Facility Upgrade for Internal Combustion Engine Test Cells

August 2, 2023

Project Features:
ICE Internal Combustion Engine, Facility Upgrade, PLC And DAQ System, Internal Combustion Engine Test Cells


The Challenge

A global automotive company needed to modernize a test wing of a larger facility upgrade. The research wing housed 26 internal combustion engine test cells that operated on aging technology. Replacement parts were hard to find and only one software engineer remained in-house with expertise in the legacy custom data acquisition system (DAQ). The outdated technology presented a real risk to the reliable operation of the test cells. These test cells were also limited in the testing they could support, requiring units under test to be moved to different test wings or buildings on the campus to complete their testing.

The automaker wanted the test cells upgraded in place, which required designing a modernized test cell configuration within the existing, small space and planning a construction schedule that minimized disruption of existing testing operations.

The Solution

In the early design stages, the ACS team scanned the current test cell installation and much of the surrounding space to get precise imagery of the available design space. They scanned the entire first floor of both wings along with the mezzanine level above the test cells of the building (total 116,000 square feet). Out of this, around 30,000 square feet were allocated to the modernized test cell site. The scan detailed the space dimensions and infrastructure enabling the ACS design team to streamline the design process and mitigate the risk of unforeseen challenges during construction.

The outdated programmable logic controller (PLC) and DAQ system for all 26 internal combustion engine test cells were replaced with new systems designed jointly by ACS and a data acquisition supplier. The new systems were packaged into custom ACS-built control panels, which interface with all existing facility and test systems.

Nine of the 26 test cells also received a cold fluid mechanical upgrade, including a complete facility upgrade to the plant to accommodate the cold fluid testing. ACS also customized and built mechanical skids at each test cell that integrated the coolant, charge air cooler, and fuel systems into the facility.

A second subset of five test cells were upgraded to conduct emissions testing, consisting of new emissions analyzers that interface with sampling controllers and valves. ACS integrated the entire system into an ACS-customized design package.

The Outcome

The automaker now operates 26 modernized internal combustion engine test cells, improving the reliability and accuracy of test results. ACS used industry-renowned tools to upgrade the software. With these tools, ACS and supplier software engineers developed PLC and DAQ systems that acquire data from multiple sources within the test cell and the unit under test. The custom-designed PLC and DAQ systems then synchronize the data from all these sources to the single timestamp.

The nine test cells enhanced to conduct cold fluid testing can test fluids as low as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit through software-controlled adjustments, enabling these test cells to

The five test cells redesigned for emissions testing had specialized benches added that allow test cells to conduct different types of emissions testing. As a result, the client has increased capacity to perform certification testing to meet EPA regulations 1037 and 1065.

The test cells upgraded for cold fluid or emissions testing significantly expanded the auto company’s testing capacity. Combined with the more sophisticated DAQ and PLC systems, the overall upgrades improved the company’s development and certification testing capabilities.

The ACS project management team executed the construction plan in phases that allowed the client to continue testing while other test cells were renovated. With precise information, a creative design in a small space, and careful planning, ACS’ ICE test cell modernization project was executed smoothly while the automaker maintained overall operational efficiency.

Key Features

  • Designed a new test cell configuration within the existing small space
  • Performed a cold fluid upgrade and emissions upgrade on different test cells
  • Software upgrades included a new PLC and DAQ systems
  • Completed construction with no disruption of existing testing operations

ACS Services

  • Engineered, designed, and manufactured 26 internal combustion engine test cells
  • Built custom mechanical skids at each test cell that integrated the coolant, charge air cooler, and fuel systems into the facility
  • Integrated the emission test components into the system