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Success Stories

March 31, 2016

Link Belt Chooses Gantner Instruments for Precise Boom Strain Measurements

Overview

Link-Belt Construction Equipment Company specializes in the design, manufacture and sales of telescopic and lattice boom cranes, with headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky. Link-Belt has emerged as a market leader by being committed to the design, manufacture and service of quality products that satisfy the needs of their customers worldwide. While operating on the principle of continuous quality improvement, Link-Belt turned to Gantner Instruments for their data acquisition needs.

The Problem

Link-Belt Construction Equipment Company needed to find an automated way to obtain stress analysis measurements for the quality testing of telescopic and lattice boom cranes. As new designs or modifications are implemented, it is required that their cranes be tested for safety, reliability and overall performance. Link-Belt’s test team is responsible for performing a number of static and dynamic tests in order to validate the load capacities of their cranes against specification. They provide valuable feedback detailing the overall structural soundness of these new designs. Critical performance defects such as fatigue are quickly identified during testing allowing for their engineering team to make additional design modifications prior to their systems being released into production.

Link-Belt’s extensive quality testing process directly translated into the need for a highly specialized and custom tailored data acquisition system. Prior to Gantner, the first system designed by Link-Belt to accomplish quality testing involved the use of specialized I/O modules that were connected via serial communication lines back to a central computer which gathered all the data and displayed it via a custom operator interface. The system was highly customized, complicated and susceptible to installation weather conditions while at the test site. As testing system components began to fail due to weather and other handling conditions, it was clear that Link-Belt needed a more robust system designed for the flexible requirements needed from one test to the next. This idealized system needed to be able to sample more sensor types such as various strain gage inputs and at higher sample rates. Most importantly, it was required that this new system have an open architecture that allows for the use of an operator interface that closely matched the one already being used by Link-Belt, since their test team was already trained using this software.

Link-Belt wanted a system that was reliable (10+ year system life expected), flexible, weatherproof, scalable (from a few dozen channels to hundreds of channels), synchronized, fast (up to 10 KHz sampling for dynamic tests), compatible with their existing software and affordable.  Who else but Gantner Instruments?

The Proposal

The modular, high density nature and diverse selection of the Gantner Instruments Q.series provided Link-Belt a wide variety of options to custom tailor a turn-key solution as needed to successfully complete their project. Gantner Instruments was also willing to provide custom enclosures for each of the distributed systems; just another example of how far Gantner Instruments is willing to go to meet the ever evolving demands of its customers. Gantner’s proposal included the following:

Photo: dieneudenker.de / Stephan Ruh

Q.bloxx Measurement Module A107

The high density, DIN-rail mounted Q.bloxx module A107 was selected to provide precise, isolated, noise free strain gage measurements. This module satisfied all the measurement requirements for this project as well provided expandability to future additions of sensor types.

Photo: GI

Q.pac DL Controller

The power and performance of the Q.pac DL controller provided the platform necessary to handle all of the synchronization, logging and data management for the application. The Q.pac DL could easily act as the ‘master controller’ for all of the distributed boxed systems due to having 4 UARTs and the ability to store data locally.

Photo: GI

test.commander Configuration Software

The configuration and visualization capabilities of test.commander provided a very cost effective, off-the-shelf solution to easily configure the complete application – all with fill-in-the-blanks menus and not one line of programming code.  Test.viewer (a component of test.commander) was also used to visualize real time and archived data using familiar trend chart and oscilloscope formats.

Custom LabVIEW Software – Gantner Instruments Project Manager Software Package

All of Gantner Instruments products boast a robust, open architecture allowing for compatibility with the customer’s software of choice. Gantner provided the custom programming of a complex LabVIEW operator interface that seamlessly conducted testing and logged the resulting data to be analyzed by the Link-Belt engineers.

Custom Enclosures

Pelican enclosures were used for their weatherproofing, ease of installation and transportation. Each enclosure was predrilled, wired and configured to be installation ready.

The key objective of this project was to use Gantner’s commercially available off-the-shelf components in conjunction with the customer’s preferred method of software control to run a series of extensive tests. This was accomplished with the proposal from Gantner. Thirty turn-key data acquisition systems and 2 control systems were tailored around the customer’s specific design requirements, built and pre-configured so that the customer could install and commission them within days of delivery.

The Gantner Solution

Due to the amount of data acquisition needed for this application in addition to where each measurement needed to be taken on a boom, it was decided that the best approach was a distributed one. Thirty Gantner data acquisition systems in total were utilized, each boasting three A107 modules totaling 12 channels of 120 Ohm quarter-bridge measurements per system. Each Gantner system was installed in a custom weather-proof enclosure to ensure long lasting, quality measurements regardless of the season. The Gantner Q.series Q.pac DL controller was selected to manage the 360 channels of strain measurements. One Q.pac DL controller’s 4 UARTs could handle up to 20 enclosures with 5 enclosures per UART. A total of 6 UARTs were needed so 2 controller enclosures were made. Each controller enclosure included a Q.pac DL controller, four 90W power supplies and an industrial grade 5-port switch. The controller boxes were meant to be stand alone systems and were fully functional operating without a connected PC.

Photo: GI
Photo: GI

Online data was collected and buffered into the Q.pac DL controllers and then read in real time from the custom LabVIEW application: Gantner Project Manager Software package. The Gantner Project Manager Software package was developed with the goal of replacing the look, feel and functionality of the IMPS Manager software previously employed by Link-Belt Construction Equipment for the purposes of crane validation testing. Much effort went into the development of this software’s programming architecture so that it not only met the functionality of the system it was intended to replace, but it also set the foundation for future enhancements, additions and developments designed to take this functionality to a higher level – with an application software platform that is compatible with future operating systems. The Gantner Project Manager Software package featured the ability to setup gauges, acquire live gauge readings, populate gauge maps, save test details, zero values, pause/resume testing, create custom comparison screens and generate detailed test reports. Offline data analysis was conducted with use of a custom Link-Belt MATLAB program.

This entire application, both hardware and software, was completed and shipped within 12 weeks of order. All DAQ and controller systems worked exactly as advertised and the custom software package allowed for Link-Belt to take their validation testing process to the next level while also allowing for future growth and development. This application was a huge success and after 5 years of using the Gantner systems, Link-Belt was satisfied enough to purchase a second set of systems from Gantner.