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Transformation in Tribology: Sensing Technologies for Real World Tribological Applications
When we think of application of sensing in tribology, at first it might seem like a novel invention, but the truth is that sensing has been pivotal in tribology for quite some time now.  For example, bench top tribometers, which are key to tribological studies, provide key research data using sensors – load, temperature, position etc. Over the years the resolutions on these tribometer has improved several folds, obviously from the improvement in sensing technology.

With this mind, I would like to get your opinion on a few aspects:
  • From a benchtop testing perspective, are there any important measurements that are not being captured? If so, is this because of lack of development in the sensing technology or other reasons.
  • As much as bench top testing provides time and cost saving, it is no secret that those tests rarely correlate to real-life applications which limits our understanding of mechanisms and processes that occur in components. This limitation is certainly a challenge for research & development in different areas. What can we do to ensure benchtop test provide useful insights regarding the actual applications and would this need new standards? 

The use of sensors on actual components provide real-time data that can only be useful when accurately processed. For components that operate 24/7, huge amounts of data will be collected over time.
  • Do we currently have enough expertise within the tribology community to analyse this ‘big data’ to get useful insights?  If not, should this be an aspect for consideration alongside development of sensing technology?
  • Facilitating the application of sensors on real components requires input from various stakeholders. How do you get buy-in from everyone?
  • What are the current challenges in developing tribology sensors for real applications?
  • For those who have successfully applied tribology sensor in real applications, what would you say has been the main reason for success?
The Tribology Technical Network have organised a webinar with a presentation from Dr Phil Harper, Founder of Tribosonics Ltd  on the above topic on 1 December 2020, if you've not yet registered you can do that here.

Posted on behalf of Doris Khaemba, Vice Chairman, IET Tribology Technical Network.
2 Replies
What most machine users want is an advance warning of failure.  This could be provided by an extra thin coating within the tribo-coat on components under wear.
If this has a distinct signal (eg; detectable rise in sound level on a monitor).  This would give the operator time to make replacements. 

Posted on behalf of Professor John Colligon.
2851 Posts
I'm inclined to agree on the advantage to advance warning of impending failures, but I'd add location of contact regions to simple surface condition. There are many ways of monitoring things on or near to surfaces - especially if you allow things to be coated (microwave surface waves for example  are an alternative to the ulstrasonics, and the wavelengths, and therefore measurement accuracy, are similar) . Theramin (electric field ) and magnetic sensing are others.
In many ways the suggestion is that continuous sensing replaces periodic inspections - something a bit more sophisticated than the wear limit indicators in the tyre tread.
The other half of the equation is the waste of energy involved in having equipment monitoring and collecting data, perhaps most of it saying 'no change',  until something interesting happens, and what happens if the monitoring equipment fails first, so the alarm is missed.
I have no answers, just possible reasons it is not as widespread as you may expect.
regards Mike



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