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Crumple zone

The crumple zone is a structural safety feature mainly used in automobiles to

absorb the energy from the impact during a collision by controlled deformation, and
recently also incorporated into railcars.[1][2][3][4]

Crumple zones are designed to absorb the energy from the impact during a traffic
collision by controlled deformation by crumpling. This energy is much greater than
is commonly realized. A 2,000 kg (4,409 lb) car travelling at 60 km/h (37 mph;
17 m/s), before crashing into a thick concrete wall, is subject to the same impact
force as a front-down drop from a height of 14.2 m (47 ft) crashing on to a solid
concrete surface.[5] Increasing that speed by 50% to 90 km/h (56 mph; 25 m/s)
compares to a fall from 32 m (105 ft)—an increase of 125%.[5] This is because the A crash test illustrates how a crumple
stored kinetic energy (E) is given by E = (1/2) mass × speed squared. [5][6] zone absorbs energy from an impact.

Typically, crumple zones are located in the front part of the vehicle, in order to
absorb the impact of ahead-on collision, though they may be found on other parts of
the vehicle as well. According to a British Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre
study of where on the vehicle impact damage occurs: 65% were front impacts, 25%
rear impacts, 5% left side, and 5% right side.[7] Some racing cars use aluminium,
composite/carbon fibre honeycomb, or energy absorbing foam[8][9] to form an
impact attenuator that dissipates crash energy using a much smaller volume and
lower weight than road car crumple zones.[10] Impact attenuators have also been
introduced on highway maintenance vehicles in some countries.
Road Maintenance Truck Impact
On September 10, 2009, the ABC News programs Good Morning America and Attenuator, Auckland New Zealand.
World News showed a U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test of a
2009 Chevrolet Malibu in an offset head-on collision with a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air
sedan. It dramatically demonstrated the effectiveness of modern car safety design
over 1950s design, particularly of rigid passenger safety cells and crumple zones.[11]

Early development history
Function Range shown in blue of East Japan
Low speed impact absorption Railways (JR East) E217 series train.
The driver's cabin is a crushable /
Computer modelled crash simulation
crumple zone).
'Sleds' inside safety cells
See also
External links

Early development history

The crumple zone concept was invented and patented by the Austrian Mercedes-
Benz engineer Béla Barényi originally in 1937 before he worked for Mercedes-Benz
and in a more developed form in 1952.[13] The 1953 Mercedes-Benz "Ponton"[14]
was a partial implementation of his ideas by having a strong deep platform to form a
partial safety cell - patented in 1941.[13] The Mercedes-Benz patent number 854157,
granted in 1952, describes the decisive feature of passive safety. Barényi questioned
the opinion prevailing until then, that a safe car had to be rigid. He divided the car
body into three sections: the rigid non-deforming passenger compartment and the
crumple zones in the front and the rear. They are designed to absorb the energy of an
The crumple zone on the front of
impact (kinetic energy) by deformation during collision.[15] The first Mercedes-
these cars absorbed the impact of an
Benz carbody developed using this patent was the 1959 Mercedes W111 “Tail Fin” offset head-on collision.
Saloon.[13] The safety cell and crumple zones were achieved primarily by the design
of the longitudinal members: these were straight in the centre of the vehicle and
formed a rigid safety cage with the body panels, the front and rear supports were curved so they deformed in the event of an accident,
absorbing part of the collision energy and preventing the full force of the impact from reaching the occupants.

A more recent development was for these curved longitudinal members is to be weakened by vertical and lateral ribs to form
telescoping 'crash can' or 'crush tube' deformation structures.

Crumple zones work by managing
crash energy, absorbing it within
the outer parts of the vehicle, rather
than being directly transferred to
the occupants, while also
preventing intrusion into or
Activated rear crumple zone.
deformation of the passenger cabin.
This better protects car occupants
against injury. This is achieved by
Cross section to show the different
controlled weakening of sacrificial
strength of the metal in aSaab 9000.
outer parts of the car, while The safety cell is in stronger metal
strengthening and increasing the (red) compared to the crumple zones
rigidity of the inner part of the body (yellow).
of the car, making the passenger
cabin into a 'safety cell', by using
more reinforcing beams and higher
strength steels. Impact energy that
Mazda 121 (re-badged Ford Fiesta)
does reach the 'safety cell' is spread
crash test car from the British
Transport Research Laboratory. over as wide an area as possible to
reduce its deformation. Volvo
introduced the side crumple zone
with the introduction of the SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) in the early
Volkswagen Polo after a full frontal
When a vehicle and all its contents, including passengers and luggage are travelling
crash test into a deformable wall at
at speed, they have inertia / momentum, which means that they will continue the Transport Research Laboratory.
[20] In the event
forward with that direction and speed (Newton's first law of motion).
of a sudden deceleration of a rigid framed vehicle due to impact, unrestrained
vehicle contents will continue forwards at their previous speed due to inertia, and impact the vehicle interior, with a force equivalent
to many times their normal weight
due to gravity. The purpose of
crumple zones is to slow down the
collision and to absorb energy to
reduce the difference in speeds
between the vehicle and its

Seatbelts restrain the passengers so VW Vento / Jetta activated front

A Toyota Camry after a front impact they don't fly through the crumple zone.[19]
with a tree. Airbags were deployed. windshield, and are in the correct
position for the airbag and also
spread the loading of impact on the body. Seat belts also absorb passenger inertial
energy by being designed to stretch during an impact, again to reduce the speed differential between the passenger's body and their
vehicle interior.[22] In short: a passenger whose body is decelerated more slowly due to the crumple zone (and other devices) over a
longer time survives much more often than a passenger whose body indirectly impacts a hard, undamaged metal car body which has
come to a halt nearly instantaneously. It is like the difference between slamming someone into a wall headfirst (fracturing their skull)
and shoulder-first (bruising their flesh slightly) is that the arm, being softer, has tens of times longer to slow its speed, yielding a little
at a time, than the hard skull, which isn't in contact with the wall until it has to deal with extremely high pressures. The stretching of
seatbelts while restraining occupants during an impact, means that it is necessary to replace them if a vehicle is repaired and put back
on the road after a collision. They should also be replaced if their condition has deteriorated e.g. through fraying or mechanical or
belt mounting faults. InNew Zealand it is officially mandatory to replace worn inertia reel type seatbelts only with 'webbing grabber'
type belts that have less play and are more effective on older cars.[23] Newer cars have electronically fired pre-tension seatbelts that
are timed to work with the airbag firing. Buying used seatbelts is not a good idea even in countries where it is legal to do so, because
they may have already been stretched in an impact event and may not protect their new users as they should.

The final impact after a passenger's body hits the car interior, airbag or seat belts is that of the internal organs hitting the ribcage or
skull due to their inertia. The force of this impact is the way by which many car crashes cause disabling or life-threatening injury.
Other ways are skeletal damage and blood loss, because of torn blood vessels, or damage caused by sharp fractured bone to organs
and/or blood vessels. The sequence of energy-dissipating and speed-reducing technologies—crumple zone — seat belt — airbags —
padded interior—are designed to work together as a system to reduce the force of the impact on the outside of the passenger(s)'s body
and the final impact of organs inside the body. In a collision, slowing down the deceleration of the human body by even a few tenths
of a second drastically reduces the force involved. Force is a simple equation: Force = mass X acceleration. Cutting the deceleration
in half also cuts the force in half. Therefore, changing the deceleration time from .2 seconds to .8 seconds will result in a 75 percent
reduction in total force.[24]

A misconception about crumple zones sometimes voiced is that they reduce safety for the occupants of the vehicle by allowing the
body to collapse, therefore risking crushing the occupants. In fact, crumple zones are typically located in front of and behind the main
body of the car (which forms a rigid 'safety cell'), compacting within the space of the engine compartment or boot/trunk. Modern
vehicles using what are commonly termed 'crumple zones' provide far superior protection for their occupants in severe tests against
other vehicles with crumple zones and solid static objects than older models or SUVs that use a separate chassis frame and have no
crumple zones.

They do tend to come off worse when involved in accidents with SUVs without crumple zones because most of the energy of the
impact is absorbed by the vehicle with the crumple zone — however, even for the occupants of the 'worse off' car, this will still often
be an improvement — as the result of two vehicles without crumple zones colliding will usually be more hazardous to both vehicle's
occupants than a collision that is at least partly buf

Another problem is 'impact incompatibility' where the 'hard points' of the ends of chassis rails of SUVs are higher than the 'hard
points' of cars, causing the SUV to 'override' the engine compartment of the car.[19] In order to tackle this problem, more recent
SUV/off-roaders incorporate structures below the front bumper designed to engage lower-height car crumple zones.[25] Volvo XC70

low level front safety cross members shown here[26] Volvo's press release about this
feature: 'Lower cross-member that helps protects lower cars: The front suspension
subframe in the new Volvo XC60 is supplemented with a lower cross-member
positioned at the height of the beam in a conventional car. The lower cross-member
strikes the oncoming car's protective structure, activating its crumple zone as
intended so the occupants can be given the maximum level of pr

Low speed impact absorption

The front of the bumper is designed to withstand low speed collisions, e.g. As in
parking bumps to prevent permanent damage to the vehicle. This is achieved by A US Market Ford Escort that has
been involved in an offset head-on
elastic elements, such as the front apron. In some vehicles, the bumper is filled with
collision with a Sport Utility Vehicle -
foam or similar elastic substances. This aspect of design has received more attention
showing the raised point of impact -
in recent years as NCAP crash assessment has added pedestrian impacts to its testing missing the car crumple zone.
regime. The reduction of rigid support structures in pedestrian impact areas has also
been made a design objective.

In the case of less severe collisions (up to approx. 20 km / h), the bumper and outer panel design should ensure that the crumple zone
and the load-bearing structure of the vehicle is damaged as little as possible and repairs can be carried out as cheaply as possible. For
this purpose, so-called crash tubes or crash boxes are used for mounting bumpers. Crashtubes consist of a hollow steel profile, which
transforms the incident energy by rolling up the profile.

Computer modelled crash simulation

In the early 1980s, using
technology developed for the
aerospace and nuclear industries,
German car makers started complex
computer crash simulation studies,
using finite element methods
simulating the crash behaviour of
individual car body components,
component assemblies, and quarter
Visualisation of how a car deforms in
VW POLO first successful frontal full and half cars at the body in
an asymmetrical crash using finite
car crash simulation (ESI 1986). white(BIW) stage. These element analysis.
experiments culminated in a joint
project by the
Forschungsgemeinschaft Automobil-Technik (FAT), a conglomeration of all seven
German car makers (Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Opel (GM), Porsche, and
Volkswagen), which tested the applicability of two emerging commercial crash
simulation codes. These simulation codes recreated a frontal impact of a full
passenger car structure (Haug 1986) and they ran to completion on a computer
overnight. Now that turn-around time between two consecutive job-submissions
(computer runs) did not exceed one day, engineers were able to make efficient and hand drive vehicles).
progressive improvements of the crash behaviour of the analyzed car body structure.
The drive for improved crash worthiness in Europe has accelerated from the 1990s
onwards, with the 1997 advent ofEuro NCAP, with the involvement ofFormula One motor racing safety expertise.

'Sleds' inside safety cells

The 2004 Pininfarina Nido Experimental Safety Vehicle locates crumple zones
inside the survival cell. Those interior crumple zones decelerate a sled-mounted
survival cell.[20] Volvo has also been developing this idea for usein small cars. Their
driver's seat is mounted to what is basically a 'sled' on a rail, with shock absorbers in
front of it. In an impact, the whole "sled" of driving seat and belted in driver, slides
forward up to 8 inches, and the shock absorbers dissipate the peak shock energy of
the impact, lengthening the deceleration time for the driver. Simultaneously, the
steering wheel and the driver's side dashboard slide forward to make room for the
driver, as he is thrown forwards stretching the seatbelt. Combined with a front
crumple zone and airbag, this system could greatly reduce the forces acting on the
driver in a frontal impact.[27]

See also
Automobile safety
Guard rail#Automotive safety
Traffic barrier
Lotus Evora front crash test showing
Crash test
Aluminium chassis crush structure,
the height of the rigid front chassis
References side beams and rigid front cross
1. Paul Dvorak (2003-11-06)."Will the crash zone crumple? FEA tells"(htt
. Machine Design.
Archived from the original (
h-zone-crumple-fea-tells-1106)on 2013-03-18. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
2. Grabianowski, Ed (2008-08-11)."HowStuffWorks "Design
Compromises" " (
Retrieved 2016-07-17.
3. "Physics in the Crumple Zone | Plastics Helps Save Lives"( Retrieved 2016-07-17.
4. "Investigating how crumple zones incorporated into modern trains make
them much safer in collisions"(
1005/ (PDF).
Archived from the original (
e_zones.pdf) (PDF) on 2007-03-06. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
5. "Impact force acting on a falling object hitting the ground, crashing cars
and more" (
ml). Retrieved 2016-07-17.
6. "Fatal Impact – The Physics Of Speeding Cars"(http://www.sciencearchi Retrieved 2016-07-17.
7. A. Robinson; W.A. Livesey (2006). The Repair of Vehicle Bodies P.406.
5th Edition. Butterworth-Heinemann.ISBN 978-0-7506-6753-1.
8. "Standard Impact Attenuator Design"(
spx?pageid=193613e4-fff1-4ea9-97ec-eb1c07fbe3c0). Retrieved
9. "Standard Impact Attenuator"(
ucts/impact-attenuator-t-12/). Retrieved 2016-07-17.
10. Grabianowski, Ed (2008-08-11)."HowStuffWorks "How Crumple Zones
Work" " (
ry-devices/crumple-zone.htm). Retrieved
11. Stark, Lisa (2009-09-10)."Highway Safety Exclusive: Car Crashes,
Travel Deaths Prevented by Technology — ABC News"(http://abcnews.
s/story?id=8523234&page=1). Retrieved 2011-09-23.
12. Neff, John. "Pics Aplenty: IIHS reveals before and after of Malibu/Bel Air
crash" (
fore-and-after-of-malibu-bel-air-cr). Retrieved
14. "AutoEvolutionHowCrumplezoneswork"(
2006-01-24. Retrieved 2011-11-18.
15. "He divided the car body into three sections: the rigid non-deforming
passenger compartment and the crumple zones in the front and the rear .
They are designed to absorb the energy of an impact (kinetic energy) by
deformation during collision ; from 'German Patent and rTade Mark
Office' in
devices/crumple-zone1.htm ; from google (howstuf fworks Barényi) result
1" (
18. Béla Barényi – a
history of safety - Mercedes-Benz original
19. Wenzel, T.; Ross, M. (2003). "Are SUVs Safer than Cars? An Analysis of
Risk by Vehicle Type and Model" (
Transportation Research Board. Archived from the original ( on 2008-03-09.
Retrieved 2008-03-09.
20. "How Crumple Zones Work" (
umple-zones-work-7112.html). autoevolution. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
21. "Mark Cipolloni Page" (
eZones.htm). 2001-02-26. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
22. "Seatbelt Physics" (
ml). Retrieved 2016-07-17.
23. "A Tragic Lack of Restraint"(
A%20Tragic%20Lack%20of%20Restraint.pdf) (PDF). Retrieved
24. Grabianowski, Ed (2008-08-11)."HowStuffWorks "Force of Impact" " (htt
crumple-zone1.htm). Retrieved 2016-07-17.
27. Grabianowski, Ed (2008-08-11)."HowStuffWorks "Preventing Fatalities
in Auto Racing" " (
Retrieved 2012-07-16.
External links
Before and after crash between 1959 Bel Air and 2009 Malibu
Stuntbusters: Head-On Collision 1962 Cadillac vs. 2002 Cadillac
Crumple Zones in Automobiles
Crumple Zones(How Do Crumple Zones Work)
Physics in the Crumple Zone - Plastics-Car .com
Have crash tests ever used live (or dead) human occupants? -
How Crash Testing Works -
Why is it still necessary to crash test vehicles? - Howstuf
BBC News - How the dead have helped the living
How Force, Power, Torque and Energy Work -
How Crumple Zones Work -
Béla Barényi – a history of safety - Mercedes-Benz original
The fundamental dynamics of violence in car crashes. The physics. The engineering. John Cadogan of

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