UOIT opens one-of-a-kind testing and research facility

  • 16-May-2011 02:27 EDT

A landing gear is shown on the multi-axis shaker table in a hemi-anechoic chamber at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Automotive Centre of Excellence. The chamber is used to test products for structural durability and the detection of noise and vibration in three dimensions.

After six years and nearly doubling in size and investment—from $58 million to $99 million—the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) will have its grand opening June 13.

“It’s been a while in the making, but it has grown in its scope and its capabilities away from that initial genesis into a very one-stop-shop automotive center of excellence,” said John Komar, ACE Director of Engineering and Operations.

Located on UOIT’s north Oshawa campus, ACE is a university-owned and -operated testing facility developed in partnership with General Motors of Canada, the Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering, the Government of Ontario, and the Government of Canada. ACE is comprised of a core research facility, with capability for full climatic, durability, and life-cycle testing, and an integrated research and training facility, with space dedicated for research, education, and training.

“The Automotive Center of Excellence serves not only automotive but really a technology-based customer,” Komar said. “It is something where you could go from a two-wheel all the way up to a coach or even a small fuselage of a small regional jet. It is a commercially available facility, and as a result it allows the entrepreneur, a one-time user, a Tier 3, a Tier 1, or another OEM access to very sophisticated tools.”

ACE boasts one of the largest and most sophisticated climatic wind tunnels in the world, capable of producing speeds in excess of 240 km/h, temperatures of -40 to +60°C, and humidity ranges from 5 to 95%. The tunnel is equipped with a four-roll dynamometer, with four independent motors capable of producing 1000 hp (746 kW), and features in-chamber fueling, a solar array to replicate the effects of the sun, and is hydrogen capable, allowing for alternative fuel cell development.

What truly distinguishes this climatic wind tunnel from others is the ability for the first time to test properties in crosswinds.

“One of the things that we’re going to be able to do is to yaw this dynamometer into the wind to simulate crosswinds; no other wind tunnel can do it,” said Gary Elfstrom, ACE Director of Business Development.

The ability to test properties in crosswinds is achieved thanks to an 11.5-m turntable that turns a test product into the wind when under full load conditions.

“It will be possible to investigate performance of certain aircraft components, e.g. airflow through an engine inlet in freezing rain conditions while yawed on final approach,” Elfstrom said. “In principle, model scale aerodynamic tests could be performed for non-zero yaw. This will require a model support and force balance, which we do not yet have.”

ACE offers three additional climatic chambers, including large and small climate chambers that allow for tests under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. The large climate chamber also has an input dynamometer and solar array.

“We can actually put [solar arrays] on trolleys and hoists such that we can change the angle of incidence. We can blast sun from the left or the right, sunrise, sunset, we can give you a different angle of incidence, different amount of intensity,” Komar said.

The fourth climatic chamber is equipped with a four-poster shaker to test products in an up-and-down motion for suspension and body durability and the detection of squeak and rattle.

“The climate chambers could be used to test component withstanding and even some operation under severe climatic conditions, such as mechanical systems and electrical systems,” Elfstrom said.

ACE also features a multi-axis shaker table (MAST) in a hemi-anechoic chamber to test products for structural durability and the detection of noise and vibration.

“The MAST chamber could be used to test for fatigue of electronic or avionic subsystems in severe vibration conditions,” Elfsrom said.

The integrated research and training facility spans five floors with offices, laboratories, conference rooms, and common work areas. “We have industrial lab space for collaboration of academic and industry to get together and do development on a project-by-project basis,” Komar said.

The first floor is an industrial lab area with high bays and a support area with a variety of machine tools, including mills, welders, grinders, and lathes. The second and third floors are dedicated university spaces with offices and labs for UOIT faculty and students. The fourth and fifth floors contain industrial lab areas with support office space, able to be rented on a project-by-project basis.

ACE will initially be available to clients in the Ontario market, but interest in a truly independent test facility has already been expressed by companies in the U.S. and abroad.

“You don’t have to be as big as a Microsoft to play with the big-boy tools,” Komar said. “The border is not a limiting factor in anything. Initially we’re looking at the automotive sector, some defense industry, some green energy; we do have inquiries coming from overseas in Europe as well. We need to be walking before we’re running, so we’re going to cut our teeth with some local development first.”

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