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Test Platform for Aircraft Actuation Test Systems

"The system’s modular design offers the highest performance, with superior levels of scalability and upgradability. This framework reduced our software development, testing, and integration efforts by 70 percent."

- Balaji PK, Moog India Technology Center

The Challenge:

Developing a fast, flexible, reliable, maintainable, and easily upgradable software test platform (STP) to test flight actuation systems; developing an automated test system capable of simultaneously performing acceptance and qualification testing for multiple units under test; and controlling the actuator and aerodynamic load systems together precisely in real time within stringent limits.

The Solution:

Using a powerful combination of NI LabVIEW, NI TestStand, and NI VeriStand software to develop a sophisticated test executive (TE) that executes test steps written in any programming language, and designing the modular, reconfigurable, rugged hardware test platform, the electronic test console (ETC), using NI PXI technology with a real-time controller to test multiple actuation systems in parallel while reducing costs and saving floor space.

Author(s):

Balaji PK - Moog India Technology Center
Joesamuel S - Moog India Technology Center
Kumar B - Moog India Technology Center

 

 

Moog Inc. is a worldwide designer, manufacturer, and integrator of precision motion control products and systems. Moog Aircraft Group is one of the market leaders in the design and integration of aircraft actuation systems. Moog India Technology Center (MITC) Pvt. Ltd., located in Electronics City, Bangalore, is a fully owned subsidiary of Moog Inc., USA. MITC designs and tests commercial flight control actuation systems for leading commercial aircraft manufacturers. A common hardware and software test platform was designed to test a variety of aerospace products.

 

Our goal was to supply system solutions that combine comprehensive design, integration, and certification capabilities with an unrivaled mix of system and component expertise. We are uniquely qualified to create solutions optimized for the customer's goals of cost, weight, reliability, safety, and performance.

 

 

Software Test Platform

Moog designed and developed our system using NI LabVIEW, NI TestStand, and NI VeriStand software. The system’s modular design offers the highest performance, with superior levels of scalability and upgradability. This framework reduced our software development, testing, and integration efforts by 70 percent.

 

The TE is a customized NI TestStand sequential process model to create, edit, and execute the test steps written in any programming language. It features flexibility in sequencing test steps using the loop options, pre- and post-actions, and expressions of the NI TestStand Sequence Editor. This TE generates test reports automatically in predefined formats. NI TestStand also has the built-in option to allow parallel and batch processing and easy hardware initialization and shutdown procedures.

 

The TE also uses NI VeriStand to import servo control algorithms and flight simulation models from different software environments. The time-critical control applications were deployed in the NI real-time target. NI VeriStand has the built-in option to monitor and interact with these tasks using a run-time editable user interface that includes many useful tools for value forcing, alarm monitoring, I/O calibration, and stimulus profile editing.

 

The test data is analyzed with the help of NI DIAdem software. Large volumes of data can be plotted and analyzed using Technical Data Management Streaming. The TE has a flexible architecture to accommodate the facilities and satisfy aerospace test requirements.

 

 

The following are the noteworthy LabVIEW utilities of the TE:

  • Test Sequencer: Using the TE, the user can create, edit, and order the sequence of execution per the customer requirements. The authorized users can edit, release, and revoke any work instructions. In the production environment, only the released (approved) work instructions can be accessed by the technicians, which reduces human errors. Privileged operators can start, pause, resume, retest, and abort the test sequence.
  • Report Generator: The TE report generation module offers the advantage of generating and saving the test report in multiple formats (MHT, HTML, XML, ARC, .bin, and .xls).
  • Hardware Configuration Manager: The TE uses a hardware abstraction layer to isolate software module dependencies. The dynamic linkage provides hardware interchangeability, without any modification in the source code.
  • Calibration: The TE offers a built-in calibration feature to calibrate a variety of transducers and sensors connected with the test system.
  • Statistical Analysis: The TE generates statistical-process-capability-compatible result files to monitor and control the manufacturing process. If sources of variation are detected and measured, they may be amenable. In turn, correction of variations may reduce waste in production and may improve the quality of the product that reaches the customer.
  • Test Data Management System: The TE handles the test data sheets in a common server with the web interface. It helps maintain and quickly retrieve test data sheets across the globe.
  • Proportional Integral Derivative Tuning System: The TE has its own system-tuning algorithm. This helps tune complex systems in minimal time.
  • Other Highlighted Features of the TE: The TE also features a hydraulic control panel (HCP) module, account management, memory management, and a communication interface with the flight control computer (MIL-STD-1553 and ARINC 429).

 

 

Hardware Test Platform

The ETC is the MOOG proprietary automated test equipment. The ETC comprises a real-time controller, multifunction data acquisition system, signal conditioners, programmable linear variable differential transformer (LVDT) signal demodulators, flight communication interfaces, programmable power supplies, and digital multimeters and hardware scanners. Our new-generation ETCs are designed to test multiple actuation systems in parallel with the help of an NI PXI real-time quad-core controller, which reduces the major test equipment cost compared to our first-generation ETC.

 

The ETC uses NI real-time controllers for deterministic and reliable performance. The NI PXI-8196 and NI PXI-8110 embedded controllers are used to control the hydraulic servo control system with the load actuation system. The actuators in this system can be controlled in both open and closed loops. The Moog custom control algorithm has greater control of this actuation system, and this control algorithm was deployed in the real-time target.

 

The data acquisition system was designed with NI multifunctional data acquisition devices to sample data from different sensors and transducers connected with the test system. Custom programmable LVDT signal-demodulator hardware was designed using NI FPGA boards. NI switches were used for hardware scanning and to connect any input to any output, individually or in combination.

 

In real flight, the communication between the flight control computer (FCC) and the actuator is established through ARINC and MIL-STD-1553 communication protocols. Third-party PXI MIL-STD-1553 display data channel modules are used to simulate the FCC communication with actuators. PXI third-party modules help control hydraulic motors. The ETC controls the programmable power supplies through GPIB. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are used to control the HCP. The ETC communicates with the PLC through OLE for process control.

 

Advantages of Using NI Products

We enjoyed several advantages by using NI products. NI has reliable and rugged hardware, which helped us design hassle-free data acquisition and control systems. NI hardware drivers offer the greatest flexibility and control over the hardware. The graphical programming environment saved us development, debugging, and system integration hours. Additionally, the Idea Exchange in the NI forums helped us achieve our goals on time.

 

Author Information:

Balaji PK
Moog India Technology Center
Moog India Technology Center, Plot No 1, 2 & 3, Electronic City
Bangalore
India
Tel: +91-9663133991
pbalaji2@moog.com

Figure 1. MOOG Actuation System for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Figure 2. TE Main Screen
Figure 3. Sequence Editor
Figure 4. Front View of the ETC