ITM Blog Posts

The Blog Post category contains blog posts associated with ITM’s testing services, LabVIEW programming, Test & Measurement Hardware, Boiler Monitoring Systems, and iTestSystem applications.

iTestSystem Application: Notification Service

Get Your Engineering Data When it Counts using ITM’s iTestSystem Software 

In a world where we’ve grown accustomed to knowing about important events or crucial information nearly immediately, it may be of little surprise that the architects who build engineering measurement software included powerful notification abilities. 

An Amazon package delivery to your doorstep now prompts an email, a text or even a blinking light on your Alexa or Google Assistant. 

At Integrated Test & Measurement, the engineers behind iTestSystem applied this need-to-know concept to the latest version of their powerful and proprietary data-collection tool. In this blog, a new series by ITM, we’ll share details about iTestSystem’s “Notification Services” feature, which is commonly used to to pass crucial engineering data — think strain and vibration — to those who need it most and just in time. 

By pairing Notification Services with the Automated Analytics feature in iTestSystem, engineers are able to greatly simplify processes that require hunting down system operation outliers or damaging events. The Automated Analytics application allows users to analyze, build, and send sensor level reports only when specific vibration and strain limits are exceeded. In the end, that leads to a massive time savings. Instead of searching through streams of data files, engineers can easily review the report and download relevant data files from deployed systems for further analysis. 

Does your project involve the need to deploy unattended or “black box” data acquisition systems in the field? If so, iTestSystem may be the ideal solution. 

Here’s how Notification Services works: 

As mentioned above, users can pair the Automated Analytics feature with the power of Notification Services, an iTestSystem feature that allows reports — including helpful graphs — to be automatically sent to them daily, weekly or whenever most useful. This feature is especially beneficial if engineers do not have access to the equipment being monitored.  

Once you’ve configured your cDAQ hardware, project path and sensor channels in iTestSystem, set up your MultiDAQ and record a sample TDMS file. Then simply open Automated Analytics to set up and run a new automation. After that’s complete, configure Notifications Services on the schedule of your liking. 

Rather than getting buried in a mountain of raw data files that require processing later, users can easily set up an automated routine using iTestSystem’s Automated Analytics feature and configure Notification Services to dispatch regular reports or only ping over when a system achieves any of countless thresholds.

About iTestSystem

iTestSystem is an engineering measurement software platform that enables test engineers to organize, acquire, view, and analyze data from machinery, processes, vehicles and other complex systems.  iTestSystem was specifically designed for use with National Instruments (NI) cDAQ hardware for data collection and data logging.   

 For more information about our iTestSystem or ITM’s testing services, contact Ryan Welker @ (844) 837-8797 x702.

Automate Complex Analysis of Engineering Data Using iTestSystem

Does your project involve the need to deploy unattended or “black box” data acquisition systems in the field? If so, our engineering software known as iTestSystem, a proprietary product developed by Integrated Test & Measurement, may be the ideal solution. 

In this blog, a new series by ITM, we’ll share details about iTestSystem’s “Automated Analytics” feature, which is commonly used to to constantly analyze strain and vibration data on machinery, vehicles and industrial processes. 

By using the Automated Analytics feature in iTestSystem, engineers are able to greatly simplify processes that require hunting down system operation outliers or damaging events. The Automated Analytics application allows users to analyze, build, and send sensor level reports only when specific vibration and strain limits are exceeded. In the end, that leads to a massive time savings.  Instead of searching through streams of data files, engineers can easily review the report and download relevant data files from deployed systems for further analysis. 

Here’s how Automated Analytics works: 

Rather than getting buried in a mountain of raw data files that require processing later, users can easily set up an automated routine using iTestSystem’s Automated Analytics — just one feature among the many analysis applications built into the latest version of this powerful tool.

Once you’ve configured your cDAQ hardware, project path and sensor channels in iTestSystem, set up your MultiDAQ and record a sample TDMS file. Then simply open Automated Analytics to set up and run a new automation. 

Users assign a “Watch Directory,” and any TDMS files they pull into that directory will have the automated sequence of events they chose applied to those files automatically. Simply click into the properties for any file to reveal the newly embedded statistics or analysis data within. 

Users can pair the Automated Analytics feature with the power of Notification Services, an iTestSystem feature that allows reports — including helpful graphs — to be automatically sent to them daily, weekly or whenever most useful. This feature is especially beneficial if engineers do not have access to the equipment being monitored.  

Stay tuned for additional iTestSystem features, including the ability to set up Trigger Analysis events so reports are only dispatched when the data reaches a certain threshold.  

About iTestSystem

iTestSystem is an engineering measurement software platform that enables test engineers to organize, acquire, view, and analyze data from machinery, processes, vehicles and other complex systems.  iTestSystem was specifically designed for use with National Instruments (NI) cDAQ hardware for data collection and data logging.   

For more information about our iTestSystem or ITM’s testing services, contact Ryan Welker @ (844) 837-8797 x702.

Excellence in Impact Award

Clermont Chamber of Commerce "Impact Award"

ITM’s Resilience Recognized with County’s ‘Excellence in Impact Award’

Like most small businesses, Integrated Test & Measurement spent the last year weathering a storm of uncertainty due to COVID-19. How would the company both stay safe and stay in business?  

The answer to that crucial question and the actions that ITM took during the pandemic were recognized on Feb. 12 when the Milford, Ohio, engineering firm was named the winner of the Excellence in Impact Award by The Ohio Small Business Development Center at the Clermont Chamber of Commerce, presented by Duke Energy.

The Excellence in Impact Award is given annually to one Clermont County business that demonstrates an outstanding contribution to the local economy, and ITM President Tim Carlier was thrilled to have his company recognized, particularly after the challenging year his team has endured.

As the pandemic pressed its way into Ohio and the governor declared a stay-at-home order in March of 2020, ITM faced a series of massive challenges. The company relies heavily on travel and on-site work to complete complex testing and analysis in industries such as aerospace as well as pulp and paper. The year 2020 was supposed to be a year for growth, yet the pandemic threatened their entire business model.

Major clients who had been defined as “critical infrastructure” industries by the Department of Homeland Security were reaching out to see if ITM intended to meet its obligations. Rather than withdrawing and playing it safe, Carlier challenged his team to lean in, learn all they could, then do the work as they always had. He knew their success would depend on their resiliency.

“While this COVID 19 virus is complicated, my position is simple,” he said in an email to the team. “ I am working hard to keep everyone safe by mitigating employees’ risk for exposure and staying in business. I cannot do this alone, I need your help.”

They took an engineer’s approach to the virus and developed an exhaustive document titled “ITM COVID-19 Operating Response Guidelines.” They learned they could work from a distance effectively when needed using Microsoft Teams. After a short lapse, travel was back on, but they would need to be more creative. Long car rides replaced flights, and teams even broke into multiple vehicles to assure safety. They scoured local stores for masks, paper towels and sanitizer and found themselves grateful when boxes of basic supplies arrived from both the state and Clermont Chamber of Commerce.

Ultimately ITM kept its obligations to its clients, and was even able to continue on a growth trajectory in 2020 thanks in part to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In fact, the team of 7 actually added a full-time position and two co-op students, plus they doubled down on marketing efforts, which is now leading to even more opportunities in 2021. Carlier is incredibly thankful that the team went above and beyond to deliver during the pandemic, and he points out that along the way they learned a great deal about themselves and realized when tested, they can, in fact, emerge stronger.

ITM Accepts Impact Award

More About ITM

ITM is a structural test & measurement engineering service and software company that focuses on three vertical spaces: Industrial monitoring, testing services, and its proprietary test software iTestSystem. ITM was founded by Tim Carlier in 2001 to help companies reduce costs and improve efficiencies in their product development, manufacturing, and production activities. ITM provides software development, structural and mechanical testing services, industrial monitoring, strain gauge (gage) installations, and data analysis solutions to clients on five continents. 

Of specific note is ITM’s work with NASA and the aerospace industry as well as the firm’s patented technology in boiler monitoring systems.  These advances and specifically ITM’s Sootblower Fouling Detection System (FDS) allow for substantial efficiencies inside black liquor recovery boilers where operators are now able to conserve as much as 5% of a boiler’s total steam.  Not only does this advance in boiler efficiency carry an enormous environmental impact by reducing carbon emissions, but the value of steam savings can also exceed more than a million dollars a year at plants where it is adopted.

Link: Clermont Chamber of Commerce News Release

 

Steaming ahead with SFD in Power and Recovery Boilers

Paper Mill Steam

ITM SFD technology helps energy producers generate power more efficiently by detecting energy sapping soot buildup in power and recovery boilers 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the pulp and paper industry is the 3rd largest consumer of energy in U.S. manufacturing. A great deal of that energy is expended to generate massive amounts of steam inside about 200 black liquor recovery boilers spread around North America. That steam then powers generators that produce electricity to operate the mills. 

Imagine the energy savings if enhancements inside those recovery boilers could conserve 5% of all that steam. Not only would this advance in boiler efficiency carry an enormous environmental impact — potentially trillions of BTUs — the value of that steam savings would equal more than a million dollars a year at every plant where it is adopted.  

Figures like these help explain why Tim Carlier has spent years refining the novel idea he calls the Sootblower Fouling Detection System or SFD. SFD is his patented technology for measuring fouling/slagging as well as sootblower performance and reliability in recovery, biomass and utility boilers.  

In a typical boiler, fuel is burned inside the furnace, creating hot gas which heats water in the steam-generating tubes. In the case where the fuel is biomass, the flue gas often contains a significant amount of carry-over, which collects on the boiler tubes causing buildup. This buildup, also known as fouling, decreases the efficiency of the heat being transferred to generate steam while also increasing the risk of plugging the boiler and taking it offline altogether. 

For decades, these industries have relied on sootblowers — long rotating lances that are inserted through the superheater and other steam-generating tubes during combustion — to blow off soot and dislodge the masses of ash deposits that form around steam-generating tubes. Rather than running sootblowing systems “blind,” the SFD System removes guesswork by pinpointing exactly when and where sootblowing is required.

Sootblower

The system relies on a series of sensors on the sootblowers as well as at key locations on the boiler system that allow it to measure the energy transfer to indicate how much buildup is present so that sootblowing is only applied when needed. The feedback mechanisms can inform the plant operator not just where to run sootblowers, but also if sootblowers are leaking steam or malfunctioning in other ways. 

“This technology could have a huge environmental effect,” says Carlier, president and founder of Integrated Test and Measurement, the Milford, Ohio, engineering service and software company. “You are getting that much more efficiency out of your boiler, so not only are you saving money because you are not wasting steam, but you are not having to burn as much fuel to generate as much electricity.” 

He estimates that recovery boilers at most pulp and paper mills generate between $20 million and $40 million a year in steam depending on their Maximum Continuous Rating (MCR), and roughly 10% of the steam goes toward soot blowing operations. Carlier estimates that SFD could enable operators to decrease their sootblowing between 25% and 50% leading to a savings between $500,000 and $2 million dollars a year.

In addition to the significant steam savings, SFD will also greatly enhance the reliability of sootblowing operations by answering crucial questions for operatorsWhat’s the condition of the sootblower motor and gearbox? Is the poppet valve stuck open, stuck closed, and leaking, or is it operating correctly? Is the track damaged? Is the sootblower lance bent? Is the sootblower stuck in the boiler? What condition is the sootblower packing? Are there any steam leaks on or near the sootblower? Keeping informed on these important questions ultimately helps avoid costly downtime and even schedule crucial maintenance. 

On its own, the removal of sootblowing guesswork will generate a quick return on investment, Carlier says. When all is said and done, power generation facilities can expect to see a return on investment from the SFD System in approximately six months to a year. 

For more information about Sootblower Fouling Detection Systems or ITM’s other industrial boiler monitoring solutions, contact Ryan Welker via email: ryan.welker@itestsystem.com or phone: (844) 837-8797 x 702

iTestSystem Application: TestView Plus

Tach Signal in TestView Plus

TestView Plus is an iTestSystem application for quick and easy viewing and analysis of data recorded in .TDMS files.  Test engineers can open data files and then simply drag and drop data channels into a variety of graphs and tables.  Data plotting algorithms allow for viewing and zooming into even the largest data files without running into memory issues.

TestView Plus has many features that allow test engineers to manage multiple data analysis projects at once.  TestView Plus Sessions allow for fast transitions between data processing projects.  A Session retains the current tab and graph information, analysis files, and data workspace.  TestView Plus Windows and Tabs allow for quickly adding and ordering new and existing data views.  The TestView Plus Reporting Utility allows for simple customized layouts sized to fit neatly in a report or presentation.

Besides data viewing, TestView Plus also provides access to the iTestSystem analysis functions.  Data analysis can be performed on data in an active Time History graph.  To run an Analysis tool, select an icon in the Analysis toolbar or select an option in the “Analysis” dropdown in menu toolbar.  Once the analysis is performed, the results will be graphed in a new window.

Collect Vehicle CAN Bus data with NI 9862 and iTestSystem

Automotive and off-highway engineers and designers often need to log vehicle bus data along with vibration, strain gauge, and other sensor data during normal operation to evaluate their design.  Using data from all these sources enables these engineers and designers to pinpoint a vehicle’s response to staged or damaging events.  For example, engineers can see how steering wheel position and speed effect structural response when the vehicle hits a pothole.

How does steering wheel position and speed effect structural response when the vehicle hits a pothole?

In situations where our engineers need to tap into the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics using CAN bus data and analog sensor data to identify and solve a problem, we will deploy a rugged measurement solution based on NI CompactDAQ (cDAQ) hardware.  These systems usually include an industrial compact pc or standalone cDAQ running the iTestSystem engineering measurement application.  iTestSystem logs data from the vehicle bus connected to NI 9862 CAN module and other analog sensors connected to NI cDAQ modules like NI 9234, NI 9236, and NI 9229 into one data file.

NI 9862 CAN Module Specifications and Connections

According to the NI data sheet, the NI 9862 modules is a single CAN port device that is isolated from the other modules in the system. The port has a Bosch DCAN CAN controller that is CAN 2.0B-compatible and fully supports both 11-bit and 29-bit identifiers. The port also has an NXP TJA1041AT High-Speed CAN transceiver that is fully compatible with the ISO 11898 standard and supports baud rates up to 1 Mbps.  This module requires +9 to +30 VDC supply voltage to operate.

The table below shows the connections between the NI 9862 9 pin D-Sub and the SAE J1962 connector that are required for CAN communication.  NI sells a OBDII9M-DB9F CAN Cable cable if you don’t want make your own cable.

iTestSystem CAN Channel Setup

Setting up a vehicle CAN bus connection can be difficult, especially if you need to acquire non-standard, proprietary messages and frames.  iTestSystem simplifies this setup by leveraging the NI XNET and CAN drivers to view and configure CAN bus data, import databases, and assign scale factors. iTestSystem then allows users to browse and choose which CAN signals to acquire.

For more information about collecting CAN bus data with an NI 9862 and iTestSystem, or our testing services, contact Chase Petzinger via email at chase.petzinger@itestsystem.com or phone at (844) 837-8797 x704

Related Links

ITM Gathers Dam Spillway Data During Midair Strain Gauge Project 

Garrison Dam

Suspended in a harness 30 feet above a concrete spillway in central North Dakota, ITM engineer Ryan “RJ” Matthews instruments the gate of one of the world’s largest earthen dams with dozens of strain gauge sensors. 

Integrated Test & Measurement’s field service technicians and engineers have installed strain gauges on civil structures and machinery around the globe for decades, and this project represents one more example of rugged data acquisition. In this instance, the team rappelled from an overhead abutment on the Garrison Dam — a 2-mile-long structure along the Missouri River built by the Army Corp. of Engineers starting in 1947. 

Contracted by Cotech IRM Services, ITM was charged with collecting data to measure the strain on one of the 28 spillway gates which are designed to raise and close to allow water to pass from the reservoir during rare flood events. Just behind those gates is Lake Sakakawea, one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. 

Garrison Dam Spillway

Despite the complex location, Matthews and co-worker Zach Strong were able to successfully instrument the spillway gate with 44 single-axis strain gauges and solder signal cables which lead back to a NICompactDAQ system connected to their laptop, allowing them to successfully gather streams of crucial data using iTestSystem while the gate was put through its paces.

The project is yet another example of ITM’s ability to combine the use of strain gauge sensors, a cDAQ system and the firm’s iTestSystem software to create a structural health monitoring system. In this instance, the project required only one-time testing, but ITM can also establish a permanent structural health monitoring system as well. iTestSystem is an engineering measurement software platform that enables test engineers to organize, acquire, view, and analyze data from machinery, processes, vehicles and other complex systems.  iTestSystem was specifically designed for use with National Instruments (NI) cDAQ hardware for data collection and data logging. 

For Matthews, it was his first experience installing strain gauges while strapped into a bosun’s chair and dangling in midair, but he points out that ITM’s strain gauge process is essentially the same whether their engineers are standing on a bridge or inside a railcar.  All that changes is the method of access and environment. 

His field notes reveal that each strain gauge on this job was wired in a quarter bridge configuration, which provides one individual measurement of strain (positive tension or negative compression) per location. All gauges were adhered to the gate using M-bond 200 epoxy.  A final report submitted to the customer contained detailed instrumentation and test notes and results reported in a series of stress/strain tables and stress graphs.

Contact ITM for your Strain Gauge Needs 

Installing strain gauges in the field for structural and fatigue measurements requires expertise and experience.  Whether you use our iTestSystem software to stream and analyze strain signals for static measurements and real-world fatigue data acquisition or contract our software engineers to build a real time strain monitoring system, we will make sure you acquire quality strain data. Contact our strain lab and technicians to install strain gauges on test specimens or to design, build, calibrate, and test strain-based load cells.

Strain Lab Contact Info: Ryan.Welker@iTestSystem.com, (844) 837-8797

 

Happy Holidays 2020

Happy Holidays 2020

2020 has certainly been memorable to say the least.  Thank you to everyone who has sacrificed and adapted their habits to make sure our essential work was completed safely.  May your holidays be joyful and healthy, and may your new year be prosperous!

Prevent Costly Mistakes on Industrial Monitoring Hardware Updates

Are you contemplating updates to your industrial monitoring hardware? Perhaps a COVID slowdown has given your team time to finally upgrade to that latest and greatest National Instruments controller.  

Before you make that leap, there’s one extremely important factor to consider, and that is the software running your equipment. If your code isn’t ready, there is far more to consider than a simple hardware swap, and your crew could be headed toward a serious loss in productivity and efficiency.  

The reality is that production engineers are routinely staring at industrial monitoring equipment that is nearing or reaching end-of-life, and they need to act to prevent unforeseen failures. The team at Integrated Test & Measurement can help with hardware upgrades, but we can also dive into your software to be sure your code is up to date and any customizations that have been made over the years are updated to assure your complex equipment is communicating the way it was designed to and all signals continue to report properly.  

Why is this holistic hardware/software approach recommended when it comes to upgrades? Consider the situation where a client upgrades a control module on a test cell only to find out that the new equipment is no longer compatible with the old software. It is akin to adding a new printer to your desktop computer without upgrading the drivers. Only in this instance, the fix is far more complex than a quick download. The result is that piece of equipment may now need to come offline for an extended time, and if you don’t have an in-house spare, your industrial monitoring is about to take a hit.  

ITM has seen an uptick in requests for assistance from clients who are running either outdated hardware, software or both. In some instances, partners may no longer have access to the person who customized their software. But that is no problem for ITM. Our LabVIEW experts are adept at not only understanding these complex software changes but they can clean up your code to simplify future upgrades, too. In other words, if your programming resources are no longer available, look to ITM for support with code enhancements, development and updates. 

One common migration for ITM’s industrial monitoring clients, for example, is moving from an older NI CompactRIO to a newer more suped up CompactRIO. A common mistake in this and other instances is underestimating the time it may take to update custom software, so rather than trying to do the work in house, let ITM speed up your process.  

Our experts can travel to your site, evaluate both your equipment and your software running it to develop and implement an upgrade plan that works for your team. Whether that means a slower measured approach or a quick turnaround on a tight deadline, ITM will develop a custom solution that meets your needs. 

Strain Gauge Installation – M-Bond AE-10 Epoxy

This video shows how to install a strain gauge on a curved surface using M-Bond AE-10 two part epoxy. Watch an ITM test technician walk through each step of the M-Bond AE-10 strain gauge installation procedure.