A ‘transformational leap’ in tyre technology – NTRC test centre enters operation
MTS Systems Corporation describes the tyre testing system it has installed at the US-based National Tire Research Center (NTRC) as the “world’s most advanced tyre testing system”, and reports the facility is now fully operational.
The Flat-Trac LTRe Tire Testing System at the Alton, Virginia research centre, is said to be unique in its ability to accurately apply complex, real-world driving manoeuvres to passenger vehicle, light truck and even racing car tyres in a controlled, repeatable laboratory setting. Data generated by these tests are used by OEMs and tyre manufacturers to optimise vehicle safety and performance.
“The Flat-Trac LTRe delivers the high-power density and performance bandwidth required to test a very wide range of tires up to and beyond their physical limits,” said Dr. Rich Baker, general manager of MTS Test. “Its ability to replicate real-world manoeuvres with high fidelity represents a real step forward in tyre testing. Not only does it enable that thousands of simulations can be run in the same amount of time it takes to complete a single test on a track, it also paves the way for new test methodologies such as hybrid simulation, which combines the test system with a computer model to evaluate a tyre’s interaction with other vehicle components and subsystems.”
For more than 30 years, MTS Flat-Trac Tire Test Systems has offered the industry solutions for flat surface force and moment measurement. The unit installed in the Alton facility was specifically designed to meet demanding NTRC specifications and is capable of simulating a wide variety of operating conditions and driving events. For example, it is the first laboratory-based test system capable of replicating manoeuvres required by U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 126. This standard requires that all new cars and trucks sold in the United States weighing less than 10,000 pounds (4.5 tonnes) have an electronic stability control system capable of handling a complex j-turn manoeuvre (rapid 270-degree counter clockwise steer input followed by 540-degree clockwise overcorrection).
“Right now, there is not a tyre testing system that can accurately replicate the 126 manoeuvre in the lab,” said NTRC operations director Jonathan Darab before the Alton facility went into operation. “To make sure new designs pass the test, vehicle OEMs and tyre manufacturers must extrapolate data based on other similar events. So, instead of having 95 per cent confidence a new model will pass, they are more like 80 per cent confident.”
The 126 manoeuvre creates a serious issue for OEMs, who must tune vehicles to avoid certain frequency levels as well as augment virtual development efforts with additional, resource-intensive physical tests. OEMs do not have a choice, however, because any vehicle that fails the FMVSS 126 test in production incurs significant financial penalties, not to mention damage to brand public image. This is exactly why the NTRC set out to find a tyre testing system that could perform the 126 manoeuvre, among others.
Regarding the implications of the new system’s capabilities, NTRC executive director Frank Della Pia commented “we’re creating a whole new genre of testing. There will not be a peer facility for the NTRC. When you add up all the capabilities the NTRC has to offer, it’s going to be a transformational leap in tyre technology.” Jonathan Darab previously described the new facility’s anticipated impact in similar terms: “The closest thing to compare it to is when we went from bias to radial. It was just a huge leap, in terms of the technology used to produce the tyres and the performance of the tyres themselves – that’s how I see our capabilities.”
“Tyres play a critical role in overall vehicle performance, safety and energy efficiency. The revolutionary MTS Flat-Trac test system at NTRC will enable OEMs and tyre manufacturers to more effectively develop the safer, higher-performing vehicles the world demands,” added Dr. Jeffrey Graves, MTS president and CEO. “We’re confident that the result of our collaboration with NTRC will be a lasting positive impact on the future of tyre and vehicle development worldwide.”