Evaluation, Research, and Development
From headlight to tailpipe, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) evaluates virtually all vehicle components and systems, electrical and mechanical, as well as their associated fluids. The Institute's testing, research, and development program covers the broad issues of:
Components and systems evaluated include:
The Institute's vehicle components evaluation program also determines adherence to government regulations and documents component quality, equivalency, and demonstration to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or regulatory agency specifications.
Vehicle components and systems work in concert. Changes to one component or fluid may affect a myriad of other components and systems. The Institute's broad-based, world-renowned vehicle, engine, fuels, and lubricants program -- providing a full range of testing, research, design, and development services -- is uniquely qualified to solve problems. SwRI conducts evaluation programs for vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to:
One-third of the Institute's research program involves engines, fuels, lubricants, drivetrain components, and related areas such as electronics, manufacturing, and materials. The scope of activity is substantial, with more than 200 drivetrain test facilities devoted to vehicle component evaluation. Laboratory bench tests, dynamometer tests, field evaluations, and combinations of these establish automotive component performance.
Durability and Reliability
The Institute evaluates the durability and reliability of engines and drivetrain parts prior to manufacture and qualifies outsourced engine parts. The Institute conducts evaluations for diesel, gasoline, and alternative-fuel cars, trucks, buses, and farm tractors. SwRI tests:
SwRI evaluates various vehicle components for reliability and durability under a variety of conditions. Salt spray, humidity, cold, heat, and other conditions are simulated in conjunction with vibration and other dynamic tests. The Institute conducts shock and vibration tests to determine the reliability of shift selectors. Vehicle suspension systems are tested under dynamic loads to establish the load transfer function of suspension components, including the shock absorbers and the structure itself.
Advanced wear technology
Component wear in internal combustion engines significantly affects engine performance, service life, maintenance, and exhaust emissions. Extreme temperature gradients can result in component failures. Advanced instrumentation and sophisticated techniques address these reliability issues. Radioactive tracer technology measures component wear, in real-time, in operating engines. SwRI developed a sophisticated telemetry system to measure piston temperature gradient characteristics and ring motion to address design reliability issues.
Driven by consumer and governmental requirements, today's vehicles must meet increasingly high standards of performance to lower emissions, improve fuel economy, and enhance driveability. These high standards spur performance improvements for virtually every component and system under the hood of a car. To improve fuel economy, manufacturers must increase powertrain efficiency by improving the thermo-dynamic efficiency of the engine, reducing friction losses in the engine and transmission, and incorporating advanced energy regenerative systems in the brake and suspension systems. To reduce emissions, the Institute evaluates various exhaust catalysts. To enhance driveability, fuel injectors are developed to resist fouling, powertrain control modules are developed for smooth shifting, and air, fuel, and oil filters are developed to maintain powertrain performance.
Automotive transmission and transaxle evaluation requires precise control and acquisition of test data. SwRI has developed precision electric dynamometer test stands to evaluate automatic and manual transmission and transaxle performance for engine applications ranging in size from 1.6-8 L, with capabilities of:
Speed 0-6,000 rpm, ± 1 rpm
SwRI designs and develops advanced engines and engine technologies for passenger cars, heavy-duty trucks and buses, off-highway equipment, generator sets, and locomotives. Engine research and development activities focus on maintaining performance while meeting stringent emissions regulations, utilizing alternative fuels, improving fuel economy, reducing oil consumption, and increasing engine durability.
During the engine development process, SwRI utilizes state-of-the-art diagnostic tools including combustion system visualization, flame propagation measurement, knock and misfire detection, in-cylinder air flow and fuel-air mixing measurement, real-time oil consumption measurement, piston and ring motion measurement, and computer simulation. The Institute's engine design, research, and development program focuses on:
SwRI has developed several diagnostic tools to assist in the engine development process, including:
Using special facilities, the Institute evaluates the performance of catalysts under a variety of conditions and operations. Programs include evaluating:
The Institute also develops improved catalyst systems, such as new NOx reduction catalysts for use under lean-burn conditions.
Hydraulic Systems and Components
Hydraulic fluid power systems produce unparalleled levels of power with tremendous flexibility and minimal size and weight requirements. In conjunction with component and system evaluations, SwRI performs computerized analyses to predict component and system performance, to identify and solve problems, and to optimize designs for industry and government. The Institute evaluates the efficiency and durability of hydraulic components, such as:
Complete systems are evaluated at various loads under simulated environmental conditions. Systems evaluated include:
Fuel injector design affects injector fouling, sticking, and performance. Using several methods, SwRI evaluates gasoline injector performance and tolerance to deposits while maintaining proper atomization and delivery.
Engine Bearing Performance
SwRI evaluates bearing performance using advanced instrumentation.
Air, Oil, and Fuel Filter Performance
Air, oil, and fuel filters for all types of vehicles protect internal combustion engines and provide cleaner environments for passengers. Using Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) bench test procedures, SwRI evaluates air, oil, and fuel filter performance for prescribed particle sizes and concentrations of contaminants. Engine or road testing exposes components to actual contaminants.
Air filters and air cleaner systems are tested to national, international, governmental, and industrial codes, standards, and specifications. In addition to testing, the Institute provides basic and applied research ranging from media development to vehicle systems integration and special applications.
SwRI is involved in brake system performance testing for vehicles ranging from motorcycles to heavy-duty multi-unit trucks. Design and development programs help correct braking problems or develop new systems. Vehicle and brake performance data are collected and analyzed using advanced statistical analysis techniques, both on site and from remote locations. SwRI offers extensive data storage and manipulation capabilities.
The Institute provides electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) services, from design consultation to testing, for automotive systems, ranging from components to whole vehicles. The tests are conducted for, or in conjunction with, government and industry. Extensive electromagnetic compatibility experience includes:
Whole Vehicle and Component Design Evaluation
The Institute conducts EMC testing in accordance with SAE, U.S., and international EMC automotive industry standards. In connection with these services, SwRI provides consultation at the component, circuit, and system levels to aid the client in bringing designs into compliance. These timely, cost-effective services are available from initial concept to final product stages.
The Institute performs the following categories of electronic tests:
The SwRI staff uses Tri-plate-line (TPL), bulk current injection (BCI), and transverse electromagnetic (TEM) techniques to determine the frequencies and levels of electromagnetic susceptibilities of components and subsystems. These computer-controlled tests provide accurate, repeatable, and cost-effective results.
Using its computer-controlled TPL facility, SwRI evaluates the radiated immunity of electronic components over the frequency range 1-1,000 MHz, at an electronic field intensity up to 200 V/m. Larger systems and subsystems are tested in SwRI's RF anechoic chamber, large volume semi-anechoic shielded enclosure, or open area test site. Testing is performed according to a wide variety of government, European, and industrial specifications and standards.
New Materials and Coatings
The Institute has an extensive program in the research, development, and evaluation of advanced materials, such as ceramics, composites, and polymers. These materials, which are currently found in many aircraft and race car engines, will become increasingly important in the high-performance engines of the future.
Advanced surface treatment
Using ion beam processes, the Institute can treat automotive components and develop new solutions to wear, friction, and corrosion problems. Hard, lubricious diamond-like carbon, titanium nitride, and other compounds can be deposited, providing coatings that are amorphous, harder than tungsten carbide, and exhibit very low friction coefficients. Derivatives incorporating silicon have even better tribological properties, acting as smooth, tough, solid lubricants.
Ion beam processes are completely free from environmental hazards or impact and may replace less acceptable surface treatments. Studies indicate that ion beam systems can be scaled up with the ensuing benefits of high throughput and low unit cost. The Institute can design full-scale production equipment incorporating long-life ion guns and automated workpiece handling.
Some engines, vehicles, or components need government approval prior to sale. The Institute conducts required testing including:
Through quality audits, parts quality, equivalency, and demonstration, engines and components are evaluated to ensure compliance with OEMs or regulatory specifications. SwRI conducts engine emissions performance evaluations for heavy-duty diesel, alternative-fuel, and gasoline engine manufacturers.
SwRI conducts laboratory tests to evaluate how vehicle components operate in adverse physical environments. These tests simulate expected service conditions or determine if a component meets commercial or governmental specifications. SwRI tests components such as turbochargers, shift selectors, filters, and air conditioner compressors under:
SwRI designs special test fixtures and environments combining various factors to most effectively and realistically recreate service conditions. For example, catalytic convertors and oil filters receive simultaneous thermal and vibration loading. SwRI simulates road conditions to test vehicle suspension systems under dynamic loading to determine component wear effects on performance and to establish shock and vibration levels.
Noise emission, transfer
Noise is produced by dynamic components and can be transferred or intensified by inactive components (structure-borne noise). SwRI evaluates the noise emissions of components such as air conditioner compressors, manifolds, and other mechanical equipment and recommends design modifications to reduce noise. Engineers characterize noise using sound pressure or sound intensity measurements and evaluate recommended design changes with boundary and finite element analyses.
SwRI uses carefully planned experimental designs and sophisticated data analysis techniques in testing and evaluating vehicle components and systems. Proper experiment design results in efficient tests that better quantify the relationships between variables. Using innovative analysis techniques, SwRI ensures the proper measurement of the experimental variation and of the relative effects of various experimental factors. Services offered include:
This brochure was published in May 1996. For more information about vehicle components, contact Mike Ladika, Phone (210) 522-2122, Fax (210) 522-3496, Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510.