Posts

Vision Sensor Technology Increases Production Reliability

In the product manufacturing process, repeatability, process control, and inspection are some of the most important factors in creating high-performance products. At Interface, reliability and accuracy are the two most important features of our renowned force measurement products. For this reason, Interface continues to invest in the highest quality test and inspection technology to ensure each product that leaves the production floor is of the utmost Interface brand quality.

In this blog, we will be discussing our investment in top-of-the-line vision sensor technology and systems that help us to effectively reduce waste, improve efficiencies in manufacturing, and guarantee proper performance.

For many years, Interface has relied on our employees for their keen visual inspection of products that come off the production line. These trusted employees are looking at a number of things, including: are wires installed properly and are the serial and revision numbers correct. These respected and experienced Interface team members can inspect hundreds or thousands of products a day, with a heavy reliance on the human eye.

Interface load cells must meet stringent quality processing production standards, along with our calibration requirements before they are shipped to our customers. Interface will scrap any product that does not meet the exact precision standards for performance. In fact, if the product fails, we will not utilize the product at all. We will start our manufacturing process over to ensure the integrity and quality is met, as is expected with any Interface branded force measurement product.

In a recent experience of solving for a wiring issue that could cost thousands in waste, we sought out an innovative way to approach the challenge. To solve the visualization and human dependency concerns, we invested in a Keyence Vision Sensor IV2 Series. This camera system allows us to reduce human error by programming the camera to pick up misaligned wiring and notify the user.

It works with advanced sensor technology that can identify production issues and will provide the user with a green light if everything looks good, or a red light if there is an issue. The system is helping to significantly reduce both inspection time and production line errors. The vision technology system is currently implemented on our MBS mini load cell line, one of our highest volume production lines. Since implementing the system, we have not seen a failure that caused any type of loss.

We are now looking into how we could use the Keyence Vision Sensor technology in other areas of production. For instance, we are testing how the camera could be used to read serial and revision numbers that are laser marked onto our products. Every once in a while, if the laser is misaligned or the user hits an extra keystroke, the numbers could be off, and the customer will have an error in their records. With the innovative visualization system, the camera’s sensors could read the serial numbers and let the user know if there is an error quickly.

To learn more about how Interface is investing in innovation and technology to improve our processes and production methods, check out the IQ Blog at www.interfaceforce.com/blog/.  You can also learn more about Interface’s 2019 Arizona Manufacturer of the Year Award here.

Contribution from Nick Siegel, Design Engineer, Interface

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

Interface Bluetooth Telemetry System Provides Measurements Viewable on Mobile Platforms

The new Interface Bluetooth Telemetry System features a free iOS and Android app to allow users to view data from multiple sensors in real-time on a smartphone or tablet.

Providing its customers with a more accessible solution for viewing and downloading force measurement data, Interface has introduced its new Bluetooth® Telemetry System (BTS) solution. At the heart of Interface’s BTS solution is the powerful Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) strain bridge transmitter module that provides access to high-quality measurements on a mobile platform such as a phone or tablet. BTS features high measurement resolution, simple integration into iOS and Android Apps, achievable ranges of up to 90m line of sight, extended battery life and the ability to view data from multiple sensors all at once.

“Interface is well-known in the industry for accuracy, and the BTS combines precision with innovative Bluetooth technology to provide the most user-friendly experience possible. The ability to receive critical data in real-time will greatly improve our customer’s product development efficiency in the digital age.” Joel Strom, CEO at Interface

The BTS features high measurement resolution, which produces a noise-free resolution of 1 in 92,000 counts (16.5 bit) when used with a 3mV/V sensor and 1 in 184,000 counts (17.5 bit) when used with a 6mV/V sensor. The system also allows for advert format and encoding as well as details on connected services to facilitate simple integration of the device within custom apps for OEM applications.

The BTS free iOS and Android apps are available for download and enable users to create dashboards with varying degrees of detail based on application requirements. The BTS sensor data output can be visualized on mobile devices with a variety of digital displays, gages, tanks, and charts. Displayed data can be defined as mathematical expressions consisting of readings from multiple transmitters, functions, and constants. The apps also facilitate Interface’s BTS module configuration and calibration.

The BTS solution continues to showcase the growing line of wireless technologies offered by Interface that are used for accurate force measurement. BTS joins Interface’s Wireless Telemetry System (WTS) in the growing demand by manufacturers and integrators who need flexibility and freedom from the restraints of wired systems. The Interface BTS is available now and details of the solution can be found here.

PRESS RELEASE

For more information on Interface and its innovative wireless force measurement solutions WTS and BTS, click here.  You can also compare the solutions in the overview below.  

WTS BTS Brochure

Advanced Testing with Telemetry Systems from Interface

In product development, flexibility is a crucial facet of creating efficient workflows. Having a diverse set of flexible tools and testing instruments allows engineers and manufacturers to approach their work from a wide variety of angles and environments.

Interface is keenly aware of the growing demand for manufacturers and integrators to have advanced systems that easily replace hard-wired systems, reducing installation and maintenance costs. Based on these needs, Interface offers a variety of off-the-shelf and custom force measurement wireless solutions, in multiple capacities, capabilities, ranges, and dimensions for all types of applications.

Case in point is Interface’s two advanced telemetry systems, the Interface Wireless Telemetry System (WTS) and the new Interface Bluetooth® Telemetry System (BTS). These telemetry systems transmit high-quality data from load cells to single and multiple devices. Both the WTS and the BTS offer a wide variety of benefits, including high accuracy, high resolution, IP-rated enclosures, and multiple configuration options. The quality of Interface load cell performance is fully realized utilizing the convenience of these systems, which are acting as a data bridge between the load cell and a display device.

The WTS and BTS products are designed to provide OEMs, labs, and engineers with flexibility in where and how they conduct product testing using load cells. The WTS was designed for a controlled lab environment or engineering facility with access to Wi-Fi® or ethernet data. The BTS solution was created to allow for field testing in areas with little to no access to the internet. Included below is a more in-depth breakdown of the features of Interface’s industry-leading telemetry systems.

WTS-BS-4 Wireless Base Station with USBWireless Telemetry System (WTS)

The WTS is a high-speed, modular system that allows for data collection from long ranges. It is powerful and easily expandable for measuring multiple sensor types and can connect with up to 100 sensors within a half-mile range. The device is supported by powerful configuration software with data logging and visualization for local or remote access. It comes in a wide variety of different model types, including integrated transmitter models, repeater models, output models, display models and antenna models. It can connect with up to 100 sensors up-to a half a mile range.

To see the range of wireless WTS products, go to /product-category/wireless-telemetry-system.

Bluetooth® Telemetry System (BTS)

The BTS features high measurement resolution, which produces a noise-free resolution of 1 in 92,000 counts (16.5 bit) when used with a 3mV/V sensor and 1 in 184,000 counts (17.5 bit) when used with a 6mV/V sensor. The system also allows for advert format and encoding as well as details on connected services to facilitate simple integration of the device within custom apps for OEM applications. BTS can connect up to 12 sensors to a single mobile device or to multiple mobile devices.

The premium advantage of the BTS, above the long battery life, low cost and mobile apps visualization resources, is its ability to connect directly to mobile devices to collect data on-the-go without an internet connection. This allows engineers to complete field testing in remote locations or hard to access areas. Free iOS and Android apps are available for download and enable users to create dashboards with varying degrees of detail based on application requirements. The BTS output can be visualized on phones and tablets by using digital displays, gages, tanks, and charts.

To learn more about the new Bluetooth Telemetry System (BTS) offered by Interface, go to /products/instrumentation/bts-bluetooth-telemetry-system.

For more information on Interface’s WTS and BTS products read below.  You can access a detailed spec sheet comparing the products along with individual datasheets online by registering online at Interface.com.

WTS BTS Brochure

 

Multi-Axis Sensors 101

Have you ever tried to build a piece of furniture with half the tools necessary? It just doesn’t work. And this same problem occurs when you try to test and measure force and torque on complicated types of machinery like an aircraft assembly or advanced robotics on a single axis. In response to meet this complex force measurement need, Interface has developed a product line of 2-axis, 3-axis, 6-axis, and axial torsion load cell sensors.

Data-driven design is at the forefront of product development, especially in highly-regulated markets like aerospace, medical and industrial. Interface’s multi-axis sensors are designed to provide the most comprehensive force and torque data points on advanced machinery. With our industry-leading reliability and accuracy, these multi-axis sensors are able to provide the data our customers need to ensure performance and safety in their product design.

To provide you with more insight, here’s an overview of Interface’s multi-axis sensors and their unique capabilities.

3-Axis Load Cells

Multi Axis Sensor 3AXX 3 Axis Load Cells -

Interface’s 3-axis load cell measures force simultaneously in three mutually perpendicular axes: X, Y, and Z – tension and compression. Each axis provides a unique mV/V output and requires no mathematical manipulation. The 3-axis load cell is built to minimize eccentric loading effects and crosstalk between axes. The company offers five different models in its 3A Series 3-axis load cell designed for a wide variety of capacities.

6-Axis Load Cells

Interface’s 6-axis load cell measures force simultaneously in three mutually perpendicular axes and three simultaneous torques about those same axes. Six full bridges provide mV/V output on six independent channels. A 36-term coefficient matrix is included for calculating the load and torque values in each axis. An 8-channel amplifier with USB PC interface is also available which simplifies data analysis. The company offers five different models of 6-axis load cells for a wide variety of capacities.

Axial Torsion Load Cells

Interface’s axial torsion load cell is used for measuring both torque and force in a single sensor. Typical applications of its axial torsion transducer include bearing test and material test machines. The features of our axial torsion load cell include minimal cross talk, extraneous load resistance, and the load cell is fatigue rated. Customers can also add the following options, an integral cable, compression overload protection, and connector protector.

2-Axis Load Cells

Multi Axis Sensors AT102 2-Axis Axial Torsion Load CellThe Interface 2-axis load cells can measure in two directions, X and Y simultaneously. It is commonly used in applications where dual-axis measurement is important in design and testing.

Interface multi-axis load cells are ideally suited to many industrial and scientific applications, such as aerospace, robotics, automotive and medical research (orthopedics and biomechanical). In fact, their unique capabilities are helping the medical industry optimize prosthetic design via multi-axis testing. The automotive industry is using Interface’s multi-axis products in wind tunnels, and the military is using them to test the center of gravity in aerospace applications.

As with all force measurement products available from Interface, we’re happy to work with you to provide a custom design. We can customize our products for varying capacities between X-Y and Z, higher temperature capability, or OEM and private labeling if needed.

For more information on Interface’s multi-axis sensors, visit our web product page or review our product brochure for detailed specifications on every product.

Multi-Axis Brochure_6-Page

Making the Case with Accuracy and Reliability for Ultra HD Testing

Interface is a leader in ultra-accurate and high-reliability force measurement solutions and services for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)

We recently published a case study on a unique and complex project for a customer specializing in designing and building automated systems to observe and test for color and light performance in Ultra HD displays. It was a great opportunity for Interface to showcase our innovative design expertise. Working with OEMs in partnership allow our team members to collaborate closely to on the project’s specific and delicate nature.

This blog provides an abbreviated version of the case study. You can download the full version here.

Qualifying Ultra HD Resolution

With the rising popularity of Ultra HD and 4K format video monitors, testing for video output quality is critical. These screens have a resolution of 3840×2160.  This is four times the number of pixels in full-high-definition (HD) and eight times as many as standard definition. To put it in perspective, Ultra HD (UHD) is only a slightly lower resolution than the picture displayed on theater movie screens.

Evaluating the Application Requirements

Interface’s customer needed a solution to monitor and control forces during testing. With this technology, inspecting the color and light performance of the screen is much more critical than ever before due to the intensity of perception. Because the hype of this technology is centered around its stellar resolution, testing for output quality is one of the most important steps in the manufacturing process.  The solution had to easily allow for the mounting of sensors into the large glass array handling tool.

The Clear Results

Interface’s solution provided direct force and weight feedback around the periphery on the monitor array panel to allow for precise handling control without fracturing the glass. Because of Interface, the customer was able to test the video output quality long before the completion of the end product.

For more than 51 years, Interface has worked with manufacturers to provide industrial automation solutions for test and measurement that improve products, reduce risks and ultimately foster continuous innovation to do more, better and faster.  For more information on how Interface can help solve your unique challenges, contact our application engineer team today.

READ THE FULL CASE STUDY HERE

Interface Case Study For HD Manufacturer

 

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