Case Study: Embedded Sensing Feasibility Study
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Embedded Sensing Feasibility Study

MTC industrial members benefit from participation in the MTC Core Research Programme in which they collaborate on an array of innovative research projects. The Advanced Tooling and Fixturing Theme in MTC, with the input of Rolls-Royce, Airbus and a range of other industrial members instigated The Embedded Sensing Feasibility Study.

The aim of the Embedded Sensing project was to offer a manufacturing business the ability to actively optimise and control a process, reduce downtime and prevent potential processing errors. This was achieved by developing a smart fixture that includes feedback, control and automatic responses dependant on what is happening to a part in real-time.

The project was split into two initial phases:

Phase 1

The Sensor Selection Tool was designed to enable engineers, who are not fully familiar with sensor technology, to decide upon the correct sensor to use. This will assist with the transition to intelligent fixtures that utilise a variety of sensor technology.

To aid with a choice of sensor, the engineer is presented with choices that down select to a variety of sensors that would work for the application. This tool is available to MTC industrial members and is being maintained as an up-to-date reference source by MTC.

Phase 2 Demonstrator

The demonstrator is an easily reconfigurable fixture that shows off how added intelligence is achieved via the deployment of a sensor array.

Sensors have been specified with a harsh environment in mind to enable deployment onto multiple applications. The array includes triaxial accelerometers, thermocouples, load cells and displacement sensors (in the form of LVDTs). This data is then fed to a National Instrument’s (NI) CompactRIO which provides reliable and rapid data processing, in addition to, allowing for data to be transmitted over a network interface to other process controllers. The design of the system incorporates the use modular components to provide maximum flexibility and adaptability for future work. To assist with flexibility the frame is assembled from Witte’s Alufix system and all brackets are designed to be compatible with this system.

The phase 2 demonstrator has proven:

  • Sensing of clamping force utilising Roemheld electric swing clamps in combination with load cell feedback.
  • Identification that a part is located correctly using positional feedback and conventional location points.
  • Real-time output of sensor data for condition monitoring.

This research is available to MTC industrial members and is being utilised by the Advanced Tooling and Fixturing Theme at MTC for on-going projects.