Modern Ignition & Data Acquisition - How It Works

Making Horsepower is the Easy Part. Getting it Down the Track Reliable Requires a Way to Control that Power, and Today’s Modern Ignition and Data Acquisition Systems are the Secret.

Stephen Kim Feb 6, 2012 0 Comment(s)
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Accessory Modules

Todd Ryden: One unique feature of the Power Grid system is that it can be upgraded with several accessory modules on an as-needed basis. The advantage of eliminating the slew rate and dots functions from the Power Grid controller (PN 7730) is that it makes it legal in most race sanctioning bodies. However, we’ve made separate accessory modules that easily connect through a CAN-bus connection to add the slew rate and dots features back into the system. MSD also offers accessory modules for boost retard and manual launch control. This way, a racer only has to pay for features they want to add rather than having a bunch of programs and options they don’t need or will never use.

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Easy Connectivity

Todd Ryden: The slick CAN-bus arrangement of the Power Grid system makes it extremely easy to wire up. CAN-bus, or Controller Area Network, is a technology used in most late-model cars and a feature that our sister company, Racepak, has used for years. It allows for a single harness to transfer data to different sensors and controls to ease wiring and connections. In short, you can connect three different modules into our CAN-bus hub, and although they will each provide different accessory controls with features to adjust, they don’t need to all be routed separately to the Power Grid module. They all attach through the same connector. This saves a lot of wiring and eliminates the need to duplicate a lot of sensors, saving racers time and money. For example, the MSD ARC Module simply plugs into the CAN hub and if a racer is using a Racepak system, we can use the same driveshaft sensor that the Racepak is recording data with. No duplicate sensors are needed. This is just a glimpse of the many possibilities coming down the road with MSD and Racepak.

Need for Data Acquisition

Tim Anderson: Data acquisition used to be the exclusive territory of multimillion-dollar professional race teams, but Racepak has made that same technology available to the sportsman, grassroots racer. Although data acquisition isn’t really necessary for the average street car, it becomes more important as your racing efforts become more serious, and almost mandatory in competitive racing classes. A reference we often use is that the human body works well as a data sensor. What we mean by that is the driver can detect a number of inputs through seat-of-the-pants feel, but as a data recorder the human body does not work so well. There are just too many events happening during the course of a run for anyone to remember and recall all the details. In addition, there is no way to know what is happening inside the engine, or underneath the car, in terms of things like shock travel, driveshaft rpm, air/fuel ratio, and exhaust gas temperature without a data acquisition system. In some respects, the need to acquire data during a race isn’t that different from running a dyno. How many dynos are operated with just a tachometer, oil pressure gauge, and water temperature gauge? None. The reason is because in order to make intelligent tuning decisions, data acquisition is critical, both on a dyno and on a race car. As the racing effort becomes more serious, the output of money typically follows. A failure on a $50,000 engine is much more costly than a failure on a $5,000 engine, so the ability to make intelligent decisions becomes more critical.

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