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Distance measurement in plastics

New IoT sensor detects metallic structures in plastics with micrometer precision

Breakthrough innovation enables a multitude of uses in the non-destructive inspection of hidden components in quality control

Freiburg (D), April 2020 – The German tech startup OndoSense has developed an IoT sensor that enables an ultra-precise detection of metallic structures for the first time within plastics or other electrically non-conductive materials: The sensor, based on innovative radar technology, measures the distances to metallic objects that are embedded in plastics, cardboard, rubber etc. with micrometer accuracy. Objects that are behind these electrically non-conductive materials are also detected. OndoSense was founded in 2018 by Mathias Klenner and Axel Hülsmann, two radar and high frequency solutions experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics in Freiburg, Germany.

“For the first time, our sensor technology offers a marketable solution for the ultra-precise positioning and detection of objects made of steel, copper or other metals in materials such as plastic, cardboard or rubber. This opens up new, highly attractive industrial areas of application in quality control,” explains Mathias Klenner, managing director and co-founder of OndoSense.

Inspired by the strong customer demand, OndoSense is now investing in the further development of the technology: In the future, the sensor will not only make it possible to measure the distance of metallic structures in materials such as plastic or cardboard, but also to identify and classify the material via its relative permittivity. The key advantage is that if customers carry out distance measurements of objects in varying materials (e.g. different polymers), the system is automatically calibrated to the new material during the measurement.

"If you want to measure distances in the micrometer range, the material properties have a high impact on measuring precision. That is why we offer a sensor that is consistently offering customers a highly reliable result even when measuring in different materials. In future, this will be automated and there will be no need of additional calibration,” says Axel Hülsmann, technical director and co-founder of OndoSense.

For this new development, OndoSense is receiving EUR 150,000 from the Central Innovation Program for SMEs (ZIM) of the German Federal Ministry of Economics.

The sensor technology from OndoSense allows for a multitude of possible uses in the non-destructive inspection of difficult to access components or products in quality control or assembly. This includes not only the micrometer-precise positioning and inspection of metallic objects in plastics, cardboard and rubber, but also the presence control of hidden components in products made of composite materials. Analyses of materials made of glass fiber reinforced plastics (GRP) for material defects such as air pockets are also possible, e. g. on wind turbine blades, laminated surfaces or plastic components made from injection molding. Another application is the defect analysis of packaging in the pharmaceutical or food industry, such as the exclusion of metal chips in chocolate bars.

With its connected sensors based on high-precision radar technology and “smart” software, OndoSense won the third place of the coveted German CyberOne Hightech Award in 2019. The startup's cloud-based IoT sensor solutions provide companies with relevant data for the intelligent control and regulation of production systems and machines.