The wheel loader is a type of engineering vehicle used primarily to move crude material over shorter distances. As the vehicle is designed without wheel suspension, wheel loader drivers are exposed to high levels of whole body vibration which influences ride comfort negatively.
The work presented in this project has the aim to investigate the potential in adding an axle suspension to a wheel loader in order to reduce vibrations and increase handling quality. While suspended axles have great potential for improving ride comfort and performance, they will also necessarily affect the vehicle dynamic behaviour which is different in many aspects from that of passenger cars or other road vehicles: the wheel loader has a large pitch inertia compared to its mass, the axle loads vary considerably with loading condition, and the vehicle uses an articulated frame steering system rather than wheel steering. These issues must all be considered in the design process for a wheel loader suspension.
The effects of suspended axles on ride vibrations are analysed by simulating a multibody wheel loader model with and without axle suspension. Results from the simulations show that longitudinal and vertical acceleration levels are greatly reduced with axle suspension, but that the decrease in lateral acceleration is smaller. By reducing the roll stiffness lateral accelerations can be further reduced, although this may not be feasible because of requirements on handling stability.
The pitching oscillation of the vehicle has also been studied as this is known to have a large influence on ride comfort. An analytical model is used to study the effect of front and rear suspension characteristics on the pitching response of the wheel loader, showing that a stiffer rear suspension is favourable for reducing pitching but also that a similar effect is attainable with a stiffer front suspension.
Results are compared to multibody simulations which show the same trend as analytical predictions. By including a linearised representation of a hydropneumatic suspension in the models, it is also shown that favourable dynamic behaviour can be maintained when the vehicle is loaded by utilising the fact that suspension stiffness is increasing with axle load.
Articulated vehicles may exhibit lateral oscillations known as “snaking” when driven at high speed. The effect of suspended axles on these oscillations are analysed using a multibody simulation model of a wheel loader with an equivalent roll stiffness suspension model. It is found that the roll motion of the sprung mass has a slightly destabilising effect on the snaking oscillations. This effect is more pronounced if the body roll frequency is close to the frequency of the snaking motion, although this loss in stability can be compensated for by increasing the equivalent stiffness or damping of the steering system.
Together with existing vehicle dynamic theory and design rules, the studies reported in this work provide an insight into the specific issues related to suspension design for wheel loaders.
Author: Rehnberg, Adam