Wind tunnel testing has been a key component of aerodynamic development for decades. Back in the 90s, we pioneered a new concept of packaging data acquisition equipment within the test model, allowing all data to be digitised at its source whilst minimising balance bridging, noise pickup and errors prevalent with long signal cables.
Nowadays we are still industry leaders when it comes to advanced motion control and data acquisition systems for wind tunnel testing, providing many top tier teams in F1 and major automotive OEMs with our latest wind tunnel testing solutions.
CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) has taken over a large portion of aerodynamic development, however wind tunnel testing is still a key tool for validation and fine tuning. This is partly due to the time it takes to setup and run a simulation of a full vehicle and because even though tunnel testing is still a simulation (the vehicle is still in an enclosed space with walls, where approximations are made that don’t exist in reality) it is an analogue simulation able to produce results closer to reality over CFD.
As road cars head towards electrification and other forms of alternative propulsion, OEMs are increasing their studies into the potential efficiency gains around their vehicle’s aerodynamics. We’ve already seen new moveable aerodynamic parts appear on everyday road vehicles, so it is crucial for us to keep developing our test equipment to ensure our place in the market for OEMs is safe.
The key now is to keep developing technology that complements the capabilities of CFD, especially with many series putting more stringent regulations in place to limit both the amount of wind tunnel testing and the parts that can be tested. The global pandemic has also thrown some challenges into the mix. The situation has brought on strict travel restrictions, putting a stop to in-person commissioning of upgrades and new installations, therefore we’ve had to find alternative solutions.
To tackle time constraints whilst pushing for increasingly higher degrees of accuracy we’ve developed the most recent versions of our CMC motion controller to provide closed loop positioning based on laser measurements. The system compensates for any deflection of the model and motion system in real time. This significantly increases accuracy and repeatability and ensures that incrementally smaller aerodynamic changes can be evaluated.
A huge leap for wind tunnel testing is the increase in automation capabilities. We are now able to run dynamic testing, whereby the model is continuously moving through pre-programmed position profiles whilst the data is simultaneously sampled, saved and analysed. This has vastly reduced the time taken to test vehicles and specific components fully.
For the current issues caused by the pandemic we have managed to prepare our hardware to be supplied as a plug-and-play package working straight out of the box, which allows the equipment to be installed by the customer. We can then install the software, fine tune the equipment and calibrate it using remote access and online video communication tools. In one case we managed to upgrade a customer’s long-standing equipment to our latest technology resulting in a 40 to 50 percent reduction in time per wind tunnel move and an overall 15% time saving for test durations. We’re now aiming to manage all installations and upgrades in this manner which allows the wind tunnel applications department to continue working despite travel restrictions. It also is one of the ways that will help us to reduce our carbon footprint as long-distance travel will be greatly reduced.
With the ongoing evolution of wind tunnel testing, we continue to combine our expertise and experience in electronics to create real world OEM approved products. From our innovative wind tunnel supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software and hardware, together with world class analysis software, our systems are widely used for many racing and automotive applications.