Vestfrost replaced test system affected by interference with CIM solution
Two full-height refrigerators take up position in the corner of the empty climatized room E at the premises of Vestfrost Solutions in Esbjerg. In the everyday, the refrigerators keep anything from cola bottles to medicine chilled; however, right now, they are being tested. Behind the glass doors, the brown cables of carefully positioned sensors run to electrical panels, which are mounted on the walls of the climatized room.
Climatized room E is one of nine test laboratories, which are indispensable in the testing of Vestfrost Solutions' core products, and which have now been given a much-needed overhaul with new electrical panels and software provided by CIM.AS.
"When we develop refrigerators and freezers, we need to be able to test them according to standards such as DIN and ISO, or according to customer-specific standards. In the nine climatized rooms, we can simulate various temperatures and levels of humidity and measure both system temperature and product temperature" says Per Nygaard Hansen, MSC Engineering, Vestfrost Solutions.
In the laboratories, the company is able to measure parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, electricity and power consumption, and to document specific conditions for the customer - that the refrigerator keeps the pop chilled according to customer requirements, or that the freezer meets the requirements of a specific energy label, for example.
This has been the case for many years. However, in 2016, it became apparent that the old hardware interface between the sensors in the climatized rooms and the computers, which complete the testing and collect test data, was ready to be retired.
“Five of the nine climatized rooms contained hardware which was 20 years old. If it broke, we would not be able to buy spare parts and potentially half of the laboratories would be out of commission" says Per Nygaard Hansen.
Interference required short cables
An even bigger problem was interference on test data which appeared as, for example, a flicker in a temperature curve which should be even:
"The system was structured in such a manner that the hardware interface was located centrally outside the climatized rooms, and we then ran a lot of long cables from the sensors in each climatized room. We experienced periodical interference on our measurements, which we had a hard time coming to grips with which may be due to the fact that it is difficult to avoid interference when using cables that long" says Per Nygaard Hansen.
Several suppliers of new hardware were in play from the beginning. However, the field was quickly reduced to one supplier, CIM.AS with hardware supplied by National Instruments. Vestfrost Solutions' requirement for short cables for the sensors meant that the hardware had to be located in the climatized rooms themselves, as close as possible to the refrigerators and freezers being tested.
"The hardware must be able to withstand temperatures between -10 and +70⁰C, and National Instruments was able to comply. None of the other suppliers could" says Per Nygaard Hansen.
New electrical panels and software
Specifically, CIM.AS has supplied new electrical panels to all Vestfrost Solutions climate rooms. The fronts of the electrical panels provide plug-in connectors for 48 thermocouples and ethernet connection and electrical plugs. On opening the grey-white, lacquered sheeting cover, you gain access to the interior of the panel which stores the compact data collection modules cDAQ-9188 from National Instruments.
The setting up of measurement points and the collection of test data is carried out using a new software platform provided by CIM.AS. The platform basically consists of an MS SQL Server database, a logger application developed in NI LabVIEW and a web client. The logger application is divided into a server section and a client section, the server section handling the start-up of data collection and the storage of the desired measurement data in the database. From the client section, Vestfrost Solutions technicians are able to set up the receipts containing the configuration of measurement points and room temperatures for each measurement campaign.
With the new software platform, Vestfrost Solutions technicians are now able to control the entire setup of a measurement campaign from one program, which was not possible in the company's old software solution.
Another advantage is the new web client which enables you to keep track of the testing from computers throughout the building, says Per Nygaard Hansen:
"We are four or five employees, who are located in different parts of the building and who are now able to directly track current testing from our offices."
Made use of previous experience
For Per Nygaard Hansen and Vestfrost Solutions, the scales were turned in favour of CIM.AS by their experience with providing a similar solution to a major Danish manufacturing company.
"We used a framework from a previous project, which meant we only needed to develop the last 50 per cent. Thus, we were able to minimize the risk inherent in involving ourselves in the Vestfrost Solutions project" says Anders Meister, Sales Manager at CIM.AS.
Outside the nine climatized rooms at Vestfrost Solutions, refrigerators and freezers are lined up. Some have been tested while others are still waiting for their turn in the climatized room.
For Vestfrost Solutions, the everyday tasks of setting up and managing testing has become easier and the consequences of failing hardware is manageable:
"Although we had to get used to the new software, we are pleased with it. The receipts are now something we can bring onto the screen and reuse by just a few clicks. And then there is the absence of frustrations at measurements with interference noise and the secure knowledge that if a module breaks, we will be able to receive a new one within a few days" says Per Nygaard Hansen.