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The showpiece of the Roush Advanced Durability Lab is the MTS Systems six-degrees-of-freedom spindle-coupled road simulator. (Roush)

Roush opens Advanced Durability Lab

Supplier bets big on physical testing's future.

The auto industry’s steady march toward electrified and automated vehicles has many suppliers affixed to the digital-testing environment rather than using traditional hardware validation.

With a six-degrees of freedom road simulator as its centerpiece, the recently-opened Roush Advanced Durability Lab in Livonia, Michigan is a trend-buster. “If suppliers and vehicle manufacturers aren’t going to reinvest in certain hardware solutions because their product-development focus is software solutions, there will be a gap. That’s an opportunity for us,” claimed Jeff Johnston, Roush’s president of testing services.

In addition to the road simulator, Roush’s $6-million lab also features bedplates for component and subsystem durability testing; isolated control rooms; a 450 gallons-per-minute hydraulic pump and a cooling tower. Mike Valko, director of business development for Roush, said global automakers have similar testing capabilities in-house. “But Roush can help with overflow, time-constraint and change-of-scope testing needs,” said Valko.

The MTS Systems Corp. Model 329 six-degrees of freedom, spindle-coupled road simulator can be programmed with drive files that replicate cobblestone surfaces, potholes, curb-strikes and other proving-ground events, according to Gerald Roesser, advanced durability lab manager. “A vehicle mule or prototype will accumulate miles faster and more aggressively during 24/7 testing time atop the road simulator than if all of the product development testing was done at a proving ground,” said Roesser, adding, “We’re really talking about early development work. This lab won’t replace the proving ground, as that will remain the vehicle validation method for automakers.”

With its 13,200-lb. (5987-kg) peak payload, the road simulator can move forward/backward, up/down and left/right—in addition to pitch, yaw and roll rotation. “Whether done by Roush or our customer, you need a vehicle or mule on the proving ground for a few days to get vehicle-specific, real-world data,” Roesser said. “But we are working on a concept where we’ll use virtual roads and modeling with hardware-in-the-loop to get the road loads, then we’ll play those loads through the road simulator.”

Before Roush opened its latest lab, the supplier typically outsourced vehicle durability work, noted Johnston. “We have durability labs for engines and transmissions, but this is our first dedicated lab for vehicle and component-level durability testing,” Johnston said, adding, “Over time, we will be known as the durability domain expert for component, subsystem and full-vehicle testing.”

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