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What is New in Custom Solutions

Here at Interface, we make it a priority to adapt to the needs of our customers in any way possible. Each year we gather vast amounts of data and feedback to address changes in the marketplace and advancements in technology. Often, this comes in the form of new product releases developed specifically with our customer’s most significant needs in mind. However, new product releases take time for development, testing and release. When customers need to address a challenge quickly, we turn to our innovative custom solutions team.

No matter the project, chances are there is a customized force measurement product to fulfill the requirement. We work directly with our customer’s engineering and testing teams to understand the challenge and offer alternative solutions to off-the-shelf products. Our dedicated engineers and measurement experts, along with supporting company resources, and advanced engineering lab give Interface the competitive advantage to make any force measurement application work with what we have to offer.

We provided a brief overview of our custom solutions offerings and process a past blog. Today’s post provides an update on what’s new in custom solutions:

New Custom Solutions Offerings

Among the most significant changes to custom solutions is our growing engineered to order offerings for OEM customers. To best serve these customers and testing engineers with premium and affordable force measurement solutions for use in components or products, Interface now offers engineered to order capabilities for the masses. Engineered to order means Interface can deliver force and torque measurement solutions from our massive catalog that are modified to meet the features, specifications, and cost that our customers require, while still retaining the premium accuracy, quality and reliability Interface is known for across every industry we serve.

Another exciting capability that Interface has recently added is the addition of more digital instrumentation communication options for collecting data from our products. We’ve added Models INF1 and INF4 signal conditioners with field bus capability that include CANopen, DeviceNet, CC-Link, Profibus, Profinet, Modbus, and EtherCAT. By adding this capability, our products can interface with networks that customers already have installed in their facilities.

Custom Solutions Applications

Interface customers continue to turn to our experience Custom Solutions Engineers to build systems that utilize a range of sensor technologies, communication devices and even frames and cases to provide a complete structure.  This includes a growing demand for uniquely pairing force and torque components that work remotely through wireless and Bluetooth technologies as well as delivering entire testing units that re mobile or can be used in the field. The possibilities are unlimited with the amount of products Interface in our catalog, including the possibilities of using new designs.

Every year we engage in a host of unique custom solutions projects with our customers. We would like to share of a few of our favorites with you.

Airplane Maintenance – Wireless Customization

When an airplane comes into the shop, engineers often must jack it up to perform maintenance. When you lift a plane, there is always a risk because you can’t put too much stress on the wings and fuselage. To ensure that the maintenance team members weren’t stressing the plane beyond its limits, Interface developed a solution to measure the lifting force of each individual jack used to lift the plane. The solution included a number of Interface Model 1200 Series Load Cell that would transmit the forces applied back to a base station. However, the customization came in the way data was transmitted to the base station. Typically, wires are used for transmission, but in this case, there were 21 load cells used on the lifting equipment. To avoid having 21 wires get in the way, Interface added custom capabilities to the 1200 series to allow it to communicate with the base station wirelessly.

Crane Application – Custom Programming

Lifting heavy objects can be a dangerous job for onsite workers, not to mention, pushing a large industrial crane too far can result in expensive damages and downtime. Therefore, when an Interface’s industrial customer needed to intelligently monitor a crane in the process of lifting, we helped create a custom program to do so. The custom application included a model 1280 and force measurement activated program. Whenever the crane was nearing a weight that was unsafe, an alert was triggered based on the force measurement reading that could either sound an alarm or shut the system down. This created an automated safety system using force data.

Additional Custom Solution Applications and Use Cases are available here. 

Custom solutions are key to Interface’s broad offerings that we provide when off-the-shelf solutions don’t provide exactly what is required. Our design engineers and manufacturing team is ready to work directly with our customers to provide a solution that is right for your project. To learn more, visit us at /custom-solutions/.

Contributor: Ken Bishop

 

 

Interface Solutions for Industrial Markets

The industrial market is vast. The industry classification covers everything from manufacturing and assembly to mining and agriculture. The highly regulated environments involved in industrial applications often require advanced equipment and technologies for product design and development, as well as after market performance management. Force and torque products are critical sensor components used in industrial applications.

Interface has been a partner to industrial customers for more than 50 years. We engineer, build, and supply force and torque sensors and acquisition devices designed to provide industrial engineers and manufacturers with high quality data that monitors and confirms the design and in-action processes of their equipment. Applications for industrial markets involve everything from heavy machinery to weighing solutions. The accuracy of these devices is critical to high-quality outcomes, low-costs and most importantly, worker safety.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS 

An example of an industrial process that requires an accurate force sensor is a crane application used in lifting heaving objects. Interface engaged with a customer who needed to measure the lifting capabilities of a crane using an Interface load shackle. The purpose of the shackle was to ensure the crane wasn’t lifting more than it could handle, putting worker safety at risk and potentially damaging the machine.

Interface model WTSSHK-B Wireless Load Shackle was connected to a crane load string to measure forces. A model WTS-BS-1-HA Battery Powered Handheld Display was used to wirelessly receive load information and display results. Using this solution, the customer was able to successfully measure lifting and reading weight wirelessly on a handheld display while the crane was in action.

Another great example of the industrial industry’s use of force applications can be seen in manufacturing automation. One of the growing trends in marketing automation is the use of robotics to replace repetitive human tasks. Robotic arms are often found on assembly lines and they carry out a single task over and over. If the robotic arm isn’t properly calibrated, it can ruin an entire production line and lead to significant losses. To qualify the accuracy, many OEM’s use load cells and torque transducers to continuously measure the intricate movements of a robotic arm.

One Interface customer used a robotic arm to close packaging on a production line. If the arm wasn’t accurate, it could apply to much force and crush the packaging or not close the packaging as intended, leading to losses in shipping.

Interface supplied a 6-Axis Load Cell with a model BX8 Data Acquisition and Amplifier System. The Interface Multi-Axis 6-Axis Load Cell was able to measure all forces and torques on every axis and the BX8 8-Channel Data Acquisition System was able to log, display, and graph these measurements while sending scaled analog output signals for these axes to the robot’s control system.

READ MORE HERE: FORCE MEASUREMENT IS REDUCING WASTE AND AUTOMATING THE CONSUMER PACKAGING INDUSTRY

Another consideration for specialized industrial applications is in harsh environments. There are hundreds of thousands of engineers and manufacturers that spend their days working in these environments. Whether its operating inside of facilities with large machines and intricate moving parts, working hundreds of feet in the air repairing a bridge, or deep within a mine shaft, these professionals put themselves in danger every day by the nature of their work. As engineers and manufacturers, many of us are also tasked to solve for safety challenges and keep these professionals protected in any environment.

One of the ways we contribute to industrial safety is with the development of our Interface Ex Rated Load Cells, also known as Interface Intrinsically Safe Products. These specialized load cells and force measurement solutions are designed and manufactured so that the materials and electronic components are safe for use in hazardous gas and dust environments when installed per applicable installation instructions. These components are designed for those applications found in dangerous environments in particular industries like oil and gas, mining, aerospace, automotive and more.

The applications for industrial vary widely because the industry is diverse. Interfaces designs and manufacturers force and torque products for hundreds of different industrial use cases and applications every year. Our team of engineers can even create custom solutions for new and innovative industrial requirements. Included below are examples of some of the products typically used by our industrial customers.

  • 2400 Load Cell Series – The 2400 is a stainless-steel load cell designed for applications requiring a hermetic seal for use in general industrial applications.
  • 3200 Load Cell Series – The 3200 precision stainless steel load cell series has all the features of the Interface Model 1200 LowProfile® (one of Interface’s most popular products) and in addition it is stainless steel and hermetically sealed for harsh applications.
  • SSMH Load Cell Series – Model SSMH S-type load cell provides a suitable force measurement sensor for applications in coal mining and transfer and other heavy industries where explosive dusts and environment conditions are potentially explosion-hazard rated. SSMH capacities available that provide intrinsically safe certification.
  • Stainless Steel Load Buttons – Interface’s load button load cells are designed for customers who require the measurement of forces in a very confined space. They are designed to provide the most accuracy in as little space as possible.
  • 5400 Series Reaction Torque Transducer Series – Model 5400 series features a rugged flange-style designed with thru-holes, low deflection, high torsional stiffness and the ability to withstand large overhung moments.
  • Wireless Telemetry System (WTS) – High accuracy, high quality measurement is interfaced with simple yet powerful configuration and monitoring software. The WTS gives sensor manufacturers and integrators the complete flexibility to build their own sensor modules around it. The system easily replaces wired systems, reducing installation and maintenance costs.

These are just a few examples of Interface applications notes and products designed for industrial applications. For more information on Interface solutions design for the Industrial industry, contact our experienced application engineers.

 

Understanding One-Cell Force Measurement Systems

When it comes to load cells and force measurement systems used to test and validate product designs, the options for different configurations is nearly endless. In fact, Interface has tens of thousands of force measurement products in standard, modified and custom-made configurations.

In our recent post, Considerations for Steel, Stainless Steel and Aluminum Load Cells, we detailed materials used in load cell construction. These considerations are important based on the project specifications for accuracy, quality and reliability in test and measurement.

Similarly, understanding the system configuration is another critically important factor to setting up the correct test for receiving accurate data.  A simple system configuration used for less-complex testing is known as one-cell or single load cell system.  They are popular for performance and durability testing.

How do one-cell systems work and what are the benefits and trade-offs?

One-cell systems are developed by using a tension cell and mounting it through a rod end bearing and clevises. If the cell is properly oriented with the dead end going to the support, the only other major consideration for this system is the elimination or reduction of possible parallel load paths. This type of simple system is attractive to some testing engineers and product designers because it is cost effective and can provide very accurate measurements when using Interface precision load cells.  It is important that the load meets the criteria for the test system.

In this figure, it shows a high-impact one-cell system platform. This one-cell system can withstand the high impact of rough treatment from certain applications such as large drums, LPG tanks and more.

The downside to using a one-cell system is that the center of gravity of the load must be placed directly on the mark for the system to work properly. However, this can be accounted for by positioning the fences as shown in the high-impact one-cell platform diagram, so that the center of gravity is located properly when the application you are measuring is shoved up against fences.

The actual load at the center of gravity for your application will be factored by the lever arm (as shown below):

The one-cell system works simply because the location of the center of gravity is under control. If the force on the primary axis of the load cell bears the same relation to the location of the center of gravity and the load under all conditions, the scaling will be correct. Whether using a one-cell or two-cell system, the system must be designed to retain its integrity.

This has been a brief overview of a one-cell system, which is detailed in Interface’s Load Cell Field Guide.

To learn more about these systems and to determine if your application test can utilize the simplicity and cost savings of a one-cell or two-cell system, contact our systems experts and application engineers.

Faces of Interface Featuring Ken Bishop

From the very beginning, force measurement has been a major part of Ken Bishop’s life. Growing up in Anaheim, California, his father worked for a company called Ormond, Inc., which produced load cells, rocket thrust stands, weighing products and scales. He got to know the people his father worked with and the cool technology they were working on. Therefore, it was no surprise that Ken would follow in his father’s footsteps shortly after graduating high school and working for Ormond himself.

Ken worked with his father at Ormond for five years. He held positions as a driver, an assembler, and then eventually worked his way into a technical management position. After Ormond, he took a brief break from the force measurement industry to join the expanding computing field. He worked at General Micro Systems, where he focused on single board computers. However, his true calling pulled him back and he rejoined the force measurement industry when he was hired at Sensortronics.

Sensortronics then became the first load cell company acquired by Vishay in 2002. Vishay is a global manufacturer of semiconductors and passive electronics and in the early 2000s they would end up acquiring three more load cell manufacturers after Sensortronics. Ken’s job became to work as a team member to consolidate the four companies in the Americas and create Vishay’s transducer group as the Operations Manager for the America’s. Ken oversaw this group for several years afterwards.

During his working career, Ken also began to focus on his post-secondary education. He took night classes for quite a while to earn several degrees. He started with an Associates of Science from Fullerton College. He then received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management, followed by a master’s degree in Business Administration, from the University of Redlands, in California.  His post-secondary education allowed Ken to excel faster in his career path.

After Vishay, Ken took a brief hiatus from the engineering world to get away from it all. He picked up and moved to Montana to enjoy the wide-open spaces and outdoor lifestyle. However, it was not long before the itch to make things returned. In 2006, Ken moved to Arizona and joined Interface.

Ken began his career at Interface on the sales team as an application engineer focused on the West territory. His job was to work with customers to deliver force measurement solutions for a wide variety of test and design challenges in the aerospace, industrial, medical, metrology and automotive sectors. He eventually worked his way up to become a senior application engineer.

During his time as an application engineer and senior application engineer, Ken realized that there were many customer challenges that could not be solved with an off-the-shelf solution. While Interface had worked on custom projects previously, there was no official department to head up the growing demand for custom solutions.

When the department was created, Ken was given the opportunity to become the custom solutions director. He jumped at the opportunity and created a solutions team that could meet the growing demands of Interface’s customers for systems and specialized products. Ken leads the development of custom force measurement solutions designed to meet the unique challenges of an evolving technology and manufacturing ecosystem.

If all this was not enough, Ken also leads the repair and recalibration services department with fellow Interface technical service manager, Chris Brandenburg. And, he has spent some time working on the marketing team. Ken has truly done and seen it all in the force measurement industry.

Evolving Urban Mobility Sector for Test and Measurement

Every day it seems we are inching closer to the Jetson’s utopia of flying cars, floating cities and robot butlers. Technology is evolving to the point where robotics and computers control most aspects of travel and mobility. That requires a lot of testing and dependency on accurate measurements for what is on the road and what is flying up above.

Interface has been long been working with leading manufacturers and suppliers of all types of vehicles traveling on the ground, across the skies, and into www.interfaceforce.com/solutions/aerospace. As innovations are removing old boundaries, one thing that remains constant is the need for test and measurement programs.

In the urban mobility sector, we are seeing growth related to rigorous T&M projects for everything from autonomous vehicles to manned rockets, as well as unmanned aircrafts and drones. Interface is proud to be a solutions provider to the engineers and innovators of these growing applications and sectors.

Arizona, the home to Interface’s headquarters, is considered a hub for new technologies and inventions in urban mobility, including autonomous automobiles, alternative-fueled vehicles, rockets and unmanned vehicles. There are dozens of companies with testing and research facilities located throughout Arizona, with countless self-driving vehicles testing and mapping streets throughout the state. In fact, the Institute for Automated Mobility (IAM) in partnership with Intel, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona, and other public and private organizations, is collaborating on state-of-the-art research in Arizona. The goal of IAM is to advance all aspects of autonomous vehicles from science to safety to policy.

Nearly every company currently testing and innovating autonomous vehicle technology in Arizona is a customer of Interface. We are providing everything from instrumentation to torque transducers, along with a large range of our standard precision load cells for all types of testing projects. Our custom solutions team also has been working with leaders in these markets.

Being on the forefront as a solutions provider for this sector gives us visibility into many of the applications. What we have learned is demand is related to advancing urban mobility to solve for increasing congestion and diminishing inner-city air quality. The 2019 Urban Mobility Report published by The Texas A&M Transportation Institute with cooperation from INRIX notes:

“Connected vehicles “talking” to each other, such as traffic signals and other systems, and providing this information to decision‐makers will provide unprecedented data and insights to identify and fix mobility problems. Newer model vehicles sense and adjust to their surroundings, increasing the safety and efficient movement of goods and people. Other technologies, such as The Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printers, Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will impact transportation systems of the future.”

As technology leads the way in urban mobility, the safety and performance of the vehicle are of utmost importance. There is no room for failure. The point is, the advancement of robotics, sensor technology, and computing power are becoming a driving factor behind a fully autonomous world in terms of how people and products move about the world.

Another area of increased T&M product demand at Interface is coming from the application of our force measurement products for moving objects in unmanned vehicles above ground. The advancement of drone technology for commercial purposes is seen through the adoption across diverse applications such as mapping, logistics, and surveillance. Interface load cell technologies have been used for flight and wing testing, load testing and a variety of force measurement projects. The drone market, for commercial applications,  is expected to grow to more than $7B through 2022.

Interface is well known throughout key global industries as the premier manufacturer of the most accurate and reliable force measurement products on the market. For urban mobility, accuracy is critical to maintaining safe, pilot and driverless, vehicles and with the advancement of high-quality robotics.

Our load cells and torque transducers are used to test and measure key data points such as balance and weight distribution, thrust and lift, and to optimize movement on robotic arms and legs.

Here are a couple of application examples where Interface is providing critical components to advance innovation in urban mobility

Aerospace and Defense

The aerospace and defense industries are among the earliest adopters of urban mobility technology. The defense sector has utilized drones for surveillance, tactical advantage and battle since the advent of the technology. Aerospace manufacturers have also implemented autonomy into many of their commercial and defense planes. Interface has been a longtime partner of the aerospace and defense sector, working with some of the largest OEM’s across the U.S., as well as internationally. Some of the capabilities of our products in the aerospace and defense industry include thrust tests, wing and fuselage balance, weight distribution and fatigue testing, landing gear tests and parcel delivery weight testing for drones.

Automotive

In the automotive industry, autonomous vehicles have been a critical focus for the past 10 years. The technology really exploded onto the scene over the past five years with key players like Google, Tesla, GM, and others making significant investments in the development and testing of autonomous vehicles. Interface products are used by most of the major automobile OEM’s throughout the world. In 2018, we released one of our most advanced products to date, the Axial TQ™, which includes capabilities uniquely designed for autonomous vehicle testing. Our services in automotive include bolt fastening, brake pedal force testing, engine torque testing and more.

Here are a couple of application notes and a case study that outlines how Interface products are used in this sector:

As the urban mobility sector continues to grow, more advanced travel and delivery systems will require precise weight and torque testing to ensure unwavering reliability. The less control humans have over land and air vehicles, the more we need to trust the construction and design of these vehicles using proper force testing. Interface will continue to grow as a key player in the space as more OEM’s turn to our services to optimize the development of drones, autonomous vehicles, and other urban mobility innovations.

Contributor: Kim Williams, Interface Business Development Manager

Interface Load Cells in Medical Applications

While quality and accuracy are always important when designing load cells, there is perhaps no industry where these factors matter more than in the healthcare and medical industries. At Interface, we take pride in creating precision force measurement solutions used in biomedical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as the manufacturing of medical devices.

We stop at nothing to provide customers with the most accurate force measurement solutions available to ensure patient safety, product reliability and accuracy in measurement.

Below are just a few examples of how Interface load cells are supporting safety in medical innovations.

Plasma Separation

Interface’s MBS low-capacity aluminum bending load cell is being used in plasma separation machines which must be calibrated for every patient in order to collect the right amount of plasma. The machine separates the blood in a centrifuge and a saline solution is pumped back into the patient. There are two load cells in each plasma separation machine, and they play a vital role in ensuring the accuracy of the process. This protects the patient’s health and well-being.

Stent Material Testing

Large testing rigs that contain approximately a dozen Interface load cells are used to test stents and heart valves that are surgically implanted into patients. The rigs subject the stents and heart valves to thousands of stress tests over months to determine their material properties. Stents stay in a patient’s body for the rest of their life, so accuracy and durability are extremely important. This application makes use of Interface’s MBP product line, which is overload protected. This product line is extremely reliable and has never had a reported fatigue failure.

Robotic Surgery

An emerging trend in medicine is the ability to perform surgery remotely using a robotic arm. Interface has been involved in the development of this technology and has created the modified custom load cells needed to enable the customer’s designs.

Designing for Medical Applications

Beyond just accuracy, there are several different considerations to make when designing and building load cells that can be used in medical applications. Factors such as traceability and the materials used are extremely important to our customers. All materials need to be certified and free of hazardous compounds. They also need to be able to withstand sterile environments where surfaces are constantly being sprayed with chemicals. There are several unique considerations and failure is not an option when it comes to devices that can directly impact patient safety.

Interface is extremely proud of our superior quality load cells and the fact that we are enabling medical innovations that are having a direct impact on improving, saving and changing lives. For more information about our high-quality, medical-grade load cells contact our Application Engineers. You can also learn more about our medical and healthcare use cases and products here: /solutions/medical-healthcare.

Contributor: Raymunn Machado-Prisbrey

Interface Accelerates Accuracy in Test and Measurement

Since Interface was founded in 1968, we have developed millions of load cells and torque transducers for engineers and designers that require the highest precision force sensors for accurate and reliable data collection in test and measurement (T&M). Our customers represent a wide swath of industries, products, equipment types, tools, and electronics that depend on us for proving accuracy, consistency, and reliability in performance.

The complexity of user applications and testing environments is rapidly expanding as a result of shorter product lifecycles and demands for smaller, lighter, faster-performing innovations. This has created a proliferation of new test and measurement use cases for sensors in almost every sector including technology, energy, and biomedical, as well as industrial, additive manufacturing and automotive verticals.  We are seeing more and more sensor products utilize Bluetooth technology, digital outputs, and direct OEM installations into the product without connectors.

Our products serve a wide variety of these types of test and measurement requirements used for structural and material testing, static and fatigue testing, torsion effects, tension tests and mass and kinetic energy. When experienced users see the Interface brand, they know they can expect the highest-quality results possible from the force measurement industry leaders.

The load cell products we provide T&M customers range from our  Ultra Low Capacity Series, which measures forces in mere grams, to our industry-leading LowProfile™ Load Cells with capacities up to 2 million lbf. For torque testing, Interface supplies a wide variety of torque transducers with ranges as low as 0.005 Nm and as high as 340K Nm. We customers depend on us for various multi-axis sensors, instrumentation products, accessories, tension links, load pins, and shackles. For complex challenges and unique applications, our customers work with our application engineers to create modified and customized solutions.

Test and Measurement Applications

To give you a sense as to the range of test and measurement use cases, here is a small sample of applications that utilize our standard and custom force measurement solutions:

  • Fatigue testing
  • Material testing
  • Suspension testing
  • Shear testing
  • Force testing
  • Tensile testing
  • Pressure testing
  • Friction testing
  • Durability testing
  • Tension testing
  • Device testing
  • Hardware load and fatigue testing
  • Force verification
  • Calibration

Included below are two examples of how our products were used to help our customer’s test and measure “real life” applications.

Harness Durability Testing

A customer came to us needing to test the load and durability factors of harnesses used by workers to carry heavy loads or those used in sports equipment. We developed a drop test apparatus using an Interface Model 1200 Load Cell. The apparatus dropped a humanoid dummy outfitted with the harness from various heights to measure the force generated during sudden stops at maximum cable extension. These tests helped our customer develop harness limits which inform users on unsafe loads.

Figure one: Interface drop test apparatus using the Model 1200 load cell

Prosthetic Load and Fatigue Testing

Medical hardware engineers are among the largest users of T&M equipment because of the stringent regulations in the industry. Interface developed a new solution to test heavy loads on prosthetic limbs to certify them for falls, accidents and athletic movement. These stress tests determine the expected lifespan of prosthetic components under normal usage.  Our solution involves a static load test apparatus with an S-type load cell attached to a hydraulic actuator which applies and measures cyclic loads. These tests help our customers determine whether prosthetic materials and designs will withstand the rigors of daily use and occasional high-load situations.

Figure two: Load test apparatus with an S-type load cell attached to a hydraulic actuator  

What we find most exciting about the T&M industry is continuous innovation, perhaps it is the “engineer” in us.  We like to solve, create, build, imagine and challenge ourselves. There are a wide variety of new applications we see every year, and yet many applications are unique.

Those that are in the test and measurement field help to guarantee product safety, reliability and longevity. Therefore, the tools they use are critical to the confirmation of their work. That’s why Interface builds products that reliably and consistently gather high-quality, accurate data for any application. For more information on our T&M offerings, or to discover more T&M product applications, please visit www.interfaceforce.com/solutions/test-measurement/.