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Interface’s Steering Role in All Types of Transportation

Interface serves a wide variety of industries that design and manufacture movers of people and objects. The transportation sector consists of companies that assist in the movement people or goods, as well as supporting infrastructure. Whether it is automobiles or planes, trains or helicopters, spacecraft or water vessels, Interface provides solutions to help test and measure force, weight, torque, lift and more.

The safety, quality and reliability of the overall transportation industry are all important considerations in design, build and performance. Human safety being the most critical requirement of any transport vehicle or structure.

This means that stringent testing is necessary to confirm the design of every part and system on a vehicle. Force measurement sensors can used to test a wide variety of factors on every type of invention that moves or transports a person or thing. From the torque of an electrical vehicle engine to the weight distribution of an aircraft, these types of tests help to refine the designs of components, vessels, and vehicles, confirming safety and dependability.

All Interface product categories have a role in the testing of all these transportation entities.  Many of our sensor technologies are also ideal for performance monitoring and integration into product designs, whether it’s for ongoing measurement of weighing ship cargo with load pins, load shackles and tension links or using our torque transducers for engine testing on e-bikes, automobiles, trucks, buses, and other transport vehicles.  If it moves, it needs to be measured. Our force and torque solutions are ideal for every segment of this market sector.

Let’s take a quick tour of a few application examples that demonstrate the different products we provide that are helping get people and objects safely moving down the road, on the rails, in the air and even into space.

Wind Tunnel Testing

Wind TunnelA major aerospace company was developing a new airplane and needed to test their scaled model for aerodynamics in a wind tunnel, by measuring loads created by lift and drag. Interface offered a Model 6A154 6-Axis Load Cell which was mounted in the floor of the wind tunnel and connected to the scaled model by a stalk. A Model BX8-AS was then connected to the sensor to collect data. The wind tunnel blew air over the scaled model creating lift and drag, which was measured and compared to the theoretical airplane models. Software in the PC converted raw data signals to actual force and torque values at the stalk. Using this solution, the company was able to analyze the collect data and made the necessary adjustments in their design to improve the aerodynamics of their theoretical airplane models. Read more.

Garbage Truck On-Board Weighing

A garbage disposal company wanted to test the load capacity of their garbage truck bins so they know when it reached maximum capacity. Interface’s solution was to customize and install 4 SSB Sealed Beam Load Cells under the garbage box body, on either side. When trash continues to be piled inside the box body, it will push more force down onto the SSB Sealed Beam Load Cells. When maximum load capacity has been reached, the results can be reviewed and displayed when connected to the 482 Battery Powered Bidirectional Weight Indicator in real time. With this system, the customer was able to test the maximum load capacity of the garbage bin attached to the truck, so they know when to empty the truck’s garbage at the transfer station. Read more.

Engine Head Bolt Tightening

Enging Bolt TighteningAn industrial automation company was building an automated assembly machine for an auto manufactur­ing plant. They needed to tighten all head bolts on an engine on their assembly line to a specific torque value. Having the head bolts precisely and consistently tightened to the engine block is critical to the operation of the engine. Several Interface Model T33 Spindle Torque Transducers were installed in their new machine to control torque, angle, and ensure the head bolt was properly tight­ened. The square drive of the T33 allowed the customer to fix their tool directly to the end of the torque sensor, streamlining the installation. When the machine comes down and screws on the engine head bolts the torque and angle profile are sent to the customer’s machine controller. Based on the feedback received by the machine controller, the automation will pass the engine to the next step in the assembly line or fail and have the engine evaluated further. This allowed the customer to ensure the head bolts were correctly installed according to manufacturer specifications, producing an engine that meets performance and reliability expectations of the auto manufacturing plant. Read more.

Bicycle Load Testing

A mountain bike manufacturing company wanted a system that measures their bike frames load capacities and vibrations on the frame. They also want to ensure the bike’s high quality and frame load durability during this final step of the product testing process. Interface suggested installing Model SSMF Fatigue Rated S-Type Load Cell, connected to the WTS-AM-1E Wireless Strain Bridge, between the mountain bike’s seat and the bike frame. This will measure the vibrations and load forces applied onto the bike frame. When a heavy load is added to the seat, the SSMF Fatigue Rated S-Type Load Cell measures the vibrations and load forces applied to the bike to indicate any stress points through a number of cycles. The results will be captured by the WTS-AM-1E and transmitted to the customer’s PC using the WTS-BS-6 Wireless Telemetry Dongle Base Station. This solution helped the mountain bike manufacturing company gather highly accurate data to determine that their bikes met performance standards through this final testing cycle. Read more.

These are just a brief example of the work we do in transportation. Interface systems have been involved in projects with boats, races cars, construction vehicles and even rocket ships. Manufacturers turn to Interface because of our track record for accuracy and the transportation industry relies on this data to keep its customers safe.

For additional insights and ideas related to transportation solutions, here are a few more posts to read.

Interface Plays a Role in Testing Bicycles

Evolving Urban Mobility Sector for Test and Measurement

Interface’s Crucial Role in Vehicle and Urban Mobility Markets

Measurement Technologies for Boats, Yachts and Watercraft

Interface and The Race to Space

Driving Force in Automotive Applications

To review more application notes pertaining to transportation or to talk to an application engineer about your next project, contact us or call us at 480-948-5555.

Measurement Technologies for Boats, Yachts and Watercraft

Interface has been a long-term supplier of force and torque measurement solutions for the maritime industry. This explains how our products play a big role in a wide variety of waterborne vessels, maintenance and safety equipment, and offshore products found at docks and in the open water. We have captured some of these specific use cases of how our sensor technologies and instrumentation are used in the building and maintenance of boats, yachts, and watercraft of all sizes.

Our load cells and sensors work well in vehicles that are used in water. For example, we offer technologies that can wirelessly transmit data underwater and in harsh weather conditions, making them perfect for a variety machines used in water. These specialized load cells operate in underwater submersions at different capacities, and reliably relay information to those at the surface level for accurate sensor readings. Interface load cells of various designs can regulate harsh maritime situations in use cases such as underwater tension lines, underwater oil drilling, as well as storm and tsunami monitoring. Read more about offshore and near shore solutions here.

The applications we are highlighting below provide real-world examples of force measurement products used in boat, yacht and watercraft related products. The uses of force measurement range from testing fishing wire to yacht rigging inspection. Here’s a closer look:

Wireless Telemetry System (WTS) for Yacht Rigging Inspection

For a customer who wants to have a complete yacht rigging inspection to make sure the mast, still lines, and all movable hoisting lines are functional, Interface offers our robust WTS products line. These various wireless sensor technologies and components are designed for use to meet the proper specifications for sailing, test the tension of the forestay, shroud, and backstay cables, and to test the tension of the movable lines when sailing.

With Interface’s WTSSHK-B Wireless Crosby™ Bow Load Shackle paired with the WTS-BS-1 Wireless Handheld Display for Unlimited Transmitters, the customer can switch and view between multiple shackles being tested. The WTS-BS-4 USB Industrial Base Station can also be attached to the customer’s computer to display real-time measurements from the shackles and log data. With this solution, the user is able to conduct both a running and standing rigging inspections of their ship or vessel, and determine if all lines were functional and met safety standards. Read the entire WTS solutions used on this yacht here.

Commercial Fishing Wire Rope Testing

When a commercial fishing owner wanted to measure the force tension of the wire fishing rope connected to the fishing cage or net when their vessel goes to catch and ensure the wire rope is strong enough and safe enough to hold the maximum capacity of fish caught in the cage or net, they can turn to Interface.

Using a WTSTL Wireless Tension Link Load Cell attached between the end of the cable, and the end that hooks onto the fishing net, the tension link will be able to measure the forces of the full net of fish, or a heavy load at maximum capacities. The data information can be transmitted to both the WTS-BS-1-HS Handheld Display for Single Transmitters, or to the customers computer laptop through the WTS-BS-4 USB Industrial Base Station. Utilizing this solution, the customer was able to determine if the fishing cable on their vessel was strong enough to hold the fish cage or net at maximum capacity when out catching.

Mooring Line Tension Testing

Due to changing environmental conditions, mooring cable lines undergo wear and tear. A customer wanted to ensure all mooring lines for ships and large commercial vessels are securely docked at the same loading tension, so that they do not risk the mooring lines to break or cause damage.

We provided a WTSLTL Lightweight Wireless Tension Link, which can be attached to each mooring cable in use. Results are sent to the customers through the WTS-BS-4 USB Industrial Base Station when connected to the customer’s supplied PC computer/Laptop. Data can also be transmitted to the WTS-BS-1-HA Handheld Display for Multiple Transmitters, giving the customer the option to view multiple mooring cable line tensions. The customer was able to verify the tensions to multiple mooring cable lines. Thus, resulting in the security of their ship being safely docked.

If you’re interested in learning more about our maritime solutions, call 480-948-5555 to contact an application engineer about your project requirements.

Interface Crane Use Cases and Application Notes

Manufacturers and engineers of heavy equipment are rigorous about the design quality, performance and most importantly preserving safety. Having tools to test and monitor this type of equipment allows equipment producers and users to review performance at all stages, ultimately maintaining a safe working environment which is critical to any construction, transportation, or infrastructure project job site. That’s why Interface provides quality force measurement products for a host of industrial equipment machines to accurately measure force, load capacity, weight, tension and more.

Interface has been a long-time supplier of force and torque sensors along with instrumentation products for projects involving all types of cranes and lifting machines. We are frequently asked to provide crane force measurement solutions for applications used in hoisting, lifting, moving, and transporting heavy objects. These use cases range across all types of environments, from constructing high rises in metropolitan centers around the world to maritime industry users loading docks and lifting watercraft.

To outline how force measurement is used to monitor cranes, we developed series of application notes explaining the components Interface provided to allow our customer to measure safety, reliability, and efficiency of their equipment.

Crane Capacity Verification

The first application note outlines a project in which the customer wanted to verify that their crane was strong enough to safely lift a heavy load at its rated maximum load capacity. It was determined that because of the size of the crane, a wireless solution was needed to avoid long wires and burdensome installation. Interface provided a Model WTSLTL Lightweight Wireless Tension Link Load Cell to measure the load’s maximum capacity. WTS-RM1 Wireless Relay Output Receiver Modules were also used to trigger an alarm that can be set when the maximum capacity of weight/force has been reached. To review the data the customer could transmit to a PC or laptop with a WTS-BS-4 USB base station. The data can also be reviewed through a WTS-BS-1-HS Wireless Handheld Display. With this solution, the customer was able to verify if the crane is safe and functional enough to lift it’s working load limit (WLL), or safe working load (SWL) capacity.

Read the full Crane Capacity Verification Application Note here.

Crane Block Safety Check

The next example features a crane application in which the customer wanted to detect whether a crane block could lift a heavy load securely to keep working conditions safe for personnel. The customer specifically wanted the solution to include an alarm feature that notified them if lifting capacity was exceeded in real-time. Using a WTSLP Wireless Stainless Steel Load Pin in place of a load bearing pin in the crane block, they could measure the force being applied by the heavy load. Data will be transmitted and displayed through both the WTS-BS-4 USB Base Station. It can also be paired with the WTS-BS-1-HA Wireless Handheld for real-time safety monitoring. The WTS-RM1 Wireless Relay Output Receiver Module triggers an alarm when maximum capacity has been reached. The customer was able to verify if the crane was operating safely and was always functional enough to lift it’s working load limit (WLL) or safe working load (SWL) capacity. The added alarm feature is critical for notifying users when the crane reaches unsafe limits during operations.

Read the entire Crane Block Safety Check Application note here.

Crane Force Regulation 

In the final application note, a customer wanted to regulate the maximum number of heavy loads being lifted, so that production time was both safe for workers and efficient. The goal was to complete lifting duties faster and with little or no expense. A wireless solution was also preferred, so that there would be no long cable interference during production. Interface supplied a WTSLP Wireless Stainless Steel Load Pin, which can be custom made to be used for any and all types of cranes. It is also great for lifting both short and long distances. The load pin was paired with the WTS Wireless Telemetry System, where force could be measured and logged. The customer was able to monitor the continuous force from the crane, and gather information on loads being lifted for continuous safety and production reporting requirements.

Read the complete Crane Force Regulation Application Note here.

You can read more about heavy equipment testing and use cases in our post, Force Measurement Solutions for the Construction Industry.

Load Pins 101

A load pin is a type of load cell that can replace bolts, clevis, sheave, and equalizer pins, as well as other load-bearing components to measure tensile and compression forces. Load pins are internally gauged with a bored center containing strain gauges, allowing them to convert force into an electrical signal for engineers to accurately collect data.

Most applications for load pins in the past have been for overhead equipment like cranes and lifts. Load pins have expanded in popularity and are now often used to test and measure force, load, and limitations in a much larger variety of applications. This includes uses not only for cranes and lifting devices, but also construction equipment, industrial machines, nautical craft and equipment, aerospace, and civil engineering applications. A primary system approach with structural applications is for safety and to prevent excesses in loading and lifting.

New model types with wireless and Bluetooth technology are also resulting in more use cases for these specialized force measurement solutions. This applies to both test and measurement as well as for installed OEM components within a larger structure or apparatus.

Top Load Pin Benefits

  • Easy to install new or retrofit
  • Robust construction
  • Replaces existing load bearing pins without any system modifications
  • Engineered to order designs available
  • Can be supplied with integral connector
  • Custom sizes and higher capacities available

Load pins come in many standard shapes and sizes, as well customization options to meet a specific design or use requirement. Interface provides these measuring devices, which often replace a bolt or pin, for safety and application monitoring. Some of our load pins are exclusively designed to meet the needs of applications in hazardous environments like the oil and gas industry, or marine industry where they’ll be submerged in water during testing and for continuous use.

The Interface Load Pins are machined from high tensile stainless steel and are suitable for exposed situations including seawater. We offer standard load pins with ratings between 1.1K lbf to 3.3M lbf (500kgs to 1500 MT). We also offer custom manufactured load pins suit applications from 100 kgs to 1500+ MT.

LP Stainless-Steel Load Pin – Great for lifting applications for both short and long distances. This product can be amplified with 5VDC, 10VDC or 4-20mA Outputs. It can also be made to meet ATEX requirements. Model LP Load pin is available in capacities up to 3,000,000 lbf (13.3 kN).

WTSLP Wireless Stainless-Steel Load Pin This advanced load can transmit wirelessly up to 600 (1,969 feet) meters in distance (clear line of sight) to a handheld display or USB base station.  The capacities range goes all the way up to 3,000,000 lbf (13.3 kN). The wireless option utilizes low power consumption for long battery life. It is configured and calibrated via PC using a base station and telemetry toolkit and compatible with Interface WTS Wireless products. The load pin is robust and uses a lightweight housing. It is environmentally sealed to IP67.

Load Pin Application

One of the largest scale applications of load pins we provided were used to measure force on a large bridge infrastructure project in the western U.S. The goal was to continuously monitor the standard force created by regular traffic, as well as the seismic force before, during, and after earthquakes. The monitoring sensors needed to be integrated into a dampener that would be attached to the structural tower.

The solution allows the company to monitor force from emitted data to cross-reference the standard traffic force with the seismic force to understand its effect on the bridge. Its purpose is to help with predictive maintenance and influence future bridge designs to better compensate for the forces of an earthquake or other natural disasters, which are common in this part of the world.

READ THE SEISMIC BRIDGE MONITORING APPLICATION NOTE HERE

READ THE INFRASTRUCTURE CASE STUDY HERE

The project required a custom product that could handle the inimitable and considerable force of a bridge under every scenario of distress. Engineers developed a custom load pin to handle the force of movement in the bridge in the event of an earthquake. This load pin was much larger than our standard version and is rated at 900,000 lbf. The large load pins were designed to be integrated into the dampener with wireless data acquisition modules connected to the load pins to allow for remote access to the data. With the integration of Interface’s custom load pins and data acquisition module, the customer was always able to continuously collect data for real-time evaluation. The sturdy construction of our load pins and 900,000 lbf rating allowed for readings during all degrees of seismic activity.

To learn more about our wide variety of load pins and there many applications, please contact our application specialists today.

Interface Outlook for 2021

Interface CEO Greg Adams shares his outlook for the coming year.

Never in our collective lives have we faced so much uncertainty and turmoil! The year 2020 will make history, that much is certain. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and a year of political strife for the ages, I think we’re all ready to turn the chapter on the start of this decade.

Despite the challenges we’ve faced in 2020, I’m still very optimistic about our future, and for Interface. My optimism is fueled by the amazing people we have here at Interface.

As a family, we’ve gotten through this together and are only growing stronger. I couldn’t be prouder of our people for their resilience and hard work in the past year. We have continued to provide the same excellent service our customers appreciate. In fact, our Net Promoter Score® remained above 60 again in our latest 2020 Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Additionally, product quality is higher than ever and we even had a few major product launches this year, including ConvexBT, our most advanced load button load cell ever, and the G Series, a new international Mini Load Cell product line. And most importantly, we’ve done all of this by ensuring that the health and safety of everyone is our number one priority.

Our ability to remain successful in the past year is a product of how diversified our end markets remain. We continue to serve a wide variety of critical technology-focused industries including aerospace and defense, automotive, medical, industrial, T&M and more. We have benefited from global diversification as well, stepping up our focus on market leaders around the world. It’s also a testament to our engineers who continue to be future focused on innovation. We’ve developed new and groundbreaking ways to serve customers, and we’ve identified trends to keep us at the bleeding edge in our industry and continuously moving forward.

The last point I’ll make on the year 2020 before looking ahead is that we’ve also taken some of the downtime to improve our internal processes and dedicate time to skills training for our team. Not only have we improved our product lines and capabilities, but we’ve also ensured that our skillsets remain strong going into the next year.

And as we finally make the turn to 2021, I’ve spent some time looking ahead to what I believe the next year will hold for our industry and for Interface:

A heightened focus on pre-sale and post-sales service is one thing that we’ve heard from customers in the last year through our semi-annual surveys. We’re upgrading our sales process to ensure our engineering teams are more involved in assisting the customer select and configure the products and systems that are right for their application. Enhancing our after-sales service will include capturing and distributing instructions, guides, and other technical services into a more accessible and easier to find outlets like our robust website.

Another trend we’re seeing requested from our customers is a desire for force measurement providers to migrate from components to systems. World-class componentry will always be important, but our experience working with customers to provide total system solutions that meet their specific needs is critical. In addition, the demand for higher performance and more customization options continues. One of the biggest improvements Interface has made in the past year is updating our production lines to include more automation capabilities. This allows us to provide high-performance, customized products at high volume while still being able to offer competitive costs. This change is helping us expand our sales with the OEM customers.

Finally, a big trend we’ve been following is miniaturization and the desire to pack more sensor technology into a single load cell or torque transducer. We’ve already begun to address this in some of our products by designing accelerometers into load cells. In industries like automotive, we often use a torque transducer to measure rotation with components like car engines. By adding an accelerometer, we can measure both rotation and acceleration through a single device.

As this desire for more data and less convoluted test systems grows, Interface will continue to find ways to customize our load cells and add more sensor types like temperature and humidity. We’ll also do this by using electronic miniaturization manufacturing methods to improve capability without increasing the overall size of the package.

In conclusion, I’m extremely pleased with the level of talent, the strength of the brand and the depth of our commitment to customer satisfaction. We’ve overcome the challenges presented to us this year and remain stronger than ever. Our renewed focus on the future will also help us identify opportunities for innovation to serve customers in more unique and beneficial ways.

I hope that everyone in our community, from our partners to our customers and employees, has a wonderful holiday season and comes back in the new year refreshed. We’re not out of the woods yet with the pandemic, but there is light ahead and we are speeding to be the Interface you can always rely on.

Aerospace and Defense Industry Solutions

Among the many applications Interface products are used for across multiple markets, there may be none that require the highest levels of accuracy, quality and reliability as does the aerospace and defense industry.

By classification, aerospace largely comprises of those engaged in producing and servicing of commercial aircraft. The defense market is defined as those providing military weapons and systems designed to operate in the air, in the sea or on land.

The aerospace and defense industries are global markets that continue to expand their use of precision sensor technologies for advancing innovations in autonomous vehicles and flight systems, electric and hydrogen engines, as well additive manufacturing applications. Interface proudly serves the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers in www.interfaceforce.com/solutions/aerospace by providing world-class force and torque measurement solutions for these types of requirements, as well as for their future inventions.

Over the past two years, the trends in the global commercial space ecosystem along with defense needs have created unique requirements that benefit from our five decades of being a premium provider for A&D equipment manufacturers and testing labs. We are able to meet these trending demands through our standard, engineered to order and completely custom force, torque and systems. These solutions are being utilized in testing of all types of vehicles, on the ground, in the water, and for flight.

A&D is a unique industry because of the complex needs of many applications. When we develop applications for other industries, we’re typically focused on solving a few specific challenges, whether it’s related to cost, safety, performance, environment, or other engineering specified design requirements. In aerospace and defense, every one of these factors needs to be addressed, as well as some special needs. Applications in the aerospace and defense industry cannot fail. If they do, it can put people, both military and civilians, in danger. That’s why force products in the defense industry need to be of the highest quality in all key factors.

Below are a few applications for force measurement in the defense industry. Each demonstrates the criticality of proper force testing, as well as the complexity of the projects Interface has been involved in.

SLS Tank Test

As outlined in NASA’s article on the SLS Tank Test, NASA’s goal was to push the very limits of a test version of the world’s largest rocket fuel tank. The project put incredible flight test strain on the tank to try and push it to its breaking point. After five hours of testing and more than 260% of the expected flight load, the tank finally buckled. Doing this helped engineers gather data on the tank to help intelligently optimize the final rocket ship.

In this application, load cells played the key role of collecting the flight force data. The extreme nature of the flight tests meant that the load cells needed to be incredibly durable and provide accurate data all the way through the breaking point.

Structural Testing

For the many hundreds of thousands of commercial and military vehicles on the market, especially those that fly, there are numerous force tests involved to validate a design and ensure they’re safe and of the highest quality to move into production. Load cells and torque transducers are used across a wide variety of vehicles for structural testing. The torque of the helicopter rotor is measured and validated using a torque transducer, or the wings and hull of an airplane are put through wind tunnels and other stress tests with load cells installed to collect data. All of these force applications are critical to ensuring that these vehicles can last beyond their intended breaking point and offer complete peace of mind to operators and passengers. There are a million different things that a military pilot is thinking about – the structural integrity of his or her aircraft should never be one of them.

Custom Sensors

Another area that has grown in recent years as technology pushes the aerospace and defense market forward is custom sensors. Test has gotten more sophisticated as the move to big data becomes more prevalent, and Interface has addressed this by working directly with customers to develop custom sensors that address unique challenges.

One of the biggest areas where we have seen a growing need for custom sensors is on test stands in thrust application. Test stands are often used in field testing on rocket or plane engines. In certain field applications, the test stand is outfitted with numerous load cells that must be custom designed with features like weatherization, multiple bridges, very-high precision, and more. The reason for this is because the cost of a thrust test in fuel alone can be incredibly high. You usually only get one shot at a successful thrust test. If there are any issues with the sensor, it’s going to be costly.

Interface has deep experience developing custom sensors for our aerospace and defense partners. We understand their needs and work closely with their engineering team to ensure they get it right the first time. If you’re interested in learning more about Interface and our solutions for the aerospace and defense industry, please visit us at www.interfaceforce.com/solutions/aerospace.

For additional references, check out our A&D related case studies and application notes:

Launching Into Orbit with Interface

Force Measurement for Space Travel

Interface’s Crucial Role in Vehicle and Urban Mobility Markets

Aircraft Wing Fatigue Test

Rocket Structural Test

Wind Tunnel Testing

Contributor: Elliot Speidell, Interface Regional Sales Director

Testing for Commercial Drones and Parcel Delivery

Drone parcel delivery, and the use of drones in general, has expanded rapidly throughout the world. A technology that was once relegated to science fiction and imagination is becoming a real-world asset and making a huge impact on many commercial use applications in military and defense, consumer goods, logistics and inventory management, industrial automation, construction, security, agriculture, healthcare, imaging and surveying, as well as shipping and fulfillment.

To give you an idea of the impact of drones, take a look at recent numbers published by the FAA on registered drones in the U.S.:

  • 1,710,159 Drones Registered
  • 495,909 Commercial Drones Registered
  • 1,210,751 Recreational Drones Registered
  • 195,346 Remote Pilots Certified

There is a significant role for test and measurement as well as embedded sensors in this growing industry, which is expected to reach of $6B in size in the next few years. Load cells play a huge part in the design and development of this specialized aircraft technology and ongoing monitoring while in flight. Drones are classified as unmanned aerial vehicles. Basically, an aircraft without a human pilot. Successful operation of a UAV is dependent on a system, including the vehicle, a ground-based controller, and communications components, all of which must pass rigorous performance testing standards and constant data feedback.

The knowledge and tools we apply to test and measure airplanes and spacecraft performance can be transferred at a smaller scale to drones. Drone OEMs need to collect data points on thrust and velocity in test, and they also need to collect real-time sensor data on drones in-use. In fact, a large variety of sensor types are used for drone applications, including: force sensors, gyroscopes, barometers, and accelerometers.

Most recreational drones have passed significant testing during the engineering and design phase to ensure safety for anyone on the ground. Early applications and adoption sparked immediate regulation and safety requirements. We are now seeing the fastest expansion of this technology into commercial use. The future of drone technology for wide-scale business use has several of the world’s largest companies engaged in expansive development and deployment in use of UAVs for package delivery, including Alphabet (Google), Amazon, UPS, CVS and Walmart.

Commercial applications require substantially more rigorous testing in all use cases, in particular for transportation of objects. Most developed countries have defined commercial use requirements and regulations, such as the FAA in the U.S. Not only is the safety of those on the ground important critical, so is protecting the value of the goods in transport.

In demonstrating how force measurement solutions are used with drone technology, Interface created animated application note showcasing how a force solution is necessary for real-time monitoring of drones used in the shipping and fulfillment markets. Testing beyond flight, there is a level of complexity present when you introduce the weight of a package to a drone.

DRONE TESTING USE CASE

Customer Challenge:

A customer approached Interface to deliver a force solution capable of weighing a “payload” and using that data in real-time to tell the propeller motors to compensate for weight shifting or uneven weight distribution. The purpose of the force solution was to help the drone lift the payload and fly normally to reach its destination.

Interface Force Measurement Solution:

To solve this challenge, Interface supplied four WMC Sealed Stainless Steel Miniature Load Cells, which were used to measure the weight of the payload and detect weight shifting and distribution in flight. As shifting and uneven distribution occurred, the load cells send a signal to the necessary propeller motors to compensate.

How it Works:

The four miniature load cells are connected independently to each of the four landing gear legs. The load cells are then connected to the drone’s processor, which allows the load cell to communicate the weight of the payload and store the information. As the drone flies and weight shifts, the load cell can then relay the information to the processor in real-time so that the individual motors increase in RPM to balance the shifting weight.

Subscribe to Interface’s YouTube Channel to see our latest animated application notes. This new series of animated application notes give viewers a better sense of how force measurement products are applied to real-world challenges to collect and analyze data. So far, we have produced three animated application notes, which we have linked below:

 

Hazardous Environment Solutions from Interface

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

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

These hazardous environments are categorized by the amount of explosive risk that is present in the environment. These levels include:

  • Zone Zero – explosive presence is always there
  • Zone One – explosive presence is close and is sometimes there
  • Zone Two – explosive presence is nearby, but is rarely present other than in some type of leak or other catastrophes

In order for force measurement products to operate safely in these environments, companies must design the devices in accordance with a regulatory body. These products must also be inspected for approval and then it is marked with the certification code that displays the zone and temperatures it’s safe to operate in. In addition, the manufacturing process needs to be highly controlled. Manufacturers must keep documentation for each product, which includes how the product was made and where it went. And they are required to keep that documentation for 10 years in case of a product recall.

There are a number of different regulatory bodies focused on product safety throughout the world, and each has different specifications for explosiveness that need to be met based on the area in which the product is sold. Locations in which Interface can sell its Ex Rated products include countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and Brazil in South America.

The regulatory bodies that develop the specifications and approve products include:

  • International Electrotechnical Commission Explosive Atmospheres (IECEx) is given after a manufacturer proves compliance through a quality assessment report (QAR).
  • ATmospheres EXplosible or ATEX is a European Union(EU) examination certification. In order to receive ATEX certification, the manufacturer must obtain a quality assurance notification (QAN) to sell products in certain EU areas.

Interface develops a host of Ex Rated force measurement products that are certified by both IECEx and ATEX. These products have been used in a wide variety of applications within the energy and automotive industries. Included below are a few examples of the products we sell and the applications using our Ex products

ATEX 3400 Series Load Cells

The 3400 series of load cells are rated for Zone 1 and include the 3416 and 3430 Coil Tubing Intrinsically Safe Load Cells, the 3420 Coil Tubing Intrinsically Safe Load Cell and the 3410 Intrinsically Safe LowProfile® Load Cell. These products are hermetically sealed and have been used in the oil and gas industry to measure the force of coil tubing as it goes down an oil well. The 3400 Series is used in the space industry to help develop hydrogen-powered vehicles because of the threat of explosion with hydrogen power. The 3400 Series Load Cells have also been used in a distillery for a custom whiskey-making application.

ATEX, IECEx, ETL, Inmetro 1923 Series

The 1923 Series Load Cell is used in the oil and gas industry. These load cells include designs rated for both Zone 0 and Zone 2 applications. This load cell measures the force in which the pump jack is operating to avoid allowing the pump to go too fast and interrupt the capillary flow of oil. We also recently developed and released the 1923 Wireless Series load cell. Our 1923 Wireless Series innovation provides the same accurate, real-time data readings with little to no fuss over wires, which can create more hazards for the user.

ATEX SSMH Sealed Hazardous Environment Intrinsically Safe S-Type Load Cell

Our Zone 1 rated SSMH S-Type Load Cell is our only load cell that is certified for dust, so it is most often used in mining operations. This product is a tension and compression load cell that is environmentally sealed at an IP65 rating. It also has a high-temperature rating of up to 290° F for dust environments.

ATEX IECEx Bow Type Crosby™ Cabled Load Shackle

The Interface range of ATEX IECEx load shackles is designed for lifting and weighing in rugged or harsh environments, and also meet the requirements for operation in Zone 1 and 2 hazardous areas. The shackle pins are forged from high tensile stainless steel and are machined to an exacting specification. This range of load shackles is proof loaded to 150% of the normal rated load and is available in a range from 3.25 to 400 MT (7.17K to 882K lbf). The product is internally gaged and the whole instrumented area is sealed to IP67 to protect it in service.

When operating in explosive environments, our customers need to know that their products are safe and reliable. Here at Interface, we stand by the quality of our work and the safety of our Ex Rated products. For more information on Interface’s Intrinsically Safe and Ex Rated products, please visit /product-category/intrinsically-safe/.

Contributor:  Ken Vining, Chief Engineer at Interface

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