Research Area Vehicle Structures

Fields of Activity

  • Concept design
  • Simulation and testing
  • Benchmarking
  • Lightweight design
  • Passive safety
  • Durability

Concept development of vehicle structures

Based on package data, ika develops innovative vehicle structure concepts by using numerical optimisation tools in an early development phase. This enables the optimal use of the design space, even before building up the first CAD models. Right from the start, the close collaboration with the engineering teams of the chassis and the drivetrain departments guarantees the consideration of all essential boundary conditions in a coherent overall concept. The creative ideas, which are developed in interdisciplinary brainstorming sessions, set the basis for developing a convincing structural concept as a CAD model. Using numerical analysis tools, this model is refined subsequently to an innovative vehicle structure, which meets the defined requirements.

Numerical design, simulation and optimization

The virtual development process of vehicle structures at ika includes the design, the numerical simulation and the optimization on the level of components and modules as well as on full vehicle level. Based on the finite element method and on multi body simulations, analyses with regard to stiffness, strength, crashworthiness, pedestrian protection and vibration response are carried out. The simulation-based development process allows already in early development phases the verification of concepts in a very cost efficient way. For this purpose, the ika has numerous commercial CAE tools as well as powerful computing clusters for the fast execution of simulation runs.


By means of modular and multifunctional test benches ika offers an extensive testing program from component tests during the development phase to the testing of complete vehicles according to legal requirements. Thanks to the close integration of the testing and simulation processes it is possible to execute validation tests for the verification of simulation results in a fast and flexible way. Numerous measuring devices and high speed video cameras are available for data acquisition. The main test benches in the field of vehicle structures are:

  • Crash test facility for component and full vehicle tests incl. a completely variable sled
  • Drop towers and pendulum test bench
  • Servohydralic test center and intrusion rig
  • Free-motion impact test bench for pedestrian protection tests
  • Test rigs for structural stiffness and modal analysis
  • Testing devices for the examination of denting stiffness, denting resistance and damage caused by hail
  • Measuring devices for acquisition of 3D coordinates and surface reconstruction

Development of new methods in physical testing and numerical simulation

In order to extend the application fields of numerical simulation methods and to meet special customer requirements for physical testing, ika is not only dealing with the application, but also with the further development of the corresponding methods. This includes the auto-mation of simulation tasks and post processing procedures or the coupling of several solvers for multi-disciplinary optimization. In the field of physical testing, ika has a strong com-petence in the development of structural component tests. In order to refine such component test methods, the boundary conditions of the test set-up are adjusted in a numerical repre-sentation of the test, so that the simulated component behavior corresponds with the behavior computed in the full vehicle simulation. In the end, the realization of the corresponding component test configuration on a test bench enables a significant cost reduction compared to complete vehicle tests, in particular for large test series.

Design and functional benchmarking

Design and functional benchmarking represents an important step in the development process of structural components. In addition to pure design benchmarking for complete vehicles and body and structural components, in which, among other things, construction methods, materials, masses and sheet thicknesses are determined after component disassembly, the ika also offers functional benchmarkings. In this process important component functions like torsion stiffness, bending stiffness, denting characteristics and crash behavior are determined and analyzed. If necessary, ika also develops and builds up special test benches for this purpose. The benchmarking analyses are completed by a clear and well structured documentation. Subsequently, it is possible to transfer the component dimensions into CAD data by means of digitizing techniques for further numerical simulation or optimization.

Have a look at our research projects here.


Institute for Automotive Engineering (ika)
RWTH Aachen University

Steinbachstraße 7
52074 Aachen · Germany

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+49 241 80 25600
+49 241 80 22147