16 Apr 2008   |   News

Bicycle pedals points the way to intelligent metal parts

Development opportunity, Licensing opportunity

Fraunhofer researchers will be demonstrating a bicycle with an intelligent pedal that helps the rider to direct maximum force into the pedals at the Hannover Messe Industrial Technology exhibition next week.

Two piezo-sensors integrated into one of the pedals measure the forces that propel the rider forwards and show how evenly he or she is pedalling. In the prototype the data is transmitted over a wireless network to a PC, while in a live application it would be transmitted to a mobile phone, or other handheld device.

The intelligent pedal was developed as part of the InGuss project, whose goal is to manufacture intelligent cast metal parts, integrating the sensors, actuators and other electronic devices in the parts while they are being cast.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institutes for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research (IFAM), for Structural Durability and System Reliability (LBF) and for Integrated Circuits (IIS) are collaborating to develop the manufacturing technology and the components.

In the case of the pedal, the piezoceramic actuators, sensors and electronic devices are integrated in the light metal components during casting. This is a difficult thing to achieve, because high temperatures of over 700°C during casting can destroy the sensitive electronic and electromechanical devices.

“We protect the devices with special insulating materials,” says Christoph Pille of the IFAM in Bremen. This would make it possible for the first time ever to integrate devices such as RFID transponders so they could not be lost or removed deliberately and would allow components to be tracked and identified and could protect against counterfeits.

Heiko Atzrodt of the LBF says the pedal is just one example of many potential applications for the technology: “Integrated sensor and adaptronic functions are likely to make their way into numerous products before long, for instance, sensors in aircraft parts could report material fatigue before it is too late. Integrated actuators make it possible to actively influence vibrations too.”

Never miss an update from Science|Business:   Newsletter sign-up