Sometimes, machines can collapse without any prior notice that leads us to great difficulties. Especially in the military, a sudden breakdown could create a disaster in the battlefield. However, engineers at NASA’s Sentient Science were trying to create a tool that would help design the longest-lasting, most energy efficient machines. The result is DigitalClone, a software tool that can determine failures in the machine by cloning the parts.
By understanding the physics of a given part, for instance, friction, lubrication, and wear, DigitalClone predicts when that gear is likely to collapse. A digital model of NASA’s chosen spur gear was created to compare the predictions with the historical performance data NASA has collected to prove that the system is correct. The clone was uncannily accurate, making it easy to replace the parts before any breakdown to extend the lifespan.
Sentient already completed 11 more test runs with companies like Sikorsky, Boeing, and General Electric. Also, the developed DigitalClone live product that makes sensors into a gearbox confirms and updates performance and failure predictions for machinery, using the live data in the field. In 2013, the product got its first customer. Energy Company First Wind signed a deal to equip those gearboxes in 218 of their wind turbines. And by late 2014, Sentient signed a contract to provide the service to more than 5000 wind turbines from eight operators located in North America.
“Instead of running physical tests for a year and getting three test points, we can give you thousands of test points in days,” says Ward Thomas, president and CEO of the Buffalo, New York-based company. “You will have the world’s most tested products, which will run in the field at the lowest cost to operate.”
At this moment, the US military is the highest-profile customer, using DigitalClone in everything starting from the new Joint Strike Fighter F35 to the Blackhawk, Apache, and Super Sea Stallion helicopters. Some high profile uses include Hubble Space Telescope and some medical implants.