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Composite Structures 32 (1995) 491-499

0 1995 Elsevier Science Limited

Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved

Development of the composite bumper beam

for passenger cars

Seong Sik Cheon,a Jin Ho Choib & Dai Gil Leea

aLaboratory for Advanced Composite Materials, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Kusong-dong, Yusong-
gu, Taejon-shi, Korea 30.5-701
‘Daewoo Heavy Industries Ltd, Changwon-shi, Kyungnam-do, Korea 641-120

The fuel efficiency and emission gas regulation of passenger cars are two
important issues in these days. The best way to increase the fuel efficiency
without sacrificing safety is to employ fibre reinforced composite materials
in the body of cars.
In this work, a new composite bumper that has two pads at the ends of
the bumper was developed. The two pads were designed to hit the front
two tyres of the car when the bumper brackets collapsed during collision.
The end of the bumper beam was designed to have a tapered section to
absorb energy by progressive buckling when the pads hit the rims of wheels
after collapsing tyres.
The composite bumper beam was made of glass fibre fabric epoxy
composite material except the elbow section. The elbow section was made
of carbon fibre epoxy composite material to increase bending stiffness.
From the static bending test of the prototype composite bumper, it was
found that the weight of the composite bumper beam was only 30% that of
the steel bumper beam without sacrificing the static bending strength.

INTRODUCTION bumper bracket, engine and other parts of the

car absorb the impact energy of the car through
It has been known that a front crash in pas- collapsing. In this case deceleration of passen-
senger cars is the most fatal accident among gers usually becomes larger because the bumper
traffic mishaps. Much effort has been made to brackets and other parts of the car cannot
reduce injury from the front crash using air absorb effectively the large impact energy of
bags and energy absorption bumpers. Recently, cars compared to the bumper beam. Therefore,
in order to reduce the weight of cars and bumper beams that are installed inside of bum-
increase energy absorption capacity, most pas- per fascias have been attempted to absorb more
senger cars employ engineering plastics impact energy.*
bumpers that are usually made of polypropylene In this work, in order to know the collision
or polycarbonate/PBT alloy. Also reinforced characteristics and effectiveness of the bumper
plastics bumper beams made by compression beam, the front crash tests of the cars with and
moulding with SMC (Sheet moulding com- without steel bumper beam were :performed.
pound), RTM (Resin transfer moulding) and From the collision tests, it was found that the
RIM (Reaction Injection moulding) are suc- bumper beam made of steel tubes could
cessfully applied.’ decrease the magnitude of deceleration at 48
Although the role of bumpers is to absorb the km/h (30 miles/h) front crash test. However, the
collision energy, it usually only satisfies the steel bumper beam added 200 N to the weight
S-mile/h collision regulation and the impact of the car.
energy is not absorbed sufficiently at higher The weight of cars can be reduced signifl-
speed collision of the automobile. If the car cantly and also impact characteristics can be
collides with speed larger than 5 mile/h, the improved if car structures are manufactured
492 Seong Sk Cheon, Jin Ho Choi, Dai Gil Lee

using polymer matrix fiber reinforced composite

materials, since they have high specific stiffness
(E/p), specific strength (S/p), and damping
characteristics.3’4 Therefore, the hybrid compo- PAD
site bumper beam made of glass fibre epoxy BUMPER BEAM /
composite and carbon fibre epoxy composite
was investigated to increase the energy absorp-
tion capability of the bumper beam during front
crash. Also, the steel pads that were attached to
the ends of the bumper beam were investigated
to increase energy absorption capacity through Fig. 1. Configuration of the bumper beam with the two
collapsing the front two tyres of cars.
During the collision test, the deceleration
curve with respect to time was recorded and the manufactured steel bumper beam was 200
used to calculate the force boundary conditions N. The collision test was performed using a
of the bumper beam and other parts of the car. small passenger car weighing 9500 N. In order
On the basis of this calculation, the composite to compare the energy absorption characteris-
bumper beam was designed using ANSYS, a tics of the steel bumper beam, a same model
commercial finite element analysis package car with the conventional bumper without the
developed by Swanson Analysis Systems, Inc., steel bumper beam was tested also. In order to
Pennsylvania, USA. Also, the energy absorption make the weights of the two cars the same, a
capacity of the tapered sections at the ends of sandbag weighing 200 N was added to the car
the composite bumper beam during buckling with the conventional bumper.
was analysed by finite element method and the The deceleration signals from the left and
specimens which were prepared by the analysis right sides of the lower part of the B-pillar and
were tested with an Instron material testing the left and right sides of the engine room were
system in order to determine the optimal value obtained using accelerometers during collision.
of the taper angle.5,6 Figure 2 shows the magnitude of the decelera-
The mould for the composite bumper beam tion of the cars with the conventional and the
was fabricated and the prototype composite steel bumper beam.
bumper beams were manufactured. The static In Fig. 2, the magnitude of the deceleration
bending test of the prototype composite bumper of the car with the steel bumper was larger than
beams was performed using an Instron and that of the car with the conventional bumper
found that the weight of the composite bumper during the initial collision period because the
was less than 30% of the steel bumper beam front tyres imposed force on the pads of the
without sacrificing the static bending strength. steel bumper beam. However, the magnitude of
the maximum deceleration of the car with the
steel bumper beam was smaller than that of the
FRONT CRASH TEST OF STEEL BUMPER car with the conventional bumper: the magni-
BEAMS tude of the maximum deceleration of the car
with the steel bumper beam was 33 g (gravity),
Figure 1 shows the configuration of the bumper while that of the car with the conventional bum-
beam that has two pads at the ends of the per was 43 g. Furthermore, the steel bumper
beam. The two pads were employed in order to beam absorbed 23% more impact energy than
absorb energy during collision through collaps- the conventional bumper. Therefore, it was con-
ing the front tyres and tyre rims. cluded the steel bumper beam had better
Three circular steel tubes whose ultimate ten- energy absorption characteristics based on the
sile strength and strain are 240 MPa and 0.23, head injury criteria. Although the energy
respectively, were bent into the bumper shape absorption characteristics of the steel bumper
and connected parallel by welding. The welded beam was good, the 200 N weight increase was
steel bumper was put into the bumper fascia not desirable. Therefore, it was determined to
made of polypropylene. The gap between the design and manufacture the composite bumper
steel bumper beam and the bumper fascia was beam using glass fibre epoxy composite for the
filled with polyurethane foam. The weight of section that requires strength and carbon fibre
Composite bumper beams 493

a : 13g - 16g
b : 2g ~ 2.5g
c : 8g ~ 9g

0.04 0.06 0.08 0.1

Time (set)

Fig. 2. Deceleration curves of the cars.

epoxy composite for the section that requires Table 1. Properties of composites
Prepreg Glass Carbon
fibre fibre
(fabric) (uni)
Tensile modulus El_ 36 GPa 134 GPa
BEAM Yield strength 0.680 GPa 1.8 GPa
Ply thickness 0.18 mm O-15 mm
The material data of the composite materials
were obtained by tensile test using specimens.
Table 1 shows the properties of the two compo-
The box type cross section of the composite Load analysis during collision
bumper beam was employed because it gives
high bending stiffness and is easy to manufac- The collision analysis7 for the composite bum-
ture compared to the tubular shape. Since there per beam is only possible if the impact
was space limitation in the bumper fascia, the characteristics of all the structures of cars are
outside dimension of the beam was fixed to be known and the mechanical properties and
40 mm x 40 mm. The two main bumper beams impact characteristics8 of the composites are
and another small beam whose cross section previously determined, which is a difficult task.
was 20 mm x 40 mm were adhesively bonded as Therefore, in this work, the boundary condi-
shown in Fig. 3. The small bumper beam was tions obtained using deceleration graphs of the
employed for the initial energy absorption dur- car with the steel bumper beam during front
ing collision. Based on the force boundary crash test were used in the design of the com-
conditions calculated from the deceleration posite bumper. The strength and stiffness
curves of Fig. 2, the thicknesses of the cross analysis were performed using a commercial
section of the composite bumper beam were finite element software, ANSYS 5.0. In the
determined by finite element method. analysis, 225 elastic beam elements were used
494 Seong Sk Cheon, Jin Ho Choi, Dai Gil Lee

I ---

68kN 68kN f
4kN 4kN
Fig. 4. External loads and reaction forces at the first

Fig. 3. Configuration of the composite bumper beam.


and only half of the bumper beam was analysed

due to the symmetry.
The analysis was performed in two steps
whose boundary was determined by the time at
which the pads of the bumper touched the rims
of the front two wheels after collapsing the two
68kN 1
38kN 38kN
(a) First step
The deceleration a in Fig. 2 was originated
from Fig. 5. External loads and reaction forces at the second
the load acting on the brackets (136 kN), and b
from the load acting on the front two tyres (8
kN) before collapsing of the tyres. placement will be smaller than the calculated.
Figure 4 shows the force boundary conditions
of the bumper beam at the first step. From (b) Second step
FEM analysis, the maximum stress of the bum- During the second step, the pads located at the
per was found to be 560 MPa at the centre of ends of the bumper beam were resisted by the
the bumper beam when the thicknesses of the rims of the wheels after collapsing the tyres.
main bumper beam and the small bumper beam The total load on the bumper beam was 212 kN
were 5.4 mm and 1.44 mm, respectively, which because the load resisted by the brackets was
was obtained in the second step. 136 kN (a in Fig. 2) and the load resisted by the
During the first step, the transverse displace- rims of the wheels was 76 kN (c in Fig. 2, the
ment should be smaller because the pads would upper value of c in Fig. 2 was selected to be 25
miss the front tyres if the displacement were g in order to decrease the magnitude of maxi-
large. Since the width of the tyre employed was mum deceleration for the composite bumper
175 mm, it was determined that the maximum beam). Figure 5 shows the force boundary con-
displacements should be smaller than the half ditions on the bumper beam at the second step.
of the width, i.e. 85 mm. The analysis per- When the thickness of the glass fabric epoxy
formed by FEM (finite element method) composite was 5.4 mm (30 plies), the analysis by
showed that the displacement of the end of the FEM showed that the maximum stress at the
bumper was 84 mm when the 144 kN load was centre of the bumper beam was 675 MPa. Since
applied on the bumper beam. Since the total the tensile strength of the glass fabric epoxy
transverse displacement was less than 85 mm, materials was 680 MPa, the thickness of the
the dimensions of the bumper so far deter- cross section of the composite bumper beam
mined were used in the manufacture of the was determined to be 5.4 mm. Then, the thick-
composite bumper beam. Since the steel spacer ness of the smaller composite beam located at
was neglected in the analysis, the actual dis- the front side of the two main bumper beams
Composite bumper beams 495

for the initial energy absorption was determined

as 1.44 mm (8 plies), which is much weaker
than the two main bumper beams.

Buckling test of the tapered ends of the bumper


If the ends of the bumper beam are collapsed

progressively during collision, the energy
absorption capability of the bumper beam can
be improved.’ Therefore, in this work, the ends
of the bumper beam were made tapered. For
the design of the tapered end of the bumper
beam, the starting and end thicknesses
slope of the taper must be determined.
buckling analysis of isotropic materials such as
steel can be performed by FEM analysis, how-

Fig. 6. Configuration
!I!- 8 plies

5 plies

of the tapered end of the com-

posite bumper.
ever, the buckling analysis of anisotropic
materials such as composite materials is not
easy. lo Therefore, FEM analysis was used only
for the determination of the starting thickness
and end thickness of the taper. In the analysis,
ANSYS 5.0 with 3-dimensional 8 node isopara-
metric elements was used. The slopes of the
taper were determined by compression tests.
From the analytical and experimental results,
the starting and end thicknesses of the taper for
progressive buckling of the ends during collision
were determined to be 1.44 mm (8 plies) and
0.9 mm (5 plies), respectively. Figure 6 shows
the configuration of the tapered end of the Fig. 7. Tapered end specimen for the composite bumper
composite bumper. beam.
When the slope of the taper was small, crack
rather than buckling would initiate.“‘12 How-
ever, the energy absorption would be small if the slope 20 mm/3 plies was employed in the
the slope was large. Therefore, the slope of the design of the composite bumper beam. Figure 9
taper was determined by the compression test shows the photograph of the progressive buck-
of the specimens representing the end of the ling behaviour of the tapered specimen with
composite bumper beam. L=20 mm.
The specimens which had four different
tapered lengths (L=5, 10, 20 and 30 mm) were
tested. Figure 7 shows the tapered end speci- MANUFACTURING OF THE COMPOSITE
men for the composite bumper beam. Tests BUMPER BEAM
were performed by an Instron with the test
speed of 2 mm/min. The mould for the composite bumper beams
Figure 8 shows the compression test results of was designed and manufactured with stainless
the specimens of Fig. 7. From the tests, it was steel plates. Figure 10 shows the schematic dia-
found that when L was 30 mm, the crack initi- gram of the mould.
ated through the lengthwise direction rather Figure 10(a) represents the main frame of the
than progressive buckling. When L was 5, 10 mould comprised of four plates. The four plates
and 20 mm, it was found that the progressive were assembled with high strength bolts and
buckling of the specimens occurred. Since the nuts whose strength could resist 0.7 MPa inter-
energy absorption capacity of the specimen with nal air pressure during manufacturing process.
L=20 mm was largest, this value which gives Figure 10(b) and Fig. 10(c) represent the end
496 Seong Sk Cheon, Jin Ho Choi, Dai Gil Lee

25 25

20 20

-15 -15

A 10 J 10

5 s-

0 0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Dispbcement ( mm ) Displocsment( mm )

(a) (b)

25 25

20 20

I :
-15 -15

1 x
A 10 J 10

5 5

0 0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Displacement( mm ) Disphcemenl ( mm )

cc> (4
Fig. 8. Compression test results of the tapered specimens of Fig. 7. (a) L=5 mm (b) L= 10 mm (c) L=20 mm
(d) L=30 mm.

Fig. 9. Photograph of the progressive buckling of the

tapered specimen (L =20 mm). Fig. 10. Schematic diagram of the mould.
Composite bumper beams 497

cap and the air seal with an o-ring, respectively. stacked as shown in Fig. 11(g). Then 3 ply uni-
Figure 10(d) is the plate with a small tube for a directional carbon fibre epoxy prepreg was
quick coupler for air supply. stacked on the whole length of the bumper
Glass fabric epoxy prepreg and uni-direc- beam in order to increase the bending strength
tional carbon fibre prepreg fabricated by Sun of the bumper beam as shown in Fig. 11(h).
Kyung Industry (Suwon, Korea) were used in After non-porous Teflon tape was covered on
the manufacture of the composite bumper the prepreg, mould release was coated on the
beam. Since the weft direction of the glass fab- mould surface. In order to relieve the stress
ric composite was stronger, the weft direction of concentration at the sharp corners of the bum-
the prepreg was aligned with the longitudinal per beam, silicon rubber strip whose cross
direction of the bumper beam to increase the section was an isosceles right triangle was
bending stiffness of the bumper beam. Figure attached to the corners of lower part of the
11 shows the manufacture sequence of the com- mould to make the corners round. After the
posite bumper beam. main part of the mould was charged, it was
The stainless steel mandrel as shown in Fig. assembled using the end caps and the sealing
11(a) was wrapped with a vacuum bag and a plates as shown in Fig. 11(i). After placing the
non-porous Teflon sheet as shown in Fig. 11(b). charged mould inside the heating chamber of
During manufacturing process, it was found that Fig. 11(j), 0.7 MPa air pressure was supplied
fibre folding occurred at the elbow section of inside of the mould. The temperature of the
the composite bumper beam when the entyre heating chamber was monitored by thermocou-
part of the bumper beam was manufactured ples and controlled by a temperature controller.
with glass fabric epoxy prepreg. Therefore, after Figure 12 shows the prototype composite bum-
stacking 8 ply glass fabric on the whole length per beam which was manufactured using the
of the mandrel as shown in Fig. 11(c), 22 ply process described before.
glass fabric epoxy prepreg was stacked except One set of the composite bumper beam was
the elbow section as shown in Fig. 11(d). After composed of 3 parts as shown in Fig. 12. The
removing the stainless steel mandrel as shown three composite beams were adhesively bonded
in Fig. 11(e), the elbow section was bent as using structural adhesives. The total weight of
shown in Fig. 11(f). At the elbow section, 20 ply one set of the composite bumper beam was 55
uni-directional carbon fibre epoxy prepreg was N, which was less than 30% of the steel bumper
beam whose weight was 200 N.




Fig. 11. Manufacturing sequence of the composite Fig. 12. Photograph of the prototype composite bumper
bumper beam. beams.
498 Seong Sik Cheon, Jin Ho Choi, Dai Gil Lee

The tapered section of the end of the compo-

site bumper beam was made by grinding process
and the two pads were attached to the end of
the beams using structural adhesive. Figure 13
shows the photograph of the composite bumper
beam with pads and the bumper fascia.
Polyurethane foam was filled between the
bumper beam and the bumper fascia to distrib-
ute the impact load and increase the energy
absorption during collision.



The static bending stiffness and strength of the

composite bumper beam were tested using an
Instron material testing machine to compare
the calculated results with the tested results. Fig. 14. Photograph of the composite bumper test.
Figure 14 shows the photograph of the compo-
site bumper test and Table 2 shows the Table 2. Comparison between theoretical and experi-
mental results
comparison results between the two.
The calculated value of the transverse dis- F. E. analysis Bending test
placement at the end of the composite bumper
External load 8 kN 8kN
beam without spacers by FEM analysis was 5 Transverse 5mm 6mm
mm under 8 kN load and the test result gave 6 displacement
mm. Taking into the difference of the load
boundary conditions between the FEM analysis
and the test as shown in Fig. 15, it was con-
cluded that the analysis for the determination of
the thickness of the cross section of the compo-
site bumper beam was satisfactory and reliable.
After this stiffness test, the steel spacers were
installed and the composite bumper was tested

Fig. 13. Photograph of the composite bumper with pads Fig. 15. Force boundary conditions in (a) FEM analysis,
and the bumper fascia. (b) test.
Composite bumper beams 499

determined to be 8 plies at the start point of

taper, 5 plies at the end of taper. The appro-
priate slope of the tapered section was
determined to be 20 mm/3 plies through com-
pression tests of the specimens representing the
end of the bumper beam.
Using the fabricated mould for the composite
bumper beam, the prototype composite bumper
beams were made and tested under static bend-
ing load. From the test, it was found that the
weight of the composite bumper beam was
about 30% of the steel bumper beam without
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Displacement ( mm ) sacrificing the bending strength.

Fig. 16. Load-displacement curve of the composite

bumper beam during the bending test.

under larger loads to simulate the real front
collision test in which the maximum load was 1. Margolis, J. M., Advanced Thermoset Composites, Van
Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1986, Chapter 5.
136 kN. However, the bending test beyond 41.7 2. Schmueser, D. W. & Wickliffe, L. E., Impact energy
kN could not be performed because the two absorption of continuous fibre composite tubes.
steel brackets were buckled at this load. Figure ASME J. Engng Mat. and Tech ., 109 (1987) 72-7.
3. Mallick, P. K., Fibre-Reinforced Composites, Marcel
16 shows the load displacement curve of the Dekker, 1988, pp. 248-56.
composite bumper beam during the bending 4. Agarwal, B. D. & Broutman, J. B., Analysis and Per-
test. After the test, the bumper was disassem- formance of Fiber Composites, 2nd edition, John Wiley
& Sons, NY, 1990, pp. 314-34.
bled and found that there was no damage in the 5. Bulson, P. S., The strength of thin-walled tubes
composite bumper beams. formed from flat elements. ht. J. Mech. Sci., II
(1969) 613-20.
6. Allen, H. G. & Bulson, P. S., Background to Buckling,
McGraw-Hill, NY, 1980, pp. 515-19.
CONCLUSIONS 7. Lal, K. M., Low velocity transverse impact behavior of
B-ply graphite-epoxy laminates. J. Reinf Plastics &
In this study, the composite bumper beam for Comp., 2 (1983) 216-25.
8. Sun, C. T. & Chattopadhyay, S., Dynamic response of
small passenger cars weighing 9500 N was anisotropic plates under initial stress due to impact
designed and manufactured based on the mag- mass. J. Appl. Mech., 42 (1975) 693-8.
nitude of the deceleration curves obtained 9. Thornton, P. H. & Jeryan, R. A., Crash energy man-
agement in composite automotive structures. Znt. J.
during the front collision test of the car. From Impact Engng, 7 (1988) 167-80.
the force boundary conditions, the optimal 10. Chen, J. K. & Sun, C. T., Analysis of impact response
cross-sectional dimension and thickness of the of buckled composite laminates. Comp. Stract., 3
composite bumper beam were determined to be (1985) 97-118.
11. Williams, J. G., On the calculations of energy release
40 mm x 40 mm and 5.4 mm (30 plies), respec- rates for cracked laminates. Znt. J. Fract., 36 (1988)
tively. 101-19.
The end of the bumper beam was designed to 12. Jang, B. Z., Chen, I. C., Wang, C. Z., Lin, H. T. &
Zee, R. H., Impact resistance and energy absorption
be tapered for the improvement of energy mechanisms in hybrid composites. Comp. Sci. & Tech.,
absorption characteristics. Based on the buck- 34 (1989) 305-35.
ling analysis, the appropriate ply number was