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Synchronization Integration Test Stands for an Aerospace Parts Manufacturer

POSTED 02/27/2024

The Challenge

Our client, a leading aerospace parts manufacturer, was developing an Electro-Mechanical Actuator (EMA) that included a synchronization electronic control module (or synchronization Line Replaceable Units [LRU]) to replace the standard mechanical drivetrain that controls flaps and slats on aircraft wings. The synchronization LRU is used to autonomously monitor and maintain the alignment of individual flaps and slats, all without the need for physical connections. The business objective is to streamline the installation and replacement of flaps, lowering production and maintenance costs. The company needed a test stand to verify that the controller effectively managed synchronization across various scenarios and could seamlessly adapt to different aircraft designs and actuator systems. The test stand would also be used in client demonstrations. It had to fulfill the technical requirements and impress customers with a visually compelling demonstration.

The Solution

The ACS team engineered and built four synchronization integration test stands, custom-made to meet the company’s specifications. Our solution leveraged an NI™ LabVIEW-based system to oversee control, data acquisition, and comprehensive recording of all test stand functions. This system employed a real-time controller for seamless control and data acquisition, while a standard Windows PC served as the operator interface. Test operators load and unload the Units Under Tests (UUTs) into the stands. The automation system designed by ACS then executes the set test sequences. ACS engineers designed the system to use electric servo actuators to execute test procedures. These electric servo actuators provide unparalleled flexibility, allowing operators to smoothly swap out UUT-specific test adapters to accommodate an extensive array of test capabilities. The architectural design features distributed acquisition at each of the four stands and at the central system control stand. This customized structure permits the concurrent operation of any combination of stands, allowing maximum efficiency. Within each test stand are a number of rotating and translating parts, which present a safety hazard to operators during testing. We designed safety panels to shield the stands' moving components, constructed from robust, transparent material. The customized panels not only ensure the safety of personnel but also provide the company’s customers with a clear view of the testing process. To enhance the visual presentation, flaps were added, which allow observers to witness the synchronized movements.

The Outcome

The test stands provided the aerospace parts manufacturer with all the required functionality while offering an impressive level of flexibility and scalability. This adaptability allows the company to accommodate UUT changes easily and scale the system to include additional flap sections or model-based simulations as needed. The ACS-designed system can test actuators requiring loads up to 20,000 pounds of force and speeds reaching over 2.5 inches per second. The company’s current line of EMAs top out at 5,000 pound loads. The high-performance capabilities of the test stands enable the company to prototype and test actuators suitable for larger airplanes, opening up a new market to them. ACS engineers further future-proofed the test stands to verify the proper operation of synchronization LRUs across different actuator models by supporting various actuator form factors and communication schemas between the LRU and the control system. This Windows-based interface lets test operators specify complex flight profiles, enabling testing in an infinite variety of scenarios. Users can choose to set complex flight profiles to run automatically or take manual control over flap loading and movement. This allows for maximum flexibility and control during the testing process.

Key Features

  • Capability to test two actuators simultaneously on each stand
  • Painted carbon steel support frame and bedplate for sturdy mounting
  • Equipped with appropriately sized castors for stand repositioning
  • Uses NI real-time hardware and Siemens servo drives
  • Features a LabVIEW application with ACS' real-time framework for modular and flexible real-time testing

ACS Services

  • Design and engineering of four synchronization integration test stands
  • Manufacturing and assembly of the test stands
  • Performed Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) and Site Acceptance Testing (SAT)