The rise of cold engine test technology

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More sophisticated end-of-line technologies, such as cold engine testing, will play an increasing role in vehicle production processes over the next decade, according to Harry Chana, head of automotive solutions at automation and powertrain verification specialist Daifuku Europe.

The Japanese systems integrator has long-established experience of developing and installing bespoke cold engine test platforms for most of the major OEMs and believes that this technology is on the cusp of a major period of growth.

As internal combustion engines become increasingly sophisticated, in the light of tough new WLTP/RDE standards, it is important to include additional pre-assembly checks to minimize line rejections or costly downtime events.

Harry Chana, head of automotive solutions at Daifuku Europe, says, “For many European vehicle manufacturers, hot engine test has been the gold standard in engine verification. However, due to changing legislation and a willingness to explore alternative test methods, cold testing is now becoming much more popular.”

Already in 2018, Daifuku Europe has installed or upgraded several cold engine test platforms for both Japanese and European marques.

Daifuku’s cold test bench verifies the whole engine, running checks on critical subsystems – which can take between 30 seconds and three minutes, depending on the diagnostic parameters. Crucially, these test cycles do not require fueling or ignition, making the production floor much quieter and cleaner. The absence of fuel also negates the mandating of costly safety procedures and HSE reviews.

Although tailored to every OEM’s requirements, this type of end-of-line system is fully automated and includes pre-determined test profiles and data-storage capabilities that enable engine fault diagnosis and statistical analysis.

As manufacturers strive for even higher levels of quality assurance, while containing costs, the benefits of cold cycle analysis becomes apparent; enabling faster and more accurate tests using fewer cells. Unlike their hot engine alternatives, cold test cycles are far more adept at spotting engine defects, which can be quickly located and repaired, thus causing minimal disruption to the line.

The adoption of cold engine test also brings tangible economic benefits to the production process, according to Daifuku. Chana says, “While creating a much more pleasant, safer working environment for engineers, this test method reduces fuel, energy and CO₂ emissions. Our experience also shows that cold test speeds up the engine verification process, while improving the overall accuracy of TQM programs.

“Cold test’s use of robust software gives production engineers a powerful and flexible tool that is ideal for today’s more dynamic, modular approach to vehicle manufacturing,” concludes Chana.

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