The faster your fabricated components can be tested to ensure they operate appropriately, the faster you can proceed to production. Time saved on development not only saves your company money, but it also accelerates your product development pipeline, allowing your business to take on more designs. Hardware-in-the-loop (HiL) test systems allow you to automate many testing tasks and perform them faster with simulated testing and precise test bed control.
HiL Test Systems: Detecting Failure Earlier in the Development Process
HiL: Hardware in the Loop
HiL testing creates a testing cycle for your hardware using simulated testing environments. To do this, a digital model of your hardware is created. Computer simulations take into account material differences, manufacturing methods, and even atmospheric conditions to accurately simulate how your hardware will perform when subjected to simulated stresses and pressures. Individual parts as well as entire assemblies can be run through a battery of simulated tests.
As more aerospace and automotive manufacturers move to digital model-based engineering for their final products, HiL testing will be an absolute necessity for your business to remain competitive. Growth projections for the HiL market expect nearly 10% CAGR going forward, particularly in the automotive sector. Tier-1 and tier-2 companies should be looking to implement this technology now. Early adoption, while potentially more expensive, yields a faster return and can result in a much higher long-term ROI.
Simulated Testing Environments Deliver Key Benefits
The advantages of HiL testing stem from its use of simulated testing environments. Traditional testing methods require physical prototyping to be tested on a test bed. Even with rapid prototyping tools, this step alone adds lag to the development process. However, to get accurate tests, you may depend on parts from other suppliers, putting your company’s timelines at the mercy of other businesses. Simulated environments free you from these restraints.
Simulated testing is easily automated. As test results come in, you can make revisions and repeat the test sequence in a matter of hours, rather than days or weeks. In fact, it’s possible to write self-correcting algorithms that can attempt to test corrections when a failure is detected. Furthermore, automation significantly reduces the chances of human error being introduced. Overall, your testing becomes much more efficient with HiL systems.
You can further enhance your test system by performing multiple tests at once. Unlike a physical test bed, simulated environments aren’t limited to a single instance. You can run as many simulations as you want, provided you have enough computing power at your disposal. Cloud computing systems have made it possible for any company to tap into a wealth of computing resources without large up-front investments in high-grade hardware.
By performing simultaneous testing, you can test multiple designs at once to find the best one for production. You can test several potential fixes if you find a vulnerability in your designs. You can also progress multiple product lines at once, rather than having to choose. The time savings is massive. One study found that a full sequence of tests that would normally take 2,300 hours to perform manually could be done in just 118 hours.
Test Every Scenario
Simulated testing allows you to test scenarios that you might not otherwise have easy access to. Durability testing on different types of terrain normally requires complex track construction. With a simulated environment, you could evaluate performance on everything from pavement to sand dunes, regardless of where you are. You can even construct scenarios that simply aren’t possible with physical testing equipment.
However, you can also manually control the physics used to customize tests and use them for diagnosis. For example, you can queue up a series of tests where your component remains at a specific temperature in order to determine what its upper and lower limits are. Simulating opens up creativity in testing, and allows you to find flaws that you otherwise might not have been able to with physical tests alone.
Digitally Transforming Your Testing Hardware
Although simulations can help you catch design flaws before they reach the physical testing stage, they aren’t a complete substitute for real-world testing. However, you can use the same simulations you’ve run to control your test beds. This allows you to evaluate the accuracy of your simulations and improve quality going forward. This approach also allows you to automate physical testing, resulting in further cost savings. Over time, both physical and digital systems can synergize to produce even better results.
Closing the Loop
Both your virtual and real-world tests will output a significant amount of data for review. Data analytics software can process this information and identify weaknesses in your design. Algorithms can generate new variants of your hardware and begin testing them in your virtual environment. This same closed-loop approach is driving manufacturing processes as well.
We’re not far away from being able to go from a concept model in 3D space to a structurally competent, functional prototype ready for production in the span of days. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will only continue to accelerate forward. That is why it’s essential for you to start adopting this technology now.
Transform Your Testing Process
Implementing HiL test systems in your company requires expert knowledge of the systems themselves and the software used to instruct them. A degree of personalization is necessary, as each company’s testing needs are unique. Even within the same industry, two components may require extremely different simulation profiles.
Working with experts can help you accelerate the process and make HiL testing a regular part of your procedures. Contact SAAB RDS to schedule a meeting with one of our digital transformation experts today.