- Automated test rig provides product functional test and calibration.
- Increased efficiency and speed of production line and quality control throughput.
- Ensures all products meet the compliance standards.
- Improved the levels of product transparency and traceability.
- Cloud integration of test data to provide better data intelligence, quicker analysis, product performance, business information and development insight.
Austin Consultants’ sister company Green Running are experts in high-frequency energy disaggregation and creators of Verv. Verv is a clever home energy assistant that gives consumers intelligent information about key appliances and electricity usage in the home, helping to tackle bills, reduce the carbon footprint and keep the home safe.
For commercial applications, Green Running also offer a Verv unit that can monitor three-phase electricity supplies.
As part of Verv’s manufacturing process, all the units are fully tested to ensure product compliance with the high-quality standards set, before being dispatched.
To increase production efficiency the Green Running team wanted to install an automated test equipment (ATE) rig that could test multiple Verv energy monitoring units at one time as well as automating the audit and tracking process. The Green Running team also required the system to log to a simple database, hosted on Verv Cloud, to record basic test details such as the serial number of the unit under test (UUT), pass/fail result and overall test runs etc.
With a long pedigree in high specification automated test equipment, Austin Consultants was the natural choice to develop the rig.
Our team were asked to design and build a system capable of monitoring up to three single-phase or three-phase units at any one time. The initial system requirement was to deliver a rig for testing three single-phase units that could later be modified to accommodate a three-phase production run.
The Green Running team already had a test system that was designed and built in-house and was capable of testing one unit at a time. Following a review with the Austin team, it was agreed that a brand new rig was required to accommodate the new requirements.
As part of the project initiation process, our consultants worked with the Green Running team to understand and capture all the requirements for the new system. Based on this understanding we were able to provide a detailed system specification and hardware design that was shared with the Green Running team at both the Preliminary and Critical Design Reviews for validation and approval.
The hardware design team at Austin Consultants used a number of off-the-shelf items but also needed to design and fabricate a number of custom brackets, plates and fixturing designed around a standard 19” Rack, 600mm wide by 800mm deep, 20 rack units (U) high. To maximise the working area and so that the ATE can also accommodate the marginally wider three -phase Verv units the operator stands at the side of the rack, making full use of the 800mm depth.
The rack unit houses:
- A programmable AC power source
- A managed network switch utilising static IP allocation based on physical ports
- A custom control box containing a single-board computer, National Instruments USB DAQ Card, power supplies and safety system
- A custom load tray which housed the power resistor, cooling fans and a thermal protection device
- The top of the rack has been replaced with a custom unit under test (UUT) platter
- Custom brackets for mounting a label printer and touch screen monitor.
The system provides voltage calibration and a complete functional test across the full working current range up to 100 amps to simulate a typical domestic environment. In order to detect if a Verv unit is in place for testing, the station is fitted with a number of small pressure switches.
The rig is controlled via an intuitive user interface on a 17” industrial resistive touchscreen that is designed to work in harsh environments and perform well even if the operators are wearing gloves.
In order to accommodate all the requirements for the new system Austin Consultants developed the LabVIEW a framework for the ATE Software and worked with the Green Running team to reuse some of the LabVIEW software developed for the previous single unit ATE to reduce development costs and time.
Additional control and calibration software need to be developed as well as the software drivers for the AC Power Supply Unit (PSU).
The ATE software will test, 1, 2 or 3 units at a time. During the test, the ATE communicates with the UUTs via secure network protocols and interfaces with a cloud database which is used for tracking the UUTs Pass/Fail status. Following each test an integrated printer prints a custom label recording the serial number of the unit under test, the pass or fail status and product details.
The new easy to operate Verv ATE has enabled Green Running to increase the efficiency and speed of its production line and quality control throughput to ensure all products are calibrated to the compliance standards. The introduction of automated test reporting and label printing has also improved the levels of product transparency and traceability by capturing all the data at the time of each test and reducing the level of manual intervention, thereby reducing both the cost of testing and potential for operator error.
The integration of the test data with the Verv cloud also provides the Green Running team with better data intelligence. The improved access to and use of data, enables quicker data analysis, in real-time, to surface product performance, business information. and better development insight.