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Modern Tools Series: What’s In The Box?

Modern Tools Series: What’s In The Box? 

This box reveal may not be quite as dramatic as the ending of “Seven,” the ’95 serial killer thriller that blew moviegoers’ minds, but the ITM team is throwing open the latches nonetheless. 

In this case, our team is taking you on a quick tour of a recently deployed Rugged Data Acquisition System. These particular black boxes of tech are riding around on high-dollar fracking equipment to remotely monitor all sorts of triggering events. Our crew builds them on the regular, and the end result is that our clients can better understand what sorts of stress, strain and vibration is taking place both en-route to their site and once operations begin.  

ITM is known for building rugged measurement systems and data logging solutions that are deployed on everything from Class A trucks, to well frac trailers, to dam and bridge structures, oil pipelines, gensets, boilers and more.

So, without further ado, what’s in the box?  

We recommend a handful of essential components and elements if you are looking to build your own rugged measurement system:

  • An Industrial Embedded PC. We love the Nuvo-7000LP. Another favorite is the Advantech UNO-2484G-9S55. 
  • You’ll need industrial grade connectivity, and you can’t beat Peplink’s cellular router options. And remember to outfit that unit with an AT&T or Verizon plan and get that activated card installed. 
  • A remote desktop application is a must, and we usually turn to LogMeIn for our remote access and file management. This allows us to pull up any of our units no matter where they are in the world to check in on status or grab some data for our clients. 
  • Speaking of data, depending on your job, you’ll likely need lots of data storage capability. Our preference is a 2 terabyte USB drive, which gives us an almost unlimited amount of space. If needed, we can store about six months worth of data before hitting capacity.
  • Since our industrial PC is running Windows, we use iTestSystem, our proprietary engineering measurement software platform that enables test engineers to organize, acquire, view, and analyze data from machinery, processes, vehicles and other complex systems.
  • To complete the box, our industrial PC is connected to an NI c-DAQ outfitted with strain, vibration and voltage modules.
  • What about power you ask? In our fracking instance, we connected to an alternator which charges a bank of batteries in the RAC. 

So there you have it. That’s what’s in the box. Build your own, or get in touch with our team, and we’ll customize a system for your specific needs.  

We also install and service all of our equipment. So if something breaks in the field, we can get you back up and collecting data or even assist with data analysis.

For more information about our rugged data acquisition systems, on-site system deployment or data analysis services, contact Josh Fishback via email at josh.fishback@itestsystem.com or phone at (844) 837-8797 x705.

 

ITM Helps Miami University Students Succeed SAE Baja

The students and advisors huddled around the computer react as they watch the signal yield an immediate spike within ITM’s iTestSystem software…

Vehicle Component Testing

…more than a thousand miles away. A display of gauges, needles and dials showed precisely how their product performed during every day over-the-road stress.

iTestSystem Application: Configuration

iTestSystem Configuration

Turn Weeks Into Hours with iTestSystem’s Configuration Feature 

If you are like most engineers, the last thing you want to do is spend hours upon hours configuring your project, your hardware and your sensors before gathering important data.

The team at Integrated Test & Measurement (ITM) has been there. In fact, they grew so tired of repeating all those monotonous configurations when setting up NI cDAQ and NI FieldDAQ hardware that they built their own custom software known as iTestSystem to simplify the experience.

In this blog, a new series by ITM, we’ll share details about Configuration, the core feature of iTestSystem and a driving reason their software engineers first dreamed it up clear back in 2007.

Imagine opening a single screen to set up your entire test — from the hardware you are using to all the sensors you are employing to how you are planning to take the data. With iTestSystem’s Configuration feature these things are not only possible, they are reusable. In other words, you set up your hardware and configure your channels once, and all future applications can reuse the same setup.

iTestSystem users are used to heading to the Configuration screen not just to set up their MultiDAQ tests but also to calibrate, zero and test their sensors to be sure everything is working and connected correctly prior to going into a test. It is also a simple way to preview all your channels.

Managing tests has never been easier, even when taking thousands of channels of data. You can even save and share your test setup with others. And, best of all, iTestSystem is a free download, so anyone can take advantage of the massive time savings — turning weeks of work into hours of work.

About iTestSystem 

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 NI cDAQ or FieldDAQ hardware for data collection and data logging. 

For more information about our iTestSystem or ITM’s testing services, contact Ryan Welker @ (844) 837-8797 x702.

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

 

Video: Custom Rugged Data Acquisition Systems

Check out this video showing one of our custom rugged data acquisition systems! We provide custom systems like this for aerospace, vehicle, off-highway, and civil applications.  This system shown in this video was designed for collecting strain, vibration, and other sensors on a civil structure.

For more information about our testing services and custom test systems, contact Ryan Welker via email: ryan.welker@itestsystem.com or phone (844) 837-8797 x702

Engineering Data Acquisition Tools: cDAQ-9189

When our engineers go on the road to troubleshoot structural component failures or machine vibration problems, they grab their laptop with iTestSystem installed and Pelican case containing an NI CompactDAQ (cDAQ) chassis and an assortment of C-Series modules, accelerometers, and strain gauges. The cDAQ chassis that they typically use is a cDAQ-9189 ethernet chassis, which is ideal for data logging.

The cDAQ-9189 is an extended temperature TSN enabled 8-Slot Ethernet chassis designed for distributed sensor measurement systems. The chassis controls the timing, synchronization, and data transfer between C Series I/O modules and your laptop. Since the chassis has an integrated network switch and is TSN enabled, measurements from multiple chassis are synchronized by simply daisy-chaining chassis with an ethernet cable.

For more information about the cDAQ-9189, DAQ hardware rentals or iTestSystem, contact Josh Fishback at (844) 837-8797 x705 to assist with your data collection needs.

Structural Validation & Testing of Generator Sets

A case study describing a reliable system for testing generator vibration levels after production in order to verify proper unit design and assembly.

High Channel Count Structural DAQ Systems

At ITM, we understand that our customers do not settle for good enough. When it comes to measuring and capturing data for real-world applications and structural analysis, you cannot compromise, so neither can we. Instead of having to pick and choose the most critical locations to measure, we ensure that you can capture every piece of data you need, simultaneously. Whether that is a single strain bridge, or thousands of strain channels, we make your data logging project a success.

On past projects, we have worked with our customers in the manufacturing industry to test the structures of their aerospace, mining, construction and other transportation equipment.  Some of these applications not only needed to collect strain, vibration, voltage, and other signals simultaneously but also required well over a thousand total sensor channels.  Network synchronization technology embedded within the NI cDAQ chassis allow 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.

iTestSystem is far more than just a barebones data collection software. It can be a time saver to our engineers by helping to sort channels, keep various tasks organized, and even provide an easy and quick way to view results with the integrated TestView Plus Application (shown below).

The mining shovel pictured below, which is similar to other equipment that ITM has instrumented in the past, illustrates a distributed data acquisition system for collecting data. Using iTestSystem, we can implement a modified tree synchronization topology to collect data from over 20+ cDAQ chassis simultaneously.  Data can be collected in one giant file containing all sensor channels or saved into separate files based on location.  In past projects, we saved over 1000 channels from strain, acceleration, and voltage sensors into a new file every 10 minutes.  We added the sensor location to the sensor description, including the Boom, Operator Cab, Main Frame and Base. This allowed us to easily sort data both during and after the collection.

Our goal at Integrated Test & Measurement is to provide efficient testing solutions and services to address your company’s needs.  If you need to measure high channel counts, or have questions about our rugged DAQ systems, software, rental equipment or testing services, then please contact ITM by phone or e-mail.

 

Contact Information: For more information on this Article, please visit iTestSystem.com or contact: Ryan Welker – Integrated Test & Measurement (ITM), LLC – ryan.welker@itestsystem.com or (844) 837-8797