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Shock and Vibration
Volume 18 (2011), Issue 1-2, Pages 397-406

Limitations of Smoothening Functions for Automotive Vibro-Impact Problems

Zhiwei Zhang,1 Rajendra Singh,2 and Ashley R. Crowther2

1Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK
2Acoustics and Dynamics Laboratory, Mechanical Engineering Department, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

Received 13 February 2010; Revised 31 May 2010

Copyright © 2011 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Nonlinear torsional models are used to analyze automotive transmission rattle problems and find solutions to reduce noise, vibration and dynamic loads. The torsional stiffness and inertial distribution of such systems show that the underlying mathematical problem is numerically stiff. In addition, the clearance nonlinearities in the gear meshes introduce discontinuous functions. Both factors affect the efficacy of time domain integration and smoothening functions are widely used to overcome computational difficulties and improve the simulation. In this paper, alternate smoothening functions are studied for their influence on the numerical solutions and their impact on global convergence and computation times. In particular, four smoothening functions (arctan, hyperbolic-cosine, hyperbolic-tan and quintic-spline) are applied to a five-degree-of-freedom generic torsional system with two backlash (clearance) elements. Each function is assessed via a global convergence metric across an excitation map (a design of experiment). Regions of the excitation map, along with multiple solutions, are studied and the implications to assessing convergence are critically examined. It is observed that smoothening functions do not lead to better convergence in many cases. The smoothening parameter needs to be carefully selected, or over-smoothened solutions may be found. The system studied is representative of a typical automotive rattle problem and it was found that benefits were limited from applying such smoothening functions.