Getting Started with Simcenter Testlab

New to Simcenter Testlab?  This article is aimed at helping new users get started!

1. How to Start with Simcenter Testlab?
   1.1. Starting Analysis
   1.2. Starting Acquisition
   1.3 Shortcut Suggestion
   1.4 Defaults and Saving
2.    Projects
3.    Sections
4.    Runs
5.    Reporting

​​​​​​1. How to Start with Simcenter Testlab?

Double clicking on the Testlab start icon opens a folder, with many other folders! (Figure 1)

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Figure 1: Clicking the Testlab icon opens a folder of the many different types of acquisition and analysis modules of Simcenter Testlab.
What to select next depends on the task to be done:  acquire new data, or analyze previously acquired data?:
•    Desktop – Open the “Desktop – Standard and Advanced” icon if analyzing previously acquired data. Any type of analysis program can be started from within the Desktop.
•    Folder – If acquiring data, open a folder of for the appropriate type of test.  This is described in more detail further ahead in the article.

While the Simcenter Testlab Desktop is a great starting point for the Simcenter Testlab software, only processing modules of the software can be used.  If acquiring data with SCADAS data acquisition hardware, the appropriate software modules must be started, Data acquisition software modules cannot be used from the Desktop.

If the software is not yet installed, see the Knowledge article: “Simcenter Testlab: Download and Installation Instructions”.

1.1 Starting Analysis

Simcenter Testlab has many dedicated software modules for data processing: Transfer Path Analysis, Modal Analysis, Operational Deflection Shapes, Time-Frequency Wavelets, and more…

The analysis capabilities can be accessed in one of two ways (Figure 2):

  • Add-in: After starting Testlab Desktop, activated the add-in for the desired analysis software module.
  • Icon: Find the desired analysis software module icon in the folders and doubleclick on it to start it.
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Figure 2: Starting the Desktop and selecting the “Modal Analysis” add-in (left) is the same as starting from the Modal Analysis icon in the “Testlab Structures Analysis” folder.
To save clicking around in the folders, it is easiest to start Testlab Desktop.

After starting the Simcenter Testlab Desktop (by clicking on the icon Desktop – Standard and Advanced), any analysis software module can be run by selected “Tools -> Add-ins” and turning on the module as shown in Figure 3.

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Figure 3: Starting the Desktop and selecting the “Modal Analysis” add-in (left) is the same as starting from the Modal Analysis icon in the “Testlab Structures Analysis” folder.
Turning on an add-in requires a license of the software module.  If using token licensing, the description at the bottom of the add-in menu indicates the number of tokens occupied while the add-in is turned on.

Often (but not always) turning on a software processing module via the add-ins results in new workbook items being created at the bottom of the screen (see Figure 4).

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Figure 4: After turning on the “Modal Analysis” add-in in Simcenter Testlab Desktop, new workbooks are created along the bottom of the screen.
The workbooks form a series of steps that can be followed from left to right.  These are the steps in the process to perform a particular task.

For more information, see the following knowledge articles:

  • Simcenter Testlab Token Licensing: How Does It Work?
  • Creating Custom Workflows in Simcenter Testlab

1.2 Starting Acquisition

If using Simcenter SCADAS hardware to acquire data, the Simcenter Desktop cannot be used.  A specific data acquisition software module must be started (Figure 5), based on the type of acquisition to be performed.

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Figure 5: A software module from the appropriate folder must be selected in order to acquire data using Simcenter SCADAS hardware.  In this example, Signature Acquisition will be used to acquired time, waterfall, and order data.
 Some examples of data acquisition software modules and where to find them:
1.    Testlab Signature folder: Acquiring time data or a runup?  Interested in orders and colormaps?  Use “Signature Acquisition”.
2.    Testlab Environment Folder: Closed loop vibration shaker test with sine, random, or shock?  Open the “Testlab Environmental” folder and then doubleclick on the icon of the appropriate control mode.
3.    Testlab Structures folder: Doing a modal shaker or impact hammer test?  Open the “Testlab Structures Acquisition” folder and select the “Impact Testing” icon to do a modal hammer test.

When selecting a data acquisition module, the software starts with a “gray screen” where nothing is active. Press the white icon in the corner to start with an empty default project as shown in Figure 6.  
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Figure 6: After starting a data acquisition module, click on the white icon in the upper left to start with a default empty project.
 The software should open fully.  If using a Simcenter SCADAS with ethernet connection, the network connectors should blink rapidly, indicating that the software and hardware are communicating.  

The software will read what hardware is present and configure the channel setup appropriately as shown in Figure 7.

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Figure 7: Channel Setup workbook is adapted to the currently attached hardware on start up of an acquisition software module (in this case Simcenter Testlab Signature).
If communication is not successful, a message “Testlab failed to make a connection with the hardware frontend” is given. See this forum post for ideas: “Cannot connect to SCADAS hardware.”

Some more resources on using Simcenter SCADAS hardware:

  • Simcenter SCADAS Recorder and Mobile
  • SCADAS XS: Everything You Need to Know!
  • What’s In the Box? Getting Started with Simcenter SCADAS

1.3 Shortcut Suggestion

Clicking on multiple folders can be avoided.  For example, create a shortcut on the Windows Desktop to be able to start Simcenter Testlab Desktop directly as shown in Figure 8.User-added image
Figure 8: Create windows shortcuts in the Start menu (Pin to Start) or on the Desktop (Create shortcut) for Simcenter Testlab applications that will be used frequently.
 Or pin the Simcenter Testlab Desktop icon to the Windows start menu.

1.4 Defaults and Saving 

After starting Simcenter Testlab, a default empty project called “Project1.lms” is opened.  This is similar to how Microsoft Word starts with a default empty “Document1.docx” or Microsoft Powerpoint starts with “Presentation1.pptx”.

After starting a new project, it is highly recommended to save it right away and give the project a proper name.  If the software was to crash, and the project file was not saved, the unsaved project is located in the temporary folder of Windows and is difficult to find.

Choose “File -> Save As” to give the project a name as shown in Figure 9.
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Figure 9: To save a project file, choose “File -> Save As” from the main menu.
 Project files (*.lms) can be stored in any directory. The default directory for the save as can be set under “Tools -> Options -> File Locations” from the main Simcenter Testlab menu.  Set the directory under the “Project Data Folder” setting.

To open projects that have already been created, choose “File -> Open” and navigate to the directory containing the *.lms files.

If the project has been used recently, it can be opened by simply clicking on it under the File menu as shown in Figure 10.
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Figure 10: Recently used projects are shown under the File menu of Simcenter Testlab.
 By clicking on the project name, the project is opened directly saving time.

2. Projects

A project file (*.lms) can contain many different types of items, including sub-sections, multiple sets of test data, acquisition settings, and analyzed data (Figure 11). Projects are the highest level of data file in Simcenter Testlab.
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Figure 11: Contents of a project file (my_test.lms) shown in Simcenter Testlab Navigation tree. Project is the highest level, followed by sections, then runs/analysis.
 The project file my_test.lms shown in Figure 11 contains the following:

  • Section: Even though the project is one file (*.lms) it can contain dividers, or sections, to organize the data.
  • Runs: When data is recorded (press Start to record then Stop), a run is created. The run can contain both processed data (order cuts, spectrums, etc.) and raw time data (throughput).
  • Geometry: A three-dimensional representation of the test object used to animate the data.  This is not always present.
  • Analysis: Operational Deflection Shapes or Mode Shapes

The data hierarchy of Simcenter Testlab is as follows: Projects -> Sections -> Runs/Analysis. Only one geometry per project is allowed, and it is stored at the project level.
When starting a project, templates can be used with presets instead of the empty default projects.  See the knowledge article: “Simcenter Testlab Templates”.

Sections are discussed next.

3. Sections

Sections, which are subdivisions within a project file, are managed from the main Simcenter Testlab toolbar as shown in Figure 12.
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Figure 12: Project my_test.lms with two sections: Baseline and Modification1.  Sections can be created, named, and deleted using the toolbar.
 Every project is automatically created with a section called “Section1”.  In the toolbar of Simcenter Testlab:

  • An active section can be selected.
  • New sections can be created.
  • Sections can be deleted (not the active section).
  • Sections can be renamed (not the active section).

A user is not obliged to use or create additional sections pas the default.  Sections are user optional.  

For example, a user could create sections called “baseline” and “modification1” to help organize the data within the project:

  • The section “baseline” could be used to collect data on the existing product.  
  • After making modifications to the product, a new section could be created called “modification1” to collect additional data.  The new section would help keep the data separate from the original acquisition.

This can be done with using sections, but a user could also opt to make separate projects for this purpose.  The sections are offered as a convenience in this regard.

Each section also contains acquisition and processing settings.  Settings include the channel setup, sampling rates, windows, duration are stored in each section of a project independently as shown in Figure 13.  
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Figure 13: Left – Section called “baseline” with 7 channels, Right – Section called “Modification1” with 4 channels.
 When creating a new section, the current section settings are used as the default.  Any changes made to the section settings after the section is initially created only affect that section.

When data is acquired, a new run is created within the active section.  Runs are discussed next.

4. Runs

Each time the START button is pushed in acquisition software of Simcenter Testlab, a new “run” is created. Runs are stored in the active section of the current project.
Runs are created doing measurements in a data acquisition software module as shown in Figure 14.

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Figure 14: In a typical acquisition software module of Simcenter Testlab, an acquisition run corresponds to one recording session from Start until Stop (buttons lower right).  The recording will have the run name provided (upper right).
 A run is a continuous recording of data from the when the START button is pushed until the STOP button is pressed (or acquisition times out).

Run data can never be overwritten, even if the same name is provided for the run.  A number will be generated at the end of the run name which is incremented automatically.
Runs can have two parts as shown in Figure 15.
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Figure 15: A Simcenter Testlab run can have two parts: processed data and throughput data.
 The data in a recording run:

  • Processed Data:  Anything calculated during the acquisition (spectrums, orders, FRFs, etc).
  • Throughput: Usually a “Time recording during acquisition add-in” must be ON.  This results in raw time data be acquired and stored in parallel with the processed data.

The raw time history data, or throughput data, appears to be stored in the project file when viewing within Simcenter Testlab. In reality, the time data is stored outside the project file (*.lms) as shown in Figure 16.
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Figure 16: Left – Time throughput data appears to be part of the project when viewing from within Simcenter Testlab.  Right – Time throughput data is actually stored outside the project file (*.lms) in directory with same name as project.
 Storing the time histories outside of the project helps keep the actual size of the project smaller.  However, when copying a project file within Windows explorer, it is important to copy both the project file (*.lms) and corresponding directory together. If they are not copied together, the viewing of throughput data from within the project file will no longer work.

5. Reporting

After data is acquired, it can be viewed in the Navigator workbook as shown in Figure 17.
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Figure 17: The Navigator workbook (1) is used to view data.  After opening a display (2), data indicated with a blue icon can be dragged and dropped into the display (3).
 To view the data:

  1. Go to the Navigator workbook
  2. Open a display layout for viewing the data by clicking on one of the icons.
  3. Drill into the project until data blocks are shown.  Data blocks have blue icons on the left side.  These can be dragged and dropped into the display.

The picture can be copied and pasted into Microsoft Office.  A useful feature of Simcenter Testlab for reporting is an active picture (Figure 18).
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Figure 18: Active picture allows data to be zoomed, interrogated with cursors, integrated, weighted, and more.
 For more information on active pictures and reporting in Simcenter Testlab, see the following knowledge articles:

  • Simcenter Testlab Active Pictures
  • Simcenter Testlab: Format Based Printing with Powerpoint
  • Simcenter Testlab Batch Reporting

Questions?  Email or contact the