QMT Features: September 2014
Crash testing for Chrysler
Messring supplied the carmaker with a 220m sled test facility

The vehicle safety requirements stipulated by institutes such as the New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are becoming more and more stringent and the associated test procedures more complex.

As a result, vehicle manufacturers such as Chrysler need to install cutting-edge testing equipment in their own crash test facilities, allowing them to develop products that meet the full range of requirements of vehicle testing authorities in the future as well as build safer, more reliable cars.

For this reason, in spring 2013 the Group commissioned the company Messring Systembau GmbH based in Munich to comprehensively modernise and upgrade the central testing facility in Chelsea, Michigan – the world-renowned Chelsea Proving Grounds (CPG). The testing grounds have a size of approx. 3,800 acres and the CPG were founded in 1954. Messring is the world’s leading supplier of crash test facilities and their components and has already implemented more than 100 large-scale testing centers.

Chrysler ordered the advanced MicroTrack system from Messring including a drive system with electric motor, M=LIGHT LED lamps, kerb test equipment featuring a special sled, and two new film pits. First, the existing track system for accelerating test vehicles was replaced with the MicroTrack system. The system offers a major benefit: the guide channel is much thinner than in conventional systems, allowing for many more details to be captured in vehicle crash video footage from below in the film pit – a key criterion for evaluating vehicle crashing behavior.

In older track systems, the wide guide channels obstruct the most important details. Chrysler can operate the track system in two directions using the same guide channel:  towards the impact block inside the hall and towards the outer area of the facility.

The narrower, nearly zero-clearance system for guiding the new trolley also promotes better control of the test vehicle and higher precision in terms of speed and point of impact. The MicroTrack can be installed with various lengths, ranging from a few meters (low-speed systems such as RCAR tests) to several hundred meters, regardless of whether the track system is located in a hall or outside.

System performance and precision have improved significantly thanks to the new drive system. Vehicles with a total weight of 4.6 metric tons can now be accelerated at speeds of up to 120 km/h along the 220mr track.

In addition to a high-speed camera, you also need flawless illumination of the impact zone in order to effectively document the exact moment of the actual crash. The formula for success is relatively simple says Messring: plenty of light promotes high depth of focus and short exposure times and therefore greater detail for subsequent evaluation.

More importantly, it’s easier to observe deformation of the vehicle bodywork, which is important for testing engineers. For this reason, Chrysler opted for Messring’s M=LIGHT LED lamps. This is new technology for the crash test industry and this was the first installation in the US at a customer’s site.

The 46 LED lamps were all installed in the two film pits at the testing center. The rear impact pit and the front pit at the impact block are both located inside the crash test center’s large-scale test hall in Michigan, which measures 4m by 26m, and are both protected by a robust panel of Plexiglass.

When the installed light batteries are activated, the M=LIGHT LEDs immediately deliver the maximum amount of light and the perfect colour temperature of approximately 6,500 Kelvin. Synchronizing them with high-speed cameras can double the amount of illumination. The result is crystal clear images from the floor of the tested vehicle during impact.

A speciality of the American market is the kerb test, and the crash test specialist in Munich supplied all of the required testing equipment to the American car manufacturer. This crash test examines the functioning of restraint systems such as side airbags when a car flips over after impact with a kerb. The most important testing component is a special sled that carries the test vehicle at an angle to the direction of acceleration. It’s propelled using the MicroTrack system and features targeted braking based on special hydraulic dampers. A belt system prevents the car from flipping over, so that the simulated impact with the kerb doesn’t destroy the test vehicle. The product is a customized design for Chrysler.

Douglas R. Grimm, Impact Operations Supervisor at Chrysler, sees the collaboration as extremely positive: “Even before we awarded the contract, we knew that Messring is a respected company in the safety testing industry. Teamwork throughout the entire project was very professional and efficient. We’re more than satisfied with the new system technology.”

All the modernization and upgrade work was completed at the end of 2013 and only took eight weeks, allowing Chrysler to begin using the facility again on December 20, 2013, following a successful final inspection. At the Chelsea facility, Chrysler is testing all of the models in its extensive range, from the Fiat 500 and heavy SUVs to the Dodge pickups.

The CEO of Messring Systembau GmbH, Dierk Arp, is delighted with how smoothly the entire project went. “In the US, we’ve already designed, built or equipped several crash test facilities and, still, we always feel a sense of pride when we can work for companies as renowned as Chrysler. At the moment, you can clearly see that there’s a need for modernization of existing vehicle testing centers in the US market. Companies haven’t invested the time and money for some time now. That’s why we offer non-binding analysis of systems on-site, so we can recommend suitable upgrades where necessary.”
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Rob Tremain Photographer
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