Science and Technology News

Monday, August 31, 2015

Major savings result from AEDC wind tunnel improvement program

by Deidre Ortiz
Arnold Engineering Development Complex Public Affairs

8/21/2015 - ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn.  -- Replacing the Test Article Control System and Data Acquisition System feedthrough assemblies used at the 16-foot transonic wind tunnel here is saving the Arnold Engineering Development Complex more than $1 million this year.

This effort is part of the Improved Transonic Test Capability, or IMTTC, program, meant to improve equipment and processes for the 16-foot transonic wind tunnel, or 16T.

Located on the Propulsion Wind Tunnel test carts, the 16T Test Article Control System, or TACS, and Data Acquisition System, or DAS, reside in 10 environmental enclosures that protect them from the harsh environment of the 16T conditions.

Elijah Minter, Air Force acquisition program manager for the Flight Sustainment Branch at AEDC, explained the electrical feedthrough assemblies are an integral component of the systems.

"They transport low-level signals from instrumentation located in the high temperature and low pressure areas of the tunnel to sensitive equipment protected inside the environmentally controlled enclosures," he said. "There are approximately 130 feedthrough assemblies needed for the TACS and DAS."

The feedthrough assemblies that have been employed by the TACS and DAS require extensive labor and time to fabricate. Each cost on average $13,000 to assemble.

"The IMTTC program launched a study to determine a more cost-effective solution to the feedthrough assembly requirement," Minter said.

A candidate bulkhead feedthrough assembly was purchased and underwent rigorous pressure and electrical tests to ensure that all TACS and DAS requirements were met.

The first candidate did not pass this testing but the Aerospace Testing Alliance team was undeterred, and worked with Minter to identify another more innovative solution. Within a few weeks, a second candidate was identified and a prototype was immediately ordered.

This new design passed each test and will more efficiently utilize the limited space with each enclosure than any previous feedthrough design.

"This design meets all performance requirements, occupies less space, costs 80 percent less than current design and can be delivered to meet our accelerated schedule," Minter said.

In total, the switch to the bulkhead feedthrough assembly will provide a net savings of $1,380,860 for this year alone.

Finding a more inexpensive option to save money at 16T was the idea of ATA employee Marc Smotherman, who received a reward for his suggestion. In addition to Smotherman and the rest of the IMTTC program team, Keith Holt, ATA project manager, noted that Minter is also to be thanked for his part in supporting the effort.

"Elijah Minter deserves a huge credit for this savings," he said. "After the failure of the test on the first replacement cable option, it would have been easy to give up and stick with the original $13,000 cable. Elijah pushed the team to keep going, and even researched and found replacement options. His successes drove the team to finding the ultimate solution."

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