The Future of Force Measurement
The rise of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and “Big Data” has had a tremendous impact on almost every industry, including force measurement. Up until about ten years ago, the industry had remained steady and predictable. There was a standard way of building load cells using analog technology that was widely accepted, and they served their purpose well.
In this article Ted Larson, VP Product Management and Marketing at Interface Inc., explains the industries recent transition and what lays ahead.
But in the last decade, the world changed. The digital revolution changed the way that engineers worked and put strains on the capabilities of standard load cell technologies. It forced a steady and stagnant industry to innovate for the first time in half a century. But that last ten years have just been the start. While the industry has risen to the challenge to deliver new technologies, we are still in the middle of the shift. So, what does the next decade hold? Here are the top five trends I predict we will see (or continue to see) that will continue over the next decade.
More Digital and Wireless Options
Analog technology was the standard way of developing load cells, torque transducers and other devices for nearly 50 years. However, the digital revolution and rise of IoT changed everything, and engineers were forced to look at the new ways customers were developing products and how production lines and factories were operating. The force measurement industry needed technology that could keep up with the increasing needs for data and connectivity.
With this, we saw an explosion of wireless and digital force measurement options. And the needs for this technology will continue to grow. I believe over the next 10 years we will continue to see an increased need for better, faster, and more connected devices.
Enabling Automation for Industry 4.0 and IoT
The rise of IoT and Industry 4.0 had enabled automation like never before. Machines are smarter than ever and can now make split-second decisions using real-time data. Force measurement plays a key role in this transformation. Load cells that are tracking performance and reliability have more insights than ever before – and they will continue to grow in their accuracy and abilities. Load cells will soon be able to identify precisely when and where something went wrong on a production line. Load cells will play a key role in making production lines more efficient, less reliant on human resources and less costly.
Increased Need for Multi-Axis Sensor Solutions
We will also see an increased need for multi-axis sensors that measure and collect data points on up to six axes. Multi-axis sensors were invented because of the increased demand for data. And this is not slowing down anytime soon. Over the next decade, load cells will continue to keep up with the demand to handle more data points. More sensors will need to be packed into a single device to collect more data with less equipment.
Easier and More Efficient Data Collection
Another major trend that we are seeing in force measurement is the digitization of the force measurement product suite. Interface, along with every other force measurement manufacturer, has started to utilize more advanced electronics in their design to create easier and more efficient data collection. Something that goes along with this, is the new capabilities of load cells to measure more than just force – customers are demanding load cells that can measure temperature, humidity and location, for example. Combining this functionality will have many benefits to simplify design and provide better quality data.
This is something we will continue to see for the next decade, these systems will become more and more complex and will enable more advanced data collection.
New Tools to Enable Better, Faster Data
Along with more complex and advanced load cells, we are also seeing more advanced tools to support this new era of load cells and torque transducers. We are seeing innovations in the sensors themselves, digital instrumentation that facilitates faster data transmission to a central hub or the cloud, advancements in miniaturization of sensors and force measurement tools and integration of more capable and advanced software.
Tips for Readers:
Determine the type of data collection you need: fast vs. high-resolution
Understand your data requirements and the new standards for measurement
Talk to a force measurement provider about force measurement system integration
Determine the ROI of automation: expensive to implement, cost effective in the long run
Following these tips will help OEMs better understand the trends they need to follow and the force measurement technology they need to invest in to keep up with the evolving design and manufacturing world. Consult your engineering and manufacturing team to determine how in-house processes can become more efficient with wireless data transmission, connected devices, multi-axis sensors and advanced instrumentation.
The force measurement industry has already been changed permanently. Digital and wireless solutions will only continue to grow in popularity. More advanced data solutions and capabilities are being offered every day. The force measurement industry is innovating in ways we did not think were possible a decade ago. Understanding these trends and the impact of data and how it improves the bottom line is paramount in stay competitive in today’s market. Force measurement is making a big push to go digital and offer the best solutions possible to prepare engineering and manufacturing for the rise of Industry 4.0. It has been incredible to watch the transformation, and to me – we are just getting started.