Custom Applications

Custom Applications

Signal.X's project portfolio offers a look at some of the most interesting and distinct projects that we have completed. This is by no means a comprehensive list and we look forward to hearing from you to discuss your own unique applications. Our previous custom projects include but are not limited to:

Enterprise-Wide Test Sequence and Data Acquisition System

A major Tier 1 automotive supplier contracted Signal.X to build a test sequencing and data acquisition application that would replace an aging set of in-house LabVIEW applications. This application had several challenging requirements:

  • Support PCI, PXI, and USB data acquisition hardware from National Instruments
  • Combine analog, digital, counter, and CAN signals into one application
  • Create a flexible test sequencing application that allows for branching, limits, safe shutdown sequences, etc.
  • Standardize all data acquisition files in TDMS format for integration with a central lab server system
  • Create a modern user interface with a high level of flexibility

Signal.X created a state-of-the-art application named Yeti for this customer. It has been deployed across a wide range of labs for many different purposes, and has helped our customer to globally standardize on a single application.

Enterprise wide system

Electric Motor NVH and Functional Tester

Objective:
Partner with a local machine builder to create the controls, safeties and processing engine for a set of electric motor performance and NVH dynamometers.

Key Functional Elements:

  • SPI communication in FPGA
  • Torque control via SENT protocol
  • CAN XCP data streams defined with A2L file
  • CANopen communications to drives
  • GPIB control for synchronization of configurable power supplies
  • Real-time FFTs of dynamic channels
  • High-speed acquisition and synchronization of all data sources
  • 6 DOF load cells with real-time calculated moments
  • Custom test profile definition with logging capabilities
Electric motor

Fuel Flow Monitoring System

Signal.X worked with a Midwest engine manufacturer to develop a system for tracking fuel used for testing. The customer came to Signal.X as a result of new environmental regulations imposed on their test cells. These rules place limitations on the amount of various pollutants that can be produced while testing these engines. We developed a custom LabVIEW application which tracks fuel usage over time and logs results for reporting. The program leverages forecasting algorithms to predict problems before they occur, which is communicated to the test managers using remote viewing and notification capabilities. This has enabled the operators to demonstrate compliance while maximizing uptime.

Fuel Flow Monitoring System

Backlash Calculator

The backlash calculator was built on the National Instruments cRIO platform and is used to measure the differential gear backlash on an axle in an end-of-the-line environment. It utilizes a high-speed encoder and a digital input module to measure the speed and angle when the gears are rotated. The backlash calculator not only measures the backlash consistently, but also helps the engineers to troubleshoot the mechanical problems of the main machine via the onboard data files.

Axle Assembly

Half-Shaft Insertion Confirmation Tool

Working for a major US OEM, Signal.X has conceptualized, designed, and deployed a production-line tool that confirms proper retention of automotive half-shafts during assembly. This tool utilizes a proprietary algorithm that conditions a dynamic response signal from a magnetically mounted sensor and communicates to a base station that synchronizes to the line controller. An operator will attach this tool and manipulate the half-shaft into position while to tool automatically confirms proper engagement of the snap ring.

Half Shaft

Electronic Drilling Recorder

A domestic oil drilling company has commissioned Signal.X to develop a system that monitors the operations of a drill site. Cementing a well, confirming drill string engagement and a real-time monitoring of down-hole status all help guarantee efficient drilling operations. Pushing live data to a cloud server allows management to monitor rig operations across all of their active sites.

Electric Drilling Recorder

Biomass Pyrolysis Controls System

Objectives:
Create a controls and data acquisition system for a pilot biomass pyrolysis plant used in a university research setting. Integrate process control, temperature control, data logging and visualization in a single easy-to-learn system.

Key Functional Elements:

  • PAX technology integrated into a custom application
  • PC-based data logging and visualization at configurable rates
  • Custom recipe settings applied to the system
  • PID control for temperature management of the process
  • CompactRIO control system
Biomass Pyrolysis

Materials Test and Measurement System

Gas Technology Institute selected Signal.X to supply a custom control system for measuring material properties on PE pipe samples. This system is based on the LabVIEW Real-Time module and utilizes distributed I/O, high-speed closed-loop control in FPGA, a flexible and intuitive user interface and configuration application. This project used a distributed model for control that leveraged the power of the FPGA Ethernet expansion chassis to control the test and take data. The test system included 4 temperature chambers with 9 samples in each chamber, for a total of 36 independent samples. Data can be logged at a configurable rate from 10 samples per second to once per minute, allowing for high logging rates in profiles of interest, but keeping file size to a minimum over long duration tests. All data is logged in the National Instruments TDMS file format. All data from the test samples are stored in a central database, and data can also be reviewed locally using Scout.

This system provided GTI with a unique test capability beyond what normal tensile test and measurement systems can do. The ability to arbitrarily define standard or cyclic test profiles, control samples in either load or displacement, and log data the entire test has given them new insights into model validation and experimental techniques. Click here to learn more about this case history.

Creep Tester

Manufacturing Information System

A large production plant required a consolidation of plant-wide production information formatted for display to operators and managers. Faced with live data spread over hundreds of machines of varying vintages and technology, Signal.X devised a collector methodology to reach uniquely into each PLC, database, machine controller, etc. while returning a consolidated data stream to a plant-wide production database. Large display screens driven by over 20 individual collectors (National Instruments 3110 industrial controllers) show real-time production rates by shift. Summaries are shown for the day, week and month alongside enumerated part and machine faults.

A host application is distributed to members of the management team and pulls from the database to allow on-demand summary and display of production statistics by any arbitrary combination of machines. This allows “virtual” tracking of various production runs through the facility.

Engine Manufacturing

Bio-Refinery Controls System

Signal.X has developed a National Instruments-based control system using PXI and the RIO architecture for a demonstration refinery that converts biomass to diesel fuel. Two PXI controllers interface to 10 EtherCAT chassis, subsystem PLCs, and networked sensors for a total of more than 3,000 points of I/O. Factors in the choice of controls system included re-configurability, clear user and operator interfaces, and the ability to trend and log data during a run of the refinery at a given recipe setting with a given feedstock. Signal.X designed a comprehensive graphical interface that gives operators immediate visual awareness of process status. To organize functionality over the large amount of distributed I/O, Signal.X introduced our proprietary PAX technology. This user-configurable automation core allows engineers to define high-level command functions, safety and fault behaviors, and automation sequences. Click here to learn more about this case history.

Machinery Condition Assessment and Monitoring

In partnership with a major machine builder and controls supplier, Signal.X developed and deployed a machine condition monitoring system for a large commercial and military dynamometer test system. Approximately 3,000 points of I/O were acquired from the system’s (10) 1,000+Hp dynamometers; this data was processed, logged and checked against user-defined tolerances for alarming and shutdown in real-time. Alarms and acknowledgements were stored in a local database for post processing. The application included an immersive user-interface utilizing CAD drawings of the actual facility to aid in quickly locating and rectifying the source of the alarms.

car on road

Transmission Functional Test

An automotive manufacturer based in China required a new assembly line and functional tester for a new line of transmissions for small front-wheel-drive vehicles. The end-of-line tester was designed to fill and flush the transmission with oil, test for proper assembly of gears and gear ratios, verify operation of solenoids in the valve body, and complete simple vibration checks. The end-of-line test stands test 100% of production, with an audit stand that contained less automation but allowed for longer, more complex testing of select parts. A repair bay was also designed to give the operator access to the test data to properly diagnose and repair a failed transmission.

Signal.X worked in partnership with the machine builder to develop a hardware architecture that best suited this test stand. A PXI running Windows is the brains of the system and is located in the main control panel. Connected to the PXI are two CompactRIO chassis via a StarFabric interface to provide distributed I/O approximately 20 feet away from the control panel. The signals were split between the cRIOs according to the sensor location and function, with one cRIO handling test stand sensors, and the other cRIO handling the part connections for the device under the test.

Transmission

Custom 3D Positioning Gantry Turnkey System

Signal.X designed and built a multi-purpose 3D scanning gantry for an automotive supplier in need of high-resolution sensor scans covering a 20′ x 8′ x 3′ space at the side of a vehicle. To meet the specification for portability and easy setup, Signal.X built a custom electronic services box to act as a single interface for motion control, safeties, power, and measurement connections. A custom LabVIEW application managed all gantry functions and gave the customer the ability to perform fully autonomous mapping of tens of thousands of grid points over the 3D volume.

X-ray concept car with city background

Software screenshot in logomark

Quality Test Solutions

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