The ability to tune an engine immediately before roaring down the track results in world record for Trevor Stripling
- InduSoft Web Studio chosen for its simple scripting, integration, processing and data management abilities.
- 10,000 data conversions in five seconds prove to be the key in setting a world record.
- Stripling attributes InduSoft Web Studio for his victory- leaving the other guys in the dust.
- Reduced data acquisition, processing time makes real-time adjustments possible.
Trevor Stripling uses industrial data acquisition equipment and InduSoft’s Web Studio software to analyze data and tune his car for the ultimate racing results.
Racing great Mark Donohue called it “the unfair advantage”. Rally racers in the UK call it “demon tweaks”. In NASCAR, it’s “getting the call”. Whatever you call it, finding little secrets to make your car go just a teeny bit faster than everyone else is what wins championships and sets records.
Imagine the edge given a drag racer who can tweak fuel flow right before a race. Texan Trevor Stripling discovered he could use InduSoft Web Studio to monitor and tune his car in real-time as he roars down the track. Competing drivers record data to prep their cars for the next race. Stripling used this edge to set a world record.
When you compete at the professional level without sponsors or financial backing, you need every “unfair” advantage you can get. That’s what Stripling did with his drag racing car (Figure 1). He found a way to use industrial data acquisition equipment and InduSoft Web Studio software to get the data he needs to tune his car to the ultimate.
Stripling campaigns a 1967 Camaro with a 598 cubic inch engine (Figure 2) in 1/8 mile drag races. He first set a world record with a 5.11 second elapsed time at 143 mph. For quarter-mile drag racers, this is equivalent to a 7.80 E.T. at 180+ mph. The engine uses nitrous (NOS), and generates 1,300 horsepower. Stripling lowered his record time to 5.0 seconds at 145 mph. He now holds a world record of 4.99 seconds at 143.86 mph.
Stripling competes in the ultra-competitive Ultimate Street class where cars are nearly street legal, with working headlights, back seats, a full interior (Figure 3), stock front and rear suspension, and mufflers. His Camaro weighs 3,400 lb, almost the same as a stock 1967 Camaro.
Although Stripling gratifyingly attributes his success to his engine builder and crew, the real hero of the team is the InduSoft Web Studio-based data acquisition system that controls the engine in real time. The system acquires and logs data so the crew can analyze what happened after each run.
Building a Data Acquisition System
Data acquisition (DAQ) in a race car is nothing new. “Just about everybody has data acquisition,” he says, “but it’s all static.” Stripling’s team records data during a race, and then analyzes it afterward to fine tune the engine for the next run. “The key to my success is that I can control the tuning of the car in real time, thanks to InduSoft Web Studio,” Stripling praised.
What Stripling did is take off-the-shelf industrial DAQ hardware and software and then beat the specialty racing teams and suppliers at their own game. Nonetheless Stripling has another secret up his sleeve. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to DAQ hardware and InduSoft Web Studio software.
Stripling works with PLCs, HMIs and data acquisition equipment all day in his job as a Control Systems Engineer at Contech Control Services. Contech is the leading provider of engineering procurement contractors (EPC) control services on the U.S. Gulf Coast, providing front-end project definition, planning, estimating, detailed engineering, systems integration, and programming of control systems.
Stripling has considerable experience using InduSoft Web Studio for control, monitoring and data acquisition in refineries and process plants, so when he needed a data acquisition system for his race car he called upon his own extensive knowledge and experience with industrial equipment.
A DirectLogic DL06 series PLC (Figure 4) captures data from oil pressure, fuel pressure, engine vacuum, engine temperature, voltage, nitrous pressure, wideband O2, and engine and driveshaft RPM sensors during the five second drag-strip run. As you might expect, the engine’s MSD ignition system generates a high level of electrical noise. “I had problems with electrical noise,” says Stripling, “but I’ve been able to keep it to a minimum with proper grounding techniques and relocating the devices.” Spoken like an experienced control engineer.
The PLC and HMI are powered by a 12V to 24Vdc converter that runs off the car’s electrical system. All real-time functions of the car are handled by the PLC, including ignition timing. The PLC connects directly to the MSD ignition, and controls the timing.
“The most important engine parameters are the wideband O2 sensors,” Stripling says. “They tell us how efficient the nitrous tune is for the given weather conditions. The second are the engine and driveshaft RPMs; these tell us how the suspension settings are responding to the engine power and track conditions.”
A DirectLogic DL06 series PLC captures data from multiple sensors and connects to a Maple Systems Ivory Series HMI with Windows CE, running InduSoft Web Studio HMI/SCADA software.
The PLC connects to a Maple Systems Ivory Series HMI with Windows CE, running InduSoft Web Studio HMI/SCADA software (Figure 5). The PLC and HMI connect via standard Ethernet. “One of the benefits of the HMI is that I was able to move most of the mathematical conversions for the analog sensors to InduSoft Web Studio, thereby decreasing the scan time in the PLC, allowing it to respond quicker and make real time control decisions,” says Stripling.
In real time, the PLC acquires data, sends it to InduSoft Web Studio where it is converted and sent back over the Ethernet connection. During the five-second race, the two systems exchange about 10,000 data values. The system is fast enough that the PLC can use the converted data to control the engine. Real-time control is Stripling’s unfair advantage over the other cars. Exactly what Stripling does with the data is a closely-guarded secret, but it’s enough to set records.
Loading Demon Tweaks with InduSoft Web Studio
HMI displays are used to tune the car before each run, and to log and save settings after each run. “I can view and change any of the tune-up settings in the PLC, and enter in any other manual or physical setting, such as shock settings and tire pressure for the race,” Stripling explains. “I built a ‘recipe’ database, as we call it in the control world that saves these settings for each run. We can easily pull up a prior run and load the tune. We also use this when we are in line for a run and the track conditions change. At the last minute we can pull up an alternate tune and load it with a touch of the HMI screen.”
Before installing InduSoft Web Studio, Stripling used the PLC data acquisition system for two years, and enjoyed little success on the track. As soon as he put in InduSoft Web Studio, things improved. “I added the InduSoft Web Studio HMI to the race car so I could better access the data we were monitoring and changing on the car,” he says. “Before the HMI, I had gauges in the dash, in the glove box, on the center console and under the hood and it was just too hard to keep an eye on everything. Whenever we needed to make a change to the tune-up, it would require changing the PLC logic and then connecting a laptop to the PLC, downloading the logic, and rebooting the PLC. This was not only difficult but time consuming and created a greater margin for error. With InduSoft Web Studio, I can download directly to the PLC.”
"With Web Studio, we decreased the scan time in the PLC, allowing it to respond quicker and make real time control decisions." -Trevor Stripling, Ultimate Street Class Racer
After Stripling added InduSoft Web Studio, he became a top contender and a world record holder. One reason is his improved ability to manage the data. “With InduSoft Web Studio I am able to group and arrange all the different data readings and settings on screens according to importance and in relation to the stage of the run,” he says. “We have different stages that we go through not only during a run but before, after and in between runs. With the HMI we can manage these with ease and can make last minute changes as needed.”
Why InduSoft? “I chose InduSoft Web Studio over other HMI development software for several reasons,” says Stripling. “Firstly was for the scripting capabilities. With my programming background, I know the power of custom scripting programming. InduSoft Web Studio's built-in scripting and the integration of VBScript let me move some of the mathematical equations out of the PLC and into InduSoft Web Studio. An example of this is the analog input conversions to engineering units (0-5V conversions to a temperature reading in degrees F). These used to be handled by the PLC and it consumed a lot of PLC scan time doing the math for all the conversions. Now the PLC only handles the raw input values and they are passed onto InduSoft Web Studio for conversion and display.”
Second was InduSoft’s ability to work with external databases to store and manage data from each run. “At our level, the data is important, but being able to manage it and turn it into useful information means everything,” he notes.
Analyzing the Data
Like many process control systems, the DAQ system connects to higher-level management software—in this case, a laptop computer in the race car trailer. “In the past, we had to get the laptop out of the trailer, connect it and download the run data, then convert, analyze and graph it,” says Stripling. “With InduSoft Web Studio's scripting and database connectivity and Maple System's USB communication ports, we now just touch a button on the screen and a script goes out to the PLC, gets all the log data, converts it to engineering units, and loads it into a database on a USB thumb drive. We simply take the thumb drive to the trailer and plug it into the laptop where all the run data is analyzed and graphed in Excel. We are currently working on adding a wireless USB card to the HMI so we can wirelessly access the run data.”
The first time Stripling set the world record, he and the team developed a “special” tune in the garage. “We looked at video and data logs from a number of successful runs, and determined what worked best,” Trevor explains. “Because we can control the tune in real time, the “special” ‘recipe’ changed ignition timing and other settings at different times during the five-second pass. We were surprised when it actually worked on the track, cut our time by a considerable amount, and set the record.”
Trevor Stripling gets results with a combination of unbeatable hardware and software.
“We still have a lot of work to do on getting the engine super-tuned," he admits. “The data we have tells us there is a lot more power left. In fact, the engine is capable of producing a lot more power than the stock suspension should be able to handle. Our success has come from learning to read the track and suspension data and managing tune up settings to handle the engine power.”
Race car vs. Industrial Applications
What Trevor Stripling (Figure 6) accomplished with off-the-shelf components is nearly identical to what control engineers all over the world encounter every day when dealing with data acquisition projects: overcoming electrical noise, increasing real-time acquisition speed, performing systems integration of all components, using PLC and HMI communications over Ethernet, making wireless connections, analyzing the data, managing menus and recipes, keeping historical records and handling diagnostics.
InduSoft Web Studio not only makes race car data acquisition simpler, it does the same for industrial applications.
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