AERA Super Webinar Tech Recap with Total Seal, Comp, and EFI U

Recently, the AERA Engine Builder’s Association held what they call a “Super Webinar” which featured four individual presentations on advanced engine topics from some of the industry’s leading figures. While not everyone may have had the time to attend the virtual conference, AERA has made the entire webinar available for free, after the fact, HERE.

Since we know five hours can be a huge amount of time to devote to a conference, even after the fact, we’ll bring you a breakdown of each presentation, along with the start time in the presentation. That way you can watch in chunks, and target the presentations which apply to you.

  • Lake Speed, Jr., Total Seal Piston Rings: “What is Tribology, And Why You Should Care” — 00:28
  • Billy Godbold, COMP Cams: “Beyond the Specs, What To Consider When Picking A Camshaft” — 1:43
  • Keith Jones, Total Seal: “Cylinder Honing for Modern Rings in the 21st Century” — 2:58
  • Ben Strader, EFI University: “EFI Considerations in High RPM Engines” — 4:16

Lake Speed Jr. — What is Tribology, and Why You Should Care

Many who know Lake Speed, Jr., know his background is in oil science. However, with his recent move to Total Seal Piston Rings, he has gotten a whole new market to focus his wealth of knowledge on. “Piston Rings are my new favorite thing!” he exclaims as he dives into the tribology specific to those parts.

Tribology — the study of friction, wear, and lubrication — is more than just oil, Speed points out very early on in the presentation. Lubrication itself, especially in piston rings is dependent on a combination of variables, including the cylinder and piston ring base materials, any coatings that have been applied, along with what everyone naturally associates with lubrication – the oil.

Speed breaks down the stages of lubrication, and where each stage exists within the engine itself, because choosing the right form of lubrication starts with application, or to use Speed’s favorite phrase, “application dictates chemistry.” Speed then moves on to more piston-ring-specific tribology concerns, such as different coatings on different parts of the piston ring, and why different coatings are desirable.

In addition to discussing some material science as it relates to cylinder wear and break-in, Speed then explains how an object’s velocity plays into its behavior in oil, and explains the absolute abuse piston rings have to endure as they speed up, slow down, come to a complete stop, and reverse course anywhere from 10 to 100 times per second in the average engine – about as far from a steady-state as a piece of machinery can get.

From there, Speed breaks down the keys to proper lubrication: the right oil, in the right place, at the right time, in the right amount. He also expands on the lifespan of oil, and the factors which affect it.

Billy Godbold — Beyond the Specs, What to Consider When Picking a Camshaft

While we have covered much of the new technology referenced by Billy Godbold in our recent articles on COMP Cams’ new Low-Shock Technology and how it performs on the dyno, Godbold spent a significant amount of time explaining how they created that new technology, and the systemic approach used.

At the core of the new Low-Shock Technology is increased valvetrain stability and the improved performance that stability ultimately creates. Godbold and his team put a lot of time and effort into creating new cam-lobe profiles which gradually load the valvetrain, instead of hitting it like a linebacker at full speed. That has resulted in cam lobes which, with the same duration-at-.050 and gross-lift numbers as older lobes, make more power.

While a large part of the improvement does, in fact, come from COMP’s new lobe shapes, that is a gross oversimplification of the research and development that went into the new camshafts. Starting with camshaft materials (which we discussed a little bit here) Godbold dives into the differences in alloy composition and their corresponding physical properties

From there, Godbold moved into the largely underappreciated subject of camshaft surface finish. The subject of surface finish often starts and ends at the Ra value, but as Godbold explains, there is so much more to it than simply average roughness. Godbold dives into the micro-measurements of the face of the camshaft, evaluating and explaining the importance of several different variables.

Then, Godbold moves the spotlight to the supporting systems of the valvetrain, and how COMP has developed them using the same low-shock approach as they have with the cam lobe shapes. Camshaft deflection, lifter deflection, and beehive and conical spring development, and the associated stability improvements they offer the system are all touched on in the complete systems approach.

Finally, Godbold dives into how to modify your camshaft selection process with the newfound stability offered by the most recent rounds of development. Some long-held truths require some tweaking to take full advantage of the new system’s benefits.

Keith Jones — Cylinder Honing for Modern Rings in the 21st Century

With all of the modern advancements being made in both engine block (specifically cylinder wall) and piston ring materials and design, it only stands to reason that cylinder honing technique and methodology would change as well. After all, the best piston ring in the world is of little use in an inadequate bore, explains Keith Jones of Total Seal.

First, by explaining all of the advancements being made in the manufacturing side of piston rings, as well as all of the new, modern materials being used, it starts to make sense that piston ring technology in 2020 is a far cry from that of previous generations.

While cylinder finish plays a major part in engine break-in and ring-seating, it is only part of the equation. The modern advancements in ring design have altered some of the other required components in the break-in equation. Rather than just telling you what needs to change, Jones dives deep into each of those variables, explaining how they’ve changed, and how that change affects the process as a whole.

A bulk of Jones’ presentation expands on a concept that Godbold touched on, and that’s the different measurements related to surface finish. We published an article that touched on several of the different measurements and their importance here[], but Jones’ explanations dive much deeper, no pun intended.

A great aspect of the surface finish discussion was the explanation of not only what the different surface measurements are, and what they look like at a microscopic level, but what the different surface conditions affect. Jones uses real math and force numbers to illustrate why a given finish results in a given failure mode during break-in.

Ben Strader — EFI Considerations in High RPM Engines

When you hear Ben Strader’s name, more than likely, you think of high-RPM. With his pioneering efforts in project Spinal Tap — the 11,000-rpm-plus LS engine — and his willingness to share everything he’s learned along the way through EFI University, it’s no wonder that he has been called the High Priest of High-RPM.

In this presentation, Strader focuses specifically on issues relating to electronic fuel injection encountered at extremely high engine speeds. The first discussion point is triggering the engine systems at high RPM. First, Strader explains the basics of a proper EFI triggering system (containing a cam position sensor, crank position sensor, and ECU to handle all the data) and how each sensor component works to give the ECU a complete picture of the engine’s current state.

He then explains the issues he’s encountered on his journey to 11,300 rpm with the LS engine, the first of which is a hard-coded factory ECU limit of 8,000rpm. Once that hurdle was overcome, Strader faced a phenomenon known as Hall-effect saturation, where the ECU receives too much data, and it stops being able to resolve individual impulses. Thanks to his experience with NHRA Pro Stock teams, Strader shares his solution for Spinal Tap.

Next, Strader tackles the issue of a single coil and distributor setup compared to individual coils per cylinder. First, Strader explains what is happening with the coil between discharge events by defining coil idle and dwell times. Then, he busts out the arithmetic to define exactly how much time there is in a single engine cycle.

An injector data table, like this one from Injector Dynamics, contains invaluable information when choosing a fuel injector for a high-RPM application. There is so much more to the injector than its static flow number.

Then, he explains, how in that short amount of time, the coil must fire eight times — once per cylinder — in that shot time. Combined with the coil discharge time, Straders simplified math shows that with a standard coil and distributor setup, spark energy is lost above 5,000 rpm, just based on available engine cycle time.

To solve that problem, capacitive discharge ignition systems offer a significant increase in spark energy. However, Strader explains that the distributor itself can still be a limitation. Instead, a coil-per-cylinder system allows for extreme timing changes for smoother boost-dependent timing functions and rev-limiting, as well as significantly more ignition power per cylinder.

Addressing the third point on his list, Strader dives into injectors, their rated fuel flow, and their offset times. An injector’s static flow rating is only one factor that determines its suitability for an application. More important than total flow, in a high-RPM setting, is the injector’s offset time — or the time it takes the injector to actually respond to commands from the ECU. This section of discussion is worth the price of admission alone, as it gives you an understanding of a concept most people never even discover.

While we realize that five hours might be a large chunk of time to invest, AERA’s Super Webinar is well worth the time investment. Especially considering it’s free. So, head on over and register to download the presentations. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent fifteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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