The Key to a Productive Test Cell
What you need to know about engine test cell support systems to ensure reliability
When it comes to a productive engine test cell, the key might surprise you. While the dynamometer satisfies the core requirements, support systems are especially critical to delivering performance – on top of the fact that they can significantly reduce risks associated with health-safety issues. And for OEM dealer and distributor networks where vehicle or engine downtime can cost a customer hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars per day, reliability is of the utmost importance.
Today as engine controls, emission requirements, and other industry demands drive an increasing number of engine test cell system rebuilds and upgrades, here are five things to know about support systems to ensure your test cell reliably delivers peak performance.
- Stay Cool Under Pressure: Cooling is essential to any engine test cell. And because an engine test cell is water flow- and pressure-dependent, no support system is more important than the water system. Done otherwise, improper flow and pressure can be crippling to the entire system. And that can mean extended downtime. In design, it’s critical to factor in proper piping and routing specifications, including water flow and pressure. As crucial are pump specifications, which are based on total head to deliver proper system flow. And don’t overlook something that is easily overlooked by many: the configuration is rarely limited to simple vertical distances; more often than not it entails numerous elbows and bends which need to be factored into the design and installation to get water where it needs to go at the right pressure.
- Air it Out: Air-handling systems are also essential to cooling – as well as the removal of potentially harmful contaminants. This extends to engine heat and blow-by, preservatives and paint outgassing from a newly rebuilt engine, and steam from process water. Additionally, a properly designed air-handling system alleviates potential buildup of toxic fumes and gases. Aside from allowing the test cell to operate at peak performance, a proper air-handling system is an absolute must to minimize health risks, not to mention the need to avoid potential fire hazards.
- Eliminate Exhaust Hazards: As the name implies, the exhaust system eliminates engine exhaust from the test cell, which is critical to both engine operation and health safety. The design of an exhaust system needs to take a host of requirements involved in each installation into consideration given that each facility is unique. An example is proper system sizing to eliminate back pressure, which can negatively impact engine operation and skew test results. And as with an air-handling system, proper exhaust system design minimizes the potential for fire hazards.
- Make “Sound” Decisions: Another major consideration has to do with protecting employees’ hearing. That means it’s the role of the dealer/distributor to keep noise levels both inside and out of the test cell environment to levels that are not only required but also comfortable for personnel. Factors involved in achieving proper levels include both the equipment used in the test cell and the facility itself. Importantly, each test cell is unique – and every component from walls, ceilings to doors to other support systems involved – impact the level of noise created. Where it can get complicated is the need to achieve appropriate levels based on specific sound transmission classifications. The bottom line is to pay close attention to noise requirements and all that’s involved to protect employees, as well as the business from the ramification of issues associated with noise.
- Ensure Efficient Fuel Supply: While fueling might seem straightforward, it’s not. For example, the use of a standalone day tank for testing engines works for short duration tests of small engines, but large industrial engines often require more sophisticated storage and a system to transport fuel where it’s needed. When designing your test cell, carefully considering test cell size and local building codes are also important to ensure you have enough fuel in your test cell and the proper design to efficiently run your operations reliably.
Proper Planning and Design for Optimal Operation
When it comes down to it, there’s a lot more to know about what makes the engine test cell productive than the dynamometer alone. It all starts with an understanding of the complexities involved in support systems and making the right design choices when building or upgrading an engine dynamometer test cell. From there, it’s a matter of proper installation to ensure the systems work together flawlessly as part of a holistic test cell environment that operates at peak performance at all times. So whether you are upgrading or building a new test cell system, make sure system components aren’t an afterthought. Proper planning and design of system components will help deliver the testing solutions your company needs for optimal operation, and save costs down the line.
Larry Golding is Vice President of Engineering at Taylor Dynamometer, where he leads a team of engineers in the engineering and design of dynamometers and support systems. Golding’s background includes experience in testing and analysis as well as dynamometer operation. Taylor Dynamometer is a complete solutions provider for dynamometers and test cell systems. This article is featured in the February 2016 issue of Engine Builder Magazine, more on test cell solutions.