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Using Ansys LS-DYNA for Car Crash Simulations

Introduction to Car Crash Simulations

Car crash simulations are a critical aspect of automotive design and safety engineering. These simulations allow engineers to predict the behavior of vehicles during collisions, helping to improve safety features, enhance vehicle structures, and comply with regulatory standards. Ansys LS-DYNA is a powerful tool widely used for such simulations due to its robust capabilities in modeling complex, nonlinear dynamic events. This blog explores the use of Ansys LS-DYNA in car crash simulations, highlighting its features, benefits, and practical applications.


Crash simulation of two toy automobiles performed in Ansys LS-DYNA.


Understanding Ansys LS-DYNA

Ansys LS-DYNA is a highly advanced, general-purpose finite element software used to simulate real-world problems across various industries. Its primary strength lies in its ability to handle large deformations, complex contact conditions, and material failure, making it ideal for crash simulations. LS-DYNA's extensive library of material models and its ability to simulate interactions between different components provide a comprehensive environment for crash analysis.

Key Features of LS-DYNA for Crash Simulations

1. Nonlinear Dynamics: LS-DYNA excels in solving problems involving nonlinearities in geometry, material behavior, and boundary conditions, which are typical in crash scenarios.
2. Explicit Time Integration: This method allows for accurate simulation of events over very short time periods, crucial for capturing the details of a crash event.
3. Advanced Contact Algorithms: LS-DYNA offers robust contact algorithms that can simulate the interactions between various vehicle components during a collision.
4. Material Models: The software includes a vast array of material models to simulate different types of materials, from metals to composites, ensuring accurate representation of vehicle structures.
5. Crashworthiness: LS-DYNA includes specific features for assessing the crashworthiness of vehicles, such as dummies and barrier models for regulatory crash tests.

Setting Up a Car Crash Simulation

Setting up a car crash simulation in LS-DYNA involves several critical steps, each requiring careful attention to detail to ensure accurate results.

1. Pre-Processing

The first step is to prepare the finite element model of the vehicle. This includes:

Geometry Creation: Importing the vehicle's CAD model into Ansys Workbench or directly into LS-DYNA and cleaning up the geometry to remove unnecessary details.
Meshing: Generating a finite element mesh that balances accuracy and computational efficiency. LS-DYNA supports various meshing techniques, including shell, solid, and beam elements, which can be used to model different parts of the vehicle.
Material Assignment: Assigning appropriate material properties to each component. This involves selecting material models from LS-DYNA's library that best represent the real-world behavior of the materials used in the vehicle.
Initial Conditions and Boundary Conditions: Setting the initial velocity, positioning of the vehicle, and defining the boundary conditions, such as fixed supports or symmetry constraints.

2. Defining the Crash Scenario

In this step, the specifics of the crash scenario are defined. This includes:

- Collision Objects: Defining objects that the vehicle will collide with, such as barriers, poles, or other vehicles. LS-DYNA provides predefined models for various regulatory crash tests.
- Contact Definitions: Specifying the type of contact interactions between different parts of the vehicle and between the vehicle and collision objects. This involves setting up contact parameters like friction, contact stiffness, and failure criteria.
- Dummies and Sensors: Placing crash test dummies and sensors within the vehicle to measure the impact forces and accelerations experienced during the crash.

3. Running the Simulation

With the model set up and the crash scenario defined, the simulation can be executed. This involves:

- Solver Settings: Configuring the LS-DYNA solver parameters, such as time step size, convergence criteria, and parallel processing options to optimize the simulation performance.
- Execution: Running the simulation, which may take from several hours to days depending on the complexity of the model and the computational resources available.

Post-Processing and Analysis

Once the simulation is complete, the results need to be analyzed to draw meaningful conclusions.

1. Visualization

LS-DYNA provides extensive post-processing tools for visualizing the simulation results. Engineers can examine:

- Deformation Patterns: How the vehicle structure deforms during the crash, identifying areas of high stress and potential failure.
- Impact Forces: Forces experienced by different components and crash test dummies, providing insights into injury mechanisms.
- Energy Absorption: How kinetic energy is absorbed by the vehicle's crumple zones, which is crucial for minimizing occupant injuries.

2. Data Analysis

Detailed numerical data from the simulation is analyzed to evaluate:

- Crashworthiness: Compliance with safety regulations and standards by assessing metrics such as intrusion levels, dummy injury criteria, and structural integrity.
- Optimization: Identifying areas for improvement in the vehicle design, such as reinforcing certain components or redesigning crumple zones for better energy absorption.
- Comparative Studies: Comparing different design iterations to select the best-performing one in terms of safety and performance.

Practical Applications and Case Studies

Ansys LS-DYNA is used extensively across the automotive industry, with numerous case studies demonstrating its effectiveness in enhancing vehicle safety. Here are a few examples:

1. Side Impact Analysis

A study conducted by a leading automotive manufacturer used LS-DYNA to simulate side impact collisions. The simulation helped identify weaknesses in the door structure and led to the reinforcement of side panels, significantly improving the vehicle's safety ratings in side impact tests.

2. Pedestrian Safety

Another application involved assessing pedestrian safety by simulating collisions with dummies. LS-DYNA's detailed human body models enabled engineers to optimize the vehicle's front-end design, reducing the risk of injury to pedestrians in the event of a collision.

3. Rollover Simulations

In rollover crash simulations, LS-DYNA's ability to model complex interactions and large deformations allowed for the analysis of roof strength and the effectiveness of safety features like roll bars and airbags.


Ansys LS-DYNA is a powerful tool that plays a crucial role in advancing automotive safety through detailed and accurate car crash simulations. Its capabilities in handling nonlinear dynamics, advanced contact interactions, and comprehensive material modeling make it indispensable for engineers aiming to design safer vehicles. By simulating and analyzing crash scenarios, LS-DYNA helps in identifying potential safety improvements, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, and ultimately protecting the lives of vehicle occupants and pedestrians alike.

As automotive technology continues to evolve, the use of sophisticated simulation tools like Ansys LS-DYNA will remain essential in pushing the boundaries of vehicle safety and performance.

Luis Costa
Post by Luis Costa
May 22, 2024