Test and validation are crucial steps in the development of components, which eventually lead to the creation of reliable machines or vehicles. Within this arena of testing, validating and analysing structural & mechanical properties of components and complete vehicles is a traditional, but key factor in the development of reliable vehicles for the market. HBM is one company that has been in this testing and measurement business for over six decades now, with automotive accounting for 40-50 % of its total business. We spoke to Parthiban Raghunathan, Country manager, HBM India on the sidelines of the Automotive Testing Expo India 2018 in Chennai.
HBM provides measurement of mechanical properties such as strain, load, pressure, temperature, torque, vibration and noise among others. However, with the automotive industry witnessing advancements in terms of newer powertrains, the company has developed testing technologies of data acquisition solutions that can support advanced field buses, noted Raghunathan.
AUTOMOTIVE TEST SOLUTIONS
HBM covers test solutions including classic dynamometer or powertrain testing for internal combustion (IC) engines and electric drivetrains (e-drive) as well as gearbox and smaller components. It also provides structural durability testing that includes fatigue and component life-time calculations, along with component-level sub-system testing. Raghunathan added that the company carries out mobile or field testing of entire vehicles for mainly vehicle dynamics and road load data acquisition (RLDA) purposes. He noted that the main focus of the tests is to enhance the efficiency, functionality, performance and safety of products.
In terms of specific testing and validation solutions that are witnessing increasing demand in the Indian scenario, HBM feels that structural durability testing will gain prominence due to the trend of lightweight constructions. Raghunathan said that apart from the typical electrical strain gauge-based measurement chain, the company offers optical fibre-based measurement solutions for measurement requirements in composites and tyres. E-drive testing that requires modern powertrain testing solutions is another area gaining prominence. The complexity of these electric powertrain demand test systems to offer functionality, performance and safety levels far beyond that of classic power meters. In line with these new trends, HBM offers temperature and strain measurement solutions for fuel cells, energy storage and electric wires.
While HBM does not provide solutions directly for other vehicle trends like driver assistance systems and autonomous driving, it addresses the testing equipment needs emerging from this advanced technologies, noted Raghunathan. The company also has the ability to integrate new modern connections like Ethernet TSN, CAN FD, as well as higher measurement and calibration protocols like XCP. Another area of testing focused on autonomous vehicles is that of cloud-based services in mobile vehicle testing. Cloud-based testing includes remote acquisition and data visualisation, which results in two main advantages, said Raghunathan. Firstly, it eliminates the need for test engineers to be out in the field during the testing process. Secondly, it also transfers data to the engineers instantaneously, in cases where tests are conducted at distant locations.
HBM also offers solutions to enhance and automate the manufacturing processes of customers. HBM also provides sensors and electronics using modern Fieldbus technologies and sensor designs that are tailored for the manufacturing and assembly processes of the automotive industry.
ELECTRIC MOBILITY TESTING
Electric drivetrain testing is going to be a complex procedure for the automotive sector, for which HBM is well-positioned with its mechanical and electrical expertise, observed Raghunathan. The company believes that the future of the automotive industry is heavily trending towards electrification, for which it is investing in technology and solutions covering the future demands for testing of electric drivetrains. Other propulsion technologies are being seen in the form of interesting combustion engine concepts that would dramatically reduce fuel consumption, as well as fuel cell vehicles. All these technologies will also come with their own set of requirements, in terms of testing and validation, noted Raghunathan.
The company’s eDrive business unit offers dedicated products and solutions designed for electric drivetrain optimisation. It offers a solution set-up that incorporates torque, speed, voltage and current sensors, data acquisition, real-time integration and dedicated software for online analysis, explained Raghunathan. He said that with HBM’s strength in high-end torque transducers, it is in a unique position to understand customer needs and offer a complete solution that originates from the mechanical side, which now also covers the electrical part.
The HBM eDrive solutions have been developed to test inverter-driven electric drives. It is an out-of-the-box solution with all sensors, hardware and software to go beyond what a “power meter” does. It determines efficiencies and also offers motor mapping capabilities and advanced analysis like real time computation of d- and q- currents as found in modern inverter models. Thus, the models can be verified. All inputs are isolated and offer a complete safe solution.
HBM invests around 15 % of its revenues into R&D and carries out these activities in Europe, US and China. While the company has been in India only since 2016, it sees immense potential in setting up local operations mainly due to the fact that the market here is growing. That would also assit better support to its customers. Raghunathan noted that electric drivetrains, lightweighting, need for development of more fuel-efficient engines and cloud-based testing data integration are the most trending developments that affect a company like HBM.
TEXT: Naveen Arul