequency times the frequency
width. The four frequency bands that were chosen for analysis are
based on a study by Ahmadian 21, which correlates these bands
to different aspects of the truck dynamics. The frequency bands
chosen are:

14 Hz,
49 Hz,
914 Hz,
1419 Hz.

The 14 Hz frequency band correlates to the rigid body modes of


the truck frame heave and pitch, the 49 Hz to the first bending
mode of the truck frame, the 914 Hz to the wheel hop frequencies of the three tractor axles, and the 1419 Hz to the second
bending mode of the truck frame.

Fig. 17 Acceleration results: average RMS acceleration for the test vehicle with original dampers

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responding to roll, heave, and pitch, respectively show that controlled MR dampers increase the accelerations in the cab, as compared to the stock dampers. The comparison of the four test cases
also shows that the controlled MR dampers exhibit larger RMS
accelerations of the axles than the stock dampers, as shown in Fig.
20. For displacements, the comparison of the four test cases shows
that the controlled MR dampers increased the vertical displacement of both the axle and the frame in the front of the test vehicle,
compared to the stock dampers, as illustrated in Fig. 21. A comparison of the RMS displacement, shown in Fig. 22, indicates that
the RMS displacement of the frame was not increased. This points
to higher levels of initial frame displacement as the truck passes
over the speed bump, but quicker damping of the vibration as a
result of the controlled MR dampers.

Fig. 18 Sample plots of front passenger-side A-Side frame


displacement

Test Results
The presentation of the test results will be based on both the
type of test transient or steady state and the type of analysis
time or frequency domain.
A comparison of the four test cases shows that the MR dampers
with skyhook control policy referred to as controlled MR exhibit
acceleration peaks of magnitudes equal or greater than the stock
dampers at all measurement positions, as shown in Fig. 19. For
measurements made on the axles, the acceleration peaks were
significantly larger for the controllable MR dampers than for the
stock dampers. For the frame accelerations, the acceleration peaks
were similar for the controlled MR dampers and the original
dampers. The results of the tests, where the MR dampers were
controlled with either zero continuously off or three amps continuously on of current, tend to envelope the average acceleration
peaks for the controlled MR accelerations at various positions.
The measurements at the B-post in the y, z, and x directions cor-

Transient Test Results-Frequency Domain. The frequency


domain results are presented in Fig. 23 for controlled MR dampers and passive stock dampers in terms of percent increase of the
acceleration peak intensity. A decrease in the average peak intensity is shown by a negative percent increase. For the front of the
truck, the use of the controlled MR dampers significantly increased the average peak intensity of the acceleration of the axle
in both the 14 Hz and 1419 Hz bands. The 49 Hz and 914
Hz bands show a decrease in the average peak intensity at these
same positions. The rear of the truck shows a significant reduction
in the average peak intensity of the acceleration as measured on
both the axle and the frame of the truck. The accelerations measured in the cab for roll, pitch, and heave show significant decreases in the average peak intensity in the frequency bands 14,
49, and 1419 Hz. In particular, the 49 Hz result points to
increased operator comfort as the human body is most sensitive to
vertical vibrations in the 48 Hz range 22. Figure 23 indicates
that the controlled MR dampers, as compared to stock dampers,
can achieve a more comfortable ride.
Steady State Results-Time Domain. To clearly show the effect of the controlled MR dampers as compared to the stock
dampers, the percent increase in RMS acceleration is shown in
Fig. 24. Since this is a percent increase, a negative number represents a decrease in the RMS value of the accelerations. The data
corresponding to the frame of the truck in the front show that
controlled MR dampers reduce the RMS acceleration by nearly 50
percent on both sides of the truck. The data corresponding to the
rear axle also show a significant reduction of RMS accelerations.

Fig. 19 Peak acceleration comparison

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Fig. 20 RMS acceleration comparison

Fig. 21 Peak displacement comparison

Fig. 22 RMS displacement comparison

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Fig. 23 Percent increase of acceleration peak intensity: controlled MR vs. original transient

Fig. 24 Percent increase of RMS acceleration: controlled MR vs. original dampers steady
state

Fig. 25 Percent increase of acceleration peak intensity: controlled MR vs. original steady
state

Further, measurements taken at the B-post indicate that the use of


the controlled MR dampers was effective at reducing the acceleration RMS in the cab.
Steady State Results-Frequency Domain. In order to show
the effectiveness of the controlled MR dampers versus the stock
dampers, the percent increase in the acceleration peak intensity is
evaluated in Fig. 25. At most measurement locations, the controlled MR dampers increase the acceleration peak intensity, indicating the presence of larger acceleration amplitudes with shorter
duration than the stock dampers.
Journal of Vibration and Acoustics

Observations
The transient test results indicate that the controlled MR dampers cause a small change in vehicle body and wheel dynamics, as
compared to the passive stock dampers. In terms of the peak acceleration at each of the eleven measurement points, the MR
dampers with the skyhook control policy show relatively little
performance improvement, as compared to the stock passive
dampers. The MR dampers generally increase the value of the
peak levels of both displacement and acceleration. This result is
most evident in measurements taken on the axles of the truck. A
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somewhat different effect is observed when the data is looked at


in terms of the RMS acceleration and RMS displacement for the
time block spanning from one second before the occurrence of the
peak value to two seconds after. The RMS acceleration data
showed an increase with the controlled MR dampers, compared to
the stock dampers, at the four measurement locations on the front
of the truck and at the two measurements on the rear axle. The
two channels that measured acceleration on the frame of the truck
above the rear axle, however, showed a decrease in the level of
RMS acceleration. In terms of displacement, the MR dampers
reduce the RMS value as measured at all four measurement points
at the rear of the truck, and have little effect on the four measurement positions at the front of the truck. The motion of the cab of
the truck as measured at the B-post increased in terms of both the
peak and RMS values of both the acceleration and displacement.
When the same data is examined in terms of its frequency content in each of four frequency bands, other results become evident.
The average peak intensity of the acceleration measured at the
front of the truck in the 14 Hz band increased with the controlled
MR dampers as compared to the stock dampers. Measurements
taken at the rear of the truck and at the B-post, however, showed
a marked decrease in this frequency band. This frequency band
typically corresponds to the heave and pitch modes of the truck
frame. The average peak intensity of the acceleration in the 49
Hz band showed little change in the roll dynamics, an increase in
the frame acceleration measured on the driver side, and a marked
decrease at the nine other measurement positions. This result is
particularly important as it lies within the frequency band in
which the human body is most sensitive to vertical vibrations.
Typically, this frequency band also corresponds to the first bending mode of the truck frame. The average peak intensity of the
acceleration in the 914 Hz band showed a decrease at three of
the four measurement positions at the front of the truck, and an
increase at three out of the four measurement positions at the rear
of the truck. Measurements at the B-post, summarized in Table 1,
showed an increase in roll and heave acceleration, and a decrease
in the pitch acceleration.
The steady state test results show significantly reduced RMS
acceleration due to controlled MR dampers, in comparison to the
stock dampers. Measurements taken on the frame at the front of
the truck showed more than 50 percent decrease in acceleration
RMS, as compared to the original case. Measurements taken on
the axles of the truck showed little change on the front and large
decreases in the rear 36 percent on average. The RMS values of
the acceleration measured in the roll, heave, and pitch directions
showed an average reduction of 26 percent with the MR dampers
and skyhook control as compared to the stock dampers.
When the same data was analyzed in terms of its frequency
content in the four frequency bands mentioned previously, the
performance of the MR dampers with the skyhook control policy
appears to be inferior to that of the stock dampers. As shown in
Table 2, the controlled MR dampers showed an increase in the
average peak intensity of the acceleration measured in the 14 Hz
band that averaged 35 percent for the eleven measurement points.
The 49, 914, and 1419 Hz bands showed increases in the

Table 1 Percent increase in average peak acceleration for


transient data
Measurement position/
frequency band

14 Hz

49 Hz

914 Hz

1419 Hz

Front frame
Front axle
Rear frame
Rear axle
Roll, heave and pitch

3.1
61.6
33.2
40.2
15.4

4.4
21.6
30.7
23.8
8.6

4.2
12.1
2.2
7.9
9

7.6
38.8
14.8
18.1
12.5

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Table 2 Percent increase in average peak acceleration for


steady state data
Channels/frequency band
Front frame channels
Front axle channels
Rear frame channels
Rear axle channels
Roll, heave and pitch channels

14 Hz 49 Hz 914 Hz 1419 Hz
74.8
6.9
40.9
11.6
17

92.8
6.5
16.2
13.3
28.8

47.8
50.7
17.9
35.6
22.1

99.7
115.8
22.2
27.6
58.2

value of the average peak intensity of acceleration of 30, 33, and


65 percent all eleven measurements averaged together,
respectively.
In closing, it is worth noting that the observations presented
here are confined to the specific MR dampers and controller that
were tested on our truck. As any ride engineer and suspension
designer can attest, changing the damper tuning as well as the
control method can substantially change the ride results. In practice, such damper tuning and controller development occurs differently for different vehicles. The comments offered here are
merely intended to highlight some of the potential benefits and
shortcomings of MR dampers for heavy truck applications.

Concluding Remarks
The effect of a semiactive magneto rheological MR suspension on the performance of a heavy truck was investigated. An
adjustable damper incorporating a magneto rheological fluid was
developed, tested in the laboratory, and installed on a Volvo VN
series heavy truck. A real-time embedded controller was used to
independently vary the level of damping present in each of the
four dampers according to a skyhook control policy. The performance of the truck with the experimental dampers was compared
with the performance of the truck with the stock dampers for two
distinct test conditions.
The first condition was a transient input to the suspension system. The input was attained by driving the test vehicle over a
speed bump at relatively slow speeds 811 kmh 57 mph.
This test was performed for four cases:
Test vehicle equipped with the experimental MR suspension
and skyhook control,
Test vehicle equipped with the experimental MR suspension,
with the dampers being operated continually in their on or
stiff state,
Test vehicle equipped with the experimental MR suspension,
with the dampers being operated continually in their off or
soft state,
Test vehicle equipped with the stock dampers.
The second test condition included a continuous input to the
suspension system, through driving the test vehicle at an approximately constant speed of 100 kmh 62 mph on a straight and
level highway. This test was performed for three cases:
Test vehicle equipped with the experimental MR suspension
and skyhook control,
Test vehicle equipped with the experimental MR suspension,
with the dampers being operated continually in their on or
stiff state,
Test vehicle equipped with the stock dampers.
For both test conditions, acceleration data was recorded at eleven
positions on the truck. The data was examined in both time and
frequency domains to determine the performance of the MR
dampers relative to the stock dampers.
The transient test results indicate that the controlled MR dampers appear to yield larger acceleration and displacement peaks, as
compared to the stock dampers. The acceleration and displacement RMS values, however, did not show the same increase. This
leads to the conclusion that the controlled MR dampers can cause
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larger acceleration and displacement peaks, but damp out the resulting vibrations quicker. Further examination of the same data
showed that the controlled MR dampers generally cause a decrease in the acceleration peak intensity in four frequency bands
within the vehicle dynamic frequencies. This decrease was greater
in the lower frequency bands bands which have a greater effect
on the comfort and stability of a vehicle, therefore showing that
the controlled MR dampers can have a beneficial effect on the
performance of a heavy truck.
The steady state tests indicate that controlled MR dampers are
more effective in lowering the RMS accelerations at most locations compared to the stock dampers. This would lead to the conclusion that the use of the controlled MR dampers could increase
operator comfort and reduce vehicle wear over an extended period
of time. The same data, however, showed an increase in the acceleration peak intensity of the measured acceleration in each of
four frequency bands, suggesting a potential increase in ride
harshness due to controlled MR dampers.

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