Vehicle Dynamics Measurements on Tracked Vehicles using WFTs

Understanding the dynamic forces acting on tracked vehicles (continuous tread/caterpillar track) offers the insight necessary to create more capable machines. Tracked vehicles achieving higher speeds, heavier loads, and increased durability will require extensive testing. Advancements in FEA/FEM have enabled simulations to include complete tracked running systems. The mapping of movements and interactions of individual components of the system allows for the evaluation of complex loads in a variety of scenarios. These simulations provide insight into expected forces experienced by various components within the system, a crucial step in design and prototyping. Real-world testing is used in various stages of the design and prototyping to validate the results of FEA. To create useful FEA, the forces experienced by the individual components as well as the full system must be validated with physical tests. 

Vehicle Dynamic Testing on Tracked Vehicles:

Ground to Hull Forces: Key force inputs are transmitted from the ground to the vehicle’s hull. An important issue related to the use of tracked vehicles is the phenomenon of vibration. Understanding track vibration is essential to evaluating the durability of track components and the vibration energy transmitted to the vehicle. This can heavily impact wear to individual components as well as personnel within the vehicle. Dynamic testing helps engineers optimize the vehicle’s suspension, steering, and overall handling characteristics to ensure peak performance in the intended environment.

Weight Reduction: Weight reduction of tracked vehicles can play an important role in fuel consumption as well as the transportation of vehicles via ground or air. Heavier vehicles also increase the wear of driveline and running gear components. In combat vehicles such as unmanned ground vehicles, Armored Personnel Carriers (APC), or tanks, it can be crucial to reduce weight to transport armored vehicles by air to regions of conflict. Military vehicles with continuous tracks have an increasing need for armor while maintaining existing dimensions and mobility characteristics. 

Durability Testing: Tracked vehicles undergo intense wear and tear, especially during military operations or heavy-duty agricultural tasks. Dynamic testing allows engineers to evaluate the durability of key components, identifying weaknesses and areas for improvement to enhance the vehicle’s overall lifespan. Tracked vehicles are designed for specific tasks, and their performance is heavily reliant on their ability to navigate different terrains efficiently. 

Precision in Design: Engineers strive to create vehicles that are not only powerful but also precise in their movements. Dynamic testing provides valuable data on a vehicle’s responsiveness to steering inputs, acceleration, and braking, aiding in the refinement of design elements for improved control and maneuverability.

Wheel Force Transducer on Tank for tracked wheel measurement

Michigan Scientific Corporation Wheel Force Transducers:

Accurate Measurement of Forces and Moments: Michigan Scientific Wheel Force Transducers (WFTs) are sensors that accurately measure the forces and moments applied to each wheel. This data includes vertical, longitudinal, and lateral forces, as well as pitch, roll, and yaw moments. This allows engineers to obtain detailed insights into how the vehicle interacts with the terrain and responds to various inputs. This data is essential for understanding how continuous track vehicles respond to varying terrains, loads, and operational conditions. Wheel Force Transducers can be installed on both road wheels and the idler. 

Real-time Data Acquisition: These transducers enable real-time data when used with commercially available data acquisition systems. This allows engineers to monitor and analyze a wide range of parameters, including tire forces, wheel speeds, and suspension dynamics. This information is invaluable for making informed decisions about design modifications and improvements.

Versatility: Michigan Scientific WFTs are designed to be versatile and can be easily adapted to different vehicle configurations. Whether testing a military tank, an agricultural crawler, or a construction vehicle, these transducers offer a flexible solution for diverse applications.

Robust Design for Harsh Environments: Tracked vehicles often operate in harsh and unpredictable environments. MSC WFTs are engineered to withstand these conditions, providing accurate measurements even in extreme temperatures, vibrations, and rugged terrains. This durability ensures that the transducers perform reliably in the field. Tracked vehicles often operate with varying loads, such as equipment or cargo. WFTs provide real-time information on load distribution across the wheels, allowing engineers to ensure structural integrity and stability.

Custom Adapters: Michigan Scientific will design and manufacture adapters for each tracked vehicle. MSC can also advise on and review the adapters designed by customers. 

Instrumentation in the Track Mechanism and Suspension System

Michigan Scientific is also capable of instrumenting other critical components within the track mechanism and suspension system. Insight into track tension and the forces exerted on the idler wheel can be achieved using custom force transducers, based on our Wheel Force Transducers. Instrumenting the drive sprocket for torque measurements is also well within Michigan Scientific’s capabilities. 

Drive Sprocket and Idler Wheel: Insight into track tension and the forces exerted on the idler wheel can be achieved using Wheel Force Transducers. Michigan Scientific can also adapt our wheel force technology to meet the size and strength required to get accurate measurements from the drive sprocket. 

Torsion Bar: Torsion bars are a key component of a tracked vehicle’s suspension system. The characteristics of a tracked vehicle suspension system impact the speed, handling, reliability, and durability. Michigan Scientific can help achieve accurate measurements of the stress experienced by torsion bars using expert knowledge and years of gauging experience. 

Drive Sprocket teeth: Michigan Scientific has experience gauging gear teeth. Contact forces between the sprocket teeth and each link of the track can be a valuable source of information on torque transmission. 

The performance of tracked vehicles in both the military and work sectors is difficult to predict. They are designed to overcome the most difficult terrain and conditions while being reliable and durable enough to stay operating in the field. Rigorous testing is necessary to develop vehicles that are capable of handling such environments. Michigan Scientific Corporation offers the instrumentation capable of measuring those forces in the field. To speak with a Michigan Scientific engineer about a potential application, Contact Us today. 


Relevant Articles:

Fighting the Growth and Weight Spiral. (2023, March 24). Soucy Defense Division.

Allen, P. (2006, January). Models for the Dynamic Simulation of Tank Track Components Defence College of Management and Technology. Retrieved March 29, 2022, from

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Combat Vehicle Weight Reduction by Materials Substitution: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Nicolini, A., Mocera, F., & Somà, A. (2018). Multibody simulation of a tracked vehicle with deformable ground contact model. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part K: Journal of Multi-Body Dynamics233(1), 152–162.