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Automatically connected

1/25/2017 | Words: Lucie Maluck | Pictures: Robert Hack


What use is a top-class engine if its vehicle connection is second-rate? It will certainly fail to make the most of its capabilities. Only when all the engine’s components are working in perfect harmony and are perfectly matched to the vehicle can it deliver its full potential. To ensure a first-rate vehicle interface for a first-rate engine, MTU develops specific automation systems for each application that manage, monitor and control the entire working of the drive system and other components, where the customer so requires.

A machine picks and places components on the PCBs.
Employees in the electronics department place the strips with
electronic components  into this device – also known as a feeder.

An air-conditioned room, employees in white coats, and a quiet humming sound. Is that the image of an engine production bay? Sounds more like a dental surgery. Yet this large, sterile room is the manufacturing facility at the MTU Electronics Center. Low clicking and clunking noises are coming from a large white robot. A pick-and-place machine puts miniature components weighing just 5 mg, such as capacitors, resistors and diodes, onto a printed circuit board with millimeter precision. Depending on the electronic assembly in question, between 1,500 and 2,000 parts are placed via large rolls onto the PCB, where they are soldered into place. Connections are made.

They are connections without which the vehicles would not be able to move
independently, yet which are invisible to the train driver, haul truck driver or ship’s
captain. And they’re not the only ones. The locomotive builder, haul truck maker and shipbuilder also benefit from the many thousands of connections which MTU supplies between engine and vehicle or vessel. “Without wishing to sound arrogant, no other manufacturer makes it as easy for vehicle manufacturers to install their engines into vehicles and vessels,” said Martin Gohlke, who runs Automation Systems Development at MTU. “We are not just an engine maker, we’re a manufacturer of entire drive and propulsion systems,” he added. And these systems consist of an engine and the associated automation system.

One simple movement – complex connections
Here’s an example: A train driver wishes his train to accelerate. In the cab, he uses
the control lever on the driver’s console to send a signal via the vehicle control system and the MTU interface to the MTU automation system, which receives the message, processes it and forwards it to the engine governor, which in turn passes it to the engine. That’s quite a few connections already, but there are more. Within the engine, a further complex process is set in motion: Higher speed means that more fuel and more air have to arrive in the cylinder simultaneously. At the same time, the fuel pressure has to rise to ensure the fuel atomizes better.

Powerline integrates all monitoring, management and control
functions of the diesel propulsion system.

As modern MTU engines always add a certain amount of exhaust gas to the fuel/air mixture as a means of minimizing nitrogen oxide emissions, the processor also takes data from sensors in the charge-air duct to calculate how much exhaust gas is required in the combustion chamber. It then forwards this data to the actuators via a ‘data bus’. The actuators convert these electronic signals into mechanical movements. In this instance, they move the air and gas valves and prolong the length of time the injectors are energized. A multitude of connections to which the train driver is probably oblivious when pushing the lever.

An engine is made up of hundreds of different parts and technologies. Every one is important, but the real trick is getting all the components to work together. No coincidence, therefore, that the engine management system and Engine Control Unit (governor) are known as the engine’s ‘brain’ connecting all those technologies together.

MTU automation: connecting the engine to the vehicle or vessel
However, the connections do not stop at the engine: the way it communicates with the vehicle or vessel is equally important. To ensure this runs perfectly, MTU develops the right automation system for each application – whether it be for locomotives, ships, haul trucks or electrical gensets. The Powerline automation system is available for locomotives, and for ships, Blue Vision NG and Callosum. Motivline has been designed specifically for haul trucks, and Genoline for gensets.

The Blue Vision New Generation automation system controls
and monitors the entire propulsion system on board ships.

All the systems connect data from the engine management system to data from the vehicle control system and peripheral components such as radiators, transmissions and propellers. By so doing, they enable the manufacturer to install the engine into its vehicle or vessel with speed and ease. To help with this, MTU supplies pre-manufactured components developed in-house, which merely have to be hooked up to the vehicle control system. “The vehicle or vessel manufacturer only has to specify the scope of the automation system, tell us how long the cables should be, and then plug the drive system connector (supplied) into the vehicle control interface,” said Michael Welte, Manager System Engineering at MTU. And once the engine is running, the operator is fed all the information needed to make the very best use of the engine(s) and drive system in its installation. A perfect connection.

The automation systems are all designed along similar lines, consisting of a central Engine Control Unit which collates and processes the engine data which is then connected to the vehicle control system via standardized interfaces like CANopen, Ethernet and J1939. Another element is the Diagnostics and Remote System (DRS) via which MTU engineers program data and operating parameters such as engine speed bands, alarm limits or fan operating curves to the ECU. Later, operators can also use this DRS interface to obtain system and installation data from the engine or
propulsion plant via remote link.

A well-designed connection in two respects: the automation system
connects engine and vehicle as well as man and machine.

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The content of the stories reflects the status as of the respective date of publication. They are not updated. Further developments are therefore not taken into account.

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