"Our aim is to save time and maintenance costs, but more importantly to reduce downtime by catching damage before it leads to failure in the field," said Douglas Adams, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of Purdue University's Center for Systems Integrity.
The vehicles are driven over the "tactical wheeled vehicle diagnostic cleat," which is like a rubber-jacketed speed bump equipped with sensors called triaxial accelerometers.
The system measures vibrations created by forces that a vehicle's tires apply to the cleat.
Damage is detected in the tires, wheel bearings and suspension components by using signal processing software to interpret the sensor data.
"Let's say one of the tires is severely under pressure. The cleat tells you to turn around and fill up that tire because you are about to embark on a 10-hour mission with this vehicle," Adams said.
"Or, you are returning the vehicle to the depot and the cleat tells you that the right rear suspension has a problem in the shock absorber or a critical bolt in the front suspension is broken. The maintenance personnel don't have to troubleshoot the vehicle. They know what to fix," he added.
The system also could be used in commercial applications to test civilian vehicles, he explained.
"The diagnostic cleat is designed to be quick and easy to use," said Joseph Gothamy, acting team leader for the reliability and durability modeling and simulation team at the U.S. Army center.
"The last thing we want to do is take time from already overburdened soldiers and maintenance officers. The cleat is a quick first check to determine what's mechanically wrong with a vehicle before wasting time hunting for potentially simple problems," he added.
The researchers tested their system in experiments with high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, or Humvees, and also developed a computational model to simulate how the system works.
"Our simulated model showed us that we were capable of using the system accurately to detect damage to vehicle components, and our experiments with actual vehicles validated the model," said Adams.
"The system was sensitive to as little as a 5 percent change in the stiffness of the suspension," he added.
Findings show the method is capable of accurately identifying damage to vehicle tires and the suspension. (ANI)