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The Importance of Thermal Expansion in Vehicle Development

    June 7, 2017

Temperature is an important consideration throughout the entire vehicle development process. The most prominent example is inside the car where driver and passenger comfort are taken into account. This is far from the only example, though, especially today as lightweighting initiatives have introduced mixed material designs that cause a new set of challenges related to thermal expansion.

The issue with thermal expansion

Thermal expansion is defined as the measure of substrate growth during heating. When one substrate grows faster than another during heating, potential issues can arise including distortion and joint stress. This is common when bonding steel and aluminum, especially during curing in the paint shop oven where temperature differences are in the realm of 300 to 375 degrees F.

aluminum steel thermal expansion

Adhesives are the most critical bonding technique for multi-material mixes, often bonding materials that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be joined with traditional methods like welding.

Partnering with Clemson University

In order to measure thermal expansion during the entire vehicle development process, Henkel, with its expertise in adhesives for the automotive industry, partnered with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville, South Carolina. The goal of the partnership was to develop novel experimental methodologies to measure thermal expansion for dissimilar substrates used in vehicle development.

These experimental methodologies utilize state of the art non-contact optical measurement systems which were customized and further developed to allow measurements at cold and high temperatures through oven windows. They have been validated through accurate measurements of thermal expansion and material deformation in coupon-level samples, sub-assemblies, and even large full-scale vehicles.

Want to learn more?

We’re going to dive deeper into this topic and we’ll hope you’ll join us. Sign up today to join Henkel on the road as we travel to Greenville, SC in July to explore exactly how this partnership is helping OEMs better determine the ideal location and types of joining areas needed during the vehicle design and development process.

About the Author, Michael Flener

Michael Flener is a technology portfolio manager for the acoustics and structurals steering unit at Henkel Corporation and is responsible for translating engineering demands into chemistry solutions. He has over 25 years of sales, marketing, engineering, and technical guidance experience. Michael holds a BS in engineering technology from Purdue University.

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