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Data Collected from Engine Test Benches is Paramount to Automotive Technology Growth

Engine_Test_Bench_Heat_ShieldDeveloping a top-notch, award-winning, and widely-accepted engine is not an easy feat. It takes a great deal of design work, utilization of state-of-the-art components, a sharp focus on industry standards, and forward thinking in terms of where the marketplace is headed. Creating an engine of this caliber, like those touted annually on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines List, is a lengthy process, and one that, above all, requires effective data capture and analysis.

Data collected by engine test benches, which are routinely used by suppliers and original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) around the globe, often take hundreds to thousands of hours to process. However, the data collected is invaluable — especially in an industry that’s constantly evolving at a rapid pace. As government requirements for vehicle efficiency and fuel economy become increasingly more stringent in many nations, suppliers and OEMs are relying more heavily on data derived from bench tests as a means for continued innovation. Additionally, some nations have adopted standardized testing for measuring fuel economy, aimed at meeting targets, such as those outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations for the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Recently, agencies, including the EPA, have ratcheted up their testing requirements in the wake of discrepancies found between some bench test and highway data for specific vehicles. According to a recent WardsAuto.com article, completing the EPA’s certification process now takes nearly a month longer, thanks to an uptick in requirements for additional testing. In the article, a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive noted that the odds of the EPA requesting to test a vehicle after filing certification information is nearly one in four. The article goes on to state that with approximately 400 light vehicles available each year in the United States, EPA testing of each and every vehicle isn’t possible. However, with a 25 percent chance that a vehicle platform could be selected for a thorough test by the agency, assuring the accuracy of testing data prior to certification and confidence in bench testing equipment has become increasingly important.

The EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL), tests vehicles at a state-of-the art facility located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Engine testing regulations and facilities of this nature are advancing data collection technology, generating new and better data streams and ultimately helping to identify processes for optimizing fuel economy and limiting CO2 emissions.

In 2017, the European Union is planning to replace its current approval procedure for emissions (the New European Driving Cycle) with those specified by the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), which was adopted by the United Nations Working Party on Pollution and Energy (GRPE) in 2013. The WLTP approach is focused on harmonizing the test cycle and methodology, as well as developing a driving cycle that can be representative of global average driving conditions. By creating a harmonized test that measures against this average driving cycle, the GRPE believes it will reduce the amount of money needed to test and certify vehicles while improving the accuracy and effectiveness of testing procedures.

Meeting the Data Challenge
In order to successfully meet and exceed OEM and government expectations, suppliers use data to drive the decisions they make toward optimizing their next generation of vehicle products and systems. For this reason, utilizing state-of-the-art bench tests on engines and their individual components to collect comprehensive, accurate data, is critical to ensuring the quality, safety, and performance of those parts.

With this in mind, Dana has meticulously placed engine test benches at locations around the world, allowing the company to more effectively analyze its technologies and provide data that allows engineers to assess modifications as quickly as possible. Most recently, the company updated its test benches in Neu-Ulm, Germany. While test benches previously existed at this location, the company recognized an opportunity to capitalize on new testing technologies. To facilitate the new equipment and testing processes, Dana built a new building on its Neu-Ulm campus, which now houses three cutting-edge engine test benches, a hot gas test bench, and an acoustic measurement test bench.

Operations of the new test equipment will begin in the second quarter of 2016 and will allow Dana to gather new data on its entire Victor Reinz® product portfolio, ranging from sealing technologies, to heat shields, and valve cover systems.

When the upgrades are complete, Dana will have the ability to test all combinations of engine positions within a vehicle, which can vary greatly across platforms. Each test bench has different capabilities that assist a range of key product groups. For example, the dynamic sealing gap measurement system and the bolt force measurement system are especially useful for testing cylinder-head gaskets. Alternatively, the thermographic measurement system is more critical for analyzing the abilities of Dana’s thermal-acoustical protective shielding (TAPS). With the new ECU measurement feature, which is something most OEMs are now requiring, Dana can better control the operational conditions of the engine and see how it runs within designated parameters.

A significant enhancement to Dana’s testing abilities is in its new acoustic test bench with shaker and car measurement. Previously, the company conducted noise measurements in an open outdoor area, which required acoustic data compensation for ambient noise. Within the confines of the new 1,033-square-foot (96 square meter) room dedicated to acoustic measurement, Dana is able to eliminate the outside influences and neutralize the conditions, providing better data for analysis. This is especially helpful for testing Dana’s line of Victor Reinz® TAPS, which offers durable solutions to meet various thermal and acoustical management needs within exhaust and powertrain systems.

Dana’s test benches are capable of collecting data on different fuel sources, which can generate comparative data on an engine’s performance with different fuel formulas, including variables like ethanol content and reduced sulfur in diesel. The engine test bench also can simulate testing at a variety of temperatures, including extreme temperatures down to minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 degrees Celsius).

The new test facility at Neu-Ulm is expected to provide Dana engineers and innovators with a wealth of new data that will advance an understanding of exactly how components and systems impact overall engine performance in real-world operation. As Dana continues to evolve vehicle technology, new testing processes are paramount in providing the data that drives innovation.

We’d like to hear your thoughts.

  • What best practices do you use for testing engines and engine components?
  • Which engine test benches best help you to meet your objectives?
  • In your opinion, what kind of data is most important in regard to engine testing?

Published by Dr. Jürgen Schneider