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Thermocouple Solution Tracks Location, Status of Temperature Sensors

The TE Wire & Cable Smart Thermocouple solution, using technology from Plataine, will enable aerospace companies to better manage not only where the devices they use for autoclave temperature management are located, but when they need to be replaced.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 22, 2018

Thermocouple manufacturer TE Wire & Cable and Internet of Things (IoT) software company Plataine are offering manufacturers a joint, RFID-based IoT solution. The system utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) software to track the location and usage-based status of its temperature-monitoring products.

By employing the RFID capabilities of the new Smart Thermocouples, TE Wire & Cable's manufacturing customers can identify exactly when a thermocouple needs to be replaced, without having to manually record data, and then quickly find that device within their facility. The technology also offers real-time alerts and recommendations for thermocouple calibration, says Joseph Ugalde, TE Wire & Cable's marketing business analyst.

This solution, TE Wire & Cable reports, may be the first to leverage RFID for this purpose in its industry. The company developed the system together with Plataine, following requests from some of its customers that use the products to track temperatures in their autoclaves when making aircraft parts.

TE Wire & Cable, a Marmon Wire & Cable/Berkshire Hathaway company, sells thermocouple assemblies used in the making of composite aircraft parts. The manufacturing of such parts requires that autoclaves apply heat and pressure to the material within a very specific temperature range, in order to ensure the parts' integrity. The thermocouple, a thermoelectric assembly for measuring temperatures, is connected to a jack panel within the autoclave, where the respective temperature data is run through and then fed into a data logger. When manufacturers create a new part, they typically embed the thermocouples into a "layup" before it enters the autoclave.

When the part is then rolled into the autoclave, thermocouples are automatically connected to the autoclave jack panel to which they will be attached. Since thermocouples have a limited life span, companies must closely monitor how often each unit is being used. This is usually accomplished simply by filling out paperwork and counting usage events. That becomes even more complicated when hundreds of thermocouples, or batches of them, are in use. "Aerospace companies use a plethora of these devices," Ugalde explains, adding that "there could be hundreds of thermocouples" at a typical site.

Not only is usage history difficult to track for hundreds of thermocouple assemblies, but they can be hard to find as well. When a company determines that thermocouples need to be removed from service and replaced, an employee often must spend a considerable amount of time tracking them down. That's especially true at the large assembly sites where most aerospace products are built.

TE Wire & Cable teamed with Plataine to develop a solution that consists of Smart Thermocouples with RFID tags embedded in them. The companies provide RFID readers to capture transmissions from the tags, along with Plataine's IoT AI-based software. Plataine already offers a variety of RFID- and IoT-based solutions for asset or tool tracking in industrial environments, explains Amir Ben-Assa, Plataine's chief marketing officer.

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