Pump Test Station Used Across Multiple Locations Worldwide
Simplifies gathering test data from multiple plants to perform site-to-site comparisons
Client – Large Pump Manufacturer
Our customer needed an updated test system to replace their obsolete/unmaintainable test systems. It was too hard to gather data from multiple sites located around the world, certain algorithms weren’t standardized, and they didn’t have the ability to utilize the test systems to calculate first-pass yield at each site.
Viewpoint developed a new centrifugal pump test application that harmonizes the user interface, calculations, and test procedures, resulting in enhanced operational efficiency and tracking of the manufacturing process. Furthermore, it is used in multiple global locations with language localization and support for the varying hardware already in place at each site. The new application deposits all the test data from the various sites into a single database for engineering and manufacturing data analysis at corporate headquarters.
Simplifies gathering test data (for analysis) from multiple plants worldwide to perform site-to-site comparisons.
Enables calculation of first-pass yield for each manufacturing plant.
Standardizes algorithms for pump performance summary data calculation for first-pass yield and site comparison analysis.
Abstracts the hardware to support differences in control and measurement hardware at each site and provides a future path to homogenize hardware installations.
The entire system consists of three main applications:
A database management application to allow the user to update test configurations and to enter and associate new pump serial numbers with specific tests.
A pump test data acquisition application that can run up to 5 different tests simultaneously on the UUT, generating a datafile for each test that is also stored in the database.
An application to generate reports from the information stored in the database to provide to customers when delivering a new pump or after a factory witness test.
Automated Manufacturing Test Systems for Medical Diagnostic Equipment
Using NI PXI and LabVIEW as a common architecture for multiple test systems testing several subassemblies
Client: a manufacturer of automated blood analysis machines
Our client was embarking on a complete redesign of their flagship automated in-vitro Class 1 blood diagnostic machine. In order to meet schedule goals, the design and build of several automated test systems needed to occur in parallel with the overall machine. In a major design paradigm shift, many components of the machine were being manufactured as modular subassemblies, every one of which was an electro-mechanical device. Thus, multiple testers were required to test each of the specific subassemblies in the machine. And, since this was a medical device, the testers needed to comply to 21 CFR Part 820 and Part 11.
With a looming deadline, the testers needed a common architecture, so that all testers could leverage the development from the others. Since each subassembly could be tested independently of the overall machine prior to final assembly, the design of the testers was based on a common measurement and reporting architecture, written in LabVIEW, that interfaced to the customers Part 11 compliant database for testing procedures and measurement results. Furthermore, procedures and validation checks for calibration of the testers were part of the overall test architecture.
Modularization of the test system architecture aided development and maintenance
Reduced overall development costs due to standardization of test sequence steps and reporting
Both test sequences and test results were stored in a managed database that satisfied 21 CFR Part 11 requirements
Modular and common software developed for the test systems reduced the V&V effort during IQ & OQ.
Since multiple subassemblies were being tested, with one part-specific test system per part, the automated test systems used as much common hardware as possible to simplify the development effort through common hardware drivers and test steps. Measurements were made with PXI equipment. Test steps and the test executive that executed the test sequence(s) were developed using LabVIEW.
The types of test steps required to verify the proper operation of each subassembly were categorized into basic operations, such as voltage reading, pulse counting, temperature reading, and communications with on-board microcontrollers. The specifics of each measurement could be configured for each of these measurement types so that each test step accommodated the needs of the specifics of each subassembly. For example, one subassembly might have needed to run the pulse counting for 2 seconds to accumulate enough pulses for accurate RPM calculation while another subassembly might have only needed 0.5 seconds to accomplish that calculation.
The configuration of a test step algorithm was accomplished via an XML description. The accumulation of these XML descriptions of each test step defined the test sequence run on that specific subassembly.
Test results were associated with these test sequences by completing the entries initially left blank in the test sequence, so that all results were explicitly bound to the test sequence.
The operator user interface distinguished between released and unreleased test sequences. With unreleased test sequences, engineers could try the most recent subassembly designs without needing to wait for final validation. The released sequences were only available to test operators. This login-driven branching was managed using the Windows login, so that the client employees could use their company badge-driven login process. Once logged in, the user would be able to execute the test sequence in automated mode, where all steps happen automatically, or manual mode, where one step could be operated at a time.
Furthermore, the Windows environment was locked down using built-in user account group policies to designate the level at which a user could access Windows or be locked into accessing only the test application.
During the V&V effort, each test sequence was verified for expected operation, against both known good and bad parts. Once verified, the sequence was validated against the requirements and, when assured to be as expected, a checksum was applied to the resulting XML test sequence file and all was saved in a Part 11 compliant database. Upon retrieval, when ready to run a test, the sequence was checked against this checksum to assure that a sequence had not been tampered.
Test results, saved as XML in the same file format as the test sequence, were also surrounded by a checksum to verify that no tampering had occurred.
The IQ/OQ efforts were handled in a traditional manner with the client developing the IQ/OQ documentation, with our assistance, and then executing these procedures, again with our assistance.
Low-level measurement drivers
Measurement-based test steps
Test sequence execution
Test sequence management
User access management
Test report creation and management
Verification of test sequence content and ability of user to execute
Verification of the content of the test results
PXI chassis and controller
PXI acquisition cards for analog measurements
PXI acquisition cards for digital input and output
Our client was already doing validation, but it was manual, and the client’s customer started requesting faster turnaround of results. Their customer was also requesting data to be sent with the results. Our client chose to automate the validation process to enhance their productivity.
Logs errors during the test (e.g., for continuous monitoring tests, logging the number of instances of when a UUT’s LIN (Local Interconnect Network) response deviates from a static, current draw outside of limits)
Capable of testing a large variety of product lines
Logs pertinent data to a database for post-test analysis/inclusion into reports
The UUT is an electro-mechanical part that falls under a variety of different product lines. As such, the client had a couple variants of the tester, based on the communication needs of the UUT. A total of more than a dozen testers were deployed. The functionality of the tester evolved over time, specifically modifying software to make the tests faster / decrease cycle time.
Extensive diagnostic/manual operation of system for debug of software and electrical connections between the UUT and the test stand/tooling.
Product-specific software components to operate unique products.
Execute mechanical endurance tests.
Execute environmental endurance tests.
Database output containing results from every test cycle (either mechanical cycles or time depending on test being run).
An automated system permits faster validation, unattended test, an increase in throughput, and can free up resources for other tasks during the weeks long endurance test.
Client – A manufacturer of aircraft components in the mil-aero industry
New product development drove the need for a new endurance test system for product validation. The old systems were not designed to test the newly designed part (aircraft actuators), and the company didn’t have the time or resources to reconfigure existing systems to perform the testing required.
The new PXI-based endurance test system provides automated electromechanical testing, full data recording, report generation and a diagnostic panel for intelligent debug. Viewpoint selected the NI equipment, while the test consoles, and other components were selected and fabricated by the customer.
An automated system permits faster validation, unattended test, an increase in throughput, and can free up resources for other tasks during the weeks long endurance test.
Full data recording with a data viewer enables post analysis, which provides the ability to review and analyze raw signals captured during execution. Channel examples are actuator LVDT position, load, current, and encoder actuator position.
Summary report capability allows the customer to document the amount of testing completed against the full endurance test schedules.
A manual diagnostic operational panel provides the ability to verify particular DUT functionality or components without running an entire schedule.
Systems can be paused and restarted to allow for “scheduled maintenance” of the DUT such as inspections, lubrication, etc.
The PXI-based endurance test system enables data collection, deterministic PID Loop Control, emergency shutdown and a diagnostic panel for manual test and debug operation. The system runs endurance test schedules, that are defined as a recipe for test execution. These schedules, which are customer-defined and DUT-specific, are designed to simulate the actual conditions the DUT would see in real world application as closely as possible. LabVIEW-RT was used for the deterministic looping for Closed Loop Control of Actuator Position and Load Control. LVDT demodulation was performed on a PXI FPGA card programmed with LabVIEW FPGA.
Full Data Collection for Real-Time and Post Analysis
Deterministic PID Loop Control
Diagnostics Panel for Manual Test and Debug
Endurance Test Schedule Execution
Hydraulic Control Panel for Source & Load PSI Control
Sharing Business and Test Data Enables Efficiency Improvements
Reduce Production Costs by Coordinating Business and Test Data
Client: A major manufacturer of aerospace components
Many companies operate in a high-mix, low-volume manufacturing environment. In these situations, production of such parts is often complex, with long assembly and test procedures describing the process to make and verify the part. Discussions of automating any part of these processes are often dismissed because an automated test system is thought to be expensive, especially when each part is thought to need a unique test system.
Our client wanted to improve their capability to manage the assembly procedures and get clarity on the status of any parts, whether partially or fully assembled. The existing situation had data manually-entered into a database form or even handwritten data that needed to be transcribed into a database. Often the database was local to the assembly cell. The chance for error was significant and the lag between data collection and updating the database was often days. When questions arose about the status of a particular unit, many hours could be spent in locating and evaluating the associated forms and paperwork.
The steps needed to achieve these goals were clear: automate the collection data on each part while being assembled so that those results would appear in a business-level database which would give a plant-wide view of the status of all the parts in progress.
Thus, this project needed to allow read/write access to sections of the Manufacturing Enterprise System (MES) database so that information about a part being assembled could be obtained automatically and results could be submitted to that MES database automatically.
We designed the PXI-based system based on the StepWise test executive platform to automate the assembly and testing. This platform enables two significant changes. These changes were made at each assembly cell by having the operator use a test PC and perhaps some measurement equipment as appropriate for the part(s) being assembled at that cell.
First, we replaced all the printed assembly procedures with electronic records so that any operator could review the latest version of the work instructions on a computer screen. This approach helped with version control, especially important since the client had various model revisions that came through the factor for rework, each with slightly different versions of assembly instructions.
Second, we displayed those electronically documented work procedures as steps in a test executive, allowing the results of each step in the assembly procedure to be captured electronically. When an assembly step was purely manual with no measurements, the fact that step was completed would be recorded, along with information such as the name of the operator performing the step, the duration that the step took, and so on. When a step required a measurement to be made, such as a functionality verification or a calibration result, the measurement would be collected. If the equipment making that measurement could be automated, we would collect that data automatically, and not require the operator to type the result into a computer form.
The outcome of this effort has enabled the client to get a snapshot of the status of parts in assembly, i.e., Works in Progress (WIP), quickly and accurately.
After these changes were made, many additional capabilities are now available with the advent of purpose-built queries into the appropriate MES database tables. The table below shows the overall efficiency gains achieved.
The key is the combination of the electronic test results obtained at the test equipment with information on work orders and manufacturing flow held in the various tables in the business MES database. This improvement happens even with manual or semi-automated test systems, and does not require a completely automated assembly and test system. Thus, the cost of the test system is much less than usually expected and, hence, the benefits are more easily cost-justified.
Client – ECR International: A manufacturer of heating and cooling systems.
ECR has significant domain expertise in developing boiler systems. Viewpoint has significant domain expertise in measurement and control systems. To ensure quality control ECR International utilizes an end-of-line testing stand. Each boiler is test fired and adjustments are made to optimize proper combustion. Results of the testing are recorded along with the boiler’s unique serial number.
The team at ECR needed an upgrade to one of their end-of-line test systems to support an increase in production capacity without sacrificing the testing and quality assurances process.
ECR also wanted to eliminate the need to constantly adjust test limits based on temperature. This manual adjustment process was time consuming.
They took this as an opportunity to update and clean up the code base for supportability.
Viewpoint was asked to upgrade the existing test stand code and add a bit of functionality. Since ECR already had the necessary hardware, Viewpoint worked with the existing hardware set, porting software and adding new features.
The updates improved usability, saved time, and increased accuracy.
The solution was delivered on time and under budget.
Test time reduction and increased accuracy (automated temperature-based test parameter control)
Increased test flexibility (can test at multiple boiler capacities)
Improved operability with updated user interface
Improved development supportability with cleaned up code base
Improved IT supportability with updated code base
Increased stability (EEPROM test stand lock-up resolved)
Simplifying Report Generation for High-Mix, Low-Volume Industrial Servo Valve Tests
Client: A major industrial servo valve manufacturer
A manufacturer of components for both commercial and military aircraft built a large number of different models of servo valves. Some models were made only a few times each year, while other models were made with an order of magnitude higher volume. Each unit underwent rigorous testing during and after assembly.
Our client needed to submit the results of that testing to their customers but since the production and testing of each unit happened in many locations, possibly even around the world, many hours were spent locating the appropriate datasets and assembling the report.
Furthermore, our client wanted to improve their responsiveness to requests from their customers by having rapid retrieval of the test report for any part after it had been delivered into the field.
Since the test datasets were varied due to the large numbers of different valve models and associated test procedures, a database was created using a platform based on the Resource Description Framework (RDF). An RDF database can accept arbitrary types of data, manage that data through metadata tags, and adjust gracefully to changes in content and shape of the connections between objects in the database.
This adaptability was key to our client being able to leap past some of the issues in standard SQL-based relational databases.
The results from each test run on each part at each (PXI-based) test system were tagged with metadata and pushed into the RDF database. The StepWise test executive platform interfaced to the RDF database by outputting XML content which was scanned by a routine created for the RDF database and converted into the RDF data and links. The part ID was a critical tag since this allowed searching the RDF database for all results associated with that specific part. This database resided on a server at the client’s headquarters and accepted data from worldwide locations.
Once the data for each part was housed in the database, a report could be generated. To accommodate the variety of data in that report, web technology was used to render the report pages based on the types of data entered into the database, as described by the metadata tags. For example, data identified as waveforms could be plotted or listed in tabular format. Having reports rendered based on the data types made it possible to handle adjustments to the types of data measured by the test system.
With the ability to render reports quickly, our client could produce detailed reports for their customers indicating the performance of any specific requested servo valve.
Our client was able to trim the time to create reports to less than 1 day from the previous effort of 3-5 days and with less error.
Data are now organized uniformly, simplifying the location of desired information, as compared with files stored on various test PCs and file servers.
The client has the ability to generate automatic emails to their customers with the required reports already attached and ready to go.
In potential warranty and customer service situations, having the ability to send the customer a report within hours represented great customer service.
All these features are available consistently across worldwide manufacturing facilities, reducing training and maintenance of procedures. And, of course, the reports handle using metric or English units as appropriate for the end customer.
Client: A major manufacturer of aircraft landing systems
A major manufacturer of aircraft landing equipment needed to develop a means of endurance and fatigue testing new designs for aircraft steering. The actuators involved in steering the nose landing gear (NLG) required precise and reliable control through thousands of steering cycles.
Control loops needed to be closed at faster than 1 ms.
Prior systems were handled manually without real-time control and monitoring.
Our customer designed and built a test rig to provide the hydraulics and environmental conditions for the endurance testing on the NLG. Viewpoint Systems supplied the electronic data acquisition and control hardware coupled with real-time software to provide the required fast control loops. The configuration and execution of the 1000s of steering cycles were managed by the same data acquisition and control system through a set of configuration screens that allowed specification of turn rates, min/max angles, drive and resistive torque settings, and so on.
The various PID control loop configurations were also configurable along with gain scheduling required under different operating conditions.
The environmental conditions were supported by controlling a temperature chamber through ramp and soak settings occurring during the steering tests.
Measurements on the steering performance were collected from commanded setpoints, sensor readings, and controller outputs during the entire test run.
Alarm and fault conditions, such as force exceedance, were monitored continuously during operation so that the system could safely run unattended.
The entire system underwent an extremely rigorous acceptance testing procedure to verify proper and safe operation.
Arbitrary Load and Position Profiles
Flight Position Control
Load Position/Force Control
Endurance/Flight Schedule Execution
Deterministic RT for DAQ and PID Control
PXI/SCXI Hybrid RT Chassis
Discrete Pump Skid Interface
Custom Control Panel/Console
Prior to deployment of our system, setup of a test was much more manual and operators needed to be around to monitor operation.
With our new system, complete endurance testing could be specified and executed with minimal supervision. Furthermore, the tight integration of real-time control and coordinated data collection made report creation much simpler than before.
The rigorous acceptance test gave trustworthiness to the data and allowed the design engineers to validate performance more quickly than the prior semi-automatic and manual methods of operation.
Setup of tests has been improved from prior operations. The endurance testing itself operated over a huge number of cycles lasting weeks to months between scheduled lubrication and maintenance.
The deployed system measures performance during the entire testing, even between the scheduled downtime.
If you need a custom test system for your mission-critical electromechanical component, reach out here.