Upgrade of Engine Monitor for Vibration Analysis and size reduction to PC Card format
PCMCIA Vibration Analyser
Technologies used

    Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), Microcontroller

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    332 Instruments and appliances for measuring, checking, testing etc.
    333 Industrial process control

The Helix PC card is similar to a standard PCMCIA interface card but with the added feature that the card can operate on its own as a stand alone computer outside the host PC. The operator has the choice of occasional monitoring with the card inserted within a portable PC or the card may be left on site for continuous monitoring without tying up a PC. The card may also be used as a compact data logger. In stand alone mode, the user has three options for recovering data: insertion of card into a PC to transfer acquired data; data transfer via an RS232 line to a computer or modem; direct connection into a standard Ethernet PC network where it emulates a PC (data from the card is accessible to any PC on the network).

A complex FPGA design was used for all the PCMCIA, network and DMA interface logic and it was this that made it possible to fit all the necessary circuitry onto the credit card-sized PCB defined by the PC Card standards. The added advantage that the FPGA gives is its flexibility through reprogramming allowing continuous improvement of the product and adaption to different markets. The card is fully compliant with the 1995 standard.

The card replaces an existing instrument for monitoring the combustion cycle of large diesel engines by including compatible trigger inputs and complex averaging software to improve the siignal-to-noise ratio. The instrument is much faster than the older unit with the result that its range of application can be extended to vibration analysis. There is also a significant cost reduction. This makes the company more competitive and widens the markets.

There were many lessons learned during the project, see Section 5.2 but it is worthwhile to point out that choosing a FPGA which had more gates available than was anticipated was crucial since during the project the design evolved and had a requirement for more gates than originally planned. Also when scheduling software tasks, whether the design or testing, should be given extra time since often single lines of code can cause unforeseen delays.

The project had a budget of 50 kECU and was scheduled for a duration of 9 months and used a total of 52 person weeks effort with 17.5k ECU spent with subcontractors. The start date was 1 April 1997. The estimations made regarding the sales of the new product result in a payback period of less than one year and a ROI of more than 500% in the first three years of sales. The product was released on to the market with three months of the project’s completion and the expected life of the card is expected to be in the region of five years, however, new features may be added by reprogramming allowing a wider market.


    Helix Advanced Research Products
    Rigs Road
    Isle of Lewis
    HS1 0XR

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) and Microcontroller technology provided Helix Advanced Research Products with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
University of Paisley
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UK-PA1 2BE Paisley
United Kingdom