EMA aids in developing cable harness testing system for planes, autos

Justin McKennon, center, principal scientist for Electro Magnetic Applications, discusses EMA's facility to be set up in the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield. The company has developed a system designed to accelerate the design and development of aircraft and automotive cable harnesses. Joining him in September are Pittsfield Business Development Manager Michael Coakley and Mayor Linda Tyer.

PITTSFIELD — A company building an aerospace testing chamber at the Berkshire Innovation Center has helped develop a new system for testing cable harnesses in aircraft and automobiles.

Electro Magnetic Applications has partnered with another company to develop a design-to-validation workflow system known as Ansys EMA3D Cable. The program is intended to accelerate the design and development of aircraft and automotive cable harnesses, according to Justin McKennon, EMA's principal scientist.

Cable harnesses are assemblies of electrical cables or wires that transmit signals or electrical power through an aircraft or a vehicle. Development requires time-intensive and costly certification testing on prototypes to ensure that they are protected from external electromagnetic sources like high-intensity radiated fields or lightning strikes.

This new system that EMA helped to develop is intended to reduce the risks that are placed on cable harnesses, cut their development time and increase product certification so they can be brought to market faster. EMA's partner on this new high-tech system is Ansys, a Pennsylvania-based company that makes engineering simulation software.

EMA's aerospace chamber is a 3-foot-by-5 foot steel chamber that will re-create an outer spacelike environment to test materials and equipment that are used on manned and unmanned spacecraft. The tests should help advance improvements to how those materials hold up in space.

"We're under construction, with the chamber parts coming in right now," McKennon said. "Hopefully, the chamber will be here by the end of July.

"What we're going to be doing with our space chamber is replicating the space radiation environment," he said. "What that does is cause differences and changes in materials as a function of time, and it can also interact with the cable and electronics on spacecraft."

The new system "is able to translate that environment into what happened to the cables," McKennon said. "The connection between the simulation and the real world is the kind of environment that we are simulating here."

"Ansys is one of the largest simulation software companies in the world, and the combination of EMA's and Ansys' technology will lead to substantial business opportunities for EMA in Pittsfield and Colorado," McKennon said.

EMA has five employees in Pittsfield. No immediate increase in the local workforce is expected, but McKennon said the new system will support EMA's continued growth and make it easier for the company to expand further.

Since arriving in Pittsfield last fall, EMA has received more than $200,000 in city money, including a tax break and an additional $25,000 in state tax credits.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-2755.