Designing a Minimum Mass Composite Border Patrol Vehicle

Patrol vehicles operating between the US and Mexico borders are put through a punishing series of use conditions, far beyond what a normal off-road vehicle would be expected to withstand. As a result, the current vehicles used by the US border patrol last just six months before they are taken out of service. Materials specialists, TPI Composites was involved in a project to see if advanced materials could reduce the cost of ownership of a new prototype vehicle by reducing its weight and minimizing wear on its chassis.

TPI Composites approached Altair ProductDesign to assist with the program. By combining its composite materials experience with Altair ProductDesign’s vehicle development expertise, a combined team was formed that could meet the challenges of creating lightweight, high performance composite versions of the vehicle’s driver cab and detainee box.

Using predefined composite material properties, performance targets and load cases that the vehicle would experience during a variety of use conditions, Altair ProductDesign performed a series of optimization studies to define the optimal structural layout and thickness of the composite material. This process provides vital information to the engineering team on where material is required in the cabin and box structures to meet performance targets and where it can be left out to help save weight. The new design was put through a range of static analysis tests in a virtual environment to search for any potential failures throughout the structure.

The final design of the cabin and detainee box met the performance criteria required for the off-road vehicle while simultaneously minimizing the overall weight. By utilizing a concept optimization process, the team was able to create an innovative new design for the composite structure that only uses material where it is required. The combination of Altair ProductDesign’s expertise and Altair’s intelligent optimization technologies, in collaboration with TPI Composites, proved a highly successful partnership for this complex engineering challenge.

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