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Materials Testing Laboratory Data Acquisition System

Summary

  • Delivered consultancy and solution design to develop a robust data logging platform that supports enhanced test requirements, satisfies business objectives, integrates with legacy systems and is configured to minimise redundancy and accommodate future change.
  • Custom data acquisition and multichannel signal processing across multiple simultaneous tests types, configurations and over long time periods.
  • User-friendly LabView based system offering system reliability, accuracy and reporting.
  • Enabled effective use and reuse of existing test architecture.
  • Flexible system for multiple test types and different test setups.
  • Delivered data export in a format suitable to data stakeholders.
  • Optimised processes and efficiency.
  • Enabled agile and flexible accommodation of future requirements.

Background

EDF Energy is the UK’s largest producer of low-carbon electricity. As part of EDF Energy’s ongoing commitment to being the efficient, responsible electricity company, and champion of low-carbon growth they operate a material testing laboratory measuring the characteristics and behaviour of such substances as metals, ceramics, and plastics under various conditions, and over long periods of time.

Challenge

Within the material testing laboratory, EDF Energy runs multiple simultaneous material tests over long periods and across a wide range of test configurations. Austin Consultants was engaged to conduct a review of the lab’s data logging requirements, and develop a robust data logging platform that supports enhanced test requirements, satisfies business objectives, integrates with legacy systems and is configured to minimise redundancy and accommodate future change.

Approach

Our consultants worked with the EDF Energy project team and stakeholder group including laboratory technicians, engineers and data analysts to understand and capture all the requirements for the new system. Based on this understanding we were able to provide a detailed system specification that was shared with the stakeholder group for review and validation.

Preparing a detailed specification, at the start of the project, before any work was undertaken, ensured that, once begun, the project delivery was able to progress efficiently and without the need to accommodate further change requests that can add both cost and time to a project.

Solution

The system design utilises data logging software based on National Instruments (NI) CompactRIO platform and provides a customised LabVIEW software application to configure the datalogger and monitor the running tests.

inside_cabinet

Two cRIO chassis loaded with Analogue Input and Thermocouple Modules installed in the cabinet

The system provides simultaneous data capture from 163 thermocouples and 106 voltage channels distributed across the materials testing lab and spread between multiple rigs and furnaces. The data acquired by the CompactRIOs is transferred to the laboratory’s Windows-based PC. The system then intelligently updates all of the running tests with the appropriate data; each test can be configured for different log rates, alarm levels, data events and event actions.

Given the long duration nature of the tests, the system was designed to allow users to adjust all aspects of the tests whilst running, for example allowing log rates to be increased considerably once a particular pattern was detected on a given signal. At any point during the test the team are able to retrieve the data in .CSV format for further analysis.

The CompactRIO platform was selected due to its ability to provide local data logging and is supported by the integration of an uninterruptible power supply. The system is configured so that, in the event of a system or power failure, data is stored on the CompactRIO ready to be uploaded to the lab PC when the system is restored. This ensures EDF Energy has a continuous and consistent data stream.

New user interface

New user interface

The customised LabVIEW application now provides dramatically improved control, insight and operational efficiency. Operators are able to easily and quickly review, modify or add new test configurations and reports via an easy to use operator interface.

Benefits & Results

The new system not only addresses EDF Energy’s requirements for reliable and consistent test monitoring across a large number and range of tests, over long time periods, but also provides an adaptable and extendable platform that can easily accommodate new and changing demands.

  • Increased performance, monitoring, and data capture.
  • The totally configurable system allows users to remap channels and reconfigure the system as required.
  • The software application is very flexible allowing complete configuration of the system and tests.
  • The user interface is clean, resizable and intuitive to operate.
  • Users can setup test blueprints for easy reuse.
  • Tests of any duration to be reviewed and displayed via the scaling provided by the system.
  • Event monitoring alerts the user to any changes in long-term testing.
  • The systems modular software architecture enables simple future expansion with additional modules and chassis.

Austin Consultants facilitated a review with the various stakeholders to understand not only the requirements for the system but also the data dependencies of the wider team. Thanks to their professional approach to design and build the system not only addresses our requirements for reliable and consistent test monitoring across a large number and range of tests, over long time periods, but also provides an adaptable and extendable platform that can easily accommodate new and changing demands

David McLennon

Mechanical Testing Engineer, EDF Energy

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