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    More news? THinks it'snew, they say Jan 04 on the site but think they mean it's coming out in Jan 05 as it is in TZ's latest news features.

    Assembling the Next Generation Vehicle

    What “intelligent fastening” systems will offer

    —by Seshu Seshasai, executive
    vice president – technology,
    Textron Fastening Systems

    Fastening technology is on the verge of changing the way motorcycles and other vehicles are designed, assembled, serviced, and recycled. Instead of a hand tool to physically manipulate the fastener, intelligent fasteners presently being introduced into the marketplace will lock or release in response to remote signals transmitted electronically by a PDA or a PC, bypassing workstations and dispensing with the need for traditional tools. Service procedures would not require wrenches or screwdrivers, and accessories would be theft-proof. Owners could add and replace parts at will, quickly transforming choppers from sporty models to highway cruisers with a few well-aimed clicks on a keychain fob button.

    Originally invented by Telezygology, Milson’s Point, Australia, and developed under license with Textron Fastening Systems, Troy, MI, the intelligent fastener consists of a fastening mechanism, an actuator, and an integrated microchip. Software embedded in the microchip receives commands from the remote tool (the PDA or PC) and actuates the fastening mechanism, or it can interrogate the fastener to check its status. The remote tool also can communicate with a master database to log or access fastener status and process history.

    Lifecycle support for motorcycles
    The motorcycle industry is an example of a market suited for intelligent fasteners. It is growing and highly competitive with many segments, with a wide array of models that range from urban delivery scooters to the big highway touring machines. A multibillion-dollar aftermarket serves seven million US owners who like nothing better than customizing their bikes. Motorcycle sales have tripled in North America during the past five years and now account for almost 2.5 percent of all registered vehicles. More than 800,000 were sold in 2002, and projections call for continued growth through the end of the decade.

    A wide range of intelligent fastening application possibilities exist at each phase of a motorcycle’s time, from design through dismantling. Among those that could be addressed now:

    Design: By integrating assembly logic into the way parts are joined, intelligent fasteners provide design engineers with freedom to create components and entire modules from an entirely new perspective. For example, since intelligent fasteners are remotely activated, they can be completely concealed or integrated within a part. There would be no need for fastener access points or complex tool paths. Designers could launch a new era of enhanced aesthetics, characterized by simpler and cleaner styling. The focus could be placed squarely on performance requirements of the module, rather than how the components are assembled.

    A smart motorcycle frame would allow design flexibility for model variations and customization by aftermarket suppliers and bike owners. The frame would include intelligent fastening “nodes,” to serve as the central mechanical and electrical connection point for attaching everything from powertrain components to windshields, seats, fuel tanks, instruments and storage systems, fairings, and instruments lights — all the parts that define a motorcycle’s look, type and personality. Smart frame fasteners could provide the electrical system interconnect to such components as lights and instruments.

    Assembly: Conventionally manufactured products use multiple sub-assemblies with arrays of fasteners that conform to sequencing requirements of production, maintenance and service procedures. Intelligent fasteners concealed within components could redefine assembly-sequencing processes, allowing parts to be inserted quickly and locked easily into position, as the production line is moving.

    Intelligent fasteners also could introduce unprecedented assembly flexibility, with the smart frame serving as the central platform to produce multiple models on a single line. Each model would be produced through a seamless flow manufacturing process as components are applied remotely. Dirt bikes, sport models, and roadsters could be produced on the same assembly line with speed and efficiency. During production, intelligent fasteners could keep operators apprised of their status, reporting what parts are in place and if they are attached properly or overstressed. In addition, parts rejected by quality assurance could be disassembled from a larger assembly and discarded, and the remaining acceptable parts still be used with the next good part.

    Service: Microchips embedded in fasteners will have secure addresses that respond only to encrypted signals, making them accessible only to designated dealers and technicians. Service procedures would be stored in fastener control software, assuring installation of authorized replacement parts while providing precise service histories and documentation for warranty claims.

    Each original part would have a serial number, which the intelligent fastener could authenticate from the master control database, preventing knockoff parts from being installed. Intelligent fasteners also could report unauthorized removal of components to support security measures. The central database would store information on fastener status and maintenance history, including dates, times, places, and the technicians performing each process. These data would be instantly accessible to document warranty claims.

    Fasteners also could be programmed to detect, analyze and report problems that require immediate service. As telematic technology progresses, information would be transmitted in real time to service centers, documenting the status of vehicle performance, wear and tear, and maintenance procedures. For example, fasteners could transmit an alert of their impending failure based on wear parameters or cycle history.

    Aftermarket: Intelligent fasteners could create an aftermarket bonanza. Hidden fastening points would allow quick and simple customizing of a bike to any situation or aesthetic taste. From a single, standard frame, the bike could be restyled with individual fairings, fuel tank, gauges, lights, and a host of other components. Fashion-conscious owners could attach accessories with the latest color schemes in seconds.

    Intelligent fastening also could be retrofitted into motorcycle accessories such as saddlebags, windshields, GPS and entertainment systems. This configuration would allow custom accessories and other items to be quickly and securely attached to the motorcycle, then removed just as easily for safe keeping or for use on another motorcycle.

    Owners: By clicking a button on a key fob, owners could remove the sports model fuel tank, single seat and body fairings and replacing them with a touring tank, twin seats, and touring panniers. A street-legal enduro could be transformed to an off-road dirt bike by removing lights, indicators, plates and other accessories.

    Because fasteners are concealed and electronically locked, accessories or any other parts cannot be removed without a remote tool. Would-be thieves would not have access to the fasteners, short of destroying the part they intended to steal. Instead of a multiple array of keys for locking each component, intelligent fastening would have a single point for locking the fuel tank, steering, panniers, fairings, and helmet clip.

    Recycling: Intelligent fastening can assume a major role in the worldwide environmental movement, and help companies and owners comply with increasingly stringent government regulations expected in years ahead. Easy and rapid disassembly of motorcycles for recycling at the end of their lifecycles also could reduce manufacturer costs. A motorcycle could be dismantled in minutes and the parts separated and disposed of as required. Owners also could keep reusable parts for their next motorcycle.

    Automotive systems
    For the automotive industry, intelligent fasteners would impact the same areas as cited for motorcycles. Accessories such as roof racks could be a removable option, without having to resort to tie-down straps. Aftermarket audio equipment could be installed without the need to dismantle interior fascia.

    The new fasteners also could solve installation and security problems that exist with air-bag systems. Airbag housings are fastened to steering columns or car chassis with security screws or clips, but this approach has several limitations:

    Airbags must be screwed into place at assembly line workstations, a slow and often cumbersome process.

    Service can be carried out by anyone with the appropriate tools, but with no automated log for maintenance or testing.

    Fasteners are exposed at the surface of the housing, so it only takes a couple minutes to remove an airbag. A valuable assembly, more than 50,000 airbags are stolen annually in the U.S., the most of any vehicle component.

    Since intelligent fasteners can be concealed in the airbag housing, only two ways would be available to remove them — by authorized codes transmitted remotely to the fasteners, or by destroying the housing and airbag, rendering them useless to potential thieves.

    Joint design and fastener types
    Even though intelligent fasteners lock, unlock and connect mechanically in response to remote commands, joints would still be engineered in conventional ways. They would accommodate the same transfer forces for tension, shear and clamp as traditional mechanical fasteners. Intelligent fasteners also could be engineered to compensate for tolerance variations common with multiple attachment points, making parts and assemblies easier to fit.

    Depending on the application, a variety of intelligent fastener types could be developed to serve most functional requirements of assembly. For example, new types of clips and fasteners could suit a range of applications. For example:

    Smart Clip — Moldings and other objects would snap into place and be retained by one or more overhanging clips. A remote command would release the object by energizing an integrated smart material strip that would draw back the overhang.

    Panel Clip — Suitable for multiple attachment points, this small, inexpensive clip would snap into thin wall receptacles, including panels, fairings, and other light duty objects.

    Stud Fastener — A strong, high-load fastener with an inert stud, it would be suitable for rugged, high-wear applications, including the securing of such equipment as windshields, saddlebags and seats.

    Stud Conductor — Identical to the stud fastener, it would contain multiple electronic conductors for power and data connections.

    Conductor Fastener — This plug and socket fastener would electronically lock and seal when removed, providing self-protection from water, dust, and other environmental corrosives.

    There are perhaps thousands of potential applications in other industries such as electronic, appliance, aerospace and medical equipment. In the meantime, intelligent fasteners could introduce a new era in motorcycle design, assembly, service, and owner styling.
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