Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Summers, Joshua David

Committee Member

Joseph , Paul F

Committee Member

Biggers , Sherrill


The objective of this research is to develop a design method for rapid exploration of traction concepts primarily for off-road vehicles. Different approaches available to achieve this objective are discussed and compared, such as computational, analytical, and physical methods. Computational approaches are based on simulations performed using Finite Element Method (FEM), Discrete Element Method (DEM), and combined Finite Element-Discrete Element (FE-DE) methods. Analytical approaches are based on closed form mathematical models developed by previous researchers based on the theory of plasticity. Physical approaches include fabrication and testing of prototypes at different levels of abstraction. This thesis compares these different approaches to design with respect to design process requirements of (1) timeliness, (2) cost, (3) required expertise, (4) accuracy of results, (5) flexibility to adapt to new designs and (6) stage of design process. This comparison is done both at a theoretical level and at an implemented level where each of the strategies are used to try and delineate between different classes of traction concepts. It is proposed that the physical prototyping approach should be the preferred approach with respect to these criteria. A new structured design approach is developed based on these findings to employ the different modeling schemes at stages of the design process that are most appropriate based on the technological maturity of this specific application domain.



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