Manufacturing Bits: May 14

Radiation thermometers; laser welding; AI standards.


Radiation thermometers
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a thermometer that can measure radiation within a few thousandths of a degree Celsius.

The so-called Ambient-Radiation Thermometer (ART) from NIST is a new type of radiation thermometer, which measures infrared radiation (IR) given off by objects without touching them.

Measuring 60 centimeters or 24 inches, ART can measure temperatures between -50 C (-58 F) to 150 C (302 F). The corresponding infrared wavelengths are from 8 to 14 micrometers, according to NIST.

Radiation thermometers are not new and are used to measure temperatures and radiation. They are used in medicine, satellites and even farming.

Today’s non-contact radiation thermometers, which are similar to a camera, consist of a lens and a detector. The lens focuses light from one object to the detector. The detector absorbs the IR radiation and turns it into heat, which is then measured. At times, though, conventional radiation thermometers can produce readings with uncertainties, according to NIST.

NIST’s ART paves the ways to more accurate readings. The system incorporates internal thermometers, which gauge temperatures at various points. Those readings are sent to a feedback loop system. This in turn reduces errors.

“All temperatures are equal, but some are more equal than others,” said NIST physicist Howard Yoon. “That 200-degree span covers nearly all naturally occurring temperatures on Earth. If you make a big impact in measuring objects in that range, it really matters.

“Imagine being able to take the NIST design out in the field as traveling radiation thermometers for accurately measuring variables such as land- and sea-surface temperatures,” Yoon said. “It could serve as a trustworthy method of calibrating satellite IR sensors and validating the huge weather science programs that are used to predict, for example, the paths and strengths of hurricanes.”

Laser welding
In another development, NIST has gained new insights into the field of laser welding.

Welding has been used for years. Generally, welding makes use of an arc of electricity, which heats and fuses materials.

Laser welding is better and more efficient than traditional welding. In laser welding, a multi-kilowatt laser beam heats a small area of metal. This in turn creates welds on the order of millimeters, according to NIST.

The problem? Laser welding is complex, which is why it makes up only a tiny portion of the market.

To help propel the market, researchers from NIST have developed a series of better computer models for the technology. For this, NIST is looking at various aspects of laser welding, including “the amount of power that is hitting the metal, the amount of energy the metal is absorbing, the amount of material that is evaporating from the metal as it is heated—all in real time.”

“Our results are now mature enough to where academic researchers are starting to use our data to thoroughly test their computer models in a way that they just haven’t been able to do before, because this kind of data hasn’t been available,” said NIST physicist Brian Simonds. “The ultimate goal for industry is that one day, if you have an idea about something you want to make, you dump it into a computer and the computer tells you exactly how to make it.”

AI standards
NIST is seeking information about technical standards and related tools for artificial intelligence (AI). NIST has a request for information (RFI) for third parties on the subject. An executive order directs NIST to create a plan for federal engagement in the development of standards and tools in support of reliable and trustworthy systems that use AI technologies.

NIST is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC).

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