Wheel-rail contact modelling in vehicle dynamics simulation
The wheel-rail contact is at the core of all research related to vehicle-track interaction. This tiny interface governs the dynamic performance of rail vehicles through the loads it transmits and, like any high stress concentration zone, it is subjected to serious damage phenomena. Thus, a clear understanding of the rolling contact between wheel and rail is key to realistic vehicle dynamic simulation and damage analyses.
In a multi-body-system simulation package, the essentially demanding contact problem should be evaluated in about every millisecond. Hence, a rigorous treatment of the contact is highly time consuming. Simplifying assumptions are, therefore, made to accelerate the simulation process. This gives rise to a trade-off between accuracy and computational efficiency of the contact models in use.
Historically, Hertz contact solution is used since it is of closed-form. However, some of its underlying assumptions may be violated quite often in wheel-rail contact. The assumption of constant relative curvature which leads to an elliptic contact patch is of this kind. Fast non-elliptic contact models are proposed by others to lift this assumption while avoiding the tedious numerical procedures. These models are accompanied by a simplified approach to treat tangential tractions arising from creepages and spin.
In this thesis, in addition to a literature survey presented, three of these fast non-elliptic contact models are evaluated and compared to each other in terms of contact patch, pressure and traction distributions as well as the creep forces. Based on the conclusions drawn from this evaluation, a new method is proposed which results in more accurate contact patch and pressure distribution estimation while maintaining the same computational efficiency. The experience gained through this Licentiate work illuminates future research directions among which, improving tangential contact results and treating conformal contacts are given higher priority.