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Interface Solutions for Robotics and Industrial Automation

As the manufacturing world continues to push towards the 4.0 Industrial Revolution, critical technology is necessary to ensure facilities are running as efficiently as possible. With advancements toward fully or semi-autonomous factories and robotics, manufacturers need to have total trust in their hardware and software to perform with precision in the assigned tasks. This requires collecting accurate and real-time data to constantly monitor every aspect of the facility’s technology and production.

In the development of robotics used in industrial automation, our Interface Multi-Axis Sensors are often used to test the multi-directional movement and force of robotics arms. Whether it’s a fully automated or semi-automated robotic system, manufacturers need to be able to ensure the complex movements and actions of the robotics arm are optimized to take on very precise jobs. These types of robotics are often used for projects that are too precise for the human hand.

Industrial automation and robotics are creating a more efficient manufacturing process, which will help to churn products out more quickly and lower costs. However, to optimize these processes, it’s critical that we trust the hardware to operate autonomously and that we have systems in-place to identify malfunctions quickly.

Interface plays a critical role in robotics and industrial automation by providing our customers with highly accurate load cells and torque transducers to measure and collect data on the force and torque that these machines are exerting. Interface force measurement solutions and products are involved in the testing of the machines before they hit the production line, and in some cases, our products are also installed directly on the machine to allow users to monitor the force in real-time.

One industry that has a high demand for our products is the consumer packaging industry. Many of the processes involved in the production line of a consumer packaging plant have utilized automation for a long time.

For instance, beverage companies that sell bottles of water or soda utilize machines that cap the product all day long. Hundreds of thousands of bottles go through the capping process on the production line daily. If there are any issues with the torque applied in the capping process, the beverage company could see heavy losses because the bottle could be damaged from over torquing the cap, or the beverage could leak during the shipping process if the caps are under torqued. To avoid these loses, the machines are optimized using a torque transducer.

Torque transducers provide data during the testing process to help the machine manufacturer get the force exactly right for the capping process. The torque transducer can also stay installed on the machine so that the beverage company can continuously monitor the torque of the machine and stop production before damages occur if there is an issue.

Interface offers nearly 50 types of reaction (static) torque transducers and rotary (dynamic) torque transducers. All of our torque transducers are precision-machined and use our proprietary torque sensors for the most accurate data possible.

Another common automation use for force and torque measurement products is in the automotive industry. Automation in this industry has been used for some time increase production of cars.

Two examples of how Interface load cells and torque transducers play a role in the automobile production line is with seat durability testing and bolt fastening.

For seat testing, we had a customer use an Interface Multi-Axis Model 6A68C 6-Axis Load Cell to identify previously unknown bending forcing that could negatively influence their testing process. This allowed the customer to redesign their testing fixture to eliminate the bending moment and more accurately perform the durability testing.

For bolt fastening, we installed an Interface Model LWCF Clamping Force Load Washers along with Interface Instrumentation to monitor the force being applied during bolt tightening. This helped the customer avoid over tightening bolts, which could damage the product in the process.

For a more in-depth overview of both applications, please check out our application notes:

Force measurement products are a critical technology in the testing and monitoring of automation equipment. To learn more about the various products and instrumentation Interface supplies to facilitate industrial automation and support advancements in robotics, contact our applications experts here.  We also have a number of application notes focused on industrial automation here.

Contributor: Ken Bishop, Sr Sales Director, Custom Solutions and Services

 

Strain Gages 101

A strain gage is a sensor that varies its resistance as it’s stretched or compressed. When tension or compression is applied, the strain gage converts force, pressure, and weight into a change that can then be measured in the electrical resistance.

At the heart and soul of every load cell is a strain gage. This is the pinnacle technology that allows engineers to collect and analyze force data. In the industry, it is known as force measurement.

Strain gages are made through a photo-etch process using a flexible backing and a very thin foil. The way a strain gage works is when the backing and foil stretches or compresses, resistance goes up and down respectively. We know this as force. Think of stretching like a three-lane highway switching to two lanes, and vice versa for compression with two lanes going into three. As the load cell’s internal strain gage experiences force, it sends a signal with a precise measurement of the amount of force it’s experiencing.

There are many different types of strain gages for a variety of environments and force measurement needs. The major difference in strain gages is the base material used in the manufacturing process. Different materials are used when a load cell needs to perform optimally in a variety of temperatures, humidity levels, and elevations. Matching the correct strain gage and a load cell to the customer’s needs is critical to accuracy.

“Here at Interface, we pride ourselves on developing the most accurate force measurement tools, and it starts with our proprietary manufacturing of the strain gage.”  Scott Dunne, Production Engineering Manager

More than 52 years ago, when our founder Richard F. Caris started Interface, he purchased over a mile of foil, which is the base material used in strain gages. Caris understood the only way to ensure Interface customers received quality results from their force measurement products was to control every aspect of engineering design, product development, and production.

The key ingredient to our precision accuracy and reliability is the fact that we have vertically integrated the entire manufacturing process from design to production and have a deep understanding of the materials necessary to suit every client’s need for optimal results

Many load cell makers purchase their strain gages from a third party. This means there’s more variability in their manufacturing process and you often find the variances in their materials clash and diminish the accuracy, or they are not correctly suited for the customer’s project requirements.  Interface makes all their own strain gages.

We have learned everything there is to know about strain gage manufacturing and can guarantee the quality of our load cells in any environment based on this tenured expertise and having manufactured and calibrated hundreds of thousands (ok, millions) of force measurement devices. And here’s a fun fact, although we’ve manufactured hundreds of thousands of load cells and strain gages, we haven’t even used half of the original mile of foil we purchased in 1968. Good product managed well can go a long way!

For more information on Interface’s commitment to accuracy and reliability, we have written The Load Cell Field Guide, the definitive resource on load cells. It is available on Amazon. You can also download our latest technical white paper, Contributing Factors to Load Cell Accuracy, for free by clicking here.

Contributor:  Scott Dunne, Production Engineering Manager, Interface

The Future of Force Measurement

In this post, Joel Strom, CEO at Interface, shared his vision for the company and force measurement predictions for 2020 and beyond. 

Engineering and manufacturing are continuously changing to keep up with the pace of fast-evolving technology. It feels like every time one of our customers releases a game-changing new product; they immediately go back to the drawing board to work on its next evolution. To enable our customers to meet the speed of innovation and compete in the expanding sensor marketplace, Interface must follow suit. That also means we are constantly looking at ways to improve the ingenuity and capability of our vast array of products and solutions.

Looking ahead to 2020 and the next five years, here are our predictions for the future of force measurement and how Interface is positioning ourselves as leaders in our industry.

Innovating for the Digital Age

For much of Interface’s 50-year history, we have developed analog load cells. This was always the way a load cell worked. In recent years, we have put a heavy focus on innovation and transforming our company for the digital age. The sensors we are building now allow our customers to transmit data wirelessly through WIFI and Bluetooth® technology. These products help to connect everything through the internet of things (IoT), giving our customers more accessibility in the way they collect and measure force data.

We are deliberately focusing on ways to provide our customers with more value from our entire suite of force measurement products, custom solutions, and services. Our goal is to connect everything we design, build and create ensuring the data our products gather can help make better decisions and automate processes greater efficiency and usability for our valued customers. Through the age of digital transformation, Interface is a partner to our customers in helping them do big things in the world.

Pushing the Limits in Force Measurement Technology

One of the biggest trends in force measurement is the demand for all-in-one tools and systems that provide more data points from a single product. Customers want their load cell and sensor technology to measure a combination of force, torque, vibration, position, speed and more.

We are addressing these requirements by investing in the next generation of our core products to improve the value to customers. As the most accurate and reliable load cell manufacturer, we want to push the limits on the accuracy, improve the temperature ranges of our products, and expand application uses and grow capacities. Using our ingenuity and industry experience, we also want to add more capability to our core products. Digitizing existing product lines is one way we are doing, as well as adding more sensors that can collect a wider range of data.

Exploring New Industries and Advanced Technology

One of the most exciting things about working in the force measurement industry is the fact that we are on the ground floor in developing new and innovative hardware. As we enter a new decade, we see expanding developments in space, robotics, and electric and autonomous vehicles. These are all products and inventions that require extremely accurate force measurement tools to create and test their innovations.

In order to stay on top of new technology, we are investing more in research and development than ever before. Imagining the possibilities, we are working closely with our customers, and in many cases partnering with them, to understand their evolving needs. Many of the products we have released in the last two years have been a direct response to customer requests and the application of imaginative thinking from our skilled leadership and engineering teams.

As we continue our journey in the 2nd 50 years of Interface, we are excited about the possibilities of force measurement and the new ways we can help our customers. We can’t wait to show you what we have on the horizon.

To stay up-to-date on new product announcements and to learn more about Interface and its commitment to accuracy, reliability, and innovation, please stay connected by subscribing to our blog and follow us on our social media channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.  You can also watch a recent company video highlighting why Interface was chosen as Arizona’s 2019 Manufacturer of the Year.

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Compression Force Testing

Compression is a type of force that we apply every day often without thinking and compression is intensely tested in many of the products we use on a daily basis.

Compression force is defined as the energy generated from compressing an object or substance. Compressive force is simply the direction of the force applied to the load cell. The compressive strength of materials and structures is an incredibly important engineering consideration in both designs and build.

Whether you are clicking the keys on your laptop at work or slamming on your brakes to avoid an accident on your morning commute, you are using the compression force. Testing of the compression force is essential in developing a reliable and sturdy product that can withstand the pressure applied to it many times over. Often, safety is at the core of compression testing.

Load cells incorporated into the testing process work by measuring the pushing force of an application on a single axis. The strain gage compresses to measure the load applied. The deformation of the strain gage provides the measurement data. Application tests measure the total compression force the products or structures can handle, as well as the effects of compression over time through stress tests. In both cases, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) need accurate measurements to guarantee their products can withstand compression in the short and long-term.

Interface supplies a variety of compression-focused load cells and accessories for all types of applications, both for test and measurement, as well as for inclusion in originally manufactured products and solutions. These compression load cells are often used in vehicles, industrial automation, aerospace, and defense industries. Applications are wide-ranging, from testing the impact of drones dropping packages to the material strength of bridges during an earthquake. Interface load cells are highly-rated to provide the most accurate data and reliability over time, which is why engineers rely on Interface compression-only load cells.

Here are a few of the compression load cells available from Interface:

1601 Gold Standard® Calibration Compression-Only LowProfile® Load Cells – Interface’s Gold Standard® Load Cells are designed for calibrating other load cells. The 1601 load cell is compression-only and has options available for a second and third bridge and overload protection.

1201 Compression-Only Standard Precision LowProfile® Load Cells – The Interface 1201 LowProfile® load cell provides a “compression-only” force measurement. Its spherical-shaped top surface helps provide minimal off-axis loading. 1201 is our most popular load cell designed for static applications and has a higher output than most competitive load cells.

2101 Dual Range Standard Compression-Only Load Cells – The Interface Model 2101 consists of lower and higher capacity model 1200 type load cells which are stacked with overload protection built into the lower capacity load cell permitting the high resolution to be obtained at both low and high levels of capacity. The Model 1201 is LowProfile® moment compensated.

LBM Compression Load Button Load Cells – The Interface LBM Compression Load Button is constructed from stainless steel and has a small size for all types of sensor apps and testing. This product is available in capacities that range from 25 lbf up to 50K lbf.

There is a variety of other standard compression-only load cells, including modified and custom Interface compression testing options in multiple capacities. For more information on our compression-only products or any of Interface’s industry-leading force measurement solutions, contact our Application Engineers.