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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

Finding the Center of Gravity

Even after more than a half-century in the force measurement industry, Interface continues to find new  and innovative use cases for our precision products.

Recently, we were approached by a customer who needed help finding the center of gravity in order to optimize weight distribution and balance for a product in development. Our outstanding team here at Interface put our heads together to develop a unique testing method to help discover this critical data point.

One of the most rewarding experiences in managing our custom solutions is learning about a new customer challenge and developing a novel solution to address it.” Ken Bishop, Director of Sales and Customer Solutions, Interface, Inc.

For this specific use case, the customer had a cylindrical tank filled with material for which they needed to find the center of gravity. Because we were able to calculate the distance of the tank, we were able to understand the weight distribution and create a test to find the center.

The center of gravity of an object is calculated when the weight of the given object is concentrated into the center of the object. This is determined by measuring the weight seen by each of the four legs.  If the weight is distributed evenly, the material is in the center location.  This center location can also be referred to as the origin.

Utilizing a Model 1280 Programmable Weight Indicator and Controller, which is highly customizable instrumentation for any application, we were able to write a program to achieve our goal. We then placed two Model 1211 Standard Precision LowProfile® Load Cells on each end of the rack where the tank resided, using four load cells in total. Because we knew the distance of the object and had load cells to measure the weight at both ends, we were easily able to calculate and identify the origin point on the tank. In this case, the center of gravity.

Ken noted that during his tenured career at Interface, this was the first time he and the team had been tasked with finding the center of gravity in relationship to the distance for an object. As Interface’s team thought about how to develop the custom solution, they also considered additional applications in which this information could be beneficial.

The result of this successful test and measurement application, Interface considers the center of gravity analysis as a beneficial test to optimize flight performance of an airplane. This is important when there is that instant that a plane is not flying at max capacity. There may be open seats all around you, but in order to keep weight distribution in balance, the attendants may need to limit which seats are occupied during a flight. If planes were equipped with this type of sensor technology to calculate center of gravity, they could more evenly distribute weight and ensure optimal performance.  This same type of application can apply to any vehicle that moves on land, air or water with people or cargo.

SEE THE APPLICATION NOTE FOR CENTER OF GRAVITY TESTING

In the growing demands for urban mobility, unmanned vehicles and drone technologies, this type of testing application can help with vehicles, aircraft, space vehicles, boats and more with performance and safety.

Force measurement has a limitless number of applications to improve performance, maximize efficiency and even work in real-time to provide smart decisions. At Interface, we are discovering new ways to redevelop our load cell, torque and multi-axis sensor products for customized solutions to meet the growing demands for innovation.

Interface works with a wide range of industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, metrology and industrial automation by teaming up to create unique use cases and applications that require our custom force measurement solutions. If you have a unique project that requires a custom solution, please visit the custom solutions page on our site at /custom-solutions/ or contact us at 480-948-5555.

Contributor:  Ken Bishop, Sales and Custom Solutions Director at Interface

Tank Weighing And Center Of Gravity App Note
Drone App Note

Interface Customer Insights from Fall 2019 Survey

Twice a year Interface engages our valued customers to formally seek their feedback, insights, and future outlook regarding test and measurement. Our latest survey results show a continued demand in project-based force measurement technology, a growing need for innovation, and complete system and custom solution designs for OEMs.

In our continued commitment to customer experience, we surveyed thousands of Interface buyers to help us understand how we can best serve their needs today and in the future.  What we learned through this process is that accuracy, quality and trust remain constant when determining the types of force measurement products our customers buy and utilize.

Our semi-annual Interface Customer Satisfaction Survey consisted of a single question to measure our performance by a Net Promoter® Score (NPS) with an additional four questions to gather our customer’s direct insights and feedback. Interface utilizes the NPS score to provide predictability and measure overall satisfaction through trending data on how we perform for our customers.

The creator of NPS, Fred Reichheld, noted that the highest-performing companies will score greater than +50, while the average American company rates between +10 to +12 across all industries. When we asked our customers who have purchased Interface solutions over the past 18 months, how likely is it that you would recommend Interface to a friend or colleague, 86% of all those that answered said they are extremely to very likely to recommend Interface to others. The overall NPS rating for Interface based on our 2019 surveys now stands at +54.

Additional Questions from Interface’s Fall 2019 Survey:

QUESTION: What force measurement products do you generally use at your company?  

Not surprising, 100% of our customers noted they are using our most popular products, load cells. Interface customers also rank mini load cells, instrumentation, torque transducers, and calibration systems in the top five products they regularly use.

QUESTION: If applicable, do you calibrate your own load cells or send them to a calibration service provider?

In our survey, 61% of respondents shared they are sending out their load cells for calibration while 21% are doing an in-house calibration. This is aligned to Interface’s continued growth and demand for our expert calibration services.

QUESTION: Is the ability to customize your force measurement products important to you? 

More than half of the participants shared that customization is important in the applications. Interface also sees a growing trend in modified product requests and custom solutions for innovative use cases, as well as in applications with our OEM customers.

The NPS scoring is based on a scale of 0-10 for how likely they would recommend us, zero being least likely and 10 being extremely likely. Our average score from this recent survey is 8.3, with the highest majority of respondents indicating they are extremely likely (10) to recommend Interface products and services to a friend or colleague.

All feedback is important to us and our last question in our survey asks for direct feedback that we can share with our team members. As we focus on continuous improvement, we learn from our customer’s input. It helps us to find better and more innovative ways to ensure we meet and exceed our customer’s expectations. It’s what we strive for every day.

If you are a customer and would like to share information with us about your buying experience, you can always contact us directly or complete our feedback survey here.

Thank you to all our survey participants.  We are grateful and thankful for your business.

Interface Leads Innovation in Oil and Gas Force Measurement

The oil and gas industry is among the most dangerous and expensive industries in the world. There’s also the inherent risk of ecological harm that can be caused by faulty machinery. Because Interface is able to address these challenges, the company’s products have become the heavy favorite among oil and gas companies.

Interface is recognized by oil and gas companies for product reliability, accuracy, and innovative design.

For several years, the oil and gas industry has used “wet” load cells to monitor forces on their downhole load strings. These downhole load strings are equipped with a variety of sensors, and they travel down thousands of feet during exploratory drilling operations. These load cells provide data to the user that measures the forces on the load string to ensure it doesn’t break due to forces greater than th[user_id]e string has been designed to. When one of these strings breaks, it leaves up to a million dollars’ worth of equipment trapped underground until it can be fished out using expensive recovery techniques.

The problem with wet load cells is that they don’t hold up for extended use in wells that extend several thousand feet underground where there are extreme pressures and temperatures in a caustic environment. These wet load cells typically only last about a year or two before they are damaged beyond further use. The turnover rate of these products becomes extremely expensive and can also cause critical inconsistencies in measurements, or the complete loss of measurement feedback.

The reason these wet load cells break down after a year or two is that the sensors on this product are exposed to the harsh underground environment. To address this issue, Interface created a “dry” load cell that protects the sensitive parts with innovative design, reduces the number of sensors required in the customer’s downhole load string, and allows the load cell to last 10 years or more.

“Our dry load cell technology provides Interface’s signature accuracy in a ruggedized package that will stand up to the harsh environments of a deep oil well. These design iterations that allow for longer product lifespans are critical to our customers because of the cost savings and consistency of using a single force measurement solution.” Ken Vining, Chief Engineer at Interface

Interface initially developed this technology as a custom solution to address a customer’s challenge of constantly replacing wet load cells. Based on the positive feedback Interface received, the company has begun development on a standard version of the dry load cell. The standard load cell will be more cost-effective than wet load cells and custom design dry load cells.

For more information on the products that Interface provides for the oil and gas industry, click here.  For details on all Interface solutions, please visit www.interfaceforce.com.

Contributor:  Ken Vining, Chief Engineer at Interface

 

 

 

The Power of Teamwork Drives Interface Success

At Interface, teamwork is a critical element to our success—and no one understands collaboration better than our team. We recently delivered a highly-critical assignment for the oil and gas industry. Robert Fuge, a design engineer at Interface, and his team of experts were tasked with delivering an emergency order that required the typical lead time for a new design to be cut by 30 percent.

The delivery entailed prototyping, machining, assembly, and calibration, and the order was incredibly high-end and complex. What motivated the team to deliver above and beyond results despite the short notice was its unapparelled desire to please both the customer and support one another.

Although the team was successful in completing the order on time and within budget, it wasn’t without its fair share of challenges. Some of the key machine parts were behind schedule from the supplier, and technical issues didn’t make it any easier. On top of that, the most crucial part arrived a week and a half late. However, despite these circumstances, the team implemented plans to combat tasks as they arose. Nothing ever sat or waited, and each part of the process had a clearly-defined plan. Fuge attributes this success to effective communication.

“Everything was communicated ahead of time, and each team member knew exactly what was expected of them. No amount of information ever fell through the cracks, leaving all team members and customer contacts fully equipped to deliver their best work.” – Robert Fuge

The team immediately started drawing designs and building fixtures ahead of time and on top of the normal workload. Purchasing got everything ordered quickly, and the team inspected all parts right as they arrived from outside vendors. Interface’s quality department worked with machinists to get all repairs completed and continue moving through the process. As parts continued to go through, supervisors scheduled and planned for all equipment, and employees were trained and prepped before parts even arrived.

What makes this effort particularly successful is the passion demonstrated by both Interface and the customer. Completing this project wasn’t easy and it required sacrifice, but the team learned a valuable lesson in how to facilitate a proactive, company-customer partnership. By the end of the project, the team reinforced the notion that if concrete and well-communicated plans are put in place from the very beginning, there’s no limit to what can be achieved.

Meet the Interface Team

We’d like to thank Robert Fuge and his team of experts who made it all happen:

Drafting: David Connacher facilitated the quick turnaround of flexure, fixture, wiring, outline drawings and designs.

Engineering: Jim Schafer helped with the fixtures design, as well as evaluated how to repair and modify a fixture later. Rick Haun modified a fixture to work properly for the new part—and did so on top of his normal workload. Wrote the programming and stayed late to assist the machine operator in his work.

Purchasing: Tim Combs placed fixtures and hardware on the order right away to have everything in time for the rapid delivery schedule.

Quality: Kevin Armstrong executed immediate inspection of flexures when they arrived from the outside vendor and worked with machinists to repair a damaged thread on two parts.

Machine Center: Daniel Shipman repaired a damaged fixture in between jobs to keep parts moving throughout the process.

Production: Rob Udink scheduled, planned and configured production equipment for new parts ahead of time to mitigate delays in the parts. He also ensured all of his employees were trained on the new parts before they even arrived and drove these parts through at the end.

DLC Production Team: Tiger Singharath, Manny Castro, Doug Konkler, Dung Nguyen and Chris Balland came together to keep parts moving forward to meet the customer deadline.

Interface is a leader in providing custom, standard and modified force measurement solutions to the energy industry. To learn more about our applications, visit /application-notes/.