Case Studies

Typical Outboard Engines

Outboard Marine Engine Dynamometer and Emissions Test Cell Automation

Posted in Automotive, Consumer Goods, LabVIEW, Test & Measurement Automation


DMC was contracted by a world leader in the design, development, and manufacture of outboard marine engines to automate their dynamometer and emissions test cells using LabVIEW and the NI Compact RIO (cRIO) platform.  The objectives of this project were to upgrade the Client's existing test cells using a best-in-class automation platform, improve data acquisition capability, and maintain costs at a reasonable level.

NI CRIO Platform

NI CRIO Platform

Test Cell User Interface

Test Cell User Interface

Test Data Viewer

Test Data Viewer


DMC started this project by listening carefully to the Client's specific needs for their dynamometer and emissions test cells.  The client had previously automated an existing test cell using a commercially available, off the shelf package for dynamometer testing.  They engaged DMC to help develop a competing, custom-built system that better suited their operational requirements, budget, and data analysis methods.

The Client's main requirements, which were not met by the existing commercial system, were to [1] achieve a better manual mode of operation (not built around “Automated Test Sequences”) with the operator in complete control of all parameters at all times, and [2] provide a simple data output format readable by any data analysis program.

The hardware system was based on a National Instruments' Compact RIO (cRIO) platform.  cRIO modules providing a variety of analog, digital and thermocouple I/O were selected based on operational performance requirements.  A controller area network (CAN) module was included in the chassis to enable communications with the engine electronic control module (ECU).  The real-time operating system of the cRIO provided the robust and reliable operation required by the application.

The test cell is controlled by a PC running a custom LabVIEW application.  This application communicates with the cRIO and other test cell instruments over RS232 serial and Ethernet ports.  The User Interface is customized to very detailed client requirements, yet provides flexibility for expanding future needs.

Using the LabVIEW application, the operator has complete control over all test cell controls and can view all incoming data on a live display.  Data can be collected by the operator using a single button press.  Per Client requirements, data records are stored in a simple text file for easy post-processing in any  data analysis program.  DMC also developed a simple data viewer program for this project.  Operators can use this simple program to open the data log and see the resulting data table or create plots to quickly analyze their test data.

DMC delivered this customer a best-in-class automation platform for their engine test cells, improving data acquisition capability, maintaining reasonable costs, and better matching their testing strategy.  Overall, DMC's custom solution proved better, cheaper, and more scalable than the customer's competing off-the-shelf system.

Learn more about DMC's LabVIEW programming services.

Customer Benefits

  • Flexible channel configuration
  • Integrated channel scaling and calibration
  • Robust and reliable operation
  • Manual control of all test cell instruments
  • One button press for data collection
  • Simple text output data format


  • National Instruments' LabVIEW
  • National Instruments' Compact RIO (cRIO)
  • National Instruments' Controller Area Network (CAN)
  • National Instruments' VISA and RS232 Serial
  • TCP/IP Ethernet
  • AK Serial Protocol
  • AVL 733S Fuel Balance
  • AVL i60 Emissions Bench
  • Pierburg AMA2000 Emissions Bench
  • DyneSystems Dyn-Loc IV Dynamometer Controller