The research results appeared to be successful from the very first practical test

Bus manufacturer VDL Bus Roeselare is part of the Dutch VDL group, which holds 91 companies divided over four industrial branches: supply, buses, passenger cars and finished products, a/o roof boxes. Marc Bottecaer, supervisor of the company’s engineering projects: “Compared to other bus manufacturers, VDL Bus Roeselare may well be the odd one out. We never specialised in one type of bus but have several products in our portfolio: from city buses and coaches to more robust buses for export to, for instance, Ghana and Ethiopia. Furthermore, with our fully electric buses, we also play a pioneering role in Europe when it comes to alternative drivetrains.”

“Our successful cooperation with Flanders Make concerned the roll-over protection of our buses”, adds Marc. “Although not mandatory, we consider it an added value to offer the regional buses that we make with a roll-over protection system as well. A bus meeting the requirements of such roll- over protection offers sufficient survival space for passengers whenever the bus tilts. Following a new law raising the standards, we had to develop an adjusted, more solid structure.”

“Together with Flanders Make, we set up a project studying the possibilities for adjusting the structure without significantly increasing the weight of the vehicle as this would reduce the maximum number of passengers. For instance, a bus weighing 500 kilogrammes more would reduce the maximum number of passengers by 7. Obviously, the capacity of its buses is an important factor for our customers.”

Structural foams

“Still, at that moment we weren’t yet ready to give up the stainless steel body of our buses although we are currently making every effort to develop synthetic alternatives. That’s why we mainly focused on the bus profiles. We performed research into alternative profiles and alternative materials. We tested them on one section and then extrapolated the data to the entire bus. We examined, for instance, the possibility to fill up our profiles with structural foams. The use of such foams not only keeps the profiles light, but also ensures more survival space for the passengers whenever the vehicle tilts.” 

Knowledge sharing

“We continued our research and examined the positive results in cooperation with a recognised calculation office. Meanwhile, we’ve already booked a positive result for one type of regional bus with a roll-over simulation that meets the new regulations. For us, the added value of the project also lies in the close cooperation that Flanders Make has been setting up between us and the other research partners. Flanders Make brings together several partners, all with their own specific knowledge and expertise. This generates valuable results thanks to the knowledge that is automatically shared within a familiar and trusted environment. Another great asset: for the various tests we could use the comprehensive facilities that Flanders Make makes available to its partners.”