Part 1: The Software:
Okay, so where to begin? One would normally say, "At the beginning..." but I'd think that would involve a great deal of boring tuning history. Well, maybe that really is the best place because without some of that history, some of this might not make any sense. LOL
To start off, I will say is that tuning has come a LONG way from where we started back in 1997 when I was working at Superchips, and we literally had almost no idea what it was we were changing. The tools we had back then offered no graphical interpretation of the data we were changing. We didn't even know what the actual engineering values were of the data we were changing or whether it was a fuel map, a timing map, shifting map, or a limiter. It was all "HEX" data in its purest form and we were making changes with the attitude of, "Hey, let's change this and see what it does!" We were hackers in the purest sense of the word. (Butchers might have been a more appropriate word!) Below is a screen shot of the first tuning software we used:
As you can see, it's not only just a bunch of numbers, it's Hexadecimal numbers. And to make it worse, 16 bit maps like this were viewed in 8 bit formats and the bytes were reversed (what we call "Little-Endian"). But as I said, this is what we had at the time. Although, somehow we made it work. For reference, this is the Oil Viscosity Compensation table that controls injection pulsewidth based on EOT and ICP.
From these early beginnings, using archaic and almost neanderthal tools, we were able to locate and identify enough calibration data to make 60-70 HP on the OBS trucks and over 100 HP on the S/D trucks. We were also able to locate enough shifting data to significantly improve the shifting characteristics, although it's not like ANYTHING that we have today. Early tuning was almost brute force. Sort of like using a sledgehammer to open walnuts. It was effective, but maybe a little too much. Anyway, this was how it was done for over 4 years. That is, until something better came along.
2001 saw the introduction of new tuning tools. The first was a software tool called GUI EECTuner. This was actually the predecessor to the SCT Advantage software which was written by David Posea, and offered the first definition format which stored the address and scales of maps, parameters, and functions, and allowed for an accurate, 3D representation of maps. For the first time we were able to actually produce some sort visualization for the numerical data. I had actually used this software to some extent, and while the 3D graphs weren't all that fantastic, it was better than nothing.
Shortly after the introduction of GUI EECTuner (mid 2002 or so, I'm guessing), I had come across a website that offered a different tuning software package. The website offered an application that was completely focused on high quality, 3D representations of the Hexadecimal data. The definitions were completely customizable and all the graphical data was scalable. This software was PCMX, and is what nearly all of the Ford tuning industry has been using since 2003. Now, this software was originally targeted for Gasoline tuning, and a number of definitions already existed for Mustangs, early F-Series trucks, and other Gasoline vehicles. However, there wasn't anything yet available for the 7.3L diesel. It wasn't until 2003 that we stared taking the data we had accumulated and began building and refining defintions for the Power Strokes. We spent several months developing these definitions and just about the time that we had started licensing PCMX and selling the defintions, I was offered a job to go work with Edge Products out in Utah. At this point, basically all development on the PCMX definitions stopped. Edge had orginally intended to support all our exisiting customers and dealers, but unfortunately they let all that fall by the wayside.
Somewhere around the same time that I went to work for Edge, SCT (Superchips Custom Tuning) had been formed as a branch of Superchips that dealt specifically with custom tuning. The idea was that SCT would provide their sizable software and calibration base and Superchips would provide the hardware. Unfortunately, the joint venture quickly soured and SCT broke off and continued as their own entity. The reason this is important is that at this time, SCT started releasing the first large-scale tuning application that offered 3D mapping, spreadsheet style data, linked mapped transfer functions, and integrated support for chips and programmers. Being built on the GUI EECTuner platform (or at least modeled after it), this software still lacked the high quality 3D mapping that PCMX offfered, but since SCT offered already built, custom tunes it wasn't really necessary for anyone to actually do their own tuning and the graphical data wasn't all that important. At least nobody seemed to think it was at the time.
Now, you're probably wondering, "What's so important about 3D mapping and why do we need now all this?" On the surface, it doesn't seem like it's all that big a deal, but the reality is far from that. One example of the importance of 3D mapping is very apparent in the following images:
(click to enlarge)
The map and data on the left are an implementation of an SOI table we pulled out of an early chip from an unnamed tuner (and NO, it's NOT
DP-Tuner... in case anyone feels like being a smart-alec) while the right calibration is an implementation of one of our own 80DD tunes. Looking at the spreadsheet style data, it may or may not be readily apparent that the mapping on the left is not smooth or linear. However, looking at the graphical map shows how jagged and uneven the left map really appears. By comparison, the map on the right shows to be much smoother. On top of that, the left map also shows to be really aggressive in the upper RPM range, although the spreadsheet does show the timing is aggressive as well. In any event, it's MUCH better than original way we used to tune which provided no real idea whatsoever of what the values were, graphical or otherwise.
Since the release of PCMX and SCT software back in the early 2000's, there have been a couple other applications that have been released that offer tuning in a 3D graphical format. Applications such as Paul Booth's EEC Editor (available from Moates.net), EFI-Live (which currently does not support Ford, but has a very usable interface), and a few others that escape me at the moment. The tools are getting better and better.
One thing I haven't addressed yet, but will in a coming segment, is how we use the calibration simulator to generate the output mapping which shows us the SOI Timing and Fuel PW curves we use to refine our tuning. This can be pretty in-depth stuff since it not only deals with the generated output, but also the order in which the data is processed to generate the output values. We feel that this needed its own segment due to the complexity of the processes.
Anyway, I hope that this information is helpful and gives you some idea as to why tuning today is considerably different than tuning that was produced back in the early 2000's. As the tools have evolved, so has the tuning. Of course, having the proper tools doesn't guarantee that any given person would know how to use them. There is still the issue putting the software in the hands of people that really understand how to use it: individuals that have a solid understanding of how an internal combustion engine (either gas or diesel) works and how each of the maps interrelate with each other to produce the anticipated output values for fuel, timing, shifting, and other functions, and how those outputs will affect the functionality of the engine. Thousands of mechanics use Snap-On tools, but only a few are talented enough to work on an Le Mans, NASCAR or NHRA race team while others I wouldn't let change the air in my tires.
Coming up next... Part 2: The tuning hardware. Dynos, testing equipment, emulators, and how they all work together.