SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Aug. 25, 2009 – The United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR), whose members are Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company, recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) to develop a short-range wireless sensor network and establish an industry standard for similar networks worldwide.
The CRADA, between USCAR and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC, which represents SRNL and the Savannah River Site (SRS), is expected to run through 2010.
The purpose of the CRADA is to develop a new physical layer of radio frequency circuitry for short-range wireless sensor networks that meets National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) requirements for security, as validated by the National Security Administration (NSA).
For the automotive industry, it means leveraging shared resources to create needed wireless manufacturing capabilities that don’t exist today. “It’s an opportunity for the U.S. automakers to save a lot in manufacturing costs while developing wireless equipment that meets our requirements and establishes a new standard for all industrial controls,” said Mike Read, Ford lead representative to USCAR’s Manufacturing Plant Floor Controllers Task Force, which is the CRADA interface for the U.S. automakers.
Both the automotive industry and the NNSA have needs for wireless sensors that are reliable, secure, high speed and able to resist interference from existing systems.
For example, Read said, replacing hard-wired automotive body shop robots with wireless-controlled robots would be a prime application area for a new secure, wireless sensor network.
“Many manufacturing robots require at least six joints, where connecting cables are bending repetitively. Continuous cable flexing and tight radius joints eventually lead to failures that require routine maintenance. This can be difficult and expensive,” he said. “Robots with wireless end effectors would eliminate the problem and result in significant cost savings.”
NNSA and its contractors use sensors in their facilities to monitor chemical processes, vibration on large pumps and blowers, and environmental conditions such as shock, vibration and linear acceleration. The ability to use wireless, rather than wired, sensors when constructing new facilities or installing new sensors in existing facilities also will bring considerable cost savings.
Under the CRADA, SRNL will develop designs and specifications for the new wireless hardware, then engage a qualified wireless manufacturer to make prototypes, which the partners will test and validate.
Producing a single, agreed-upon platform will broaden the customer base for resulting sensor designs, making it more attractive for developers to design hardware that meets the NNSA requirements. The ultimate goal of the agreement is to produce a standard for wireless sensor platforms that can be adopted by the International Society of Automation (ISA), a globally recognized instrumentation, systems and automation standards body.
“We are pleased to be working with the three U.S. automakers through USCAR to create an industry standard for wireless sensor platforms,” said Joe Cordaro, SRNL advisory engineer and former chair of the NNSA Network of Senior Scientists and Engineers, who is serving as SRNL lead for the CRADA. “Our common needs will drive a design and framework that are applicable in government and non-government facilities, ultimately providing economies of scale, and ensuring robust and reliable requirements for wireless sensor platforms globally.”
SRNL is DOE’s applied research and development national laboratory at the Savannah River Site (SRS). SRNL puts science to work to support DOE and the nation in the areas of environmental management, national and homeland security, and energy security. The management and operating contractor for SRS and SRNL is Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC.
Founded in 1992, USCAR is the collaborative automotive technology organization for Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company. The goal of USCAR is to further strengthen the technology base of the domestic auto industry through cooperative research and development. For more information, visit USCAR’s Web site at www.uscar.org