Playing a leading role in turbine research, Gas Turbine Laboratory of Institute of Aerospace Research (NRC) provides state of the art research facility for characterizing and optimizing fuel injection nozzles for turbine engines. Used by aircraft engine manufactures, the spray dynamics laboratory requires a flexible and reliable test and control automation demanding integration of motion control, monitoring and control of operating conditions, interface with laser based fuel particle size measurement sub-system and extensive monitoring and logging capabilities.

We developed a scalable and rugged solution for this application using NI cFieldPoint and LabVIEW as the automation platform. Signals from sensors that include thermocouples, several pressure and fuel sensors along with ON/OFF valves are directly interfaced to cFieldPoint I/O modules. A desktop computer running under MS Windows reads all process values and performs the PID control for fuel injection pressure. The same computer is also interfaced to motion controllers, drives and motors moving the fuel injection nozzle while performing a two dimensional scan as per user defined grid coordinates.

As the nozzle is stabilized at each of the scan coordinates, the automation software triggers a laser based fuel particle size measurement through an RS232 link. Particle size distribution data is then logged along with all the process data before moving to the next grid point.

The active PID control compensates for any undesired variation in operating conditions while allowing a safe operation of the research facility. The automation software is also a key feature in providing high quality and reproducible results by running unattended tests for long hours through high granularity scanning grids.