The Automotive Centre for Excellence would rather be called ACE from now on because they have expanded out from just working with automotive projects.
ACE is a hidden gem at the DC-UOIT campus that looks like a regular building until you go inside.
“ACE is an innovation centre where anyone has access to $100-million tools for research and development,” said John Komar, Director of Engineering and Operations at ACE.
ACE has high-level equipment for research in several different fields such as automotive, aerospace, defence, media production, high performance sports, unmanned automated vehicles and much more.
ACE also provides automotive testing such as climate cross-flow and performance under weather, climate and distance simulations.
The centre offers many different facilities within the ACE building.
The wind tunnel offers aerodynamic wind flow and can simulate the sun, rain, freezing rain and snow. Its temperatures can range between minus 40 and plus 60 degrees Celsius and it can produce humidity range of five-to-95 percent.
“We can make it’s as hot as Dubai or we can make it a nice, cold sunny day in winter,” said Komar.
The wind tunnel can go from 250 kilometres to a dead still calm.
The dynamometer and nozzle in the wind tunnel is one-of-a-kind and allows ACE to play with the way the wind hits a vehicle or piece of machinery, as well as simulate driving and speed. It can simulate driving up a hill carrying a heavy load or downhill.
“What makes us a one of kind tunnel is this big dynamometer, this big road simulator that 129,000 kilograms rides on air and we can turn the car into the wind while it’s under full dynamic loads,” said Komar. “So as a result our nozzle has the ability of opening. So it’s a variable nozzle with the rotating table that contains a 1,000 horsepower dynamometer…so we are the only place in the world that can do cross wind development under full dynamic loads.”
ACE has two climate chambers, one small and one large. The rooms are temperature and humidity controlled and the large chamber has another dynamometer and solar simulation and it can fit a large bus in it. It allows to ACE to test how certain climates affect vehicles, people and other objects over a period of time or series of events.
The four-post shaker climate chamber allows ACE to test the durability of any product or vehicle either at a shake rating that a human could withstand or a more intense shake that allows testing the durability of something like an unmanned automated vehicle.
The semi anechoic chamber with multi axis shaker table is a room that is soundproof and produces no echo. There is no echo so this room is perfect for testing anything that may make a sound when breaking down or testing soundproof technology.
“When things start to break, they tend to crack and squeak and rattle so a lot of times the tests are called squeak and rattle,” said Komar.
Underneath the wind tunnel is a room that looks like a cave, the walls are high and it is because it needs to protect the climate in the wind tunnel so that the test results are based on the right factors.
“It’s engineering 101 on steroids. Do we do rocket science here? Absolutely. These bearings are the same idea as is used to move the bottoms of rockets,” said Komar.
The machinery used in the wind tunnel is has been constantly improved through the time ACE has had it.
“We have learned so much about our equipment that we have actually added capability,” said Komar.
ACE is the only one of its kind in Canada. Companies used to leave the country for this type of research but now they stay here. Now researchers from other countries are travelling to Canada to access this technology.
Each room is secured behind a key-pass lock to ensure safety and secrecy. No cameras, unapproved pictures are allowed.
ACE works under a five-pillar system where they honour safety, security, quality, flexibility and continuous improvement.
The ACE research building is quiet and hidden on the campus.
“The most noise we make in this place is in the summer time and it comes from trying to cool the classrooms here,” said Komar. “The noisiest part of the building is just the normal air conditioning because we are all self-contained for noise.