It’s no secret that Honda builds some of the safest vehicles on the road today. Their products consistently perform well in both NHTSA and IIHS crash tests.
A lot of work goes into earning these scores, with engineers sweating every detail right down to the spot welds that hold a car or truck together.
These small, electrically applied bonds are critically important; they’re essentially places where separate panels have been fused together. They’re probably the easiest way of holding sheet-metal components together and they hold fast even under trying conditions.
Spot welds are also a key reason why this company’s vehicles are so safe. Marc Ernst, chief engineer and large project leader at Honda said they’ve implemented proprietary technology with these metal-to-metal connections. Unfortunately that’s about all he could say. “It’s an exclusive technology that I can’t tell you about but I know that it’s something that we own so it’s really important.”
Pressing him for more information Ernst said, “Everything is in the details, it’s how you do your spot welds, it’s how you do the actual parts and it’s how you do every little detail about when things crack or break [during a crash].”
The company’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) bodies provide maximum protection for occupants. A key reason for their inherent safety is the way crash loads are distributed through connected structural elements. This helps spread forces more evenly throughout a vehicle’s body, which keeps it away from occupants.
The IIHS small-overlap test is one particularly demanding crash evaluation. It involves a vehicle slamming into a five-foot-tall immovable barrier at 40 miles an hour. Only 25 percent of the car or truck’s front end impacts the obstacle. Understandably this test puts enormous stress on a vehicle’s structure, which is what makes it so challenging to pass.
“You have to have a good understanding, an understanding of how things can change in that crash and making sure you manage all the different modes to get the best possible performance,” said Ernst. Going on he added, “That’s mostly what we do, and then we also combine it with really good simulation and within simulation you can test all the different variations.”
SEE ALSO: What are IIHS Ratings?
But how do you improve a simple spot weld? Basically they’re just places where metal pieces are melted together. Shedding a little more light on Honda’s magic Ernst said, “In our ability to simulate the spot weld, what is the spot weld really doing?” He noted that precise computer models and accurate mock-ups are absolutely critical.
“It’s important for us to have the simulation match the actual vehicle,” said Ernst, because if it doesn’t line up then the vehicle is not going to perform as you expect in the real world. Bringing all of this together maybe Honda hasn’t revolutionized the simple spot weld; perhaps what they’ve done is a better job of learning how these joints perform in a crash and then applying them to the optimum places in a vehicle.
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