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Teaching Multibody System Simulation: An Approach with MATLAB

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovations in Solid Mechanics

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Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1252.1 - 25.1252.23



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Paper Authors


Peter Wolfsteiner Munich University of Applied Sciences

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Peter Wolfsteiner is professor in mechanical engineering at the Munich University of Applied Sciences (HM) in Germany. He received his Ph.D. degree in M.E. from the Technical University Munich. Prior to joining the faculty at HM, he worked at Knorr-Bremse Group as a Manager in the area of new technologies for rail vehicle braking systems. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in statics, strength of materials, dynamics, controls, numerics, and simulation of dynamical systems. Research interests include simulation, nonlinear dynamics, random vibrations, and fatigue. He is currently working as exchange professor at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

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Teaching Multibody System Simulation, an approach with MATLABThe application of simulation tools (e.g. multibody simulation) is an essential element in theengineering process of lots of new products. The education of engineers has to meet this fact!Lecturers have to deal with the question how an expedient education looks like in this area. Doesit make sense, to teach students sophisticated tools (e.g. Adams), that have been designed forlarge scale problems, hiding the mathematical background behind its user interface, with the riskto get lost in hundreds of questions concerning the application of this software? Or does it incontrary make sense to focus on the theory, to promote the comprehension of mechanics and notto waste time by teaching professional software tools. Probably none of these approaches coverthe needs of the students. A basic comprehension of applied multibody theory needs thetheoretical background as well as its transformation in real, mostly numerical solutions. Only thisreal solution gives students an imagination of the potentials and the limitations of a theoreticalconcept. The presented paper describes a very close combination of mathematical description andnumerical solution without using special multibody simulation software. Based on the softwareMATLAB, usually known by graduate engineering students, the derivation of equations and itsnumerical solution is done. Symbolic operations replace the fault-prone tedious manualderivation of equations, but the mathematical steps are still visible to the students. The numericalsolution demonstrates real effects and enables the student to get a feedback on the mechanicalmodelling. The paper demonstrates how typical tasks like – modelling of multibody systems, – derivation of equations of motion, – numerical solution of differential equations, – calculation of static equilibrium, – linearization and calculation of eigenvalues and eigenmodes,are solved. The concept is shown exemplary with MATALAB because its functional range(operations with vectors/matrices, symbolic and numerical tools, lots of useful numericalstandard routines) covers the need very well. Similar software tools may also be applied. Thepaper does neither have the intention to explain multibody theory nor the application ofMATLAB. A basic knowledge in these fields is assumed to be known. The paper also does notexplain lots of details of the mechanical derivations and the MATLAB code, because they aremostly self explaining if the presented examples are worked through. The paper keeps its focuson demonstrating the educational concept based on some selected examples. They are chosenwith the idea to be as simple as possible but also able to show the capability of the proposedmethod.The approach has been developed over five years by the author and was successfully applied tograduate students. The students proved their abilities in student projects (e.g. formula student), intheir Master Thesis or by directly starting industry jobs in the area of dynamics and simulation.

Wolfsteiner, P. (2012, June), Teaching Multibody System Simulation: An Approach with MATLAB Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22009

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