Everything about engine testing rooms
A testing bench needs a place, a “home”, which allows its installation. This environment, based on the characteristics it offers, can directly and decisively affect the reliability of the tests that are carried out at the bench. So let’s find out what the customisations that can make the difference are. And we visit, exclusively, a testing room that really has… all of the options! The testing room of the four-time world champion, Alessandro Piccini. Follow us
Havig outlined the main characteristics that define the world of testing benches, (as we told you about in our “Dossier – Guide to power testing benches for kart engines”) we now deal with where these can be positioned. We can find benches installed in a free and therefore variable environment or in a conditioned environment and consequently with greater possibilities of control and uniformity of the tests.
In this regard, to remain in a high quality standard which allows a proportionate comparison between tests in different conditions, it is reasonably advisable to provide a specific room, with controllable environmental parameters, dedicated to a testing bench.
As the expert preparer Gianfranco Galiffa tells us, “without a testing bench, nothing can now be achieved that is in line with the current high standards” and for this reason it is necessary to develop a suitable test area, ranging from its set-up to the internal subdivision of the same, also preparing both types of bench “the inertial one, continues Galiffa, to evaluate the differences between the various modifications and the braked one to evaluate the engine’s real absolute values”.
The simplest way is to install a testing bench inside an “open” environment, so not in a “room” dedicated exclusively to the instrument, but in a space shared with other machinery inside a workshop. Sometimes, you can even see testing benches installed on mobile trolleys, even transporting them on the track during events.
This first installation option in an “open environment” certainly allows costs to be substantially contained and leaves room for all types of testing. However, it has a fairly important limit: the more the environment is not very controllable, the more unreliable the results of the tests carried out will be.
Let us explain: we are well aware that testing benches are used to measure the performance of engines. Often it is necessary to evaluate engines in absolute terms (for example: the maximum power is measured) in order to be able to compare them with other engines that have already been tested. Or, on other occasions, a test on the same engine is required, but with two different calibrations or with two different components (for example, piston A and piston B), in order to understand which is the best. In both cases, the differences that can be detected between one test and the next are generally minimal: it is in fact difficult, if not impossible, for example, for an “evolved” piston to bring improvements in the order of a few horsepower, compared to “standard” performance. Therefore, it is important to carry out the two tests in substantially identical conditions, so as to be able to appreciate the real and small improvements (or worsening) that modifications bring with it. However, if the bench is installed in an open environment, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to carry out the two tests under identical conditions. So, absurdly, it may happen that the “standard” piston test records better engine performance than that collected during the test with the “evolved” piston only because the temperatures were more favourable during the testing of the first, when, instead, under identical conditions, the “evolved” piston would have achieved better results than the other engine.
Furthermore, an installation in an open environment makes tests difficult during the hottest seasons: in summer, the operating temperatures rise rapidly with conseqquences (loss of power, variation of parameters and set-up …) which sometimes lead to stopping the testing or opting for expensive oversized cooling systems.
When the testing bench is installed inside a room, this can be of two types: airtight or not airtight.
Although with a room that is not airtight the environmental parameters are much more controllable than an open environment, it is also true that with an airtight room the value of the tests is the best achievable. In fact, it is possible to configure specific environmental conditions by determining, depending on the need, the pressure, humidity and temperature values present in the room. All this, without the danger of it being contaminated in an uncontrolled way or possible changes during the testing (provided that it obviously remains hermetically sealed between one test and another, and with ventilation and extraction systems enabled).
Finally, an airtight room allows prolonged testing periods and comparable data between different tests carried out at different times: this allows the development of a reliable database over time, useful for the subsequent set-up on the track.
However, it must be said that both in the case of an airtight room and in the case of a room that is not airtight, both must be forcedly ventilated to allow proper cooling and allow adequate power to the engine.
The area dedicated to the power testing bench must be able to easily accommodate the engine or the entire vehicle to be put on the bench and be equipped with all the tools needed to dismantle, assemble or modify it correctly, quickly and orderly.
If you work alone, it is very useful to have slides, hoists or forklifts available to facilitate the installation of the engine/kart on the bench.
Furthermore, when the testing is carried out, all the necessary spare parts must be available so as not to unnecessarily engage the test bench that deals with it (from third parties) and not to wait too long between one test and the next, possibly encountering too different climatic conditions between the first and last acceleration, even if everything takes place indoors.
During power tests it is possible to control the performance of the engine through actuators connected via PC, through mechanical controls in the station, remotely or just by boarding the vehicle. In any case, it is good practice for the work area to be separate from the control area. While the first is the place where the testing is carried out and where the practical operations that the vehicle undergoes on the bench before/during/after the testing take place, the second is an area dedicated to checking the tests or studying the results and you can think of it as a small office equipped with a PC and printer as well as a monitor capable of seeing what the cameras are looking at and filming inside the work area. For the series of testing benches that require the installation of the engine unit only, a control area is practically mandatory and is equipped with a console with commands for planning and carrying out the testing. On the contrary, when dealing with benches that require the installation of a complete vehicle or part of it, a control area is recommended, but not mandatory, because the testing will be carried out without remote commands, by getting on board of the vehicle.
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