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Experiment 20 (01/01/03)- Project RX7 - Computerised Instrumentation System
© Engineer Xavier Borg - Blaze Labs Research
This page shows a few details of my final year university thesis project work which I had designed during 1993 at the completion of my Mechanical & Electrical Engineering courses. My thesis covered the part concerning the computerised instrumentation system. The rest of the mods in the engine compartment were done later on as a hobby. Not a research related project, but shows how engineering can be real fun.
The (at that time brand new) third generation rotary engine Mazda Efini RX7 seemed most suitable to carry out this project on, as it had a lot of useful and easily to be tapped into electronic sensors, readily built-in for use by its factory ECU (engine control unit). The aim of the project was to show that current display and electronic technology could be used to replace the old fashioned analogue and mostly mechanical instruments by a totally solid state, more functional system, which would be more visually pleasing, whilst capable of verbally and visually communicating malfunctions to its driver via voice synthesis. The LCD screen was manufactured OEM in Japan. All the project work was performed in my own electronics workshop.
High brightness and contrast VGA LCD display can be viewed in direct sunlight
The system is built into a modified RX7 cluster hood. I have got the hood shell from Japan in order to keep the original analogue hood intact. The new instrumentation display was than mounted on a piece of 2mm thick aluminium, leather coated and glued over this shell, giving a flawless factory looking instrumentation hood.
Window on central part of the screen operates in 5 modes
Functions covered by the system are:
Fuel level (left bargraph)
Battery voltage (left bargraph)
Oil pressure (left bargraph)
Engine revs (central bargraph)
G-force meter (central bargraph)
Speedometer (central digital)
Trip counter (central digital)
Odometer (central digital)
Gear position (central digital)
Date, time and ambient temperature (alphanumeric)
Turbo boost pressure (right analogue)
EGO sensor (right analogue)
Engine temperature (right analogue)
Catalytic converter overheating indicator
Alternator charge function indicator
Oil level indicator
ABS system function indicator
Radiator fluid level indicator
Rear window demister indicator
Brake/ brake fluid level indicator
Six buttons provide access to all functions and modes
Central window display can plot various functions in real time:
Mode 1: Plots Turbo boost pressure vs RPM
Mode 2: Plots BHP vs RPM
Mode 3: Sytem information
Mode 4: Plots Torque vs RPM
Mode 5: System self diagnostics mode
Apart from the visual indicators, 20 different malfunctions can be reported by a (female) synthesised voice messaging system. An optional voice recognition interface has been also designed, but actually I have never found any useful purpose for it other than to start the engine.
Other mods done later (not part of the instrumentation project) to reliably achieve 300BHP using the stock ECU and stock rotary engine and turbos.
All aluminium intercooler ducting for improved airflow
Upgraded intercooler for reduced intake temperatures
Cusco tower brace, extra ground and hyper voltage system
Fan timer to eliminate baking hood components after power down
The fan timer (next to the four fan realys) activates the low speed fan after the engine is turned off. The unit activates itself only if the underhood temperature exceeds 60 degrees celcius and times out after 10 minutes or when the temperature is brought down to 40 degrees, whichever comes first. Actually Mazda did try to add this timer function on later models, but it seems that it never got it to work properly, so I decided to make my own. Also shown is an engine torque damper, which reduces the torque stress of the engine over its mountings and over its transmission when driven hard. Brake cylinder support reduces brake spongy feeling, I think this is more effective than changing to steel braided brake lines.
Slotted/ dimpled rotors for reliable braking
These brakes help a lot when something happens while overspeeding at over 200km/hr!