Test The Limits

Optimizing Vehicle A-Pillar Design with Simulation Software

By Steve Remondi

February 10 2015

A-pillars used to be a simple strip of metal holding up the roof and providing a fixing point for the windscreen. Now they’ve become one of the most fiercely contested battlegrounds in the development of a car.


Challenges Around A-Pillar Design: Everyone Has an Agenda  


The list of engineers wanting a say in its design is long:


  • The Crash Structure Team- they need to ensure the impact load paths up the pillar don’t deform the door aperture (a no-no in your typical crash test procedure).
  • The Visibility Team- they need to make sure the ever-chunkier post doesn’t breach blind-spot regulations.
  • Acoustics Team- if the vortex coming off the A-pillar isn’t properly managed from a noise point of view, it’ll quickly become a sore point with consumers, as it has a huge impact on interior acoustics
  • The Aerodynamics Team- they need to improve fuel economy by getting wind flow to accelerate around the corner, producing suction and reducing drag by pulling the car forward.
  • The Soiling & Flow Management Team- they need to manage the water flow off the windscreen, making sure rain doesn’t cascade down the side windows. This requires a channel up the column, creating drag and noise that conflicts with the aerodynamics and acoustics teams’ initiatives.
  • The Design Team- The rake, the amount of metal and the look of the pillar, whether chunkier for a 4×4 or slimmer for a sports car, is dictated by the designers.


The thing is, once the design team has developed the vehicle styling, it’s typically frozen, meaning that it’s up to the various engineering teams to work round it. The problem? This can be very expensive.


If you don’t want the cost of adding, as an example, triple-thickness door-seals to cure noise issues for a mid-life facelift, then it’s important to resolve these issues early. Small changes on the A-pillar can make a huge difference. With the right information serving as a guide at the beginning of the design process, engineers can work with the studio to find a desirable outcome.


Using Simulation Software to Create Strategic A-Pillar Design


And this information can only be discovered through automotive simulation software, which predicts real-world performance early in the design process. The result? The ability to evaluate many potential solutions to craft the optimum A-pillar design, reducing compromise and encouraging collaboration between battle-worn colleagues.

Simulation software accurately predicts real world conditions, allowing engineers to evaluate vehicle performance early in the design process prior to any prototype being built — when the impact of change is most significant for design and budgets.


Vehicle engineers on numerous teams can utilize simulation software to optimize A-pillar design to meet their requirements, including: 


  • Aerodynamics: test for aerodynamic efficiency, handling, and driving dynamics.
  • Aeroacoustics: view greenhouse and underbody wind noise, gap/seal noise, mirror, whistle and tonal noise, and sunroof and window buffeting.
  • Thermal Management: for observing and optimizing cooling airflow, thermal protection, drive cycle simulation, key-off and soak, and RoA/intake ports.
  • Soiling and Water Management: view A-pillar overflow, dirt and dust accumulation, tire spray


Final Thoughts


A-pillar design is especially challenging because of how many teams need it to meet their various requirements and regulations. Simulation software is a key tool for achieving a seamless, cost-effective, efficient A-pillar design process, since this technology provides accurate, transient early-stage issue diagnosis across the departments involved in A-pillar design.


Learn more about using automotive simulation software to optimize numerous aspects of your vehicle design process.