Original Date: 02/26/2001
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Range Data Acquisition System
General Dynamics Armament Systems used ingenuity and concurrent engineering efforts to develop a PC-based test platform that combined its engineering and quality assurance test functions into a single shareable unit. As a result of the combined effort, the company realized significant savings in cost and schedule deployment. This platform is applicable to any test cell application that requires a multitude of test data manipulations.
Prior to 1998, General Dynamics Armament Systems (GDAS) used a 1970s-vintage DEC PDP 11/44 system for production acceptance testing. The company supported a test group in Quality Assurance as well as a second group in Engineering, each working independently of the other. Since Engineering was interested in the technical aspects of parameters (e.g., channel capacity, data sampling rates, analysis capability), it began the move toward LabView- based test equipment by conducting in-house classes and developing data acquisition applications. In addition, the need to upgrade Quality Assurance’s system for the Ethan Allen Firing Range was also recognized. In 1998, GDAS developed a PC-based test control and measurement platform, which combined Quality Assurance and Engineering requirements into a single shareable unit. The result was the fabrication of four transportable Range Data Acquisition Systems (RDASs) (Figure 2-1).
GDAS develops and produces munitions systems and related products such as guns and ammunition loading systems for aircraft, ship, and land vehicle applications. These products undergo extensive design, development, and qualification cycles prior to the production phase. Testing is performed throughout these phases. By combining all requirements into a single system, Quality Assurance and Engineering are able to share equipment and work together. The transition from engineering development to product qualification to production acceptance testing is now performed with the same equipment and often the same personnel.
Since the RDAS’ design is compatible with various input/output cards and signal interconnection assemblies, desktop and laptop computers are easily configured for data acquisition and analysis with commercial-off-the-shelf hardware. Analysis software resides on the company’s network and is easily downloaded by the user. Test data is also stored on the network, enabling personnel throughout the facility to perform analysis and view test results at their desks. Since the software is packaged in an executable form, unlimited distribution is possible without requiring additional LabView licenses. The software also allows the user to easily export the data and test results to other products (e.g., Microsoft Excel), thereby extending the analysis capability.
By combining the engineering efforts of test development for both engineering and qualification testing, GDAS realized significant cost savings. Upgradability of new equipment to avoid obsolescence and costly re-engineering efforts is now made easier by using open systems measurement equipment. The software package also provides universal data analysis capability which has expedited data analysis report generation and saved significant company time. In addition, customers can access and read their data by using the supplied software for retrieval and analysis, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction. This method of analysis is possible because it uses PC-based and commercial-off-the-shelf software, and does not require additional licensing costs.
Figure 2-1. Simplified Block Diagram
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