Engineering Materials

How to Make Intelligent Carbon-Fiber Composites

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Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   8/12/2013 12:57:29 PM
bobjengr, thanks for your comments. I was heartened to see this, since I think RFID technology has a lot of potential. Aside from the limitations you mention, it's been a tough uphill sell getting it into factories for tracking consumer products, for a variety of reasons including the cost of setting up complex systems and of developing highly complex software. Because of the high initial investment, I think industrial and commercial B2B applications such as aircraft production make a lot more sense.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   8/12/2013 12:54:45 PM
Ram, thanks for your comments. The terms smart or intelligent as Fraunhofer uses them are applied primarily to the SmartFiber network described at the end of this article, more than to the immediate achievement. In general, saying a system or subsystem or structure is "intelligent" has historically meant that it employs electronics, specifically microprocessors of some sort, and/or transmits/processes data in some way. The example of an intelligent object given in Fraunhofer's press release of aircraft components that tell line workers what kind of component they are, what work has already been done on them, and what's remaining to be done do, I think, qualify. Whether the network can then also heal itself based on the data it gathers and processes--actively respond to external stimuli, as you put it--is an entirely separate issue.

Ram Bhagat, PhD, PMP
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Ram Bhagat, PhD, PMP   8/10/2013 12:49:29 PM
Dear Ann,

I read your posting with interest. Please understand,embedding radio frequency identification (RFID) tags does not make carbon-fiber-reinforced composites intelligent. Intelligent/smart structures possess the ability to actively respond to external stimuli (pressure, temperature, etc.) or potential undesrable effects (e.g. corrosion, cracking, etc.) to mitigate anticipated problems. 

Best regards,



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bobjengr   8/9/2013 7:18:14 PM
Ann--this is a real breakthrough.  I have followed RFID technology over the years and it certainly has earned great respect within manufacturing relative to inventory control.  Tracking of WIP (work in progress) is greatly simplified when RFID technology is applied.   To date, the "chips" have been somewhat fragile when used in conditions considered to be "over-temperature".  I suppose it was a matter of time when the boundaries of temperature were expanded and being able to mold the devices into composites is tremendous advancement.    This opens up additional areas for application.  Great post.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: too much data
Ann R. Thryft   8/7/2013 12:00:16 PM
Lou, that's a very good point. I've read about the enormous volumes of data we're producing from various monitoring systems, including those made with RFID tags/transponders. I'd quibble about the data not saying very much, though. The nature of any monitoring system is to first create enough data to enable the creation of baseline stats, then enough additional data shown over time to indicate when things change (exceptions), and eventually, analysis so users know which exceptions mean a red flag should go up.

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too much data
naperlou   8/7/2013 10:15:04 AM
One thing that will be a shock as systems of this type are employed is the volume of data produced.  Considering the very low failure rate of these materials, you are going to have a deluge of data that says not very much.  I can understand using this in a test environment, but in a production environment it will produce a whole lot of "no problem here".  The potential problem is that the monitoring systems will be innundated with so much data that they will miss the interesting situation.  Then, even with the massive capabilities of our data storage systems, you will still wonder, "where will I put all this?"

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