Under the Skin: How to Make a Better Tire Using Simulators


Advanced driving simulators have become an integral part of the manufacture of automobiles, and engineers can now do a large part of chassis development using driver-in-the-loop (DIL) simulations.

However, the tools they use are well above the average gaming setup, right down to trying out different suspension settings, bushing types, etc. Aside from the obvious speed and cost saving benefit for the manufacturer, there is also an environmental benefit with thousands of miles of testing savings across the entire industry, the energy and emissions generated during manufacture are reduced, and finally prototypes are completely thrown away.

Now the tire manufacturers are taking a similar path. Falken has started using a Fugaku supercomputer to improve on what is known as performance-sustaining technology, which aims to prevent performance degradation as the tire ages and wears. Computer simulation enables chemists and engineers to assess what is happening to the tire at the chemical and molecular level and control those changes to keep it performing like new for longer.

A hundred times faster than its predecessor, the latest Fugaku is incredibly fast at processing numbers and capable of performing 442 quadrillion (442 billion) calculations per second. Compared to the single CPU in an average desktop or laptop, the Fugaku, which takes its name from Mount Fuji, has 158,976 CPUs. It’s already used to predict tornadoes, simulate tsunamis and earthquakes, and assess the effect of masks on preventing the spread of Covid-19. It is used in the automotive industry to develop fuel cells and batteries, and to reduce the amount of rare earth elements required in permanent magnet EV motors.

Like the teams developing the car’s mechanical and electronic systems, Continental will soon be using a Delta S3 DIL simulator from Ansible Motion of Norfolk. The S3 is every gamer’s dream, with a life-size cabin that offers a totally immersive driving experience that’s so vivid that even seasoned professionals using it will feel like they’re driving the real thing, says Continental. The S3 runs on rails and can move five meters in one and four meters in the other. It can accelerate and change direction very quickly and realistically expose the driver to the effects of the all-important lane change maneuver, tight turns, long bends, different surfaces and a wide variety of weather conditions.

The simulator can be configured with the type of vehicle being tested and data on the compound, tread design and construction of the tire being tested. The simulator will go into operation at the Contidrom near Hanover in Germany in 2022.

Continental is also investigating the use of sustainable materials in its tires and expects the simulator to help decide what works and what doesn’t in a virtual environment. However, neither the Fugaku nor the Delta S3 is an example of manufacturers relying too much on digital technology, because in either case, its use depends just as much on the experience and skill of the people who use it.

Continental has set itself the goal of reducing the number of test tires built and worn by 10,000 per year.

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