Technology advances in leaps and bounds, often at breathtaking speed and sometimes leaving businesses floundering in its wake. Adopting new technologies can often be problematic due to cost concerns or uncertainty about how it would fit into the overall operation – but the world keeps on moving and it can be easy for businesses to get left behind.
The usual way of thinking about technology includes computers, both desktop and laptop, as well as monitors and the software that runs the hardware. Tablets and smartphones would also fall into this category, familiar now but once at the cutting edge of technological development. Yet there are many other business technologies that are not so well known but of immense use in a range of industry sectors, such as the next two examples.
Load cells are transducers that convert force into an electrical output that can be measured. The most common of these are strain-gauge load cells which have effectively replaced mechanical scales for weighing.
The design of load cells is based either around the type of output signal they generate – hydraulic, electric and pneumatic – or according to how they detect weight – compression, tension, bending and shear.
Strain-gauge load cells transform the load that acts on them to electrical signals. The application of weight to them leads to the strain changing the gauges’ electrical resistance in relation to the load.
Load cells are used for research and testing, especially when testing new hardware, and also for process or product control applications. There are a wide range of applications for this technology including: injection molding, crane measuring systems, fatigue analysis, safe load monitoring systems, bridge force monitoring and elevator force measurement.
With a high level of precision, load cells are widely used to monitor forces during operation to make certain that, should unsafe or overload conditions occur, then they can be quickly identified. The load cell systems should then either alert operators or trigger a series of predetermined events or actions. Transducer techniques are constantly evolving and have a key role to play throughout industry.
Additive manufacturing is the industrial version of the process that is better known as 3D printing. The term is used to describe the process of manufacturing a 3D object by building up extremely thin layers of material. Its use for both small businesses and consumers has been widely publicized, and there have been a number of business uses that include niche items, such as medical implants, or the production of plastic prototypes for designers and engineers.
As with all relatively new technology (additive manufacturing equipment and materials started being developed in the 1980s), the scale of machinery is increasing so that larger and larger objects can be manufactured. This process is used in industries such as construction, communication, medicine, automobiles and engineering.
Businesses looking to cut costs and streamline processes are often early adopters of new technology, allowing them to get one step ahead of the competition.