AFMC Command News

AEDC Spark Tank: Simulator allows for quicker identification of equipment issues

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks
  • AEDC Public Affairs

The ability to recognize a problem early can save time, money and a lot of headaches.

This is the purpose behind the Condition-Based Maintenance Fault Simulator, a tool that will soon be available to personnel at Arnold Air Force Base, the headquarters of Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

The device will provide machinery fault simulation. Users can install fault modules on the small rotating machine and view the vibration caused by a specific defect. It will allow users to study the signatures of common machinery faults without compromising critical equipment.

Parke Nation, a mechanical reliability engineer at Arnold, said the fault simulator can be used to train engineers and craftsmen to recognize a potential issue before it becomes a larger problem.

“We intend for the simulator to be used by anyone who wants to learn,” she said. “We want to create a sandbox type of experience for users to gain hands-on training for identifying rotating machinery faults. This will also be used to research new measurement techniques and post-processing methods to identify machinery faults sooner.”

The simulator will be housed in the Arnold AFB Innovation Center, which was established late last year on base to offer engineers a space to brainstorm, prototype and experiment.

The simulator is among the eight projects that received funding through the AEDC Spark Tank. The Spark Tank, which was open to military, DOD civilians and contractors across all AEDC units, allowed members of the AEDC workforce to propose suggestions for improving AEDC processes, products and test capabilities. Those awarded funding were notified in mid-February.

Spark Tank money was awarded through several diverse sources. The simulator proposal received funding through the Innovation Center since it will extend capabilities there.

Nation, who served as principal investigator on the proposal and pitched it to the Spark Tank selection panel only around six months into her Arnold career, said not only will the simulator help personnel identify rotating machinery faults, it can lead to the correction of such issues through proper maintenance techniques.

“Ultimately, as our people learn more, our equipment will benefit more from predictive maintenance techniques,” Nation said. “This would also be a good firsthand exposure for interns learning at AEDC.”

With the device, Arnold personnel can simulate machine problems including unbalance, misalignment, bearing faults, resonance faults, eccentric rotor, cocked rotor and bent rotor shafts.

“We are targeting some of the more common faults that are seen around AEDC for the first phase,” Nation said. “However, there are expansion options we will target in the future.”

Aside from its use as a training tool, Nation said the team responsible for developing the Spark Tank proposal intends to utilize the simulator to validate new measurement tools. They also plan to collect a digital fault signature library that will be used to build predictive analysis algorithms that could be utilized on other large equipment throughout AEDC.

The team further plans to create some AEDC-specific training material for the simulator. This is expected to be completed this summer.

Nation added she and the others involved with the project were appreciative to be chosen as one of the recipients of funding through the AEDC Spark Tank.

“We were very grateful to receive funding for our proposal,” Nation said. “Our team is passionate about what we do and excited to have another means to share that with the AEDC team.”