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MicroStrain Joins Sensor Project

Photonics.com
Oct 2004
WILLISTON, Vt., Oct. 12 -- MicroStrain Inc., a maker of sensors for applications including advanced automotive controls, health monitoring and inspection of machines and buildings, announced it will join a project sponsored by Caterpillar Inc. to provide real-time wireless sensor information about the condition of equipment and structures.

The project, Structural Health Integrated Electronic Life Determination (SHIELD), is a three-year development program valued at over $8.8 million. Fifty percent of the project is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program (ATP). The ATP funds are matched by the project companies. Other participants are Motorola Inc. and Native American Technologies Co., a Golden, Colo., provider of software and engineering services for welding and manufacturing processes. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Drexel University, in Philadelphia, will be consultants on damage analysis calculations and structural health monitoring, respectively.

MicroStrain said it will contribute expertise and new ideas for next-generation wireless strain sensor networks. The SHIELD system will use wireless sensors that can be attached to different parts of a structure to collect data continuously on actual use, fatigue damage, cracks and other parameters, and hardware and software to analyze these data. Low-cost, low-power sensors will be developed based on microelectromechanical systems. Hardware will be developed for high-speed damage calculations, and software will be written to determine the loads of dynamic systems, and neural networks will be used to supplement real-time dynamic structural analysis.   

"Countless steel and aluminum equipment structures carry or bear heavy loads in construction, transportation and other applications," the ATP said in a statement. "The unknown variability of these loads during use pose significant risks, and as a result the structures tend to be over-designed, expensive and wasteful of resources. To improve risk and failure management and structural efficiency, a joint venture led by Caterpillar set up a three-year project to develop and demonstrate prototype sensor and analysis technologies to determine in real time the condition and remaining functional life of large pieces of equipment and/or structures."

It said the funding enables the multidisciplinary team to collaborate and will accelerate the implementation of continuous structural monitoring systems on mobile structures by five years.

"If successfully developed and deployed, the new technology will improve safety and reduce losses by predicting potential catastrophic failures, enhance productivity through optimized structural design and operation and reduce maintenance and repair costs through monitoring of damage accumulation. In addition to the initial applications in mining and construction equipment, the SHIELD system could be used to monitor trucks, bridges, buildings, aircraft, railways and ships," according the the ATP.

For more information, visit: www.microstrain.com



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