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Test Control, Editing and Analysis Software Buyer's Guide

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Please note that this information is intended as a guide only. This section refers to software that is layered onto PID controllers only. For information on the controllers themselves, refer to the PID Controllers review. Individual needs vary, for help with products that meet your needs, contact us. Presented in alphabetical order of manufacturer, with no bias.

IST
RS LabSite
Performance
Reliability
Value
Pros Cons
  • Feature rich set of tools
  • Easy to use graphical interface
  • Block Profiles, Peak Valley, Real Time Simulation and Random Vibe (MIMO)
  • PLC-Type Functionality
  • Small installed base
  • Expensive
  • Structural testing apps buggy
  • Limited support
Comments
I think it is a shame that IST products are not more widely used in the automotive-structural-fatigue-vibration-component testing sector. My opinion is that they have suffered from insufficient marketing, and the prices are set too high. The 8800 controller family is sold extensively for materials testing (through Instron), but not so much in our market. They have a rich set of tools in the Road Lab environment that provide functionality that is second-to-none. They are one of the few vendors to offer Random Vibration control (this is not yet offered by MTS), and their software includes a very useful PLC application that allows you to setup automated sequences for events such as start-up and shutdown. No other automation package comes close. These features must be balanced against their lack of support, and small installed base in this market. Also, for real-time-simulation (aka TWR), they use a third party package from LMS. LMS is a highly reputable company in the general field of sound and vibration, but they do not have a lot of experience with time history simulation. This shows in their TWR package that has the bare bones, but that is about it.


Moog-FCS
FasTEST
Performance
Reliability
Value
Pros Cons
  • Intuitive User Interface
  • Good visualization tools
  • Solid controller integration
  • Inexpensive
  • Can't save default plotting prefs
  • No data analysis
  • Buggy?
  • Limited tools
Comments
This software has a lot of promise, and with Moog backing, there is a chance that significant development dollars will be dedicated to improving it. In fact, I understand that Moog-FCS is in the process of developing a brand new platform, so watch this space. As for their current software, I like the fact that they have implemented all the functions in a simple user interface that is relatively easy to pick-up. When the software first came out, it included a bunch of useful functions (like random vibration software) but it was buggy. I understand that Moog decided to remove these in favor of building a TWR package that is much more stable. The original iteration software lacked some of the overlap /add tools that are necessary for reproducing real time histories, but they inform me that they have fixed this too. Be aware that there is no editing and analysis software yet, and so unless you plan to reproduce the exact file that was given to you by an OEM, you will need to purchase another package to perform this preparation. They sell the nCode Glyphworks package with their software for that purpose (see below). Connection to the controller is very robust, and there are no scary bumps and thumps. Assigning channels takes some getting used to, but is made easier through the use of aliases. This package is inexpensive, and if you get your edited data from someone else, it does the job.


MTS
MPT/(c)RPC Pro
Performance
Reliability
Value
Pros Cons
  • Reliable
  • Excellent integration with RPC
  • Worldwide support
  • Sophisticated and relevant algorithms
  • Industry standard
  • Good block programmer
  • No random Vibration Control
  • Expensive
  • No automated scripts
  • GT interface is not intuitive
Comments
MTS is the market leader, and they have a lot of experience. The software that layers onto FlexTest shows that. What they lack in features they make up for in solidity. Don't buy MTS if you plan on any Random Vibration control though. They would have to pair their system with a Data Physics or VR controller. This is a shame, because I strongly believe that for vibration testing, random vibe (with variable kurtosis) a great way to get the statistical variation you need, rather than blindly reproducing the exact-same signal every time (through RPC). They do not do a good job with sinesweeps either. This controller does a wonderful job with setting-up test procedures, and executing and monitoring them. As far as Time History Simulation is concerned, RPC Pro is the standards-setter. This is MTS' forte. They have been developing algorithms for 30 years, and they understand what tools and knobs are important, and which ones are not. I am a little biased there, since I helped them get to where they are!


nCode
GLYPHWORKS
Performance
Reliability
Value
Pros Cons
  • Reliable
  • Lots of analysis tools
  • Flexible
  • Very easy to use
  • No need to save a bunch of files
  • Some functions not obvious
  • Documentation weak.
Comments
This software is in a different category than all the others, but it is a great partner for all of them. GLYPHWORKS 4.0 from nCode is a wonderful editing and analysis package. nCode has traditionally been known for their fatigue analysis software, but this package rolls together many different analysis functions from a broad range of disciplines. What sets this software apart is its user interface. They use an Object Oriented approach that allows the user to build a complex analysis routine based on connecting primitive blocks together. It is very powerful, fast and very easy to use, and you can process a lot of data quickly, easily, and without saving a bunch of intermediate files. They also have some new accelerated testing tools using the Fatigue Damage Spectrum. I think this is the future of testing. I strongly recommend this software for everyone.


Simulation Technologies
SimTest
Performance
Reliability
Value
Pros Cons
  • Simple User Interface
  • Good integration with a broad range of controllers
  • Flexible
  • Comes with the power of MatLab
  • Vendor independence
  • Provided process very basic
  • No editing and analysis
  • Need to be proficient in MatLab if you need to do anything beyond basic simulation
Comments
SimTest has been providing their independent time history simulation for a number of years. The software has been used on controllers from almost every vendor except MTS, but now I think the only vendor that still uses them is Shore Western. Simulation Technologies provided vendors with the opportunity to compete with MTS without having to go through the expense of developing simulation software. However, as controller products became established, OEMs have all developed their own. SimTest is pretty basic, but it comes packaged with MatLab, and a suite of routines that can be used for reading writing files etc. Whenever I have used it, I have found myself writing my own routines to work around some of the limitations of the software. However, the beauty of it is you can!

 

Other controllers to consider... There is a line of controllers that have been developed primarily for the electro-dynamic shaker market. These random vibration controllers have now incorporated time wave replication (TWR) software (what we generally refer to as real time simulation), and are used more and more for servohydraulic applications. Unfortunately none of the controllers below have the rich set of real time simulation tools that you would find in RPC Pro. They try to provide push-button operation, and as such they lack accuracy for the highly non-linear servohydraulic world. While some of the servohydraulic controllers do perform random vibration control, none of them do it very well, and so if random vibe is important to you, take a look at these. If real time simulation is important to you, stick with one of the controllers above. If you need to do both, or if you need to do shock testing, your only option is to look at the controllers below. Please note that if you use the following controllers, you still need something to close the servoloop (the PID). You could do that with an old analog controller, or you could use one of the reviewed controllers as your front-end. Another approach would be to roll your own using Labview or by using the Moog MSC. The controllers to look at are (in alphabetical order):
Dactron
This is a good basic cost effective device, but I don't recommend it for TWR.
Data Physics (DP)
Good controller with muti-channel iterative TWR in both the time and frequency domain (two algorithms). Certainly worth a look. Software is very basic and a little rough around the edges. However for MIMO (multi channel) work, its probably the best choice.
Spectral Dynamics
They have a Puma (single channel PC based) and Jaguar (multi-channel Sun Solaris based). Jaguar is the most expensive, and claims a highly accurate front end. This is important if you are in the multiple kHz world, but in our dirty servohydraulic world, it doesn't buy you much. The Jaguar does a good job of push-button simulation, but the user interface is archane and the Unix-based OS is a bit of a pain.
Vibration Research (VR)
This controller packs a lot of functions into a cost effective solution. This is the only controller in this category with Kurtosion Control, which allows you to increase the Peak/RMS ratio (Crest Factor) for a random-vibration test, making it more representative of real operating conditions. Their algorithms are single channel only which is a bummer, because, in my opinion, this controller is the best of the bunch.



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