“[Skydrol] is very unpleasant to work with. It stings. It forms a very fine mist and gets everywhere,” reveals an anonymous aircraft maintenance engineer of the widely used hydraulic fluid. “When you have a pinhole leak somewhere, and are trying to find it, you will get it all over you and itch for ages afterwards. It really should be banned as a health hazard to mechanics.” Sounds like lovely stuff, aye fellow geeks? Thankfully, mil/aero innovators like Goodrich Corp. are providing an alternative to harmful hydraulic fluids—and they’re harnessing electronic design automation (EDA) tools from Mentor Graphics to design, verify, and test these modern solutions.
Modern electric systems have their share of issues, as does any new technology in its genesis. Electric braking systems have limited field history and depend upon the aircraft for their power supply. On the plus side, these electric braking avionics enable flexible design methodologies; engineers are faced with fewer limitations and have more options. For example, sensors can be much more conveniently located near the brake system. Electric braking systems are modular and scalable, require less maintenance and enable easier maintenance, don’t use toxic chemicals, and are whole lot lighter than their hydraulic brethren.
So, this geek can’t help but ponder: What’s the hold up in industry-wide adoption?
Electric braking systems, like any avionics, must overcome myriad obstacles before they become commonplace. Switching from hydraulic systems is no mean feat. Engineers must contend with issues of: electronics cooling; power electronics; avionics packaging; size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints; digital controls; electro-magnetic interference (EMI) and noise; shock and vibration; contamination and security; and electronics’ best friend, thermal cycling.
These hurdles are not easily overcome, and require advanced tools and simulation systems, such as those provided by Mentor Graphics. These utilities help identify critical design issues early in the process and program, when fixes can be made with a smaller capital investment. This geek loves to save capital (show me the $$$) and use it for engineering challenges (check out Mentor Graphics Capital)!