Bolts that are screwed too tightly or loose can lead to disastrous consequences, especially in industry. The Swedish company Strainlabs is therefore launching intelligent bolts that know how tightly they are screwed.
Strainlabs: Bolts minimize maintenance effort
Thanks to Strainlabs’ smart bolts, manual inspection of the bolts is hardly necessary anymore. The bolts are equipped with sensors that can determine whether a bolt is too tight or too loose and can also measure the temperature of the environment. If the bolts are out of position, they send an error message to Strainlabs’ analysis tool. The solution is currently in the development phase. It is CE marked. The bolts can automatically perform maintenance routines and warn before expensive and lengthy failures can occur.
Bolts are mainly used, especially in industry, to connect parts together. This makes them the most common source of failures, maintenance and inspections. For normal bolts that do not have built-in sensors and warning systems, inspection must be done carefully. An unplanned machine failure is much more time consuming and also more expensive, as the systems cannot be used during this time and the repair itself is more costly. With Strainlabs’ bolts, users receive a warning even before the bolt can loosen. “The ability to monitor bolted connections installed in a completely different geographic location improves the safety of maintenance personnel and allows for more strategic and predictable maintenance,” said Csaba Madru, CEO of Strainlabs. When the bolts reach the minimum or maximum preload force, the Analyste tool Strainlabs Analytics is immediately notified. This allows the machine to be serviced in a timely manner.
Digitizing existing plants
Industrial Technology, or IntTech, aims to digitize existing industrial plants. This area continues to grow steadily with increasing digitization. Here, too, Strainlabs’ bolts are the ideal way to drive change. ABB incubator SynerLeap, for example, has accompanied Strainlabs over the past few years. Here, SynerLeap admires Strainlabs’ approach to integrating sensors into standardized machine components. This means there is no need to buy a new and expensive machine. Instead, existing equipment can be equipped with new and digital elements. “Industrial applications often suffer from exposed bolted joints, which makes Strainlabs a highly relevant condition monitoring solution,” emphasizes Peter Löfgren, founder and director of SynerLeap powered by ABB.
Expectations are that the bolting industry will continue to grow. This is especially true for special applications. Strainlabs covers the entire standard range from M10 to M20, providing bolts with integrated sensors for all common applications. Until now, there has been no comparable technology where bolt preload is automatically measured and the data graphically displayed. This opens up a large potential market for Strainlabs in the industry. The development of these bolts has taken some time, according to Strainlabs. The process of miniaturizing all the parts was very challenging. Now, the solution is ready to be implemented on a large scale, he said.
Strainlabs meets Intertek’s CE requirements
As there is currently no comparable product on the market, several tests were carried out with Intertek. This ensured that the built-in electronics as well as the communication via radio meet the European CE requirements. These refer to parameters such as health, safety and environment. The certification body Intertek is independent and approved Strainlabs’ multidisciplinary bolts according to the health, environment and safety requirements.
“We see tremendous potential in the information that Strainlabs’ solution enables. Working with this type of technology company is an important part of our strategy to jointly improve the competitiveness of Swedish industry, but also to help challenge traditional and costly maintenance methods,” says Peter Löfgren of SynerLeap.