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Technology in Review

The innovators at Valley forge are working on an as-yet-unnamed low-frequency wireless probe that will take SPC4™ Load Indicating Fasteners into new dimensions. Primarily, the low-frequency attribute will improve battery life and enable increased distance from the probe to the collection device. However, the greatest benefit will be its web-based ease of programmability, a capability that will be the first of its kind in a product of this type.

SPC4 fasteners, of course, contain Valley Forge’s Load Indicating technology that makes it possible to measure the actual tension from within a fastener, providing real-time knowledge of critical joint tension and performance from installation through fastener life. A variety of sensors and meters are available to read, display, and relay this tension information. The new low-frequency wireless probe will be an addition to that offering.

Valley Forge’s head of engineering and business development, James Brooks, says the new wireless probe will give customers the unprecedented ability to set tension thresholds, program alerts when those thresholds are crossed, and track overall bolt performance.

“It’s as easy as pulling up an app on your phone, tablet, or computer,” said Brooks. “You can change it as often as you like without ever having to come in physical contact with the probe. You can do it from another city because it’s entirely web-based.”

There are several scenarios in which this functionality will pay dividends for users—the first of which is the ability to closely monitor new fasteners after install.

“Those early hours after an initial tightening sequence can be critical to long-term performance, because an unexpected loss of tension can cause bolt stretch that shortens life,” said Brooks. “So, the facility manager can set the alert frequency to every 10 minutes, for example. He or she can see immediately if a fastener is losing tension and correct it. Conversely, after enough time has passed and they are satisfied that the tension is holding, the manager can quickly and remotely adjust the frequency of alerts to be farther apart.”

Long-term, all bolts can be set to broadcast alerts when a chosen tension threshold is crossed.

“Choose a tension percentage that is close to your application’s danger zone,” said Brooks. “Let’s say it’s 50%. On the probe, program 50% and select how you’d like to receive the warning. It can send an email or a text, be synched to an audible alarm, or do all of these. The user has total flexibility. If the fastener hits that 50% threshold, it sends out the alert. For the first time, the bolt is starting the conversation about whether it needs maintenance.”

Managers can also program alert windows during periods of suspected greater vibration in a process to gauge how fasteners are reacting.

“These kinds of features have never before been available in a wireless product,” said Brooks. “It’s a game changer.”

The product should hit the market later this year.

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