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17 February 2014

Windmill Software Ltd
Data Acquisition Intelligence


Free Software Saves Time and Reduces Errors in Diesel Engine Research

Diesel particulate emissions need to be reduced to produce a cleaner environment. A recent draft package from the EU proposes that such emissions be slashed by 80%. Researcher Edward Winward at Loughborough University is investigating diesel engine fuels and lubricants, and looking at how compression ratio and fuel composition affect engine emissions.

To control the research engine and eddy current dynamometer (AG150HS) he uses a Froude Consine Texcel V4. This is operated manually from its front panel which indicates the current engine speed and torque. Until recently these figures had been recorded manually. Due to the long duration of the tests such a practice became laborious and prone to error. The original Froude host software was too expensive for the project's budget and so Winward investigated alternative methods. From reading the operator's manual for the controller he realised that it uses standard ASCII text commands and responses via a serial interface. Rather than developing an application to communicate with the controller he did some research on the subject on the internet and found the free Windmill software.

Using the Windmill Confiml software Winward established that he could command the controller to send data packets with the engine speed, torque and configuration settings. He could then parse these to extract the required information.

"I found the process of configuring Windmill to do this relatively straightforward and soon had a total of ten separate channels recording the current state of the engine and dynamometer." Edward Winward
Showing current engine speed and torque

He then used the Windmill Logger and DDE Panel applications to collect data for processing later. Windmill stores the data in a text file which can later be imported into almost any Windows analysis software, such as Excel.

Ultimately, he plans to send commands to the controller to control the engine and dynamometer via a PC and therefore precisely control a test from beginning to end. To do this he can use the Windmill IML Tools or Test Sequence programs.

The Windmill applications have even helped him with LabView software from National Instruments...

"After learning LabView recently, I have now also applied the ASCII command and response parsing technique I learned in Windmill to experiment with using LabView to collect the data from the controller. This has worked but has proven more difficult than with Windmill due to way in which commands are sent in LabView and the responses parsed. I made great use of Confiml during the debugging process when developing the LabView VI." Edward Winward

Eventually, both the Windmill and LabView set-ups will find use outside of the project for research and teaching purposes in the Loughborough Powertrains Laboratory.

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