Automobile safety has been, and undoubtedly also will be, an important part of the automotive industry. Oleksandr Khodko, a member of the ŠKODA Technical Development, who focuses on the development of car components in connection with car crashes, told us what he likes about his work most, and how he feels about ŠKODA AUTO.
Mr. Khodko, to begin with, can you tell us where you are from and why you decided to work at ŠKODA AUTO?
I’m originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine. During my career path, I realized that the virtual prototyping is one of the most interesting and promising trends in modern engineering. After having defended my PhD thesis, I began to think seriously about working in this field for a big international company where I could continue to develop my professional skills and grow further. So, the decision came by itself. ŠKODA AUTO is a well-known and respected automotive company with an outstanding history.
What universities did you go to before joining ŠKODA AUTO?
I studied in Ukraine at National Aerospace University “Kharkiv Aviation Institute”. My specialty was Technology of Airplane and Helicopter Manufacturing. During the writing my Master's thesis I was hired at company, which was dealing with the development of interior components for wide-body passenger aircrafts as Design Engineer. I worked there until I received an offer regarding PhD program in my University. Within four years of working on my PhD thesis and being Research Associate of Airplane Design Technology department, I gained much experience in high velocity metal forming processes which is widely used in aerospace and automotive industries for shaping complex lightweight components. To investigate such complex processes, along with the experimental approach, numerical simulations are widely used. That was how I obtained solid experience in Finite Element Method (FEM) for the analysis of non-linear and dynamic systems which is main tool for carrying out my current work of Development Engineer in Structural Crash and Occupant Safety for ŠKODA Technical Development. Before the defence of my PhD thesis and arrival to Czech Republic, I improved my skills in FEM simulations even more working for several years as a Research and Development Engineer in company engaged in the development of Concentrating Solar Collectors. Looking back on my education and work experience I am grateful to all my former teachers and colleagues for the knowledge that I can use in my current work in ŠKODA AUTO.
How long have you been working for ŠKODA AUTO?
I started at ŠKODA AUTO in August 2016. For all this time, I have never regretted my decision. The Technical Development at ŠKODA is a place where you work on state-of-art projects side by side with intelligent and friendly people. That is also one of the main reasons why I like working here.
You work as a “Development Engineer – Side Crash”. Could you please tell us a bit more about your job?
Working as a Development Engineer in Structural Crash and Occupant Safety, I investigate/analyse the safety of the car occupants during impact on the lateral structure of the car by means of a computer simulation. My main responsibilities include the preparation of numerical models, analysis of simulation results and development of approaches for structural optimisation of car side-structure, validation of FEM models with experimental data obtained during real crash tests, documentation of results and cooperation with other departments at meetings where I can present my findings.
Do you also participate in real crash tests?
Yes, our team participates in real crash tests as support in the preparation and evaluation from the very beginning to the very end of development process. The numerical simulation allows us to better understand the results obtained in real crash tests. Plenty of numerical and graphical output makes it possible to study the behaviour of car structure "from within" and solve some problems that would have been nearly impossible if we had used only real tests.
Do you think there is any improvement potential in the car safety features or the maximum car safety has already been achieved?
Of course there is always plenty of improvement potential, and it is because of several reasons: the first one is that from year to year, the NCAP requirements are constantly increasing. Other variables that affect safety issues are lightweight designs that help reduce fuel consumption and emissions, and we also cannot forget about the car price, which also affects our work. It is necessary to take ŠKODA’s price competition on the global market into account. Thanks to these and other variables, the opportunities for improvement will always be there. And I believe that the future of car safety is inextricably linked with virtual prototyping which allows us by means of computer simulation explore the performance of thousands of design alternatives and optimize the cars structure before investing the time and money required to build a real prototype of the new car. Due to this fact, the time and costs required to bring the car to market is reduced significantly.
In which way do you and your team-mates cooperate with Design department?
When we talk about exterior design, our team support ŠKODA Design Department mainly indirectly. It usually occurs in the form of support for design engineers and Concept Development Department. The main reason for this is that the crash-relevant parts of car side structure, which take the main load from the impact, are covered by side sheet and don’t affect the exterior shape of car too much. But regarding the interior design our cooperation can be more obvious. It is due to the fact that the interior trim of the car has a significant effect on the dummies behavior, so that some design features might be unsafe for the driver and passengers in the event of a collision.
Sometimes it’s also important to take a break from work. What do you do in your free time?
In my free time I like to do sports. Fortunately, the city provides great opportunities for different sport activities. Basically, I go to the gym. I used to play basketball from my early age, but now I don’t have the opportunity to devote much time to this sport, so I'm happy to play this game casually with my friends. After I came to the Czech Republic, I also began to become better at winter sports, specifically at skiing. And of course, I don’t forget travelling.
We are looking for new talents in the Technical Development department! Join us!