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Delivering the Internet of Things to Manufacturers - A New IoT-Enabled, Portable Hardness Tester

The Internet of Things promises to deliver huge changes to how we collect, share and process data, and it looks set to revolutionize the production process. Proceq, who introduced the first portable hardness tester almost fifty years ago, have developed a next-generation portable hardness tester.

AZoM spoke to Dr. Ralph Mennicke, the CEO of Proceq, about their new IoT enabled portable hardness tester, the Equotip Live, and the many benefits it can deliver to manufacturers and researchers.

Where do you see the Equotip Live being used?

The portable Equotip Live is a Leeb tester that can be used along the entire production process.

We believe that the future is mobile, and we are starting now to incorporate all its opportunities such as cloud, wirelessness and mobility. With Equotip Live we offer our customers a technological edge and a smart solution for addressing industry-wide pressures of efficiency and cost optimization.

The Equotip Live comes with an iOs app and cloud data access for data display and analysis. The solution can be used to test the raw materials in a production process and in every step along the way – from metal working to the processing and shaping of materials, in machinery, automotive and aerospace industry segments.

It is not just traditional manufacturing that will benefit from the Equotip Live. It is also perfectly suited to inspect various installations throughout their lifetimes to ensure that the materials are still in working condition. Thus the device will be extremely useful also to the energy, oil & gas and construction sectors, all of which have a strong quality focus.

And of course, there is an obvious benefit for researchers too in being able to collect and process hardness data in the field, which can be used as indicators for most diverse sample properties.

The Equotip Live is designed for use in both traditional manufacturing environments and also more challenging field environments.

What was the motivation behind creating an IoT (Internet of Things) enabled device?

We have received feedback from our customers that they desired a wireless product with increased mobility and traceability while minimising paper usage. Our main motivation behind developing this new product is, as always, to make our customers more effective and efficient.

Our research shows that the use of IoT technology with data cloud and smart phone capabilities increases productivity and data accessibility of our users significantly. In addition, we offer the Live Unlimited solution at a small initial fee plus monthly fees, shortening the amortization period drastically and making the system more affordable and scalable. Furthermore, the learning curve when using the readily available smart phones and intuitive app design saves training costs in a market where finding qualified staff has become a bottleneck.

Wireless technology, real-time data sharing, cloud backup and connectivity combined with our first-class support and service is a truly unbeatable offering.

Can you the see the Equotip Live opening up applications which were not possible using the Equoptip (Proceq’s portable, non-IoT hardness tester)?

Equotip was invented by Proceq over 40 years ago. Until today it is a revolutionary product because it is small, portable, and fast. When compared to bench top hardness testers it is much more flexible, easy to use, and non-destructive.

When you consider using a mobile and connected hardness tester in an industrial environment, you can immediately see the benefits of IoT devices.

For example, an expert sitting in an office is able to remotely review the data in real-time. He can immediately advise the technician who is using Equotip Live on the factory floor testing a boiler, or on-site on an oil field where it is important to quickly know if there is a problem with an installation.

The whole reporting chain is much simpler and faster. The technician does not need to go back to the office, download data, process it and write a report. It’s already available on live.proceq.com: with a single button press the report is generated from anywhere in the world. Moreover, paper usage can be entirely eliminated and data integrity is extremely robust with the Equotip Live solution.

It helps to organize your internal resources smarter and thus improves your overall productivity. It is this combination of mobility and centralised data processing that sets the Equotip Live apart from its predecessor and competing products.

The wireless functionality makes the recording of field measurements hassle free. Shutterstock | Kodda

What functionality does the phone app provide for the Equotip Live?

The iPhone app has been designed to be as clean and simple as possible, making it very intuitive to use on your own smart phone – with no additional learning curve. Another main benefit of using a phone app is that it allows us to dig into the benefits of all of the different technologies on the phone. We use everything that is built into the phone including the wi-fi and Bluetooth to connect to the device, the GPS and camera for data tagging, the spoken output of readings, and other export functions.

Beyond all of this it is extremely flexible as you have a future-proof solution and the app can be installed on multiple devices. And when you move to the next generation iPhone, in a way you also have a new hardness tester!

How can the data that gathered by the Equotip be shared? What situations do you see this being useful in?

The measurement data can be shared immediately using any technology that is on the mobile phone. This includes methods such as email and sharing on a company-specific internal communication app. However, if this is not desired, this can also be easily blocked.

The measurements are synced in real-time with live.proceq.com, a platform granting higher data security than most company intranets. Data can be globally shared on this platform with colleagues who are working at a different location, or even with customers or suppliers if you wanted to, respectively.

And if a user loses the device, Equotip Live data are fully secured, access can be locked, and the replacement costs for the new smart phone device are also low.

Data from the Equotip Live can be shared and analysed in real time.

The Equotip Live is Industry 4.0 certified, what does this mean for your end users?

As experts in hardness testing we take standards seriously. Equotip Live is conforming to all the national and international standards for Leeb testing.

The Equotip Live is capable of connecting with multiple interfaces and data systems. And it redefines how companies are collaborating with each other. Equotip Live is a sustainable solution because Proceq can accompany and support our customers even closer and customers can scale their Equotip fleet as needed to adjust to their testing needs.

It is this behaviour that defines it as Industry 4.0 certified.

What overall changes do you think IoT technology is going to bring to the manufacturing space?

IoT will change the way companies work. It may not yet apply to all companies, but it does appeal to many companies that are looking into the future.

Sensor technologies today can be combined with fast data transmission, also the data storage and the analysis tools that are available can bring entirely new opportunities and insights into any company.

The iPhone app allows specific products to be geotagged and saves photos of their condition.

Is Proceq planning on creating more IoT devices?

Yes, definitely. Equotip Live is just the beginning. We are going to be releasing several new products for more users and other industry sectors. Besides this, we will also be exploring more of what you can get out of IoT devices.

As Proceq, we belong to the family-owned Tectus group, a group heavily embracing latest technological advances, investing into and building tech companies in various sectors, with a focus on IoT, cloud computing, wearable devices, big data analysis, virtual and augmented reality.

Proceq benefits from this background and is well positioned to revolutionize the non-destructive testing (NDT) space.

How fast do you see the adoption of IoT technologies?

2016 saw an annual increase of 30% in connected devices. The aggressive adoption of IoT technologies is disrupting business models globally. A lot of industries are facing enormous pressure to adapt these new technologies and to increase their productivity fast.

Despite all this, we also recognise that many of our users are familiar with our current products, having used them for years. So while we love to show them how much easier we can make things with Equotip Live we are also offering a complete portfolio of standalone hardness testers, ranging from Leeb, Rockwell to UCI devices.

Proceq likes to offer options to our customers. This is why we have also recently introduced an ultrasonic flaw detector. We believe that with this we can offer a broad range of solutions and that will become even more comprehensive over the next few years.

Where can our readers find out more about the Equotip Live and Proceq?

We love it when customers talk to us. So anyone who wants to find out more should, first of all, seek advice from our global subsidiaries and partners.

Beyond this we also have lots of good information on our brand new website, www.proceq.com, where we also have integrated our YouTube and our social media channels. We are excited to share this innovative solution with you!

Download the Brochure for More Information

About Dr. Ralph Mennicke

Dr. Ralph Mennicke completed his Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Physics at the University of York (UK) and the Technical University of Munich, and he holds an Executive MBA from Mannheim Business School.

Ralph began his professional career as a global Product Manager at Proceq in 2007, with a focus on the metal testing product portfolio and an intensified engagement in the Asian markets.

Subsequently, he led the business unit Proceq Europe, and was then promoted to Deputy CEO of the Proceq Group in 2012 and to CEO in 2014.

Ralph held the convenorships of ISO, DIN and SNV standards groups for Leeb hardness testing, and is today engaged in the SGZP committee on ultrasonics testing. Throughout 2016, Ralph has further increased the company focus on developing and rolling out new products and technologies, with the additional responsibility as Head of Technology.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

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