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Interface Solutions for Robotics and Industrial Automation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Faces of Interface Featuring Randy White

Randy White’s passion for the engineering and aerospace industry began to grow at an early age. His father served in the United States Air Force, where he was the Chief Mechanic on a B52 in Vietnam. Growing up in Princeton, Illinois, Randy’s father imparted his mechanical and technical wisdom upon his son, which was developed during his time serving in the USAF, as well as in his post-military career as a mechanic for a steel company. His father told stories of the planes he worked on, and the two could often be found working together on cars, remodeling their home or solving various other projects around the house.

When Randy left for college, he decided to follow the passion that his father had helped to instill in him and received an Associate Degree in electronics from ITT Technical Institute. This degree, in addition to his early childhood background in engineering, helped him land a job at Rockford Corporation. He worked as a repair technician, working on car audio amplifiers. He was eventually promoted to the manager of the customer service and repair department.

Randy stayed with Rockford for nine years moving into the electronics and sensors industry. His first position in the electronics industry began at Vishay, a large components company. Randy worked on variable resistors at Vishay. This was the position that got him into the sensor industry. After several years working as an applications engineer and eventually a product manager, they closed the office in Tempe, Arizona. This is when he got into distribution sales. It wasn’t until he worked at TTI as a field sales representative, that he really understood the culture and importance of a good sales team. TTI’s relationship-focused sales culture and value-add selling really resonated with Randy and helped to build his foundation as a team player and solutions provider.

Randy’s final stop before joining Interface was at BEI Duncan, in the sensor department, which eventually became known as BEI Sensors. He moved into a sales role because he realized that he loved being in the field and helping customers solve challenges in person, rather than doing it from behind a desk. After five years with BEI and a promotion to regional sales manager, Randy began to explore a career at Interface.

He knew about Interface by reputation, and upon learning more about the company he realized he wanted to get into the force measurement industry. Specifically, he wanted to solve the test and development challenges for aerospace customers. He joined Interface as Regional Sales Manager, servicing the Western US. He remained for four years and then left to join HITEC Sensors Solutions Inc., for two years as their western regional sales manager.

Staying in touch with his Interface comrades and hearing of opportunities ahead, he was recruited back with a promise from the sales management team that they were on the verge of taking Interface to the next level. Randy knows of the potential that Interface has to really take the industry by storm with the biggest differentiator over the rest of the world. When asked what that differentiator was, he simply replied the people.

Randy rejoined Interface in 2019 because he believes in the people and enjoys the wide variety of aerospace companies he was able to work with that are already loyal customers. He also loves that he gets to see some of this technology in its the early stages of development while playing a key role in finding force measurement products to fit the evolving needs of these projects.

“One of the most exciting things about my role is the ability to work with aerospace companies that are creating new and innovative technologies.” Randy White, Regional Sales Director, Western Region, US

Even in his personal life, Randy is surrounded by aerospace. Not only with his father being in the U.S. Air Force, his mother, wife, daughter and one of his two sons all work in the airline industry as flight attendants or as an air traffic controller in his sons’ case. His youngest son is a CPA and even though he is not directly in the aerospace industry, he gets to reap the rewards and benefits from the rest of them. The passion truly follows Randy wherever he goes. In his free time, he and his wife spend time working on their retirement plan, which is flipping houses while they are living in them. He moved into a sales role professionally and has never lost the itch to work with his hands and build things!

To learn more about all of the people who make up Interface and carry on our more than 50 year legacy of force measurement engineering and manufacturing excellence, please follow our blog and watch for our Faces of Interface’s profiles at www.interfaceforce.com/blog.

 

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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Interface Accelerates Accuracy in Test and Measurement

Since Interface was founded in 1968, we have developed millions of load cells and torque transducers for engineers and designers that require the highest precision force sensors for accurate and reliable data collection in test and measurement (T&M). Our customers represent a wide swath of industries, products, equipment types, tools, and electronics that depend on us for proving accuracy, consistency, and reliability in performance.

The complexity of user applications and testing environments is rapidly expanding as a result of shorter product lifecycles and demands for smaller, lighter, faster-performing innovations. This has created a proliferation of new test and measurement use cases for sensors in almost every sector including technology, energy, and biomedical, as well as industrial, additive manufacturing and automotive verticals.  We are seeing more and more sensor products utilize Bluetooth technology, digital outputs, and direct OEM installations into the product without connectors.

Our products serve a wide variety of these types of test and measurement requirements used for structural and material testing, static and fatigue testing, torsion effects, tension tests and mass and kinetic energy. When experienced users see the Interface brand, they know they can expect the highest-quality results possible from the force measurement industry leaders.

The load cell products we provide T&M customers range from our  Ultra Low Capacity Series, which measures forces in mere grams, to our industry-leading LowProfile™ Load Cells with capacities up to 2 million lbf. For torque testing, Interface supplies a wide variety of torque transducers with ranges as low as 0.005 Nm and as high as 340K Nm. We customers depend on us for various multi-axis sensors, instrumentation products, accessories, tension links, load pins, and shackles. For complex challenges and unique applications, our customers work with our application engineers to create modified and customized solutions.

Test and Measurement Applications

To give you a sense as to the range of test and measurement use cases, here is a small sample of applications that utilize our standard and custom force measurement solutions:

  • Fatigue testing
  • Material testing
  • Suspension testing
  • Shear testing
  • Force testing
  • Tensile testing
  • Pressure testing
  • Friction testing
  • Durability testing
  • Tension testing
  • Device testing
  • Hardware load and fatigue testing
  • Force verification
  • Calibration

Included below are two examples of how our products were used to help our customer’s test and measure “real life” applications.

Harness Durability Testing

A customer came to us needing to test the load and durability factors of harnesses used by workers to carry heavy loads or those used in sports equipment. We developed a drop test apparatus using an Interface Model 1200 Load Cell. The apparatus dropped a humanoid dummy outfitted with the harness from various heights to measure the force generated during sudden stops at maximum cable extension. These tests helped our customer develop harness limits which inform users on unsafe loads.

Figure one: Interface drop test apparatus using the Model 1200 load cell

Prosthetic Load and Fatigue Testing

Medical hardware engineers are among the largest users of T&M equipment because of the stringent regulations in the industry. Interface developed a new solution to test heavy loads on prosthetic limbs to certify them for falls, accidents and athletic movement. These stress tests determine the expected lifespan of prosthetic components under normal usage.  Our solution involves a static load test apparatus with an S-type load cell attached to a hydraulic actuator which applies and measures cyclic loads. These tests help our customers determine whether prosthetic materials and designs will withstand the rigors of daily use and occasional high-load situations.

Figure two: Load test apparatus with an S-type load cell attached to a hydraulic actuator  

What we find most exciting about the T&M industry is continuous innovation, perhaps it is the “engineer” in us.  We like to solve, create, build, imagine and challenge ourselves. There are a wide variety of new applications we see every year, and yet many applications are unique.

Those that are in the test and measurement field help to guarantee product safety, reliability and longevity. Therefore, the tools they use are critical to the confirmation of their work. That’s why Interface builds products that reliably and consistently gather high-quality, accurate data for any application. For more information on our T&M offerings, or to discover more T&M product applications, please visit www.interfaceforce.com/solutions/test-measurement/.

Torque Transducers 101

Torque is defined as the rotational equivalent of linear force. It’s a measure of how much a force acting on an object causes that object to rotate. This is one of the key measurements for engineers doing design, test, and manufacturing. It’s critical to understand how to identify torque if you’re doing product development with rotating systems such as engines, crankshafts, gearboxes, transmissions, and rotors.

Interface develops more than 50 different kinds of reaction and rotary torque transducers, as well as custom transducers for our customers. All our torque transducers also referred to as torque sensors, are precision-machined and use our proprietary torque sensors for the most accurate data possible, quality and reliability.

Here are some frequently asked questions and details about torque transducers, including key terms and descriptions of reaction versus rotary, shaft and flange style torque, couplings, and floating and fixed mounts.

What is a torque sensor (transducer)?

A torque sensor is a transducer that converts a torsional mechanical input into an electrical output signal.

Reaction versus Rotary

There are two types of transducers that Interface sells, reaction and rotary transducers. Reaction torque transducers measure static torque, or torque without rotating, and are widely used in process control and testing. Rotary torque transducers like AxialTQ measure dynamic force and are used in applications where the torque transducer must rotate when attached to a spinning shaft. A rotary torque transducer provides a method of getting the signal off of the rotating element without an attached cable, while a reaction transducer uses an attached cable.

Shaft and Flange Style Torque

The shaft or flange is the component taking the torque measurement. Shaft style torque offers convenient mounting and has a longer installed length than flange style. It comes in two different versions, smooth and keyed shafts. A smooth shaft provides ease of assembly and disassembly, with zero backlash. Keyed style shafts are simple and less expensive; however, they can suffer from wear due to backlash. The flange style is typically shorter than the shaft style and has pilots on its flange face as a centering feature. This style has better resistance to overhung moments and can be more convenient to mount.

Coupling

Couplings are a critical component to the torque transducer that ensures the isolation of torque loads. Couplings should be used in all applications, and the selection of the coupling type is based on the speed of the application. For higher speed applications, you will want to look for high-quality couplings. The coupling helps to prevent error and/or damage from extraneous loads.

Floating and Fixed Mounts

Floating Style

There are two common types of torque transducer mounts, floating and fixed mounts. For high-speed applications, fixed and supporting mounting is mandatory. For safety reasons, floating mounts should only be used for low-speed applications. In floating mounts, the sensor is supported only by the drive and load side connectors, and a flexible strap keeps the sensor from rotating. Fixed mounts apply only to sensors with bearings, and it involves attaching the sensor housing to fixed support for added stability.

For more information on Interface’s wide selection of torque transducers, please visit www.interfaceforce.com/product-category/torque-transducers/.

Better Data and Performance with Interface Multi-Axis Sensors

The increasing consumer demand for smarter and more sophisticated products is transforming design practices. Data-driven design is now at the forefront of product development and has become the catalyst to the explosion of sensor technology. Engineers require an increasing number of sensors to measure every aspect of their product. In response to this market need, we have developed a family of Interface Multi-Axis Sensors.

The Interface Multi-Axis Sensors measure a multitude of forces and moments simultaneously with a single load cell sensor. These sensors can precisely measure the applied force from one direction with little or no cross-talk from the force or moment. Interface’s  3-axis6-axis, and axial torsion load cells provide excellent performance and accuracy in force and torque measurement.

“Our multi-axis sensors measure forces simultaneously in three mutually perpendicular axes, with the 6-axis load cells also measuring torque around those axes.” Ken Bishop, Custom Solutions Director, Interface

The key advantages of Interface’s Multi-Axis Sensors are three-fold:

  1. The ease in which Interface Multi-Axis Load Cells can be set up and put in use provides a user-friendly experience. The software takes very complicated mathematics and presents it in a simple and understandable format. As an example, check out this quick video to see how easy it is to set up the 6-Axis to BX8-HD44.
  2. Interface products are known for accuracy and performance. The Interface Multi-Axis family of products provides the most accurate and comprehensive data readings on the market.
  3. Longevity is a common problem with most multi-axis Sensor products because of the various angles of stress the load cells endure. Interface products are built to last. The combination of robust design and strong materials ensure that Interface Multi-Axis Sensors remain in proper working order for longer than any similar device on the market.

Interface Multi-Axis Load Cells are ideally suited to many industrial and scientific applications, such as www.interfaceforce.com/solutions/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.

Interface is helping provide crucial data to global product engineers across all industries, which has never been available before. Our Multi-Axis Sensors have become a key component to optimizing designs in complex, multi-faceted products. With the data available today through Interface’s unique test and measurement products, engineers have the freedom to be more innovative in product design and development and meet the demands of consumers.

Read about our latest BX8 8-Channel Data Acquisition System and Amplifier and 6-Axis 6A Series 6-Axis Force and Torque Load Cell

An Interface customer ran into challenges when testing a new car seat by attempting to measure the force with a standard load cell rated at 550 pounds. After applying only 150 pounds of force, the load cells would break. While helping to troubleshoot the issue, Interface realized that the unique contour of the car seat was applying twist pressure that surpassed the standard load cells moment rating. Interface provided the customer with a 6-Axis Load Cell and they were able to measure the force on multiple-axis to optimize the car seat design. This is an example of a unique product development environment in which Interface Multi-Axis Sensors thrive.

By Ken Bishop, Custom Solutions Director, Interface