There’s a particular test lab at our Wichita facility that, to a layperson, must look like something straight out of a medieval dungeon. Chains hang from the ceiling to hold a device in place, a drive motor locked onto a dynamometer can spin for thousands of miles, a gas heater that ensures the room maintains a constant temperature in excess of 120°F, and infrared heat lamps on the ceiling cook the skin of the machine. This is where innovation gets put to the test, literally, to make sure that a prototype design’s cooling system can withstand the weather and duty cycle extremes originally analyzed by computer simulations.
“Each run is pass or fail and replicates real-life worst case scenarios,” said Chris Fogle, lead engineer for engine systems. “Sometimes it’s one and done, and other times it can take 30 runs. This is an extreme test that once completed ensures customers will not have cooling performance issues in the field.”
When it comes to Project Minotaur, the test, ominously called “air to boil,” is to confirm the performance of the engine, radiators, and other cooling system components. Each component has been put through its paces via computer models, so the development team goes into testing with a high confidence of success.
It’s a standard test in the industry, but it comes with no guarantees, especially since tweaking one parameter can impact the performance of another. This is one place that practical innovation comes into play.
“We iterate (and then reiterate) machine functions in the test lab with a goal of arriving at peak performance, so customers don’t experience malfunction on a job site.”