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Self-weighing technology claims innovation honours

6 June 2017

Crude oil pump

Research which adapted existing know-how to develop ‘self-weighing’ technology has clinched an award for innovation.

Cardiff University’s School of Engineering and Flintec UK, manufacturers of precision weight and force measurement technologies, developed autonomous and autonomous-ready electronic load cells.

Load cells are devices that turn force or pressure into an electrical signal, and are used in products where gauging weight is critical: smart bins, self-weighing vehicles and agricultural storage silos.

The University joined forces with Flintec through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). They looked for a way to integrate four key technologies – strain measurement, wireless communications, power management and energy harvesting/power transmission – in a single, robust, commercially viable “smart” weighing solution.

The results helped the partnership to clinch the Business Innovation prize at this year’s Cardiff University Innovation and Impact Awards.

Dr Jonny Lees, School of Engineering, who led the academic research, said: “The sensor units needed to be self-powered, to exploit sources of ambient energy, and to be able to store harvested energy in a compact and efficient way. The sensors needed to be able to communicate with each other and a number of communications solutions needed to be considered.”

The KTP has helped Flintec develop an advanced, up-to-date digital load cell for high-capacity weighing applications (mainly for truck weighbridges and silos), and has given the company insight into the technology of wireless communications, low power digital electronics and energy harvesting necessary for future products.

Jeff Williams, Head of Engineering at Flintec, said: “The KTP has brought new technologies within reach for the company and we’ve improved our ability to develop complex and demanding weighing solutions..."

“It has helped us strengthen our position as a global player in industrial instrumentation, and the KTP Associate, who joined us from the University to transfer technical knowhow, has stayed with the company in a senior role with key responsibilities.”

Jeff Williams Flintec

The collaboration is expected to grow and is already linking into student projects and teaching. The Associate has helped develop the student curriculum around applications of microprocessors and low-power electronics design. Undergraduates have been able to use Flintec’s advanced manufacturing capabilities and the partnership has given PhD students application for their research.

Voting is open until 11:00 on Wednesday 21 June.

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The University’s Innovation and Impact Awards 2017 highlight the benefits of partnerships between academics and external organisations.