Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair

Prater, Glen

Author's Keywords

Concept modeling; Vehicle architecture; vehicle design


Automobiles--Design and construction


In order to satisfy customer expectations, a ground vehicle must be designed to meet a broad range of performance requirements. A satisfactory vehicle design process implements a set of requirements reflecting necessary, but perhaps not sufficient conditions for assuring success in a highly competitive market. An optimal architecture-level vehicle design configuration is one of the most important of these requirements. A basic layout that is efficient and flexible permits significant reductions in the time needed to complete the product development cycle, with commensurate reductions in cost. Unfortunately, architecture-level design is the most abstract phase of the design process. The high-level concepts that characterize these designs do not lend themselves to traditional analyses normally used to characterize, assess, and optimize designs later in the development cycle. This research addresses the need for architecture-level design abstractions that can be used to support ground vehicle development. The work begins with a rigorous description of hierarchical function-based abstractions representing not the physical configuration of the elements of a vehicle, but their function within the design space. The hierarchical nature of the abstractions lends itself to object orientation - convenient for software implementation purposes - as well as description of components, assemblies, feature groupings based on non-structural interactions, and eventually, full vehicles. Unlike the traditional early-design abstractions, the completeness of our function-based hierarchical abstractions, including their interactions, allows their use as a starting point for the derivation of analysis models. The scope of the research in this dissertation includes development of meshing algorithms for abstract structural models, a rigid-body analysis engine, and a fatigue analysis module. It is expected that the results obtained in this study will move systematic design and analysis to the earliest phases of the vehicle development process, leading to more highly optimized architectures, and eventually, better ground vehicles. This work shows that architecture level abstractions in many cases are better suited for life cycle support than geometric CAD models. Finally, substituting modeling, simulation, and optimization for intuition and guesswork will do much to mitigate the risk inherent in large projects by minimizing the possibility of incorporating irrevocably compromised architecture elements into a vehicle design that no amount of detail-level reengineering can undo.