ITM Blog Posts

The Blog Post category contains blog posts associated with ITM’s testing services, LabVIEW programming, Test & Measurement Hardware, Boiler Monitoring Systems, and iTestSystem applications.

iTestSystem Application: TestView Plus

Tach Signal in TestView Plus

TestView Plus is an iTestSystem application for quick and easy viewing and analysis of data recorded in .TDMS files.  Test engineers can open data files and then simply drag and drop data channels into a variety of graphs and tables.  Data plotting algorithms allow for viewing and zooming into even the largest data files without running into memory issues.

TestView Plus has many features that allow test engineers to manage multiple data analysis projects at once.  TestView Plus Sessions allow for fast transitions between data processing projects.  A Session retains the current tab and graph information, analysis files, and data workspace.  TestView Plus Windows and Tabs allow for quickly adding and ordering new and existing data views.  The TestView Plus Reporting Utility allows for simple customized layouts sized to fit neatly in a report or presentation.

Besides data viewing, TestView Plus also provides access to the iTestSystem analysis functions.  Data analysis can be performed on data in an active Time History graph.  To run an Analysis tool, select an icon in the Analysis toolbar or select an option in the “Analysis” dropdown in menu toolbar.  Once the analysis is performed, the results will be graphed in a new window.

Collect Vehicle CAN Bus data with NI 9862 and iTestSystem

Automotive and off-highway engineers and designers often need to log vehicle bus data along with vibration, strain gauge, and other sensor data during normal operation to evaluate their design.  Using data from all these sources enables these engineers and designers to pinpoint a vehicle’s response to staged or damaging events.  For example, engineers can see how steering wheel position and speed effect structural response when the vehicle hits a pothole.

How does steering wheel position and speed effect structural response when the vehicle hits a pothole?

In situations where our engineers need to tap into the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics using CAN bus data and analog sensor data to identify and solve a problem, we will deploy a rugged measurement solution based on NI CompactDAQ (cDAQ) hardware.  These systems usually include an industrial compact pc or standalone cDAQ running the iTestSystem engineering measurement application.  iTestSystem logs data from the vehicle bus connected to NI 9862 CAN module and other analog sensors connected to NI cDAQ modules like NI 9234, NI 9236, and NI 9229 into one data file.

NI 9862 CAN Module Specifications and Connections

According to the NI data sheet, the NI 9862 modules is a single CAN port device that is isolated from the other modules in the system. The port has a Bosch DCAN CAN controller that is CAN 2.0B-compatible and fully supports both 11-bit and 29-bit identifiers. The port also has an NXP TJA1041AT High-Speed CAN transceiver that is fully compatible with the ISO 11898 standard and supports baud rates up to 1 Mbps.  This module requires +9 to +30 VDC supply voltage to operate.

The table below shows the connections between the NI 9862 9 pin D-Sub and the SAE J1962 connector that are required for CAN communication.  NI sells a OBDII9M-DB9F CAN Cable cable if you don’t want make your own cable.

iTestSystem CAN Channel Setup

Setting up a vehicle CAN bus connection can be difficult, especially if you need to acquire non-standard, proprietary messages and frames.  iTestSystem simplifies this setup by leveraging the NI XNET and CAN drivers to view and configure CAN bus data, import databases, and assign scale factors. iTestSystem then allows users to browse and choose which CAN signals to acquire.

For more information about collecting CAN bus data with an NI 9862 and iTestSystem, or our testing services, contact Chase Petzinger via email at chase.petzinger@itestsystem.com or phone at (844) 837-8797 x704

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ITM Gathers Dam Spillway Data During Midair Strain Gauge Project 

Garrison Dam

Suspended in a harness 30 feet above a concrete spillway in central North Dakota, ITM engineer Ryan “RJ” Matthews instruments the gate of one of the world’s largest earthen dams with dozens of strain gauge sensors. 

Integrated Test & Measurement’s field service technicians and engineers have installed strain gauges on civil structures and machinery around the globe for decades, and this project represents one more example of rugged data acquisition. In this instance, the team rappelled from an overhead abutment on the Garrison Dam — a 2-mile-long structure along the Missouri River built by the Army Corp. of Engineers starting in 1947. 

Contracted by Cotech IRM Services, ITM was charged with collecting data to measure the strain on one of the 28 spillway gates which are designed to raise and close to allow water to pass from the reservoir during rare flood events. Just behind those gates is Lake Sakakawea, one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. 

Garrison Dam Spillway

Despite the complex location, Matthews and co-worker Zach Strong were able to successfully instrument the spillway gate with 44 single-axis strain gauges and solder signal cables which lead back to a NICompactDAQ system connected to their laptop, allowing them to successfully gather streams of crucial data using iTestSystem while the gate was put through its paces.

The project is yet another example of ITM’s ability to combine the use of strain gauge sensors, a cDAQ system and the firm’s iTestSystem software to create a structural health monitoring system. In this instance, the project required only one-time testing, but ITM can also establish a permanent structural health monitoring system as well. iTestSystem is an engineering measurement software platform that enables test engineers to organize, acquire, view, and analyze data from machinery, processes, vehicles and other complex systems.  iTestSystem was specifically designed for use with National Instruments (NI) cDAQ hardware for data collection and data logging. 

For Matthews, it was his first experience installing strain gauges while strapped into a bosun’s chair and dangling in midair, but he points out that ITM’s strain gauge process is essentially the same whether their engineers are standing on a bridge or inside a railcar.  All that changes is the method of access and environment. 

His field notes reveal that each strain gauge on this job was wired in a quarter bridge configuration, which provides one individual measurement of strain (positive tension or negative compression) per location. All gauges were adhered to the gate using M-bond 200 epoxy.  A final report submitted to the customer contained detailed instrumentation and test notes and results reported in a series of stress/strain tables and stress graphs.

Contact ITM for your Strain Gauge Needs 

Installing strain gauges in the field for structural and fatigue measurements requires expertise and experience.  Whether you use our iTestSystem software to stream and analyze strain signals for static measurements and real-world fatigue data acquisition or contract our software engineers to build a real time strain monitoring system, we will make sure you acquire quality strain data. Contact our strain lab and technicians to install strain gauges on test specimens or to design, build, calibrate, and test strain-based load cells.

Strain Lab Contact Info: Ryan.Welker@iTestSystem.com, (844) 837-8797

 

Happy Holidays 2020

Happy Holidays 2020

2020 has certainly been memorable to say the least.  Thank you to everyone who has sacrificed and adapted their habits to make sure our essential work was completed safely.  May your holidays be joyful and healthy, and may your new year be prosperous!

Prevent Costly Mistakes on Industrial Monitoring Hardware Updates

Are you contemplating updates to your industrial monitoring hardware? Perhaps a COVID slowdown has given your team time to finally upgrade to that latest and greatest National Instruments controller.  

Before you make that leap, there’s one extremely important factor to consider, and that is the software running your equipment. If your code isn’t ready, there is far more to consider than a simple hardware swap, and your crew could be headed toward a serious loss in productivity and efficiency.  

The reality is that production engineers are routinely staring at industrial monitoring equipment that is nearing or reaching end-of-life, and they need to act to prevent unforeseen failures. The team at Integrated Test & Measurement can help with hardware upgrades, but we can also dive into your software to be sure your code is up to date and any customizations that have been made over the years are updated to assure your complex equipment is communicating the way it was designed to and all signals continue to report properly.  

Why is this holistic hardware/software approach recommended when it comes to upgrades? Consider the situation where a client upgrades a control module on a test cell only to find out that the new equipment is no longer compatible with the old software. It is akin to adding a new printer to your desktop computer without upgrading the drivers. Only in this instance, the fix is far more complex than a quick download. The result is that piece of equipment may now need to come offline for an extended time, and if you don’t have an in-house spare, your industrial monitoring is about to take a hit.  

ITM has seen an uptick in requests for assistance from clients who are running either outdated hardware, software or both. In some instances, partners may no longer have access to the person who customized their software. But that is no problem for ITM. Our LabVIEW experts are adept at not only understanding these complex software changes but they can clean up your code to simplify future upgrades, too. In other words, if your programming resources are no longer available, look to ITM for support with code enhancements, development and updates. 

One common migration for ITM’s industrial monitoring clients, for example, is moving from an older NI CompactRIO to a newer more suped up CompactRIO. A common mistake in this and other instances is underestimating the time it may take to update custom software, so rather than trying to do the work in house, let ITM speed up your process.  

Our experts can travel to your site, evaluate both your equipment and your software running it to develop and implement an upgrade plan that works for your team. Whether that means a slower measured approach or a quick turnaround on a tight deadline, ITM will develop a custom solution that meets your needs. 

Strain Gauge Installation – M-Bond AE-10 Epoxy

This video shows how to install a strain gauge on a curved surface using M-Bond AE-10 two part epoxy. Watch an ITM test technician walk through each step of the M-Bond AE-10 strain gauge installation procedure.

Engineering Data Acquisition Tools: NI 9218 Universal Input Module

NI 9218 Universal Module

The NI-9218 Module is a 51.2kHz, 24bit, 2-Channel C Series universal analog input module. It provides versatility when developing test plans because it is compatible with accelerometers, powered sensors, full-bridge sensors, voltage and current measurements, and quarter, half, and full bridge strain gauges.

Our test engineers use this data collection module in rugged measurement system designs that require measurements from 12Vdc powered sensors or measurement flexibility. On a recent iTestSystem rotating machinery troubleshooting project, we were able to collect and analyze data from a 12Vdc powered light tachometer and an IEPE accelerometer using only the NI-9218, a cDAQ chassis, and iTestSystem.

For more information about this module, iTestSystem or our testing services or any other data logging solutions, contact Ryan Welker @ (844) 837-8797 x702.

Mobile Data Acquisition Key to Vehicle Component Testing at ITM

ITM delivers mobile data acquisition solutions to capture real-time feedback under actual conditions

Whether we are testing a new component on a truck that’s a thousand miles away or putting an off-highway vehicle through its paces right in front of us, it’s our mobile data acquisition products that often lead to ITM’s successes.

How have ITM engineers employed mobile data acquisition to create successful tests and find solutions for their clients? Here are two recent examples:

Example 1: Custom in-vehicle data logging solution captures CAN bus information alongside analog sensor data

The R&D office was filled with our client’s application engineers as they eagerly awaited a first-ever view of their product — a fan drive— as it performed under the hood of a commercial truck more than a thousand miles away.

A display of gauges, needles and dials showed precisely how our client’s product performed during everyday over-the-road stresses. The mobile data acquisition feeds showed fan speed, temperatures around the fan drive, and CAN bus data including engine speed and torque along with coolant, air and oil temperatures. It was an impressive view they had never seen before.

For years this global powertrain technologies company has turned to ITM to gather data for engine-cooling components. Thanks to software innovations at ITM, the firm has taken mobile data acquisition to the next level. Important vehicle information from the CAN (Control Area Network) bus alongside sensor data can be collected and shared real-time, which allows their client to remotely monitor tests as they happen.

“Not only are we correlating information that is broadcast by the vehicle with analog sensor information,” says ITM VP of Operations Ryan Welker, “we can gather data and feed it back to our customer in a way that is configurable to their needs. We can also incorporate GPS technology, which is very valuable. Now they can see if a vehicle is traveling up and down steep hills and see what influence it has on duty cycles of their product.”

To perform the tests, ITM used a RAC-88 data acquisition package that consists of a National Instruments cDAQ chassis and associated hardware as well as an embedded PC that runs ITM’s off-the-shelf iTestSystem DAQ software application. The package is equipped with a broadband router and cellular air cards for remote data connectivity and transmission.

From a pragmatic perspective, Welker points out that the constant monitoring also allows for a far more efficient testing process. Not only do their customers get data quickly (instead of waiting months until a test is complete to begin analysis), but also, any issues that disrupt data collection are brought to light immediately.

Beyond having the ability to build more efficient tests, Welker reiterates the importance of being able to gather more complete data by accessing the vehicle’s CAN bus network.

“This opens the doors to a lot more opportunities for customers that build engines and components,” he says. “Those vehicles are spitting out all kinds of valuable information over the CAN system that we can now correlate with analog signal test data. This allows us to provide customers with a far more accurate picture of exactly what is going on with their equipment.”

Example 2: In-vehicle testing employs mobile data acquisition to assess exhaust system

ITM was challenged with creating a rugged and flexible in-vehicle testing solution to determine the vibration levels of an on-highway vocational vehicle’s exhaust system during operation.

ITM engineers chose the high-performance and rugged NI cDAQ-9139 stand-alone system with NI C Series modules along with our LabVIEW-based data acquisition software, iTestSystem, to create a rugged, high-performance and portable exhaust test system for large vocational vehicles. Our solution provided a wireless interface to the stand-alone NI CompactDAQ system to allow the operator remote control and monitoring of the embedded acquisition and logging system.

“The new stand-alone NI CompactDAQ system provides a high-performance and portable system for demanding in-vehicle testing applications,” says Mark Yeager, ITM engineer and lead programmer. “Our iTestSystem software, based on NI LabVIEW, combined with stand-alone NI CompactDAQ allows us to build flexible mobile data acquisition systems faster than using traditional logging systems.”

ITM has used USB and Ethernet-based NI CompactDAQ systems, and its iTestSystem software, based on NI LabVIEW, for years to build high-performance mobile data acquisition and test systems for our customers in the transportation and in-vehicle space. The stand-alone NI CompactDAQ systems provide a new line of portable and flexible hardware from National Instruments by combining an embedded processor with the modular NI CompactDAQ platform.

Since these new NI cDAQ-913x systems can be used with the same NI LabVIEW system design software, NI DAQmx driver and 50+ existing NI C Series modules, ITM can build new flexible logging solutions for its customers in a very short amount of time.

Designing a Flexible Logging Solution for Exhaust Testing

For this mobile data acquisition application, ITM engineers chose the high-performance and rugged NI cDAQ-9139 stand-alone system with seven NI 9234 accelerometer modules and one NI 9229 module to interface directly to the sensors we leveraged in this application. The standalone cDAQ-9139 was bundled with a cellular network interface and packaged inside a rugged carrying case. For the sensors, ITM mounted 28 piezoelectric accelerometers to the exhaust system and connected them to the seven NI 9234 accelerometer modules. Engineers also installed a magnetic pickup sensor and connected it to the simultaneous, differential NI 9229 analog module to determine rotational speed that would be used later in a post processing order analysis algorithm.

Yeager says they leveraged the Windows Embedded OS running on the NI cDAQ-9139 to make the transition from using NI CompactDAQ USB-based systems connected to a laptop or PC a seamless process. The team used ITM’s iTestSystem software, based on NI LabVIEW system design software, to stream data from staged events and operation directly to the NI cDAQ-9139’s non-volatile hard drive in a TDMS file format. They were able to control and monitor the daq systems remotely via Remote Desktop by connecting the cDAQ-9139 to a Wi-Fi network using a high speed cellular broadband modem and router with Wi-Fi.

After conducting the mobile data acquisition, all of the TDMS data files were transferred to a computer for post processing and analysis. The analysis for this project included calculating the overall vibration levels for each accelerometer using the order analysis plug-in for iTestSystem software that leverages the built-in analysis functions within NI LabVIEW. Additionally, with the iTestSystem software, they were able to provide the customer with a professional report containing overall vibration levels and order analysis graphs that identified which sensor locations failed or met the design criteria.

Leveraging the stand-alone CompactDAQ systems and  iTestSystem software for this project was a huge success, and the customer was amazed at how quickly ITM was able to integrate new technologies including both NI and third-party hardware and software. With this system, ITM was also able to reduce the overall cost of their test by reducing the manpower needed to perform the test and providing them with instantaneous feedback of the system functionality by utilizing new technologies.

In the end, the customer liked the mobile data acquisition system so much that instead of sending the system back to ITM, they redeployed it onto another on-highway vehicle to solve a different problem.

Contact Ryan Welker via email at ryan.welker@itestsystem.com for more information about our mobile data acquisition products or iTestSystem.

ITM Going to New Heights with Aerospace Clients

Rocket on Launch Pad

A commercial airliner touches down and brakes safely so hundreds of passengers can exit at their destination. A solid rocket booster separates from a space flight as the main payload overcomes gravity to head into orbit. A military drone completes its mission over enemy territory. 

In a very real way, the team of engineers at Integrated Test and Measurement (ITM) goes along for the ride during plenty of crucial moments in the aerospace realm. From doing data collection to measure the stress load of an airplane’s landing gear to installing strain gauges on rocket components to gather more than a thousand channels of data, ITM’s testing and measurement services are going to incredible heights.  

Ryan Welker, ITM vice president of operations, says their aerospace partners most often turn to the Milford, Ohio, engineering service and software company for their expertise in testing and design validation, particularly if the project involves complex strain gauge work. 

“A lot of times when you are dealing with aerospace requirements, it involves challenging materials. You aren’t just working with steel, and it’s quite a bit different installing strain gauges on titanium or carbon fiber. It makes the installation process a little more challenging, but we’ve been taking tough measurements in extreme environments around the globe for 20-plus years. Our experience in strain gauging is more of an art than a science.” 

Welker points out that ITM won’t hesitate to put boots on the ground for their aerospace partners who have complex challenges. That was the case when a high-end aerospace company rang him up in desperate need of structural testing on a crucial component ahead of a launch. Though the job would require several people on-site for multiple months, Welker and team made it work. They installed strain gauges around the clock for three months so their client could complete crucial validation testing on a design. ITM delivered, and the client made their deadline. 

Often during these intricate instrumentation processes, the ITM team employs the capabilities of their custom iTestSystem software to monitor stresses during complex assemblies. Aerospace companies may also rent ITM’s custom-built acquisition hardware to record data, even if it means that ITM needs to conduct onsite demonstration, support or help with analysis. 

“We don’t just offer the ability to run a test,” says Welker. “We train your folks to use it.” 

In the end, ITM offers innovative test solutions and a range of aerospace testing services designed to help the industry develop superior products and processes.  

Key Services for Aerospace Clients 

Strain Gauge Installation 

Installing strain gauges in the field for structural and fatigue measurements requires expertise and experience. Our field service technicians and engineers have installed strain gauges on structures and machinery around the globe for decades. Whether you use our iTestSystem software to stream and analyze strain signals for static measurements and real-world fatigue data acquisition, or contract our software engineers to build a real-time strain monitoring system, we will make sure you acquire quality strain data for your aerospace project. 

Structural and Mechanical Testing 

Our team of engineers have decades of experience in performing structural testing in  aerospace and many other markets. Testing services include Impact Testing and Modal Analysis, Structural Dynamics Operating Tests, Data Logging and Unattended Data Acquisition. 

Our engineers can assist you with any part of the testing process. This includes test planning, onsite sensor installation and data acquisition and remote test monitoring. 

High Channel Count Structural DAQ Systems 

In our work, we often collect strain, vibration, voltage, and other signals simultaneously that require well over a thousand total sensor channels. Network synchronization technology embedded within the NI cDAQ chassis allows users to account for the sheer number of channels during these structural tests. The true secret to our success in these high-channel jobs has been our iTestSystem software which leverages the cDAQ’s synchronization technology while providing an intuitive data acquisition and sensor configuration and setup. 

Rugged Data Acquisition Systems for Rent 

If the right tool doesn’t exist, build it. For years that has been the approach ITM engineers have taken when it comes to gathering data and building tests for clients. And after decades of performing structural testing in aerospace, off-highway, automotive, industrial and many other environments, we’ve built up an impressive line of custom Rugged Data Acquisition (RAC) Systems which will perform under harsh testing conditions.

For more information about our DAQ Rental Hardware, data collection or Testing Services, contact Ryan Welker via email at ryan.welker@itestsystem.com.

iTestSystem Application: MultiDAQ

iTestSystem MultiDAQ

MultiDAQ is a configurable general data logging and real-time data viewing application for iTestSystem (iTS).  An intuitive user interface allows test technicians and engineers to choose sensor channels, synchronize DAQ hardware,  change sample rates,  setup input data filters, configure data file triggering, and manage automated data file naming.  Once configured, MultiDAQ provides graphical, tabular, and digital real-time data views for test operators to visualize data trends during the data collection process.

Function List

  • Stream data from multiple C-series NI chassis.
  • Stream data at different sample rates.
  • View real-time data, including RMS and waveform data in tables, graphs, colormaps, spectra, and waterfall graphs.
  • Alarm when signals exceed channel’s minimum or maximum values.
  • Trigger acquisitions based on custom duration or value trigger statements.

For more information about MultiDAQ or iTestSystem, contact Chase Petzinger via email at chase.petzinger@itestsystem.com.