Just like using the real thing

The A40 articulated hauler is shown here running on a virtual test track.
The virtual product development team at Volvo Construction Equipment is revolutionizing the product development process by using early stage simulation to test and secure crucial designs before a prototype is built.

It’s a fact that building prototype machines commits a lot of time and resources. That’s why engineers in Volvo Construction Equipment’s (Volvo CE) Technology function are developing new methods to increase the amount of virtual testing and simulation that can be conducted before the first prototype is built. Not only does this shorten the development cycle but it also ensures that when prototypes are built, they are much closer to the final product, reducing costs.

Virtual testing and simulation isn’t new to Volvo CE – the company has an established virtual product development (VPD) team that works with everything from early stage simulation, to simulating future technology and even understanding operator behaviour via a real-time, human-in-the-loop system. However, a recent breakthrough by Volvo CE engineers is allowing more early stage simulation than ever before. Until now, the structure and dynamics team required a prototype to test the strength of machine components, such as frames. Now, the early simulation team can use computers and simulation to provide the structure and dynamics team with the forces they need to analyse structural integrity and performance. This allows the team to establish how strong parts need to be one year earlier than was previously the case – all before any money is spent building prototypes. Currently this method can only be applied to Volvo CE’s articulated haulers, but the company’s engineers plan to adapt the technology for use on all Volvo CE machines.

Calculating forces
“If an articulated hauler is working on an uneven road and the wheel hits a bump, forces are created in the hauler and distributed from the tire to the framework,” explains Lennarth Zander, manager of the VPD team. “Through simulation and mathematical calculations we can accurately measure this force which allows the structure and dynamics team to determine structural response and the required strength of parts. Previously this was established with a prototype on a test track but now we can achieve the same results faster using a computer. We have created an accurate 3D model of an articulated hauler in the computer which is equipped with everything the real machine has. The movements – such as braking and turning – are exactly the same, watching the animated 3D machine is like watching a movie.”

Another advantage of this technology is that virtual measurements can be taken in locations where it’s not possible to do physical measurements. For example, there isn’t room for a physical sensor in confined areas – such as on a bolt – but now forces in these places can be measured via simulation. The simulation model can also be used to determine how the machine would behave in different environments – from freezing temperatures, to the blistering heat and at high altitudes where there is much less oxygen in the air.

Transforming product development
“It’s becoming increasingly important to shorten the development cycle and use computers to carry out as much virtual testing and simulation as possible,” concludes Lennarth. “With this new Volvo CE technology we will increase efficiency and enhance the product development process without compromising accuracy – and that’s a big breakthrough. In the future we should be able to skip early prototypes and build a more mature model with a higher level of accuracy that’s much closer to the final machine – saving both time and money.”


March 2014
Text: Charlie Ebers

Picture: The A40 articulated hauler is shown here running on a virtual test track.

For further information and to download the images please visit: www.volvoce.com/press

Or contact:

Elisabet Altin
Director, Communication Technology
Volvo Construction Equipment
Tel: int +46 470 387809
Email: elisabet.altin@volvo.com

Charlie Ebers
Tel: int + 44 207 923 5864
Email: ebers@se10.com