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Force Measurement Solutions for Advanced Manufacturing Robotics

One of the most significant trends in advancing manufacturing is the use of robotics for smart factory automation. These types of machines are designed and coded to perform a variety of mundane and repetitive tasks on a manufacturing line or within an industrial facility. This allows humans to utilize their skills to work on more complex and productive tasks.

These activities are often characterized as picking, assembly, labeling, packaging, finishing work and inspection. Integrating robotics into manufacturing has many benefits including improved workplace safety, increasing productivity, and reducing material waste and costs. Interface uses robotics in our advanced manufacturing efforts in the assembly and building of world-class sensor technologies that are used around the world.

As with all points within a factory, there are many tasks that are very simple, while others can be very intricate requiring precision. As tasks become more difficult, the accuracy of the robot’s functionality is incredibly important. This is when sensors and precision measurement become instrumental to automation.

To ensure supreme accuracy, force measurement sensors are being used to improve processes as well as designed into robotic systems for monitoring performance data in real time. Force measurement sensors help manufacturers optimize the activities and tasks assigned to automated functions.

Popular types or robots used in advanced manufacturing environments using Interface load cells and our force measurement solutions include:

  1. Articulated – Often used in assembly, these robots have rotary joints to allow for a range of motion. Sensors such as mini or load button load cells are used in the testing and actual embedded in the joints to measure force and pressure.
  2. Gantry – These robots have three linear joints that move in different axes The X, Y, Z measurements are often tested with multi-axis load cells as this cartesian robot requires accuracy and precision.
  3. Cylindrical – This type of single robotic arm moves up and down, often stabilized by a cylindrical rod. They often are used in assemblies, welding, and handling of materials. These are tested with load cells for their ability to articulate the movement with exactness.

Interface products are playing a big role in manufacturing automation, especially in the design and development of robotics that use measurement in performance. They are used in all types of industries including automotive, medical, agriculture, and of course general manufacturing.

We supply a wide variety of sensors that measure force, torque, pressure, pulling force and more. We also are well-known worldwide for the accuracy and reliability of our products, making us the perfect fit for high-precision robotics applications.

Here are a few application examples where force measurement provides enormous value in testing and using robotics to advance manufacturing.

Industrial ArmIndustrial Robotic Arm in Production Line

Robotic arm solutions are becoming commonly used on production lines. When a manufacturer of a robot arm needed to measure force and torque when the arm picks up and places objects, Interface supplied a Model 6A40A 6-Axis Load Cell with Model BX8-HD44 Data Acquisition and Amplifier. The 6A40-6 Axis Load Cell was able to measure all forces and torques (Fx, Fʏ, Fz, Mx, Mʏ, Mz) and the BXB-HD44 Data Acquisition Amplifier was able to log, display, and graph these measurements while sending scaled analog output signals for these axes to the robot’s control system. This helped the customer optimize the multiple forces on the robot needed for moving objects on the production line. Read more about this solution here.

Robotic ArmRobotic Arm

This customer needed to lift and move delicate objects, like a glass bottle, in an automated environment with a robotic arm without causing damage to the objects that are being lifted and moved. Delicacy was the key here. Two ConvexBT Load Button Load Cells were used in the grips of the robotic arm to measure the amount of pressure being applied to the object it is lifting and moving. The DMA2 DIN Rail Mount Signal Conditioner converts the signal received from the 2 ConvexBT Load Button Load Cells from mV/V to volts to the PLC Controller which tells the robotic arm to stop clamping pressure when a specified amount of pressure is applied to the object. The two ConvexBT Load Button Load Cells accurately measured the amount of pressure applied to the object the robotic arm was lifting and moving without causing any harm or damage to the object. Watch Robotic Arm Application Note and read more here.

More robotic applications are being tested every day. Interface is proud to be able to supply the necessary technology to enhance production lines, improve shipping and logistics operations and speed up repetitive processes with robotics so workforces can thrive and develop skills that advance manufacturing overall.

Additional Resources

OEM Industrial Robotic Arm App Note

Automation and Robotics Demands Absolute Precision

Robotics in Play with New Animated Application Using ConvexBT

Interface Solutions for Robotics and Industrial Automation

Why Machine and Equipment Manufacturers Choose Interface

For innovators in the equipment and components manufacturing industry, data is everything. Quality data can make the difference between average and high-quality products and every bit of information gathered allows OEMs to make improvements that go a long way in performance and accuracy.

This is especially true in the design, test and evaluation of high-volume manufacturing where an increasing number of companies are implementing automation. To ensure consistent and repeatable quality, it’s important that there are capabilities to constantly gather data to monitor automated systems. If a machine is about to break or needs calibration, an automated system should be able to notify them without any human intervention.

How does an organization get more performance measurement data to improve its manufactured products? The answer we know best is with precision sensors. Sensors of all types, sizes, and shapes are being integrated into a wide variety of machines, equipment, and products to gather analytics that improve design and manufacturing. Interface is proud to contribute to this growing wave of big data requirements through our force and torque sensors.

Force sensors can be used in a number of different applications to help enable automation of certain process and systems. Essentially, force sensors are used as part of a controlled feedback loop. When a force is placed on a part within a product, the sensor can tell an electronic system to make something else happen.

As a simple example, force sensors could be placed inside of a large industrial dumpster outside of a manufacturing plant. When the dumpster nears full capacity, a signal could be sent to an automated compactor within the dumpster to make more space. It could also merely notify a waste management company to come and empty the dumpster.

Interface has worked on a number of what we call “OEM Solutions.” This term basically refers to our products that are typically high volume and have Interface sensor technologies integrated into the design and production. We often custom engineer and engineer these solutions to fit the exact requirements of the innovators and product design teams.

As a end-to-end manufacturer, we build to spec, manage the supply chain of sensors, and inventory for our OEM customers. When engineered-to-order requires thousands of products, they can rely on Interface as a trusted partner. Included below are a few examples of products that we provided our products to advance use, performance and quality. Read more about our custom OEM solutions and capabilities here.

Interface OEM Solution Examples

This first example is the design of force sensors in prosthetic limbs. An Interface force transducer provides feedback from a knee or elbow joint and tell an electric motor to move the limb in certain ways. This would allow someone without an arm or leg to have a wider range of movement and enjoy a variety of new capabilities.

Another example is the use of force sensors in the energy industry. Interface sensors can be used to optimize the process of energy production and extraction. In this scenario, a force sensor measures the rate at which the machine removes the source and provides data that tells the operator the most effective rate for getting the most most volume without overloading the mechanics. Not only does this allow for a more efficient process, it also adds another layer of safety to people and the environment. Interface was selected as the top energy solutions provider.

An interesting consumer packaged goods application example we provided a solution for included multiple Interface SPI Platform Scale Load Cells installed on a machine that filled potato chips into a bag. Force results from the potato chips are read by the load cells and sent to an ISG Isolated DIN Rail Mount Signal Conditioner. The supplier is then able to control the automated production from their command center. Using this solution, the manufacturer can determine the weight of the potato chips being distributed into their bags with highly accurate results – meaning every bag of chips is consistent in the amount of chips and total weight.

These are all examples of OEM solutions that turn data into better efficiency or additional capabilities across three industries, while there are countless other applications for OEM solutions from Interface used in consumer goods, robotics and medical devices. From automation to quality control and safety, force measurement helps manufacturers create better products and better production facilities, resulting in a great customer experience.

Interface has invested a great deal of resources into our manufacturing processes and technologies to serve this market. We’ve improved automation in our facilities to lower costs and work directly with our customers to develop the perfect force sensor for every project that can be produced at volume. Not to mention, our propensity for developing the most accurate force sensors on the market mean high quality data and results every time.

To learn more about our OEM solutions, contact our OEM experts and let us know how we can help!
OEM Brochure Web

Force Sensors Advance Industrial Automation

Industrial automation heavily relies upon the use of sensor technologies to advance production and manufacturing. In the next phase of the industrial revolution, also referred to as Industry 4.0, gains in operational efficiencies are often rooted in innovative tools, robotics, and equipment renovations. These types of enhancements require use of interconnectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data. Interface is playing a significant role in enabling these advancements with smart force and torque measurement solutions.

Randy Franks at Sensor Tips poses the following question in a recent article: How can force sensing be integrated for Industry 4.0 upgrades?

“Upgrading facilities to industry 4.0 standards is one of the most significant trends in the manufacturing industry today. To do this, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are pushing hard to renovate their facilities with connected, automated devices and machines to create greater efficiency and cost savings. Smarter devices can ease the transition.”

He continues in his post to note, “For Industry 4.0, force measurement solutions providers are integrating actuators that move and control a mechanism or system with load cells to create fully automated force test systems.”

Illustrating how this work, Randy writes about manufacturers of mobile devices using force measurement testing automation to pressure test touch screens with the new Interface ConvexBT miniature-sized load button load cells

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Interface Promotes Key Leaders to Expand Services, New Markets and Innovations

Interface, the world’s trusted leader in technology, design, and manufacturing of force measurement solutions, announced this month key leadership changes within the organization. Ian James was promoted to chief operating officer (COO), Brian Peters was promoted to vice president of Global Sales, and the role of Mark Weathers, vice president of Interface’s Mini and 1923 Wireless products, is now leading advanced manufacturing and OEM solutions. These executive promotions are key steps to drive Interface’s sustained growth across multiple product lines, as well as its expansion into new markets and industries.

“Ian, Brian and Mark represent our breadth of leadership within our organization,” said Greg Adams, CEO, Interface. “In alignment with our entire Interface team, they are instrumental in growing our position as the leader in premium, accurate, and reliable force measurement solutions. Our company is fueled by our dedicated employees and I am honored to be part of their continuous efforts and commitment to provide the high-quality products and an exceptional customer experience for all of those we serve.”

Despite disruptions caused by the global pandemic in 2020, Interface continued to find new ways to help customers across multiple industries. The company launched one of its most innovative load cell products to date in ConvexBT, and expanded manufacturing and global sales of its international G Series SI-based load cell product line. Interface also expanded its automation and high volume, engineered-to-order production capabilities, and added manufacturing representatives GenTek and Hill and Company to improve in-market sales support in the U.S.

Ian James is a seasoned senior executive with a background in manufacturing and systems. After spending the early part of his career in the UK military, he held a series of senior roles in GE before founding two successful startups. He has worked with Interface since late 2017, most recently as vice president of sales. In his new role as COO, James sees his primary challenge and opportunity as leading the transformation of operations to a new and robust manufacturing model that will help the company serve its customers with world class products supported by an unbeatable customer experience.

Brian Peters served as a successful regional sales manager before his promotion to vice president of Global Sales. Peters is now responsible for the worldwide sales network for Interface, including U.S. manufacturing representatives and international distributors. Stepping into his new role, Peters looks forward to bringing over a decade of direct experience to steer Interface’s continued efforts of industry leading customer support and targeted market growth in the test and measurement, industrial applications, and OEM markets.

“As we navigate the current dynamic landscape, it’s critical that we remain agile to stay in front of changing market demands and customer requirements,” said Peters. “Our diversification across a wide range of industries has provided us both stability through the pandemic and wide-reaching insight as markets are recovering. Interface has already experienced ramping growth in early 2021, and our ability to outpace and out service our competition will be vital to Interface maintaining the gold standard expectations set by our customers and the force measurement industry as a whole.”

Mark Weathers has extended his leadership role in Interface’s focus on automation and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) business solutions. His expanded role is a result of his continued achievements as vice president of Interface’s Mini and 1923 Wireless production groups, where he has been able to cut lead times for some of Interface’s higher volume products by 50% or more. This title change reflects the company’s new strategic priorities of growing its higher-volume custom OEM business, and the closely related improvement of its technology and manufacturing processes to improve cost and performance.

“The VP of Advanced Manufacturing and OEM products is an extension of my former role as VP of Mini and 1923, which are largely OEM products. My role will be to prepare us to be more competitive by innovating in both product and process, resulting in cost positions that allow us to move into higher volume OEM applications,” said Mark Weathers, vice president of advanced manufacturing and OEM products.

NEWS ARTICLE: Interface Promotes Three, Expanding Roles for Innovations, Services and New Markets

PRESS RELEASE: Force Measurement Solutions Leader Interface Announces Executive Promotions Supporting its Continued Growth and Expansion