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Advancing Auto Testing with Interface Measurement Solutions

What classifies as the automotive industry involves a complex and dynamic mix of suppliers, makers and designers of all types of vehicles, as well as prototypes of the changing demands and requirements of consumers both big and small.  Whether we look at where we are today with hybrid and electric motors, or autonomous rigs and people movers in test now, one thing that is constant is Interface’s role in providing vital measurement solutions for testing and real-time performance monitoring in the automotive and vehicle markets.

Automotive is one of the industries in which Interface has worked with since the introduction of our first load cells more than five decades ago. Force and torque measurement is critical to testing at every stage of design and manufacturing. Our sensor solutions, instrumentation and accessories are used across all facets of component development, including the testing of engines and exterior bodies, tires, batteries, fuel pumps and more.

Interface products are used for crash walls, brake testing, energy storage tests in the lab, seat belt and headrest testing, just to name a few. The fact is torque and force play a major role in making the vehicle move and ensuring it’s safe for drivers and pedestrians alike.  Interface is showcasing some of these solutions at the upcoming Automotive Test Expo. Registration to attend is free.

As the industry evolves, so do we. In fact, our advanced product AxialTQ was created for the automotive industry for testing of EVs. This revolutionary torque transducer is now used in all types of line production, assembly and part, including:

  • Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Lab Testing and End of Line (EOL) Testing
  • Drivetrain Lab Testing
  • Automotive Accessory Lab Testing
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) Motor EOL and EV Lab Testing

For more about this dynamic product, you can watch our latest AxialTQ Webinar here.

Interface supplies high quality, precision load cells to automotive manufacturers, including custom one-off sensors and special application-specific designs. Standard off-the-shelf models such as our 2400 series , our 3200 series Stainless Steel LowProfile™ Load Cells, and our WMC Miniature Load Cell family are popular with machine builders and used anywhere a rugged stainless steel load cell is required.

Research and development facilities with precision applications favor our 1200 Series LowProfile™ Load Cells with their special moment compensated design. These are used in auto manufacturer assembly lines in a variety of production monitoring and verification applications. Our exceedingly accurate LowProfile™ Load Cells have been used in NASCAR and IndyCar garages for testing individual springs and entire vehicle suspensions.

A moment compensated Interface load cell has as much as 1,000 times less error from side load or moment as our competitor’s products. And many of our sensors feature 10x mechanical overload protection, which helps protect against unintended loads. Our Model BPL Load Cell is a very LowProfile™ load cell used for measuring force on gas, brakes or clutch pedals.

With a wide range of automotive vehicle load cell sensors, force and torque measurement capabilities, and features such as moment compensation, temperature compensation, and mechanical overload protection, Interface can help you design a solution perfect for your automotive application. In fact, here are a few examples of our products in action.

Airbag Connector Testing

Testing airbag connectors functionality is needed ensure perfect deployment to meet the ultimate test of saving lives. There are eight to twelve connectors installed in each vehicle, and tests are needed to be made in order to clarify the connectors are working effectively. The amount of force needs to be tested in order to see when an electrical current has triggered use.  Utilizing the WMC Sealed Stainless Steel Miniature Load Cell to the actuator of the test rig. The airbag connector is held in place at the bottom of the test rig. Forces are applied and measured using the 9330 High Speed Data Logger as the connector is pushed down to latch together.  Read more about this use case.

Seat TestingSeat Testing

During testing there was consistent overloading and replacing of the single-axis load cells. After a thorough inspection, it was discovered that this was due to bending moments that had never been quantified so a multi-axis sensor was defined as the best solution.  An Interface Model 6A68C 6-Axis load cell was installed in their existing test machine. The 6-Axis Sensor was intentionally oversized allowing the customer to measure the unidentified bending moments while preventing any damage. Data Acquisition and Amplifier BX8 was used to graph, log, & store the data collected at the sensor. Read more here.

Automotive Headrest Testing

When a manufacturer for automotive head rests wanted to test the durability of their products by conducting several fatigue tests and force tests on the head rests to make sure it meets durability and high-quality standards, Interface was able to help. The solution was to install Model 1000 Fatigue-Rated LowProfile™ Dual Bridge Load Cell to the customer’s actuator mechanism. This load cell is perfect for fatigue testing and reports highly accurate results through the fatigue cycling. The results are collected by using the SI-USB Universal Serial Bus Dual Channel PC Interface Module, which synchronizes the data directly from the load cell and the string pot (for measuring distance) to the customer’s computer. Using this system, the head rest manufacturer was able to get highly accurate data through the fatigue testing cycle. Watch the testing video in action!

 

Engine DynamometerEngine Dynamometer

Internal combustion engines are by far the most common power source for land vehicles. From a 2-stroke motor in a lawn mower, to a V-8 stock car engine, horsepower and torque are the benchmarks of engine performance. Engine manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers use an engine dynamometer (dyno for short) to accurately measure an engine’s performance. An engine dyno isolates an engine’s power output to help quantify its overall performance, applying a load directly to the engine and utilizing a load cell to measure the torque absorbed by the loading mechanism. Horsepower is then calculated using the torque and RPM of the engine. To conduct this test, a precision S-Type Load Cell is attached to a torque arm which “feels” the torque from the engine loading system. The Interface Model SSMF is a great choice because it is fatigue-rated for a number of fully reversed cycles and is environmentally sealed to withstand harsh environments. Utilizing the Model CSC Signal Conditioner provides a clear signal to a data-acquisition system. Using this test solution, the load cell reacts precisely with the amount of torque being produced by the engine and provides accurate signals to the data-acquisition system. Engineers are then able to analyze the power transfer for the engine and optimize for performance. Read more about this solution here.

For additional automotive solutions and use cases, go here.

Force Measurement Solutions for Mobility Markets

One of the tenets in addressing urban mobility is innovation.  As populations grow around the world, addressing how people get from here to there is part of a challenge and opportunity.  Investments are growing in this sector, as experts and designers look to how to increase efficiency and performance in vehicle markets.

Interface has long been a supplier of test and measurement solutions to industries that play a critical role in mobility, from vehicle manufacturers to infrastructure planners and builders. In our latest case study, we look at some of the innovative ways our solutions are being used to advance technologies and capabilities in transportation.

If something moves, it likely needs force and torque testing for reliability, safety and performance. With the evolving trends in urban mobility, Interface is working with makers and builders of all types of transportation solutions for unmanned vehicles like drones and autonomous vehicles, as well as alternatively fueled and electric vehicles.

READ OUR NEW CASE STUDY: INTERFACE’S CRUCIAL ROLE IN VEHICLE AND URBAN MOBILITY MARKETS

Interface customers utilize our standard and custom products in the vehicle and mobility markets to:

  1. Test the force and torque of components for validation or for design improvements
  2. Integration of sensor technology into a component or product for functional real-time performance data

These products include Interface load cells, mini load cells and subminiature load button load cells, rotary and reaction torque transducers, instrumentation, and accessories. For the growing trends for digital requirements in testing and OEM solutions, our wireless and Bluetooth solutions are commonly used in these markets.  Interface is also frequently engaged on specific customer requests for engineer-to-order products and customized solutions.

Here are four use case scenarios of Interface solutions used in the vehicle and mobility markets:

Brake Pedal Testing

Interface’s Brake Pedal Load Cell BPL-300-C was installed on a brake pedal and then connected to a BTS-AM-1 Bluetooth Low Energy Strain Bridge Transmitter Module, which collects and transmits data to our BTS Toolkit Mobile App. This solution allowed the customer to record and review data from a mobile device while out on a test track. READ MORE HERE.

Drone Delivery Systems

Interface supplied four WMC Sealed Stainless Miniature Load Cells to measure the payload weight and  for the detection of in-motion shifting and uneven distribution of the package weight. As the load cells detect this data, it provides a signal to the propeller to increase RPMs on the propellers and adjust balance and weight distribution inflight. WATCH HERE.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Battery Testing

Compression testing performed on EV batteries is critical for performance and safety. As an EV battery is charged and stores more electrons, it swells. If the packaging housing the batteries does not compensate for this swelling in the design, failure is likely. Interface can supply a WMC miniature load cell. The load cell will measure compression force as a battery goes through charge cycles on a test stand to determine the force given off as the battery swells. This allows our customers to design the proper packaging for the batteries. Read more about the future of EV markets and testing here.

Engine Performance Testing

Force and torque sensors are used with a dynamometer, which isolates the engine’s power output to help quantify its overall performance.  In this application, a  precision SSMF Fatigue Rated S-Type Load Cell is attached to a torque arm to “feels” the torque from an engine loading system. The fatigue rating on the load cell allows it to accurately measure performance for extended cycles. A signal conditioner is used to connect out from the load cell to a computer to ensure clear transmission of data to accurately measure torque being produced by the engine. Engineers analyze power transfer through the data output to tune the engine performance. Check out this engine dynamometer application note here.

Contact our experts to learn more about these types of testing applications, use cases and products used in urban mobility projects.

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 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

The Future of Automotive is Electric

Interface has been a longtime provider of force measurement solutions that help engineers develop the technology of tomorrow. One of our main areas of expertise during our 50 plus years in business has been in solutions for the automotive industry.

Interface has helped to revolutionize design and efficiency in this industry using our high accuracy test and measurement solutions. With the increased need for sustainable electric vehicles, we have set our sights on advancing this high-growth area in automotive.

“Less than 5 percent of vehicles sold in 2016 were equipped with EV power trains. Major OEMs have announced that they’re aiming to bring that number above 50 percent by 2021.” McKinsey Quarterly, February 2019

Electric vehicle design and manufacturing requires a precise level of accuracy in order to improve energy efficiency, minimize weight and maximize vehicle range. Battery technology has only come so far; therefore, maximizing power output is the key to improving vehicle design. To achieve this, test and measurement solutions need to be as accurate as possible.

Interface provides high accuracy torque transducers, load cells, load washers and more for two areas of electric vehicle testing: laboratory testing to optimize system performance and production testing to ensure product quality.

Interface’s Role in Vehicle Testing

Laboratory Testing

In laboratory testing, Interface force and torque measurement products are used to achieve high-efficiency in component and system designs. While electric vehicle designs are already very efficient, minimal design adjustments can make a difference to increase total range from a single charge. Making small incremental changes in efficiency, therefore, requires very accurate measurement capability.

Applications of our products in the laboratory environment include maximizing the system performance of electric vehicle drivetrain components, such as motors and gearboxes. As well as performance in auxiliary systems, such as air conditioning compressors and motors, power steering motors, and even brake systems. Accurately measuring the force of dynamic systems like suspension components allow the designer to minimize weight to improve overall vehicle range and performance.

Production Testing

Once the components are moved into the vehicle production phase, Interface solutions are used to ensure the product has been built per the design.  Our products can be used to measure the steady state, as well as the dynamic performance of components and systems.  Using measurement systems they can trust gives customers the confidence that the components and systems meet the performance and dependability expected for the vehicle design.

The key to electric vehicle design is balancing the relationship between efficiency, performance, and cost.  The further we can make electric vehicles go on a single charge, the more attractive these vehicles become for mass markets.

Optimized efficiency requires the most accurate measurements available to our customers and this is where Interface excels. Jake Shaffer, Senior Product Manager

In October 2018, Interface released AxialTQ, specifically designed to help in the transforming vehicle market, including electric and autonomous vehicles. You can read about AxialTQ and view this revolutionary next-generation torque measurement system in action here:

If you are interested in scheduling a demonstration of the product or inquiring about Interface’s precision solutions like AxialTQ that we are providing for force measurement testing of electric vehicles, contact us today.

Contributor:  Jake Shaffer, Senior Product Manager at Interface