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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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Considerations for Fatigue-Rated Load Cells

There are many products that are made to serve a single or limited use. Needs for these types of products, often consumable, are immediate and buying decisions usually require limited research or comparisons. On the other end of the spectrum, there are products that need to be extremely reliable, durable, and built to last a long time. The buying decisions for these types of products often require more research to make certain they are highly rated, safe, and made from sturdy and reliable materials.

How do original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) determine how long a product should last with consistent use? What design decisions need to be made to improve product reliability? The answer is often found in the defined fatigue requirements of a product. In the test and measurement and design phase of a product, answers to these questions frequently require product and component testing with fatigue-rated load cells.

Fatigue is the weakening of a material caused by repeatedly applied loads. Similar to if you repeatedly bend a paper clip, it will eventually weaken and then break. The only way to test fatigue is to put prototypes of the product through stress tests for long periods of time or use an apparatus that tests the lifetime “wear and tear” in a few hours. The tool that reports the data gathered from stress tests is the load cell.

With Interface fatigue-rated load cells, designers and engineers can predict the time and force it will take for wear and tear to take its toll on their products. They can then create safety instructions for customers or redesign the product for better results.

Interface Model 1000 series is a portfolio of fatigue-rated low profile load cells with 300% safe overload, extremely low moment sensitivity of 0.1%/in and higher fatigue life. If you need to measure 1 pound (4.45N) or 1 million pounds (4500kN) of force, Interface fatigue-rated load cells are built for this type of testing.

Interface fatigue-rated load cells are designed for an operational life of in excess of 100 million fully reversed cycles.

It’s also important to note that Interface fatigue-rated load cells are based on fully reversed load cycles, which means they are rated for two directions. This type of loading cycle is considerably more stringent than unidirectional loading. It is the more common application of load cells. If a fatigue load cell is repeatedly loaded in only one direction, it can be loaded to about 133% of the bidirectional fatigue-rated capacity with no degradation of its fatigue rating.

Interface works with customers to provide our fatigue-rated load cells for products that can’t fail. It is our mission to ensure precision products are safe, reliable and durable. If they do fail, it could result in significant harm.

Two examples of products dependent on fatigue-rated load cells for testing are aircraft wings and furniture stability. In aircraft wing testing, load cells test the materials used to build the wings to ensure they are strong and lightweight. The load cells are also used in wind tunnels to test the stress of high winds on the wings over time. Safety protocols manufacturing for furniture products require fatigue testing, seat testing, shock testing, and proof testing. These tests must be rigorously performed before entering the marketplace.

Force testing simulations using fatigue-rated load cells help the manufacturer define max loads in order to protect manufacturers from liability due to damages resulting in the misuse or overloading of their products. These types of applications require the most accurate data available provided by our load cells to ensure that testing results produce a quality product that lasts.

Fatigue-rated load cells are one of the many Interface force measurement tools available to help customers develop quality products. For information on all of the load cells we provide, please visit www.interfaceforce.com/product-category/load-cells/.

Contributor:  Jay Bradley, Sr. Electrical Engineer, Interface

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.

Faces of Interface Featuring Raymunn Machado-Prisbrey

Raymunn Machado-Prisbrey has spent his entire professional career at Interface. His first job was right out of high school, where he was hired to work on the assembly line at night. During the day he attended Arizona State University as a full-time student and after four years graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduating, Raymunn was a shoo-in for an engineering job at Interface as he was already well-versed on all the products and knew all the people. He has held his current job as a Production Engineer for four years and continues to grow in his role.

His connection with Interface started long before he joined the company. It’s generational. While he was growing up, his dad worked at Interface and regularly brought him to company picnics and events. He got to know several of his father’s co-workers who would eventually become his own teammates. It’s this family atmosphere that Raymunn enjoys the most.

“The people are what make this job great.” Raymunn Machado-Prisbrey

Raymunn was always drawn to engineering and he knew right away that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He has a persistent fascination for how things work and enjoyed helping his dad work on cars and ATVs. He loved school and was gifted at math. Pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering was a natural fit and working at Interface aligns with his goals of personal development and life-long learning.

In his current role, Raymunn works closely with the sales team to help turn customer requirements into reality. He designs load cells and helps in the entire process of their creation. He also handles the calibration and electrical adapters for load cells, an area he earned a unique perspective from working on the calibration floor out of high school. He strives to make a positive impact on the production personnel’s job with each new design since he’s been on both the production and engineering sides of the manufacturing business.

While Raymunn is very proud of several of the projects that he has worked on while at Interface, he notes that designing custom load cells for the Giant Magellan Telescope was the coolest. The lens on the telescope itself was 8.4 meters, an incredible feat in engineering and a unique challenge for Interface.

Raymunn loves the strategic aspect of his role. He likes collaborating with a team to solve customer problems. Many of his other favorite projects relate to unique customer circumstances, where he had to think outside the box to come up with the best solution. Load cells going on mountaintops in Chile, load cells that needed to withstand a huge temperature swing, custom load cell geometry and load cells that needed to exist in a vacuum were some of the examples he cites. Raymunn loves a challenge, and it is this aspect of his job that keeps him constantly engaged and inspired.

When not working at Interface, Raymunn is an avid backpacker and loves to camp and get away from the city. He enjoys four-wheeling, target-shooting, and mountain biking. Basically, anything that involves exploring the outdoors. He also loves to travel and has recently visited Germany and Mexico with several additional trips in the works.

Interface Celebrates Made in the USA

Manufacturing is essential to the U.S. economy, with an estimated $2.38 trillion contribution and accounting for nearly half of all exports. This equals about 11.4% of U.S. economic output. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

With approximately 250,000 firms in the manufacturing sector in the U.S., Interface is proud to be counted as one of them. Companies with manufacturing operations solely in the U.S. are considered an anomaly today. With a great deal of U.S. production occurring outside the country, there are fewer enterprises that sustain domestic manufacturing success. As we approach Independence Day on July 4th, Interface is reflecting on how honored we are to be a U.S. manufacturer for more than a half-century and counting.

Though our production is domestic, our reach is global. Interface load cells and torque transducers have been used in nearly all industries providing reliable test and accurate measurement capabilities to international market leaders in aerospace, automotive, energy, medical, education, and other top manufacturers. We’re proud to say our products are “Made in the USA.”

We began designing and manufacturing load cells and other force measurement equipment in 1968 when Richard F. Caris started Interface in his garage. Since those early days, we have grown to become one of the most trusted names in the industry. And not once in our history have we considered moving production out of the U.S. We maintain the highest degree of performance by managing the entire process, from design and machining, to strain gage manufacturing and assembly at our headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona.

One of the most satisfying aspects of having U.S. manufacturing operations is contributing to our country’s economic prosperity and innovation. The National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) presented the following facts on the state of U.S. manufacturing, and Interface is appreciative to be an integral contributor to these milestones.

NAM Facts (Source):

  • U.S. manufacturers perform 64% of all private-sector R&D in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.
  • For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.82 is added to the economy.
  • There are 12.82 million manufacturing workers in the U.S., approximately 8.5% of the workforce.
  • Over the next decade, 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, and 2.4 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap.
  • Over the past 28 years, U.S. manufactured goods exported have quadrupled.
  • Manufacturers in the U.S. export nearly half of U.S. manufacturing output.
  • Taken alone, manufacturing in the U.S. would be the eighth-largest economy in the world.

Interface is focused on our contributions economically, by supporting innovation and job growth through a robust manufacturing role in the production of the world’s leading force measurement solutions. It’s definitely worthy of a holiday celebration.

Faces of Interface Featuring Albert Luna

Albert Luna was a born engineer. From a young age, he was always interested in how things worked. One of his favorite childhood hobbies was to take things apart to see what was inside them. He took apart appliances, TVs, radios and more and always looked forward to going to his cousin’s house to play with his drafting tools that furthered his mechanical inquisitiveness. Because of his childhood experiences, his parents encouraged him to pursue a formal career in advanced engineering.

Albert took his parents’ advice and enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles, where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. With his professional credentials in-hand, he launched his career as a design engineer. Throughout his profession, he’s worked with a variety of organizations, including Snap-on, where he was paid to play with tools and became an expert at designing solutions with strain gages. While Albert’s skills are abundant, his desire to learn didn’t stop there. He’s currently studying for his professional engineering (PE) exam.

Although Albert gained a lot of experience in his discipline, one thing he hadn’t gotten a chance to do in his previous positions was to design with sensors. Prior to joining Interface, Albert was just always handed a sensor and asked to build a tool around it. When he saw the opportunity to expand his skill set and work extensively with sensors, he eagerly applied to Interface and became a design engineer for the company that is the leader in force measurement solutions. Albert currently works on Interface’s Gold Standard® LowProfile® load cell product line.

“The thing I enjoy most about working at Interface is how hands-on my job is and how I get to use tools, work with equipment and help with troubleshooting. I work on a product from the design stage all the way through calibration.” Albert Luna, Design Engineer, Interface

Not only is Albert an expert design engineer, but he also goes above and beyond for Interface’s customers in any way he can. His work philosophy is to make sure that all customers are satisfied and that everything they want in their application has been incorporated. With Albert, nothing is ever compromised.

Albert is also known in Interface for his wall of fame.  His office is papered with credentials and awards from Toastmasters International in recognition of his passions and commitment to always be learning.  It is one of the many things that make a valued member of the Interface family.

Albert’s love of working with his hands translates into his personal life as well. When he’s not at Interface, he loves to fix things around his house and spend time on his car. In fact, he even earned a two-year degree in auto mechanics.

Although he loves hands-on building projects, cycling is another one of Albert’s passions, and 70-mile bike rides are among his many accomplishments in his favorite hobby.

 

 

50 Years and Still Innovating Force Measurement Solutions

Interface is well known for premium accuracy and reliability when it comes to force measurement solutions. The product lines that Low Profile VP Brian Shaw and Mark Weathers, VP, Mini and 1923 Wireless Business Products manage range from Interface’s oldest products to brand-new ones in the pipeline.

In this new InterfaceIQ post, we highlight the different ways we are instilling innovation in both our older products and our newest designs, including optimizing efficiencies and significantly reducing production time.

Mini Load Cells

Interface was founded on the LowProfile® load cell product, what some companies refer to as pancake load cells. The next major product line to come along in our history is collectively referred to as load cell ‘minis,’ which tend to be smaller and cover a wide variety of geometries and packages. The fundamentals of our quality products haven’t changed; however, the speed at which we are able to get these products to market has improved significantly.

WMCP Overload Protected Stainless Steel Mini Load Cell

Interface minis are used for light-touch, lightweight, or limited space applications. Our miniature load cells provide exceedingly accurate measurements, similar to our full-size load cells, with proprietary alloy strain gages, full temperature compensation, and some environmentally hardened applications. Capacities are available as low as 0.11 pounds of force / 0.5 newtons and as high as 100 kilonewtons.

Most of our off-the-shelf mini load cells can be used in a wide variety of applications. Our engineers can also work with customers to design custom load cells to fit a specific need.  For example, our custom mini load cells are commonly used in the medical industry for applications like blood separation products.

Optimizing Production Significantly Cuts Lead Times

The most significant development in Interface’s mini load cell product line is the optimized production methods we have continually introduced. Inventory positioning and communication streamlining have helped to cut lead times in mini load cell production from seven to three days in our pilot product tests.

We take time to make innovation a priority in everything we do, from optimizing production methods to introducing new ways to help our clients succeed. This diversity is the reward Brian Shaw and I receive as co-managers of a department with our oldest and newest solutions.” Mark Weathers, VP of Mini and 1923 Wireless Business Products at Interface

Last week’s blog outlined efforts by leaders at Interface to improve efficiency by breaking down departmental barriers. The improvements we introduced have restructured various departments in the supply chain to allow our employees to have more direct communication with one another.

For instance, planners now sit directly on the production floor. This gives them direct access to the assembly line where they can schedule their own orders and accelerate time to market. In the past, the chain of communication was bogged down by departmental barriers that would slow down the time it takes to get a customer order into production.

1923 Wireless Series Load Cells

On the other end of the innovation spectrum is Interface’s 1923 Wireless Series Load Cell, a brand-new product in development at Interface. The original 1923 Series of load cells is one of Interface’s highest volume products. Its design and consistency have made it a popular off-the-shelf solution for many years.

The 1923 Series was originally designed for the oil and gas industry to avoid pump jacks going too fast and interrupting the capillary flow of oil. The load cell sits on the pump jack and monitors the force at which the jack pumps, providing real-time data to avoid over-pumping.

One of the challenges that sparked the development of our 1923 Wireless Series is the fact that the original 1923 Series requires a cable leading to the bridge device to relay the data to the user. In the hazardous environments where the load cell is used, the cables are subject to damage and can be inconvenient or dangerous. Our 1923 Wireless Series innovation removes the need for the cable and provides the same accurate, real-time data readings with little to no fuss.

Interface has thrived for more than 50 years because we have built a foundation for which we manufacture premium force measurement products. This enables us to look ahead and create solutions for the challenges of tomorrow.

Contributor:  Mark Weathers, VP, Mini and 1923 Wireless Business Products, Interface

 

 

 

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 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