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Working at the Chrysler test labs (interview with photos)Ramchargers in the lab
Chrysler's new Scientific and Environmental Laboratories
provide Chrysler engineers with a one-of-a-kind test facility that is unrivaled in the
world automotive industry.
Covering 424,000 sq. ft. and representing an investment of more than $140
million, the laboratories simulate hundreds of "real world" driving conditions in a controlled test environment to speed product cycle time while boosting product reliability and customer satisfaction.
"The true advantage of this new facility is not found in the individual test centers themselves," explained Bernard I. Robertson, vice president of Engineering Technologies and general manager Jeep/Truck Operations. "Rather, the advantage is having all these many capabilities under one roof, just minutes away from the engineers that are developing the product. The Labs represent a common area for
platform team engineers to tap core expertise and share information throughout the
platform organization. It really helps to maximize the effectiveness of the whole platform organization."
The facility includes the 3/8 scale wind tunnel, Environmental Test Center,
Electromagnetic Compatibility Center, Noise Vibration and Harshness Laboratory and Powertrain Test Facilities.
While there are 36 test and development laboratories housed in the billion
dollar Chrysler Technology Center, the five laboratories that make up the Scientific
and Environmental Laboratories wing (or STF, for Scientific Test Facilities as it has become known internally) are called "monuments."
Sue Cischke, general manager for Scientific Laboratories and Proving Grounds, said, "With more than 11 million pounds of steel, 121 million pounds of concrete and more than $140 million in investment, ‘monument’ just seemed to fit. That and the fact that there is no facility quite like the STF in the entire world."
Technicians take vehicles through 55,000 watts of solar energy, 600 tons of refrigeration capacity, up to 120 decibels of sound and more than 6,000
horsepower of dynamometers.
"The real beauty in all of this is that engineers two floors above can monitor tests right at a workstation," Cischke said. “If there's a problem, or if the engineer wants to participate in the preparation and testing, he or she is only a few minute's walk away. Before we had the facility, some of these test that are now only a few
minutes away would have been conducted on an evaluation drive in the northern
most regions of Canada, for say, a cold weather evaluation. When you consider that those trips can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take weeks to complete, you can begin to appreciate just what we have here.”
EMC testing focuses on a car's electronic systems and how they operate
when exposed to radio frequencies (RF). In this day and age of communication, RF interference is emanated from many sources that cars encounter on the road every
day. With the increased use of complex electronics to control most vehicle
functions, it is necessary to thoroughly test vehicles during development for their resistance to RF sources. "One car can use 10 to 20 microprocessors throughout its systems to
control components such as air-bags, anti-lock brakes, engine controls, and many
other vehicle systems," said Richard Bradshaw, EMC engineer.
RF noise can come from radio and television towers, ham radios, cellular
phone, burglar alarms and the like. The EMC facility can replicate this interference
in test cells, which are dedicated to different frequency ranges.
The largest is the vehicle anechoic test chamber, which tests in the 30
megahertz to 18 gigahertz range. The walls of the cell are lined with an RF
absorption material that is impregnated with carbon. It's similar technology to that used on the Stealth Fighter jet.
In the vehicle transverse electromagnetic cell, RF fields from radio
transmitters in the 10 kilohertz to 30 megahertz range are simulated.
The vehicle shielded test room is used to test for self-compatibility with onboard transmitters and to measure radiated emissions from the vehicle. Finally, the vehicle electrical test cell has instrumentation which can measure voltage and
current levels on 48 separate circuits to ensure proper operation of all electrical components.
All the cells utilize dynamometers for full operational testing capability.
The mission of the climatic facility is to simulate the world's many different
climates any time of the year, without leaving the building.
This includes temperature ranges from -40 degrees to 125 degrees F, coupled with the ability to create blizzards and rain storms. No other facility in the world can boast the total capabilities of the Climate Test Center at Chrysler.
The six dynamic test cells use wind tunnels and dynamometers to simulate driving conditions up to 90 mph. Based on ambient temperature conditions in the
cell, technicians are able to shower the vehicle with rain or snow to simulate the
most grueling conditions.
Solar panels blast vehicles with radiated heat, simulating the sun, and the humidity can be controlled from 20 to 95 percent relativity.
"This provides Chrysler with the ability to continually repeat tests year round, eliminating many of the expensive climate road trips to Canada and Arizona
that are regulated by the seasons,” said Jack Gillian, manager of Chrysler's thermal testing and development. “Or as we like to say, 'our weather forecasts at Chrysler are 100 percent accurate’.”
The facility also includes five soak cells for hot and cold soaking of vehicles for various tests.
With the cleaner tail-pipe emission regulations on the books for compliance with the Clean Air Act, testing and certification for vehicle emissions is becoming an extremely costly and complex science.
To meet the increasing demand, Chrysler has created a state-of-the-art emissions test center to help speed the test and compliance process.
time in this complex area can equate to a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Ron Flor, program manager for Chrysler emission testing facilities, said the
new facility will cut several weeks out of the emissions test and compliance cycle."With this facility, we can perform all our environmental and emissions testing in one area under a variety of conditions, without leaving the building. Another great advantage is that we have total control and repeatability, something that you don't have with open-road evaluations. That's a significant accomplishment.”
A one-of-a-kind altitude test chamber in Chrysler's STF allows engineers to recreate mountain driving tests by simulating altitude and vehicle loads. The altitude chamber technician can program a chassis dynamometer to change loads to the vehicle's wheels, representing the grade changes the vehicle would experience in mountain driving. The altitude is then increased or decreased by the technician.
The chamber includes several airlocks, allowing engineers and vehicles to move in and out without breaking the ambient conditions in the cell. This is a feature unmatched in the auto industry.
In addition to simulating a variety of environmental conditions, the altitude chamber -- along with two other fully-equipped emission test cells -- will also be used to develop the extremely low emission vehicles of the late 90s, which require advanced analyzers to gauge the minuscule tailpipe emissions.
One area of customer satisfaction that is driving the industry is NVH. The
Chrysler NVH Laboratory has extensive capabilities in isolating, tuning and refining the interior sound quality in Chrysler vehicles.
"What we're seeing these days is that cars are getting so quiet due to excellent engineering, that customers are hearing noises that were previously masked," said Walter Esser, manager of the NVH lab. “It's really like a hunt, attempting to find the source of undesirable sound. The trick is not so much to eliminate sounds from the vehicle, but to tune and enhance the sounds to give the car pleasing acoustics."
To accomplish this, the NVH lab houses several hemi-anechoic chambers dedicated to NVH engineering. These include cells with both 10 ft. and 6 ft. chassis dynamometer rolls with road surfaces that were actually molded and replicated from Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds.
High-tech test dummies with specialized microphones for ears, ride in the vehicle as it travels on the special chassis rolls, monitoring sounds. Technicians record, analyze and work with platform engineers to make vehicle changes.
The cells are also used for evaluation of competitive products in establishing benchmarks for current and future Chrysler products, Esser said.
Other facilities include a vehicle powertrain chamber, a reverberation chamber, components room, three modal bays, two sound demonstration rooms and an acoustic test room. All are fully temperature controlled and feature computer control rooms for monitoring tests.
Support facilities for NVH include a balance lab, shaker room, fabrication shop and 12 vehicle prep stalls.
Chrysler's 3/8 scale wind tunnel was a pilot operation for a full-scale tunnel built later at the Chrysler Technology Center. The first of the STF labs to open, aerodynamicists, platform engineers and designers worked together as a team with clay models of future products to fine tune designs early in the design and development process. (A full sized wind tunnel was installed in the 1960s at the Chelsea Proving Grounds.)
Test equipment includes a six component balance for measuring lift, drag, side force, yaw, pitch and rolling moments. These combine to evaluate fuel economy implications, provide input for handling characteristics; cross wind stability analysis; cooling and airflow development; wind noise; windshield wiper lift and many others.
The facility also provides computational fluid dynamics analysis, utilizing a variety of commercial and customized software programs to perform computer simulations for external aerodynamics and internal component fluid dynamics.
These would include analysis on components such as: intake manifolds, engine cooling systems; catalytic converters; defroster ducts and many other components.
Chrysler's Powertrain facilities are presently comprised of seven specialized test cells. While the company's main dynamometer facility is still housed in the Chrysler Center in Highland Park [this was unlikely even in 1998], the CTC powertrain facility focuses on specialized areas not found in the other facility.
The cells include a transmission shift quality cell; a quad cell for all-whee 1drive powertrains; a hot temperature test cell; a cold temperature test cell; a dynamic test cell with computer simulation; a hemi-anechoic cell for NVH development; and an altitude engine test cell.
"They're all unique,” said Hank Sorenson, a test engineer in the Powertrain facility. “What gives us a real advantage is having all of these advanced cells right next to each other. For powertrain engineers, it's like the biggest toy store in the world.”
The Powertrain facility expanded with numerous new cells as operations were moved from Highland Park to CTC.
The dynamometer / rolls test cells:
Also see Chrysler Tech Center (CTC), Highland Park headquarters, Working at the labs, Ramchargers in the engine lab, and Canadian labs (ARDC) - a joint venture with the University of Windsor - as of 2016
Techs and Workers
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