AUTOMOTIVE

Custom Engine Spark Controller

 

The Challenge:

A fortune 100 company manufactures spark plugs and required a new method to determine the heat rating of the spark plug. This new method required a custom instrument capable of precisely controlling the timing and duration of a spark event. The control of the spark event had to be performed in such a way that the factory ECU was not affected, with no error codes created when the spark event occurs.

The Solution:

Dataspeed Inc. designed and developed a custom instrument that enabled the ‘cloning’ of the timing and duration of the spark event created by the ECU. A master control board was designed that monitored the current through the primary side of the coil-on-plug. The current waveform was analyzed with a combination of PC based and embedded software to derive the timing and duration of the spark event. A custom driver board was designed that communicated with the master control board and was able to drive a redundant coil-on-plug, effectively ‘cloning’ the engine spark event. This ‘cloned’ setup was actually used to drive the spark-plug. With the spark event now ‘cloned’ the user could perform experiments including advancing and retarding of the spark event, independent of the engine ECU. Dataspeed developed electronic hardware and software and a National Instruments based virtual instrument panel for controlling the instrument.

Aftermarket Engine Controller

The Challenge:

An automotive supplier produces a system that bolts onto an engine enabling a large increase in horsepower. They require an automotive ECU for a new product that is being developed. The timeframe for the ECU development and new product introduction is quite short.

The Solution:

Dataspeed Inc. along with one of its strategic partners designed and developed a custom ECU with production intent hardware delivered in 45 days. The primary purpose of the ECU is controlling a brushless motor using sensorless commutation. Other features include the capability to monitor vehicle parameters via the OBD II network, datalogging, and transmitting these parameters via a dedicated CAN network for display. The ECU also can be in-field reprogrammed, including the firmware as well as calibration files. A custom Labview application and drivers were developed to communicate and calibrate the ECU.

Cost Effective Hbridge

The Challenge:

An electromechanical automotive supplier developed a concept for a motor controller for a small actuator. Their design concept was not cost-effective and in order for them to be competitive in submitting a high volume quote a redesign for the motor controller was required.

The Solution:

Dataspeed redesigned the controller using a clean-sheet approach. Special attention was paid to the high volume cost of all components used in the controller. Contact was made with multiple silicon suppliers, with high volume pricing obtained for their components. Only the most cost-effective components from these suppliers was considered for the new design. This approach led to a 50% reduction in the high-volume bill-of-material cost and enabled the supplier to submit a reasonable quote. Dataspeed also created hardware prototypes and embedded firmware for demonstration to the end customer. The controller communicated on a LIN network and was capable of operating a small motor with its H-bridge.
ROBOTICS

Drive-By-Wire Interface for the John Deere RGator Platform

 

The Challenge:

The US Army-TARDEC had in its possession multiple RGator vehicles. These vehicles are Gator utility vehicle that have been roboticized. The customer wanted to repurpose the RGator as an internal development platform and utilize the drive-by-wire capability of the RGator. The RGator 's electronic system is proprietary, with little information known about the operation of the drive-by-wire system.

The Solution:

Dataspeed Inc. worked with John Deere to acquire enough information on the operation of the drive-by-wire system to develop a custom electronics interface controller (black box). This black box performed the message and electrical conversions needed that enabled a generic PC to operate the RGators DBW system. An embedded message translator, ROS interface and USB interface were developed as part of the software. A COTS RC transmitter was integrated in that enabled teleoperation mode as well as Estop capability.

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Mecanum Wheel AGV Control System with Leader Follower Capability

The Challenge:

A unique Automatic Guided Vehicle was being developed, based on the use of Mecanum wheels. These wheels enable the AGV to have true omni-directional capability, with the AGV capable of linear movement forward/backward or side/side or performing zero radius turns. A complete control system including installation of a custom central controller, power amplifiers, sensor integration and algorithm development was requested. The use of open source software to minimize recurring licensing costs was also requested. The AGV needed to be operated in 3 modes, teleoperation, manual and semi-autonomous mode. In semi-autonomous mode the AGV was to follow a person using data from the on-board Lidar sensor.

The Solution:

Dataspeed Inc. adapted its proprietary multi-sensor fusion controller to act as the central controller. The MSFC contains multiple processors, some performing low-level tasks like power moding, low-level networking via CAN and external sensor interfacing A multi-core I7 COM module running Linux was implemented, with the open source Robot Operating System used to develop and run the application code. The modeling and simulation capability of ROS was used extensively to develop the navigation system and leader-follower behavior. Commercial power amplifiers were networked via CAN to control the velocities of each of the 4 mecanum wheels. The user is able to switch between the 3 modes of operation using a COTS Radio Control transmitter.

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INDUSTRIAL

Custom Chromatograph

 

The Challenge:

A well-site instrumentation company wanted to set themselves apart from their competition by having designed and manufactured a custom chromatograph that is able to analyze gas concentrations much faster than current products.

The Solution:

Dataspeed Inc. provided extensive engineering services to take the design concept that the consulting firm had and create a world-class chromatograph instrument. Following are some of the services provided on this project.

  • Design of a custom instrumentation circuit board that operates the instrument. This board interfaces and controls the hydrocarbon sensors, mass flow controllers, pumps, valves, pressure, temperature sensors, and embedded computer. A simple USB interface was provided with custom Windows software to perform the gas flow sequencing and monitoring.
  • Design of custom electronic interface circuits including oven temperature control, mass flow control, pump pressure control, gas sample injection amount, injection pressure, carrier pressure injection pressure, liquid detection, instrument orientation.
  • Design of custom sheet metal double-walled column oven, along with temperature monitoring and control of column temperature up to 150 deg C.
  • Design of customized bracketry to hold the pumps, valves, circuit board, IR sensors inside the Pelican instrumentation case.
  • CAD models and packaging studies to enable all parts to be packaged inside the Pelican case with emphasis on ease of removal and serviceability of the instrument.
  • Custom embedded software resident on the 16 bit microcontroller to control the instrument and communicate with the Windows 7 software package.
  • Custom Windows 7 instrumentation software package enabling automatic operation of the instrument. Some features of this software include uploading and analysis of gas chromatograph outputs, User-defined script generation and sequencing of the instrument, TCP-IP upload of datasets to a server, Remote control of instrument via the internet for field support.
  • Investigation of different methods of injecting gas samples including use of mass-flow control valves versus mechanical, fixed volume injection methods.

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