When performing predictive durability analyses on tires using finite element methods, it is generally recognized that energy release rate (ERR) is the best measure by which to characterize the fatigue behavior of rubber. By addressing actual cracks in a simulation geometry, ERR provides a more appropriate durability criterion than the strain energy density (SED) of geometries without cracks. If determined as a function of crack length and loading history, and augmented with material crack growth properties, ERR allows for a quantitative prediction of fatigue life. Complications arise, however, from extra steps required to implement the calculation of ERR within the analysis process. This article presents an overview and some details of a method to perform such analyses. The method involves a preprocessing step that automates the creation of a ribbon crack within an axisymmetric-geometry finite element model at a predetermined location. After inflating and expanding to three dimensions to fully load the tire against a surface, full ribbon sections of the crack are then incrementally closed through multiple solution steps, finally achieving complete closure. A postprocessing step is developed to determine ERR as a function of crack length from this enforced crack closure technique. This includes an innovative approach to calculating ERR as the crack length approaches zero.

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