In Practice: imc CRONOSflex

Test stands

imc specializes in multi-parameter, mixed-signal mechanical data acquisition, measurement, and control. This includes testing and validation of the mechanical, electromechanical and mechatronic properties common to most manufacturing, QC/QA, R&D test stands, test cells, and bench-top tests.

At a glance:

  • Real-time control is an integral part of the base unit design
  • Wide variety of input modules to synchronously record test data and provide control inputs
  • Direct software-based configuration of measurements and test sequences without programming
  • Self-contained flash storage and PC-less operation for maximal test stand integrity
  • EtherCAT-based module communication and master/slave modes for integration into third party automation systems


The requirements of stationary testing, including benchtop, test stand, and complete test cell operations, can be broken into three categories, based on the number of signals, complexity of control systems, and 3rd party systems integration as in larger, integrated test cells.

imc STUDIO integrates PC-based ease-of-use with real-time reliability
For smaller tests, such as bench top and component test stands, imc CRONOSflex provides a flexible, adaptable, and complete test and control environment.

imc data acquisition systems offer the most flexible, all-in-one approach to physical testing available today by integrating the following:

  • The hybrid centralized / distributed nature of imc CRONOSflex input modules
  • The ease of configuration and test sequencing of imc STUDIO
  • The real-time capabilities of imc Online FAMOS, and
  • The PC-based computational power and reporting capabilities of imc FAMOS

imc high channel measurement and control systems
While the imc CRONOSflex system is expandable in both centralized and distributed fashions, it is the imc CRONOScompact which is better suited for rack mounted stationary systems. Lower cost-per-channel in high channel count configurations, and available 19" rack enclosures, makes imc CRONOScompact ideal for test stands and as part of larger automation systems.

Plus, like all imc data acquisition systems, the imc CRONOScompact is fully integrated with imc STUDIO, imc Online FAMOS, and imc FAMOS. And when even more customization and 3rd party software integration is appropriate, the imc COM Development Environment may be a suitable substitute for imc STUDIO, providing complete hardware functionality to any COM aware programming language (including Microsoft Visual Studio based languages).

imc in automation systems based on EtherCAT
When full environment test cell integration is provided for our users, imc systems such as the imc CRONOSflex may be used as integral components in the measurement and/or control automation systems. In particular, the imc CRONOSflex Modules may be directly utilized, without an imc CRONOSflex Base Unit, when the automation system supports the industrial EtherCAT communication bus.

In this case, modules are treated as slave devices and are controlled via the automation system's EtherCAT bus master. Configuration of imc CRONOSflex Modules is accomplished by means of the CANopen over EtherCAT (CoE) and File Access over Ethernet( FoE) protocols The ability of imc CRONOSflex Modules to store multiple configurations reduces protocol overhead in operation.

Vehicle testing

In the world of mobile and in-vehicle testing, imc data acquisition systems hold a proven track record demonstrating years of experience with unique challenges of testing in this often demanding environment. imc CRONOSflex builds on this experience by leveraging the imc platform concepts for stand alone operation, and at the same time, allowing the test engineer complete freedom regarding choices such as PC-based vs. standalone, and centralized vs. distributed architecture. 


At a glance:

  • Standalone data logger mode allows operation without a PC
  • Auto Start / Save / Stop and UPS function for managing power interruptions
  • Long duration battery set for completely autonomous operation
  • Isolated and protected signal inputs
  • Rugged housing: IEC 60068-2-27, 61373; optionally MIL-810F, Rail Cargo and/or U.S. Highway Truck Vibration Exposure

Stand alone or PC-based operation?
Why not both?

The question whether or not to use a PC-based data acquisition system is fundamental when operating in the decidedly computer unfriendly environment of in-vehicle, portable, and mobile environments.

While the PC offers the benefits of rich GUI, readily accessible reconfiguration, and a comfortable test control environment, there are drawbacks as well. For example, most computer laptops are designed for office environments and are simply not able to endure the vibration, temperatures, and power conditions in the field.

Further, a PC, embedded or otherwise, is completely inappropriate for long duration stand alone ("black box") operations, such as where data logging is triggered by vehicle power or movement, or where the logging must be invisible to the driver.

Fortunately with imc CRONOSflex, you do not need to make this choice: like every imc data acquisition system, imc CRONOSflex is equipped for stand alone operation standard, including deep on-board data storage, real time data processing and control logic, power failure management and auto start-up capability.

From a practical standpoint, if a PC is available, the test engineer, driver, or operator is able to use the full graphical environment of imc STUDIO, including live triggered video capture. imc CRONOSflex operates as a PC aided system: data can be stored on a directly connected PC, or network drive, if available.

However, if environmental conditions or test circumstances do not allow the use of a PC, imc CRONOSflex also works independently of the PC. With the ability to store digitized data directly on either a removable flash card, or a built-in hard drive providing a maximum level of data safety. Internal backup batteries can prevent the crash of the system in case of a power interruption, or even permit the measurement to continue in situations where an external power source is not available. And for true “black-box” measurements, a power-line monitor activates and deactivates the system.

On-board signal processing
While data logging need not include real time digital processing, the advantages to the test engineer in terms of test efficiency are often profound:

  • Reality Checks: Pre-processing data provides readily accessible spot checks of the test results
  • Data Reduction: During long duration measurements, triggering or other data reduction techniques preserve pertinent information and reduce the bulk of raw data. Less data means:
    • Smaller and more reliable flash memory and fewer stops to swap memory cards on long duration measurements
    • Less desk time post-processing field data to find interesting information
    • Lower data charges and faster upload using wireless interfaces (WiFi / 3G / 4G)
  • More responsive: Calculating "virtual" channels while data is being collected makes this information immediately available to the driver, or to the test engineer

Remote access and data transfer
Being able to reach, or communicate with, a remote imc CRONOSflex unit out in the field is a necessity. From WLAN connections, to the state-of-the-art 4G data links, imc CRONOSflex remote connectivity provides for configuration, data transfer, and event notification.

General considerations of an imc in-vehicle data acquisition system

  • Compact and Rugged enclosure, with secure connections of all cabling
  • Power: DC Powered, tolerant of wide input range and variations (e.g., 10 - 50 VDC)
    • Backup power, for temporary power interruptions
  • Operates with, or as often is the case, without a PC attached ("Black Box")
    • Standalone operation manually or automatically initiated
    • On-board storage, with various storage modes
    • "Heads Up" display for installation checks, and driver/operator feedback
  • Ready access to measurement data/results
    • On-the-fly realtime calculations & decision making (triggers, reduction matrices, etc.)
    • Remote data access—wireless connectivity (e.g., WiFi, WWAN "modem", etc.)
    • Networkable and/or removable storage media

In addition, depending on the measurement, it may also be important to be able to:

  • Acquire Vehicle Bus data (CAN, J1939, ARINC, FlexRay, ...)
    • Synchronized collection between vehicle busses, analog, and digital channels
    • On-the-fly decoding of vehicle data for use in real-time calculations, triggering, etc.
    • Support I/O of ECU Protocols for direct ECU data logging (CCP, KWP2000, ...)
  • Distribute the measurement "system"
    • Digitize close to signal sources to minimize cabling and electromagnetic signal interference
    • Distribute high speed (imc CRONOSflex via EtherCAT) and low speed (imc CANSAS via CAN-bus) analog interface modules
  • Survive Harsh Environments
    • Extreme temperatures (-40 to +85 °C) and humidity (0 - 100%RH)
    • Vibration and Shock tolerance (e.g., MIL810F)


A large number of individual measurement points can be spread throughout a wind energy installation. The distance between a measurement point situated in the tower and another in the rotor blade can easily exceed 100 meters. Using long measurement cables, however, has disadvantages due to the predominance of electromagnetism. They are susceptible to interspersions and the falsification of signals.

With imc CRONOSflex we offer a solution to this problem through a decentralized and distributed measurement system consisting of local amplifier and storage components. The devices can be assembled quickly and flexibly according to individual requirements directly at measurement points throughout the entire wind energy installation. The shorter cables reduce the possibility of disturbance. Communication between various components takes place via disturbance-resistant digital busses such as CAN or via Ethernet.

The imc CRONOSflex measurement system provides an ideal platform for this. Its network-based modular system architecture means that all modules can be distributed and synchronized throughout the entire wind energy installation.
imc CRONOSflex offers the additional capability to process, link and analyze the measurement data in real time. This allows specific conditions and parameters of the installation to be calculated and displayed live while the measurement is taking place. Analysis therefore does not need to be carried out separately in a later step. It is synchronized, readily available and presented in visual form simultaneously with the primary measurement data, and it is always uniformly managed together with this data. The sources for these calculations can be analog channels or data fed in from the control system via CAN or PROFIBUS.

This ensures a complete overview of the current state of the wind energy installation and its individual components. Furthermore, because the results of an analysis are available continuously at all times, it is possible to intervene directly in the test whenever a need arises.

imc Test & Measurement is an Axiometrix Solutions company.