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Technology unites truck cab, chassis and attachments

Trucks Article October 23, 2003
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Truck manufacturers often produce vehicles that are
customized by truck equipment manufacturers (TEMs), or body builders, as part of
the integration process that combines a truck cab and chassis with specialized
body equipment designed for specific applications. For example, state
governments and private contractors often work with truck dealers, users and
third-party equipment manufacturers to design and install plows, spreaders,
bucket lifts and other equipment necessary to build and maintain the public
highway infrastructure.

Over the past several years, International Truck and Engine
Corp. has developed a multiplexed electrical control system that accelerates
and streamlines this chassis-and-body customization process. style="mso-spacerun: yes">

Called the International Diamond Logic technology platform,
this electrical control system is based on multiplexed electrical engineering
and has shown the ability to reduce operating costs and enhance performance for
highway maintenance vehicles and other vocational fleets. Over the past three
years, Diamond Logic has been improved and upgraded, enhancing the system's
ability to streamline vehicle integration and customization, connecting the
engine, transmission, cab and body on one wavelength of performance. style="mso-spacerun: yes">

This integration process may often be as simple as having a
TEM feature-specific switch activate an unused output pin on a vehicle
electrical system controller (ESC) to activate a specific piece of body
equipment. It also may be much more complex, creating software
"interlocks" that disable switches or activate signals on pins or in
network messages under certain conditions. For the body builder and user, the
advantages could be as simple as eliminating the need to splice into a wire, or
as complex as eliminating the need to pull the dashboard out of the vehicle, do
some custom wiring and replace the dash. The system also eliminates the need
for expensive, add-on third-party modules. Because of the variety of body
configurations across vehicle vocations, it became apparent that a more
customizable and programmable electrical system should be pursued.

Improving the health of self-diagnosing modules

The first stage of Diamond Logic technology, launched in
2001, introduced a multiplexed electrical system that contains new technologies
in components such as solid-state power switches, self-calibrating gauges and
low-current switch devices used for driver controls like rocker switches and
HVAC controls. The system is expandable through the use of remotely mounted
power modules and air solenoid modules.

In addition, these self-diagnosing intelligent modules
identify problems in the operation of the truck or its equipment, reducing
overall repair troubleshooting time by as much as 80%. For fleet managers and
technicians, that means improved reliability, wider intervals between
maintenance and repairs and a longer lifespan for the vehicles.

In 2002, the system was upgraded with Diamond Logic
Application Solutions, which streamlines customer productivity by allowing the
user or equipment manufacturer--in conjunction with a dealership--to order
factory installed electrical features that are specifically targeted at controlling
body equipment.

The term "configuration" refers to custom logic
that provides a specific electronic functionality for a vehicle. For example, a
configuration might be something as simple as lighting switches or as complex
as the controls for highway plow equipment.

These features are offered in broad categories such as PTO
controls, multiple modes of remote engine speed control, multiple-interlock
switches, audible and visual alarm systems and high-amperage output features.
In addition, other body integration features are available such as remote
start/stop and electric trailer braking. All of these features make body
integration faster and easier with increased functionality. style="mso-spacerun: yes">

This upgrade in technology allows equipment parameters to be
programmed among a set of pre-determined tasks, automating and customizing the
truck's performance. By electronically controlling operating limits, the
potential for equipment damage--and its associated cost--is greatly reduced.
For example, an operator can program a PTO to disengage at a certain
pre-determined engine speed or have cargo and work lights automatically turn
off after a pre-set time period.

Builder makes assembling easy

Diamond Logic Builder was unveiled this year, marking
another major step forward in the functionality of Diamond Logic technology.
Based on close collaboration with TEMs from many vocations, this new PC-based
program will allow body builders and users to write custom software, using an
easy-to-operate graphical interface, that controls body equipment in a manner
unique to an individual customer's operations. yes">

Beyond offering a set of pre-programmed features, Diamond
Logic Builder enables the body builder to develop a custom logic solution with
very little effort. Thus, "Relay Logic" designs, or the use of
third-party body control modules, become a thing of the past. Software
developed using the Diamond Logic Builder program is reuseable and may be
applied to multiple vehicles within the same fleet. The hardware modules are
factory installed and pre-wired; the body builder creates the software solution
that satisfies the user's body control requirements.

While improving reliability and durability, simplifying
maintenance and lowering operating costs have been the primary focus of the initial
stages of Diamond Logic. This latest advancement significantly streamlines
truck chassis and body equipment integration--and performance--for body
builders and users.

Add-on equipment and body wiring is connected outside the
cab at various locations to remote power modules. These modules provide a means
to get body switch information into the system and provide solid-state power
switch control outputs for driving body equipment. Rocker switches to control
these remote power modules are factory installed in the cab. A package of
switch labels is provided to customize the purpose of each switch. Therefore,
the body builder will no longer be drilling in the cab to route wires or find
locations for body switches in the instrument panel. This process extends the
system's diagnostic capabilities into the body equipment controls, which
translates to less time spent troubleshooting and repairing problems arising
from demanding and rigorous working conditions.

It can turn into anything

The range of programmable and customizable features means
the Diamond Logic electrical system technology delivers benefits at every step
of the vehicle customization process, but the most valuable benefits are not
realized until a truck and its equipment is put to the test in rigorous highway
applications.

First, the user benefits from an electrical system with
fewer wires, fewer connections and low-current switching, as well as on-board
and off-board diagnostic capabilities.

Second, these same capabilities extend to the body equipment,
with increased functionality in a lot of cases due to the ESC controlling and
sharing information from all the modules on the vehicle, including the body
equipment.

Most importantly, users reap increased productivity because
a single vehicle can adapt to multiple applications and equipment
configurations. For example, a highway maintenance truck can disengage its
spreader box and plow harness at the end of the winter, replace it with a dump
body or bucket lift for the summer season. The wiring harnesses in the vehicle
need only a slight adjustment, such as an added ground wire in one of the
configuration's harnesses that signals the ESC which configuration's
functionality is desired. The system then reacts like a chameleon by adapting
to the appropriate configuration.

The flexibility of the Diamond Logic system allows both
simple and complex customization with features that go beyond easy integration
of chassis and body electrical systems to accommodate an infinite variety of
vehicle configuration options. The result is a higher level of performance,
reliability and functionality for vehicles operating in the construction and
maintenance of the nation's roads and bridges.

About the author: 
Bissontz is an application engineer in truck electronics for International Truck and Engine Corp., Warrenville, Ill.
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