Flexible Control of an Engine on a Test Bench Using the NI Engine Control System at the Institute for Powertrains and Automotive Technology

  Print Print

"Thanks to its unbelievable flexibility, the system can switch from a direct injection diesel engine to a port injection Otto engine with external ignition in no time."

- Dr. Johann Spreitzer, SoHaTeX GmbH

The Challenge:
Creating a fully customizable control system for diesel engines that can deliver every possible exhaust gas composition at different temperatures to support research.

The Solution:
Using the ECS-1408 to develop a fully flexible and controllable test bench for modern four-cylinder diesel engines.

Dr. Johann Spreitzer - SoHaTeX GmbH


SoHaTeX is an NI Alliance Member located in Vienna, Austria. One of the company’s areas of expertise is developing combustion processes and systems for test bench and prototype engine equipment. Previously, I worked at the Institute for Powertrains and Automotive Technology (IFA) at the Vienna University of Technology. My dissertation was in the area of engine and combustion system technology before the founding of SoHaTeX.

One of key research competencies at IFA is the development, test, and comparison of diesel engine exhaust treatment systems. For any combustion analysis research, you need a test bench that can deliver fully customizable control, providing every possible exhaust gas composition at different temperatures.

Normally, engines used in the test bench are not supplied with an engine control unit (ECU) that allows you to change the parameters needed for combustion research. Sometimes the project partner sends an open ECU that only permits changing certain parameters, which is not optimal for research. If you have an inflexible ECU, you may need to improvise, which I did during my research.  

One of the first projects SoHaTeX worked on was a fully flexible and controllable engine test bench. We  based it on the CompactRIO ECS-1408 engine control bundle and adapted it for the IFA to use for research. The CompactRIO Engine Control System (ECS) provides a full-authority research engine controller based on the rugged CompactRIO platform. The system contains all of the processing power and I/O needed to interface with typical engine subsystems and actuators such as throttle drivers, speed sensors, NOx sensors, and direct and port fuel injectors. The ECS controls all engine sensors and actuators. In addition, we used the NI Combustion Analysis System for in-cylinder combustion analysis.

The system we developed supports Otto and diesel engines with up to eight cylinders. It also supports direct injection solutions using solenoid and piezo injector valves. We can also use port injection or a combination of both with this system. Thanks to its unbelievable flexibility, the system can switch from a direct injection diesel engine to a port injection Otto engine with external ignition in no time.


We took advantage of the NI system as one development environment for the test bench, which helped us deliver an integrated system. Previously, we had to use a variety of tools from a variety of vendors for full authority engine control as well as a combustion analyzer. Using the LabVIEW software ECS example project in open source, we developed the necessary software to control the engine for specified exhaust gas concentrations and temperatures for the IFA. The software architecture is based on three layers: the FGPA level for the fast control loops, the safety loops, and the I/O; the real-time layer for calculations and slow control loops; and a top-level visualization and user interface. We can use the modular nature of the hardware and open source software to scale from a one-cylinder research engine or an eight-cylinder series engine.  


The ECS delivers the power and I/O needed to get an engine running with customizable software. Combined with the combustion analysis option, it provides the basis for a multichannel test cell combustion analyzer with room to add engine control functionality. The platform is flexible enough to drive engines in unique ways necessary for research and has proved scalable between tests and sensors.  We have turned this success at IFA into additional business opportunities adapting this system at additional research institutions worldwide, including Argonne National Laboratory.

Author Information:
Dr. Johann Spreitzer
SoHaTeX GmbH
Alszeile 105/7
Vienna 1170

Bookmark and Share

Explore the NI Developer Community

Discover and collaborate on the latest example code and tutorials with a worldwide community of engineers and scientists.

‌Check‌ out‌ the‌ NI‌ Community

Who is National Instruments?

National Instruments provides a graphical system design platform for test, control, and embedded design applications that is transforming the way engineers and scientists design, prototype, and deploy systems.

‌Learn‌ more‌ about‌ NI