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Automotive Suspensions

Gary Leevy and Khoa Cao

Visteon Corporation

(SP-1858)

Detroit, Michigan

March 8-11, 2004

400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA 15096-0001 U.S.A. Tel: (724) 776-4841 Fax: (724) 776-5760 Web: www.sae.org

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or

transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,

without the prior written permission of SAE.

SAE Permissions

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ISBN 0-7680-1319-4

Copyright © 2004 SAE International

Positions and opinions advanced in this paper are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of SAE.

The author is solely responsible for the content of the paper. A process is available by which discussions

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Printed in USA

2004-01-0782

Suspensions

Gary Leevy and Khoa Cao

Visteon Corporation

determined through beam theory offers a general

perspective on how finite element analysis works. Although, finite element analysis will determine the

Additionally, the fundamentals of combining dissimilar behaviors of contact verse non-contact, it is important to

materials require a basic knowledge of how the capture the basic fundamentals. Multi-leaf spring

combined equivalent modulus affects the overall analysis relies on basic beam theory, where each leaf in

stiffness characteristics of multi-leaf design. By the system can be idealized into a diamond shape

capturing these basic fundamentals into finite element relative to the leaf spring width and length as shown in

modeling, an analysis of a steel-composite multi-leaf Figure 1.0. The theory ties load to displacement relative

contact model relative to an idealized steel-composite to the elastic stiffness of the spring system [1].

multi-leaf model shows the importance of contact

modeling. The results demonstrate the important

differences between an idealized non-contact model

relative to a complete contact model.

INTRODUCTION

application within the automotive industry. Most leaf

spring applications are comprised of a multi-leaf system

found primarily in rear suspensions. Since the stiffness-

to-strength relationship within a multi-leaf system, along

with weight are important considerations in spring

design, then leaf springs made of different materials

such as composite materials will offer significant

advantages. In particular a hybrid spring that utilizes a

steel-composite combination addresses the weight

criteria while maximizing stiffness-to-strength. However,

evaluating a multi-leaf system requires understanding

the effects of more than one material type (such as

composite epoxy-glass and steel), along with the Figure 1.0 Leaf Spring Idealized Diamond Form

behavior of more than one leaf. Through finite element

modeling, an analysis of a hybrid steel-composite multi-

leaf spring system (i.e., comprised of one steel primary Deflection

leaf and one tapered composite epoxy-glass support

leaf) will demonstrate the importance of contact The resulting deflection from simple beam theory, R =

modeling verses idealized non-contact modeling (i.e., a EI/M for leaf springs [1]:

single finite model where each leaf makes up one single

leaf). The results will reflect spring rate, stresses, and 3PL3

strains. δ = (1.0)

8Enbt 3

where, Eeq = Equivalent Modulus

E = Elastic Modulus

δ = Deflection I = Inertia

P = Load

L = Length When the width remains constant then the equivalent

E = Elastic Modulus modulus becomes,

n = Number of leafs

b = Width of leaf

t = Thickness Eeq =

∑ Et 3

(5.0)

∑t 3

Spring Rate

where,

If load is written in terms of the function of deflection,

P = f(δ) then the slope of the curve defines the spring Eeq = Equivalent Modulus

rate: E = Elastic Modulus

t = Thickness

P

Ks = (2.0)

δ The proposed finite element model consists of one steel

primary leaf and one composite epoxy-glass tapered

leaf. The following solution demonstrates the significance

where, of an equivalent modulus. Since the finite element

model will have the same width, then equation (5.0)

Ks = Spring Rate applies for this example. The geometric and material

P = Load properties for each leaf are as follows:

δ = Deflection

Material Modulus:

ELASTIC MODULUS COMPARISON

Steel Modulus = 203000 MPa

In a finite element analysis, combining different materials Composite Epoxy-Glass Modulus = 43000 MPa

becomes transparent within the stiffness matrix of the

solution. Typically, the elastic modulus of a leaf spring Geometry:

system will be constant. However, for designs with

dissimilar elastic properties, an equivalent elastic Steel Primary Leaf Thickness = 7.5 mm

modulus can be derived. This equivalent modulus can Epoxy-Glass Tapered Leaf Average Thickness = 9.144

be used to approximate the displacement and load of a mm

hybrid design. Therefore, to understand material

combinations, the following discussion looks at general Solution:

cases:

Eeq =

∑ Et 3

=

((203000(7.5) ) + (43000(9.144) ))

3 3

Equivalent Modulus

∑t 3

(7.5 3

+ 9.144 3 )

For the axial load case, the equivalent modulus is [1],

resulting in an equivalent modulus of Eeq = 99893 MPa.

Eeq =

∑ EA (3.0)

∑A HYBRID MULTI-LEAF SYSTEM

where, results for springs that comprise uniform thickness and

uniform widths. However, to tackle complex leaf

Eeq = Equivalent Modulus systems, such as a hybrid steel-composite multi-leaf

E = Elastic Modulus transverse design, where the supporting leaf tapers,

A= Area finite element analysis should be utilized. The hybrid

design shown in Figure 2.0 (i.e., comprised of one steel

Likewise, for the bending case, the equivalent modulus primary leaf and one tapered composite epoxy-glass

becomes, support leaf) combines a transverse steel-composite leaf

design into a multi-leaf system. In order to demonstrate

Eeq =

∑ EI (4.0)

the significance of non-contact modeling verses contact

∑I

modeling, two approaches will be presented:

where,

Figure 2.0 Transverse Multi-Leaf Spring Assembly Figure 3.0 Transverse Multi-Leaf Finite Element Model

leaf as shown in Figure 3.0 is modeled. This system

models the multi-leafs as one leaf by combining each

leaf at coincident nodes. The composite support leaf is

modeled as shell elements with epoxy-glass composite

material properties as shown in Figure 4.0. The steel

primary leaf is modeled as solid hex8 elements with

surface shell elements as shown in Figure 5.0. The

model boundary conditions are fixed at one spring end

and at each spring mount. A force displacement value

75mm describes the approximate displacement at the

free spring end. The model solution will be based on

ABAQUS [2] nonlinear static algorithm. The one

possible advantage to this solution should be

computation time. However, an important disadvantage Figure 4.0 Transverse Composite Support Leaf Finite

to this solution will be the simple beam effect. Element Plate Model

multi-leaf is modeled similar to Method 1 except for

contact surface elements. The clearance interface

between the support leaf shown in Figure 4.0 and the

primary leaf shown in Figure 5.0 is modeled using the

surface-to-surface contact algorithm of ABAQUS [2].

The boundary conditions remain the same as Method 1.

The expected advantage to the surface-to-surface

algorithm will be the accuracy of the solution, reflecting

the mechanics of a multi-leaf system, capturing the

deflection characteristics as described by equation (1.0)

and the equivalent modulus defined by equation (5.0).

Moreover, the only possible disadvantage to this solution

will be the computational time required.

Figure 5.0 Transverse Steel Primary Multi-Leaf Finite

Element Solid Model

Results

Method 2 finite element analyses, which include max

Von Mises, normal stresses, strains, and load vs.

displacement curves as shown in Figures 6.0 through

15.0 and summarized in Table 1.0.

In particular, the following results show the stress plots of

the steel primary leaf for Method 1 and Method 2: Figure

6.0 shows Method 1 von Mises stresses of the primary

steel leaf. Figure 7.0 shows Method 1 normal stresses

of the primary steel leaf. Figure 8.0 shows Method 2 von

Mises of the primary steel leaf. Figure 9.0 shows

Method 2 normal stresses of the primary steel leaf.

marker plots of the composite epoxy-glass tapered leaf

for Method and Method 2: Figure 10.0 shows Method 1

max strain tensor of the composite epoxy-glass tapered

leaf. Figure 11.0 shows Method 1 min strain tensor of

the composite epoxy-glass tapered leaf. Figure 12.0

shows Method 2 max strain tensor of the composite

epoxy-glass tapered leaf. Figure 13.0 shows Method 2 Figure 8.0 Nonlinear Contact FEM –Primary Leaf Spring

min strain tensor of the composite epoxy-glass tapered (Steel) Von Mises Stress

leaf.

displacement plots of Method 1 and Method 2: Figure

14.0 shows Method 1 load verses displacement. Figure

15.0 shows Method 2 load verses displacement.

(Steel) Normal Stress

(Steel) Von Mises Stress

(Composite) Max Microstrain

(Steel) Normal Stress

Figure 11.0 Nonlinear Static FEM – Support Leaf Figure 14.0 Nonlinear Static FEM Load vs Displacement

(Composite) Min Microstrain

(Composite) Max Microstrain

Figure 15.0 Nonlinear Contact FEM Load vs

Displacement

Nonlinear Nonlinear

Static FEM Contact FEM

Units Results Figure Results Figure

Spring Rate N/mm 31.25 14.0 21.74 15.0

Max Strain microstrain 2213 10.0 4029 12.0

Min Strain microstrain -5790 11.0 -4070 13.0

Normal Stress

(Compression) MPa -211 7.0 -260 9.0

Figure 13.0 Nonlinear Contact FEM – Support Leaf Normal Stress

(Composite) Min Microstrain (Tension) MPa 395 7.0 314 9.0

VM Stress MPa 403 6.0 321 8.0

CONCLUSION Method 2. More importantly, the results in Table 1.0

show a uniform distribution of stresses and strains for

Comparing the results of Method 1 to Method 2, the Method 2 when compared to Method 1. This difference

spring rate shown in Table 1.0 (calculated from the load- shown in Table 1.0 amplifies the importance of contact

displacement curves using equation 2.0) reveals modeling over idealizing a multi-leaf system. The

significantly different rates. This difference points modeling technique significantly affects the expected

directly to the effect of including the contact behavior. spring performance.

The finite element model described in Method 1 acts

more like a solid beam as opposed to the finite element REFERENCES

model described in Method 2. As a result, the same

displacement applied to each model results in different 1. Hearn, EJ. Mechanics of Materials 1. Third Edition.

spring loads as shown in the load displacement curves Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann. 1997.

Figure 14.0 and Figure 15.0, affecting the overall spring

rate. 2. ABAQUS User's manual, Version 5.8, H.K.S. Inc,

1999.

Furthermore, the difference in spring rate affects the

stress/strain results described in Table 1.0. In particular,

the steel primary leaf experiences higher stresses in

Method 1 than Method 2. Likewise, the composite

support leaf results in higher strains in Method 1 than

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