Testing large, complex structures such as airplanes, trains, military vehicles, and civil structures is critical to ensuring the safety and performance of these structures. These tests are usually a big problem in production. To ensure that the design progresses over time, the tests must be properly configured and executed, and the data provided by the data acquisition system is accurate, reliable, and timely for the design team.

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The measurement of structured test efficiency is different from other types of automated tests. In production testing, efficiency is measured by test unit time and unit cost, and most structured tests are not likely to be completed during the production phase because the test itself can cause structural damage to the test object. During design verification, prototype structures need to be fully tested to ensure they can withstand the various load conditions imposed on them during actual operation. These tests typically require the test subject to withstand the equivalent load and duty cycle in actual operation. For example, airlines refer to structural fatigue testing requirements as "design service objectives" (DSO). The test for the new aircraft design must meet three DSOs, or the test load cycle should be equivalent to three times the expected life of the aircraft. Because these tests are performed on very expensive product-level prototypes and typically last for months or years, structural test efficiency is typically measured against development time, test time, and data reliability. For the first measurement to be done quickly and accurately, proper selection of DAQ hardware and software is essential.

The NI SC Express module integrates signal conditioning and high-performance digital-to-analog converters into the PXI Express platform for structured test applications such as static strength testing, fatigue testing, ground vibration testing, and module analysis. Each module is designed to meet the measurement speed, accuracy, synchronization and data reliability required for these applications.

Speed ​​and accuracy optimization

Structured testing typically requires multiple sensor types, high channel counts, and high data sampling rates to provide detailed information about dynamic structures or acoustic events. It is very difficult to meet these requirements because the test contains a huge number of data sets. Built on PXI Express, SC Express delivers 250 MB/s of dedicated bandwidth per module to ensure you scale the channel without sacrificing sample rate.

New technology and miniaturization enable SC Express to integrate signal conditioning and analog-to-digital conversion into the same device, enabling greater accuracy by eliminating error-prone cables and connectors. Each module is specifically optimized for the type of sensor it is used for, such as isothermal connections for thermocouples and ratio front ends for strain gages to minimize errors in excitation voltage.

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Figure 1. When validating a simulation model for predicting lifetime, high-speed sync data must be collected from noise emissions and traditional sensors, which helps design verification teams predict failures earlier than ever.

Synchronization between modules or between cross-test devices

To ensure that enough information is captured in as few test runs as possible, the data between the various sensors distributed in the structured test object needs to be correlated. For example, the National Renewable Energy Center (Narec) is building a multi-million dollar drive train test bed to provide a simulation environment to test the performance and reliability of new wave and wind turbine equipment. The test analyzes the direct load path through composite noise emission and strain force data to provide the most realistic simulation environment. The number of channels required for testing is high and should contain multiple types of transmitters, and all channels must be tightly synchronized to avoid phase distortion. To achieve the required level of synchronization, Narec is developing a data acquisition system based on SC Express. With this system, the strain and acoustic measurement modules share the 10 MHz and 100 MHz timing and synchronization lines built into the PXI Express chassis. As a result, you can share high-precision clocks by synchronizing multiple chassis through physical connections, or you can use GPS or IEEE 1588 to synchronize your distributed systems.

Test with confidence

With PXI Express's high data processing rates, you can view and analyze acquired structured test data in real time. SC Express works with the NI LabVIEW Real-Time Module and has the high reliability of a real-time operating system that protects the integrity of the test and the test object itself. In addition, with the real-time capabilities of LabVIEW, you can synchronize data acquisition systems with control systems while ensuring high determinism for all measurements and controls.

Structured testing is often one of the most expensive and time-critical phases of a large structure or measurement design process. You must choose the right DAQ system to avoid time and cost overruns due to insufficient measurement resolution and accuracy. Integrated into the industry-standard PXI Express platform, SC Express features fast, high-precision, simultaneous and real-time operation to help simplify your structured testing.

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