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It is rocket science: ABB robot helps test extreme high-temperature systems

30 June 2020

A testing system designed to help with the development of components for jet engines and other high-temperature systems is 30% faster, thanks to a nimble ABB IRB 1200 robot. The developers predict that the new system could reduce the testing and development cycle from weeks to days.

London-based start-up Sensor Coating Systems (SCS) successfully completed the Automated Robotic REadout SysTem (ARREST) project. During this project, an automated readout system for SCS’s thermal mapping technology was developed. In this way, the company’s novel technique allows engineers to access temperature test data in a faster and more accurate way than previously possible. 

SCS’s technology measures the maximum surface temperatures experienced by components in harsh high-temperature environments, such as aircraft engines, gas turbines or automotive engines. The unique SCS approach uses a coating that luminesces when excited by a laser, with the luminescent light emitted relating directly to the peak exposure temperature experienced by the coating. In effect, the coatings can ‘remember’ any temperature within the range of 150 and 1500°C. The digitised temperature data is plotted on a 3D CAD model of the analysed component, generating a thermal map. 

Understanding exactly how heat is distributed across components working under extreme conditions helps engineers to design more environmentally friendly engines with improved combustion efficiency and reduced emissions. It will also help spot potential problems, thus improving engine efficiency and safety, as well as prolonging the life of critical systems. 

Before adopting the robot, SCS used a gantry system to move the test subject around in the path of the laser. Now, the test subject remains stationary while the robotic arm rapidly moves the laser in a carefully calculated pattern to build up the map. SCS typically primes the system by feeding in 3D CAD drawings of the test components, which the robot then uses to calculate the optimum pattern of measurement points across the surface. 

Read the full article in the July issue of DPA.

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