The integration of sensor technology allows a mechanical, load-bearing component and its superordinate system to become intelligent, allowing them to autonomously detect and respond to damage or other faults. This capability paves the way for significant cost savings for inspection and maintenance. Early fault and damage detection facilitates more lightweight and safer designs for structural components, and therefore optimized structural exploitation. In combination with the development of digital twins, this capability represents a significant foundation for a new generation of cyber-physical systems.
The development of intelligent structures and systems is a highly interdisciplinary challenge, requiring outstanding depth of expertise in the various disciplines like sensor integration, data and signal processing, quality assurance, fracture mechanics and simulation. The Center Smart Sensing Systems bundles this professional expertise and is a central platform for the development of these systems. In these efforts, the center relies on the industry network smartSHM (Structural Health Monitoring) with more than 60 companies, which was initiated in 2017. This industry network maps the entire value creation chain from development to manufacture and operation.
The objectives of the center, however, go beyond mere structural health monitoring, which – for the most part – deals with damage monitoring only. In an effort to exploit the full potential of automated measurement methods, other smart functionalities and services that are created by way of sensor integration are holistically observed (e.g. load monitoring or the transfer of measurement data to a digital twin). The digital twin will then permit a mapping of the component and the entire system, from which individual residual service life estimations or operation optimization options can be derived.
The development of cyber-physical systems requires a holistic approach, which combines all solution-relevant steps in the various disciplines, while simultaneously creating the required interaction points between them. The following areas of competence are represented by the Center Smart Sensing Systems:
Companies have the option of enrolling as a member in the Center Smart Sensing Systems no matter which sector the company operates in. They will have access to the scientific expertise of the associated research institutes at RWTH Aachen University, best practice solutions within the community, and will collaborate in consortial and bilateral projects. Joint research and development within industry consortia allow participating companies to join their know-how and share costs. Enrolled members furthermore have the option of participating with their own products in system demonstrators. That allows them to integrate their own intelligent components, measurement equipment etc. in a demonstrator on system level to display their functionality.
Prof. Schröder heads up the Institute of Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Design (SLA) and represents the development of new methods for the design of lightweight structures. The institute uses this knowhow for the development of new concepts for structural health monitoring and for the mapping of the structural state in the digital twin.
Prof. Gries leads the Institute of Textile Technology and conducts research on fiber-based high performance materials, textile semi-finished products and their production procedures. The institute’s expertise contributes to the development, manufacture and integration of sensor technology, thus contributing to the interface between actual loads and the digital twin.
Prof. Roßmann heads up the Institute for Man-Machine Interaction and is himself an expert for the interaction, simulation and analysis of complex systems in their deployment environment. To that end, digital twins combine applications, users and systems across their lifecycles.
Prof. Heinen heads up the Chair of Integrated Analog Circuits and RF Systems and brings years of experience in the areas of metrology, detection, and the processing of analog and digital signals to the table. In conjunction with power management, the chair develops on that basis electronics for the structural health monitoring and data processing.