Design & Test Pull Together

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BTS allows multiple battery testing including alongside environmental climatic testing

Test specialist takes innovative approach to battery testing, design collaboration and maintenance

National Instruments (NI) has released its latest Battery Test System (BTS) for electric vehicle (EV) testing. The system is designed to help Tier 1 suppliers and automakers adapt to the complexity and scale of EV battery testing through enhanced customisation, automation and connection of data across the entire battery test workflow to ensure performance and accelerate time to market.

Batteries are at the core of the shift to electrification and have a direct impact on the sustainability, safety, performance and, consequently, consumer buy-in of EVs. However, testing of EV batteries places immense strain on engineering resources as design and test groups must continuously upgrade and adapt to new test requirements.

NI’s BTS enables scalability of testing by providing an out-of-the-box experience for battery test workflows, along with customisation capability to fit a variety of test roles and needs. This software-connected system is uniquely positioned to integrate components for battery test such as power electronics, environmental chambers, measurements and test channels at scale. It facilitates coordination of activities between design and test teams to request, configure, run, monitor and report on test results that inform critical design changes.

According to Jon Denhof, Senior Director, Offering Management at NI, automotive manufacturers are investing heavily to deliver against their EV timelines, which has placed increased importance on test to ensure this technology meets both time commitments and consumer expectations for safety.

“NI’s BTS combines decades of test and measurement experience with our powerful software to enable automotive manufacturers to test their batteries at scale, within budget and at pace with market demands.”

With its recent acquisition of NH Research (NHR), Heinzinger Automotive and Kratzer Automation, NI’s global capabilities for EV battery test provide automotive manufacturers with a cross-functional, scalable network of products and services to meet current any future EV market demands. Additionally, NI’s SystemLink software, BTS software and data analytics tools work together to ensure traceability of test results, repeatability of the tests themselves and management of the entire test-cell and test lab operation, ultimately bringing modern software engineering tools and practices into battery testing.

Software Provides the Interface

The management of test data across different testing regimes, locations and set-ups can be improved with NI’s range of software products that connect design and test processes and improves workflows across product lifecycles. The latest addition to the software available is DataStudio. This new design-to-test analytics software provides the foundation for modern, secure and scalable engineering data infrastructure and applications, accelerating the pace of innovation.

Consistent with the need to fast-track product development, DataStudio software bridges critical data across the design and test workflow for electronics systems. DataStudio Specification Compliance Manager (SCM), the first application in the DataStudio family, manages device specifications, connects to measurement data sources and automatically generates compliance reports.

DataStudio SCM provides a comprehensive view of conformance to target specifications, enabling better decision making and reporting, and makes use of data often lost across design, validation and production test silos. By laying the groundwork with comprehensive data infrastructure, engineers gain clear and actionable insights to improve productivity and reduce the manual effort required during development.

In addition, NI is launching the DataStudio Bench Data Connector (BDC) validation bench test library. The BDC library provides a standardised way to store validation data that is automatically compatible with the DataStudio SCM, making it easy to import bench measurement data into the compliance reporting software.

According to Ritu Favre, vice president and general manager of the Semiconductor and Electronics Business Unit at NI, the last few decades have focused on design and test automation, which generates a large volume of data and users want to make use of this data to enable better project visibility and decision making.

“The volume of data and the pressure to use that data is immense, and our customers are looking for ways to work across the whole flow now,” he says.

“With simulators today, it’s difficult to tell where the problem lies with semiconductor prototypes if they are not meeting all the specifications. Is it a particular part that’s defective? Was it something in the manufacturing process that didn’t go right? Is it a fundamental flaw in the design?” Ritu explained. “To debug that, engineers must work against these different silos, using different tools from different vendors with different data sets. We’re breaking down those barriers.”

Improved Maintenance

As an additional benefit to users of its test systems, National Instruments has also just released its ActiveUptime Maintenance-as-a-Service System for Predictive Maintenance of Test Equipment and Test Facilities.

The product is tailored to the user’s environment and provides the information needed to proactively monitor system health and prevent critical test equipment from failing. As part of the ongoing service, a dedicated technician from NI’s maintenance team will remotely monitor system health, provide support and adapt the product based on the customer’s needs, helping to proactively predict outages before they happen.

Equipment failure accounts for 42% of unplanned downtime costs and an estimated annual $50 billion in losses globally to manufacturers. Yet, 52% of manufacturers report using spreadsheets to monitor and manage equipment. ActiveUptime delivers a ready-to-use service that includes the hardware and software necessary to collect valuable environmental and system data, and edge-based pre-processing to speed up data collection, aggregation and movement. The outcome-specific dashboards for predictive maintenance monitor system health in real-time and identify critical areas needing attention, thereby eliminating the disruption caused by unexpected equipment failures.

According to Josh Mueller, SVP & GM of NI’s Portfolio Business Unit, one of the key challenges faced by manufacturers is having visibility into physical systems to keep them running smoothly and avoiding any reputation-damaging product failures.

“ActiveUptime provides the most accurate picture of these systems. With the assistance of our maintenance experts, our customers get to the root of the problem quickly, achieve fast resolution, and implement measures to prevent it from happening again,” he says.

Mueller believes that predictive maintenance and condition monitoring are becoming key pillars in the broader digital transformation of manufacturing.

“Real-time continuous monitoring maximises total asset uptime, reduces the costly expense of spares and optimises maintenance costs by moving from time-based to usage-based maintenance,” he concludes.

Jonathan Newell
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