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2004 AETC Conference
By Ken Weber
The 14th annual Advanced Engine Technology Conference (AETC) saw a return to the Antlers Adam's Mark, in downtown Colorado Springs, CO, Jan. 8-11. The return to this facility, though higher priced than those used in the recent past, was requested by a poll of last year's attendees because of the higher quality of the hotel itself and its close proximity to the nightlife available in the downtown area. Consequently, attendance at this year's event was up almost 40 percent from last year.
For those of you in the engine performance business who have never attended one of these conferences, you owe it to yourself - and your business - to do so. Not only are the presentations informative and entertaining, the access to key people in this industry, both to answer questions and for networking, is quite remarkable.
Each day is scheduled with both morning and noon meals and a 30-minute break after each presentation, all of which are structured to encourage participants to take advantage of the networking opportunities. Not only can you corner one of the presentation speakers with your questions, but the list of non-speaker, industry leaders that you can interrogate is quite lengthy as well.
Evening activities offer additional networking opportunities, as groups congregate throughout the downtown area. In addition to these "in person" opportunities, as part of the registration package, you also get an attendance list with everyone's name and phone number, so if you come across a question you would like to ask after the conference is over, just "let your fingers do the walking."
Registration day activities always include product demonstrations at SuperFlow, and the company holds some of its own seminars at the hotel. SuperFlow's WinDyn Software was discussed from 1 pm to 2 pm, the use of flow benches from 2:30 to 3:30, and dynamometer testing from 4 pm to 5 pm Thusday. From 5:30 to 6:30, a panel discussion on failure analysis was convened, and the day ended with an evening reception hosted by Popular Hot Rodding magazine.
Breakfast was served each day at 7 am, and Friday's first seminar was on new developments in wet flow technology presented jointly by Darin Morgan of Reher-Morrison and Joe Mondello of Mondello Technical School. Morgan and Mondello illustrated how using a fluorescent dye in a fluid, combined with a black light and slow motion photography, produced very graphic displays of good and bad wet flow characteristics in a cylinder head. Darin said that he was able to gain over 20 additional horsepower in his company's Pro Stock effort by improvements made in wet flow.
After the intermission, Larry Atherton of ProRacing Sim Software gave us a brief history of "paper engine" simulation techniques, and demonstrated his next generation software for computer simulation of four-cycle engines. DynoSim, which is a follow-up development of Desk Top Dyno (1995) and PC Dyno Simulator (1998), is now one of a trio of simulation software products offered by Atherton, which also include DragSim drag strip simulation, and FastLapSim road race simulation. These new generation products feature improved graphic layouts, improved accuracy, and easier to use screens. Future offerings from ProRacing Sim Software include a sport compact DynoSim, VETC modeling, forced induction modeling, a Windows based Dynomation (currently DOS based), valve train dynamics and others.
After lunch and some more networking, Tim Meara of Sunnen Products Company kicked off the afternoon session. Recognized as one of the industry's foremost experts in engine cylinder honing, Meara discussed the latest methodology surrounding cylinder bore preparation, including hot honing.
To give you some idea of the level of perfection being obtained with this technique, Meara cited an SB2 NASCAR block that was hot honed. Measured at 220° F, the cylinder measured .00011? in cylindricity, and .00006? in roundness. At room temperature, the same cylinder measured .00079? in cylindricity, and .00079? in roundness. Needless to say, your dial bore gage and mechanical torque plate are not going to cut it here.
The final presentation of the day was made by Andy Randolph, PhD, Director of Engine Development for Hendrick Motorsports, on the rigors of resolving 1 hp differences when testing a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup engine. If you do the math, you will see that about 1/10th of 1 percent accuracy is required to resolve 1 hp increments at this level. That takes extreme attention to detail.
In his presentation, Dr. Randolph covered necessary refinements in facility considerations, engine preparation, data acquisition and data presentation. One of the elements discussed under facility consideration was to use the SAE correction factor (77° F, 29.23 in. Hg and 50 percent humidity) instead of the standard correction factor (60°, 29.92 in. Hg and 0 percent humidity) and conditioned inlet air to keep the correction factor low, thereby minimizing susceptibility to error.
A short video graphically illustrated the importance of paying attention to how the engine mounts on the dyno. In a comparison of two different mounts, the carburetor was equipped with a clear sight tube on the float bowl. With one mount, the fuel in the tube vibrated so badly it turned to foam from severe aeration, where with the other mount it was very stable and remained liquid. Little things like this can make it very hard to obtain any degree of repeatability, much less think of resolving at the 1/10th of one percent level Dr. Randolph discussed.
After Friday's presentations, SuperFlow hosted its annual open house with demonstrations of various dyno systems, and wet flow testing cylinder heads.
After breakfast, Saturday's activities started with George Barr, founder of Anatech Ltd, a provider of Casidiam coatings. Casidiam coatings are diamond-like hard carbon thin films applied to parts such as wrist pins, to increase wear resistance and reduce friction. One of the first racing applications was in Formula One as far back as 1991.
Casidiam is applicable to conditions of broad scuffing such as wrist pins, camshafts, valve stems, sides of the big end of connecting rods, cam followers, titanium retainers and valve locks, and many others. Generally the harder and smoother the part and opposing surface the better. It does not work well in applications involving high point loads such as gear teeth. A typical cost for a part such as a wrist pin is under $30.
Next on the agenda was a discussion of electronic fuel injection applications and techniques by Gary Valine of Harley- Davidson. Mr. Valine covered the different approaches to tuning EFI as opposed to a carburetor. Using the Harley system, he illustrated how to start with the base fuel and spark maps and modify them to meet the needs of the particular engine being calibrated.
Mike Kloeber, crew chief of the Clay Milican/Werner Enterprises Top Fuel dragster, presented an in-depth revelation of current engine technology in this category of drag racing. If you follow the TV broadcasts of NHRA events, you already know that these engines are producing in the neighborhood of 8,000 peak horsepower at 7,500 rpm and over 7,000 ft.lbs. of torque at about 6,800 rpm. The supercharger runs at 25 to 55 percent overdrive and produces 40+ psi in the manifold. To that, the fuel system adds up to 100 gallons/minute of 90 percent nitro, which is ignited by a pair of MSD mags producing 44 amps each at the plugs, for a total output of almost 1 Joule (that's a lot of juice).
This is timed with an electronic ignition system with an average of 15 timing points. The long block geometry is fairly conventional, but one thing I found interesting was the dual roller lifter (one roller above the other on two axles) used on the exhaust side of the cam is necessary because the exhaust valve is being opened against extreme cylinder pressure, which will fail a conventional single roller lifter. Of course, this is all coupled to the drive train by the infamous clutch system, which is 50 to 60 percent responsible for the current level of performance of these cars.
After the break, the last activity of the day, a panel discussion, was convened to cover any unanswered questions from the audience.
Saturday evening is traditionally a "night on the town" time, where groups convene at local restaurants and watering holes to network, discuss engine science, and generally enjoy the company of friends and acquaintances from the conference.
Charles Jenckes, Engine Development Engineer for Dale Earnhardt Inc. opened the Sunday session. Jenckes' presentation centered on the considerations associated with airflow (compressible fluid flow) in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup engine: engine regulations, cylinder head regulations, importance of engine performance, and the state of the art circa 2003. Rating the five most important elements in Cup racing, he put engines at the bottom, behind the driver; team and resource management; aerodynamics and mechanical grip; and pit crew performance and race strategy.
Jenckes explained the three most important areas for power production are cylinder heads, valve train and then intake manifolds. In the valve train, the practice of "lofting" the valve, and limiting valve lift with the valve spring, gives some measure of variable valve timing. In the manifold, wave tuning is considered more significant than maximum flow, and larger volume gives more power but less driver feel. Trends cited in head design include shallower valve seat angles, moving the intake more toward the center, and raising the ports as much as possible. In the future, he predicts tighter regulations, significantly higher engine speeds, and a common-template engine.
The final presentation of the conference was made by Cadet Sean McConnells of the Air Force Academy, in partnership with Cadet Mike DiMaria. S&S Cycle, Viola, WI, requested ideas to improve the performance of a TRAMP motorcycle for an assault on the world land speed record for partially streamlined bikes in the 3000 cc class (250+HP), requiring speeds in excess of 250 mph. A quarter-scale model was constructed for wind tunnel testing, and initial tests and calculations were made to establish a baseline of the basic motorcycle and rider without fairings. The project progressed through various configurations for front, rear and side fairings, both in the wind tunnel and the water tunnel. Fairings with dimples, and with vortex generators were also tested. The surprising conclusion was that the baseline motorcycle and rider without any fairings at all had the lowest drag.
During the subsequent question period, Mike Kloeber made a valiant attempt to get his Top Fuel Dragster tested in the Academy wind tunnel. When advised by the Air Force representatives that they would not be interested in doing that, Mike reminded them that the Army sponsors one of his competitors. Sadly, the answer was still no.
Sunday afternoon, after lunch, "The Gathering" convened. Somewhat like a large cocktail party, this is a final opportunity for attendees to confront speakers with more questions, network with new and old acquaintances, look over the displays, and just generally hang out until time to leave.
Everyone came away from the 14th AETC with a better understanding of important aspects of advanced engine technology and how seemingly minor things can affect your high performance engine in a negative way. We all know that the difference between first place and second place is in the details - to exploit that difference you can't afford to miss these conferences.
The AETC brochure promises "give us three days and we'll give you more power secrets than you could find in months at the race track." Today's racing industry moves too fast for you to take the time to learn it. Dive into the pool of knowlege next winter to get better faster.
The 15th Annual AETC will take place January 6-9, 2005, again at the Antlers Adam's Mark Hotel in Colorado Springs, CO. For more information about registering for the next conference or receiving videotapes or transcripts of this year's sessions, check the AETC Web site at www.aetconline.com.