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Aerospace component test rig safeguards aircraft performance

Tascomp has recently supplied an automated test rig for thermal fatigue endurance testing of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite components to a leading US based aerospace components manufacturer specialising in aircraft de-icing technology.

To safeguard aircraft performance and safety it is essential that components operate within strict tolerances with every component being tested and validated as fit for purpose. To achieve this the test rig was purpose built to a demanding customer specification. Requirements included unmanned running, automatic pass/fail verification and automatic test report generation.

Each component is tested by exposure to a controlled series of thermal cycles at or above its rated capabilities. Power is applied to take each component to operating temperature and de-mineralised water is applied alternatively to stress the component. The system automatically takes measurements of insulation resistance and component resistance to check for early failure of the part under test.

The complex test sequencing, control, data acquisition, reporting and automatic validation is all performed using Prodigy industrial automation software running on a PC with Microsoft Windows operating system.

Prodigy software is developed by Tascomp and features a range of built in facilities that make it ideal for test applications. The use of a single software package like Prodigy offers several benefits over PLC and HMI driven test systems including ease of use, flexibility and lower cost of ownership.

During operation the PC display acts as the operator interface. Screen based forms allow the input of operator ID, and works order number for each test component Test measurements are recorded to hard disk at all times and allows test runs to be analysed in detail using the versatile built in real time and historic trend displays.

Once the test has commenced it runs automatically through the test sequence unmanned. Manual over-ride, e-stops and fail safe shut down routines ensure safety during periods of unmanned running. After the required number of test cycles has been completed the software checks the test data for each component. If any of the necessary parameters is
not met the component automatically fails validation

At the end of a test a single page "proof of process" report is generated automatically for each component. This report includes the test header information, a list of all alarms/events and a graph showing key test measurements during the test cycle including the pass/fail validation.

The custom built modular test rig was fully designed, assembled and tested by Tascomp prior to delivery to the site in Connecticut, USA. The company also provided on site commissioning and operator training as well as ongoing technical support.