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4WD Dyno Cell Construction Blog.
(Part 1... The assembly challenge)


After many years of waiting, the unit directly opposite us finally became available and a plan was hatched. We have spent far too much time and money over the years hiring other peoples dynos as and when required and also, with us doing more development on new models than tuning older ones nowadays, a dyno is a really useful tool to have at your instant disposal due in no small part to the fact modern OE ECU's cannot be emulated and mapped live, so require a lot of back to back testing which takes up a lot of time. Since this unit is next to ours and is the ideal place for us to put one, we snapped it up and got to work.

Having operated a dyno professionally ourselves prior to opening MSD, having over 110 installers of our own around the UK in our Evolution Chips installer network, many of whom have dynos and also having visited and used most of their dynos for one thing or another, we are in a pretty ideal position to understand what does and doesn’t work, so we can use not only our own technical knowledge of the subject but also the knowledge we have acquired from owners of dynos spread out across all aspects of the tuning arena from diagnostics to race teams... and we can apply this knowledge to our installation. This way, funds permitting, we can ensure we get the most useful dyno environment we can afford to build within the constraints of our new building.

So, to begin planning, we need to look at the aspects that must be covered as the project progresses. So we built a checklist of requirements.

The dyno itself only really needs to perform 3 duties well.

  • Hold a 2wd or 4wd vehicle securely.
  • Read the tractive effort the vehicle has at its wheels.
  • Supply all necessary engine and power data to the operator.
  • Record all data for future reference.
The dyno CELL however, has to do a lot more. It needs to:
  • Provide an easy access environment for the dyno.
  • House the dyno cooling system.
  • Provide a cooling airflow to ensure the heat is removed from the engine and drive-train.
  • Provide enough airflow to turn over the air in the cell at least 600 times an hour but preferably 900.
  • Provide extraction of exhaust gas separately... ideally 100% extraction leaving no exhaust gas in the cell.
  • Maintain a constant cell ambient pressure identical to that outside the building, neither too negative nor too positive is acceptable.
  • Provide any necessary soundproofing if required. (Our biggest headache)
  • Provide a safe customer viewing area.
  • House any cameras etc used to record the runs.
  • House any connectivity that the operator may need to perform the job. (PC access - monitors - Tools - etc)
The Dyno choice itself was tricky, there are quite a few good ones out there within budget and functionality seems to spread out from very little, to far too much. Wideband AFR for two separate tailpipes was a must of course, but as we tend to develop for newer platforms, we really wanted OBD2 monitoring and graphing functionality as this gives us the ability to monitor such things as engine knock, fuel rail pump pressures, boost and airflow meter outputs, EGT, spark and injector duration, to name just a few of literally many hundreds of parameters available on thus equipped vehicles alongside power output etc on the dyno screen in real time, and that is absolutely invaluable when creating new calibrations in vehicles you have never seen before. To have this all from one OBD socket will be perfect.

This aspect narrowed down our search quite a lot and sadly moved my search away from the Dyno Dynamics analogue DS450 that I was initially opting for... But after long discussions with DD themselves, we ended up opting for their as yet unreleased Dynotech 4wd fully digital platform. They demonstrated the 2wd unit in our new building and, satisfied all was well, we signed up for assembly of one of the first 4wd versions to leave their factory. In fact, ours will be the first 4wd Dynotech in Europe to be up and running.

So, the Dyno choice is sorted, that was the relatively easy bit. Now how do we create an environment that it can perform its best in? Well first I figured it wise to spend some time brainstorming with the staff and friends and building up my list of common dyno cell problems to avoid, and in doing so i came up with the following requirements for my own cell.
  • The engine cooling fan must not just be circulating room air around.
  • The cell extraction fan must not just be circulating room air around.
  • The engine must not be allowed to see any exhaust gas at its inlet ever.
  • The customers and operators must not be subject to any exhaust gas ever.
  • The engines inlet air must be as close to outside air ambient temp & pressure as possible.
  • The various atmospheric pressures etc must be accurately set and programmed into the dyno automatically for every single run.
  • The cell must be self contained and as small as possible to aid air transfer while maintaining a safe working environment for staff.
Allied to the above criteria, I also had my own list of things I wanted to incorporate into the cell such as:
  • HD video recording form various angles.
  • The ability to burn that video to a USB key for a small fee for the customer.
  • Maximum soundproofing to keep the neighbours happy.
  • A stockroom / packaging room to ease the burden in my other unit.
  • A training room to give 1on1 and group training to our Evolution Chips network installers.
  • A separate area that can be developed into an engine dyno cell at a later date

With the above list of aims for the project, we began work.
It's going to be tricky to achieve as the unit space we have doesn't lend itself at all well to the above criteria. But as always, we are going to do our best within the constraints we have.

Here is the new unit that will become the dyno cell. This is how we took it over.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

My first job, is to get the dimensions of the dyno and draw it all out on the floor with a high tech resiliant substance (Masking tape) to see what we have to play with.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

It immediately becomes apparent that we are going to have to move the stairs, and the current front office.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

So, we demolish / move those as necessary, and book a demo with dyno Dynamics who bring their 2wd unit down for us to play with for the day. Planning via specifications is all well and good, but there is nothing like the real thing and it certainly has us thinking of a few things we had not considered.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

Sadly, ceiling clearance being one of them. That upstairs is going to have to be ripped down and moved backwards a few feet to accommodate commercial vehicles as we do a lot of vans and other large vehicles. Nothings ever quite as simple as first perceived... Anyone know a good reliable steel worker? A petrolhead friend called Andy Cross fits the bill and comes in and gets to work, doing a bloody good job in record time.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

When Andy has finished, we have an upstairs structure that will support a space shuttle and a downstairs area that has enough height for the commercials we often work on. Bloody brilliant work, well pleased, thanks Andy.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

The pictures get sparse from here as we all work into the night every night turning this building into 6 separate areas which I mock up on a CAD program to aid in assembly:

  • Dyno cell
  • Reception area
  • Office spaces
  • Fan Room
  • Training Room
  • Mail Order Room

We all get to work installing a lot of wooden structure to build the framework for the new cell.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

And of course, the occasional stop for refuelling, courtesy of various fast food establishments and wives.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

The finished cell structure looks like this. It looks small, but its planned that way on purpose. The smaller it is, the easier it is to keep cool. Its going to need to stay cold in here with large high powered cars under load for hours on end, so the smaller we can keep it, the better it will work as the simple fact is, more cubic feet of working space means more cubic feet of air needing to be extracted to keep the temperatres down. In the case of dyno cells, less really is more.

Stewart Sanderson Photography: Dyno Cell Construction &emdash;

This kind of work went on for weeks, and was beset with a few teething problem’s here and there as this is the first project of this size we have ever turned our hands to. There were no outside contractors used in the planning of this cell, I planned out every inch of it myself as it had to work the way I wanted it to, or not at all. With the construction almost finished, its time to turn our attention to stage 2. Dealing with the problematic acoustics.

Please visit part 2 here...

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