Impact Monitoring

Impacts of a certain force and/or to a certain area may adversely affect the integrity and reliability of a structure. Such impacts can occur at any time during a structure's lifecycle, from manufacturing and transport/delivery to operation and maintenance. Impacts may result in structural damage, injuries, and even fatalities. Their effects may be immediate or have a delayed onset.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for operators to be aware of the occurrence of impact events, especially on aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, fuel bottles, pressure tanks, thermal protection shields, unmanned vehicles, pipelines, and ships entering a harbor.

Acellent has developed Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems specifically designed to monitor for and report information about impact events. Our impact monitoring system consists of our SMART Layer® sensor network, our IMGenie Pro hardware, and our AIM software. This system senses impact events, logs the date and time of the occurrence, estimates the location, and calculates the energy and force of the impact—all in real time.

Impact events that fall below a user-definable safety threshold can be ignored (although they are still logged for traceability), whereas impact events that exceed safety limits can be configured to generate an alarm, signaling the need for evaluation and repair of the structure. (Of course, we also provide damage-detection systems that provide automated assessment of the structure's condition, identifying any damage and determining its severity.)

Selected Examples

Thermal Protection System (Heat Shield) Monitoring for Spacecraft

Any space vehicle that is to safely re-enter the earth's atmosphere, whether it is a small "capsule"-style spacecraft or a large pilotable craft, must have an extensive thermal protection system (colloquially known as a "heat shield") to protect the cargo inside from the dangerous levels of heat that build up as a result of friction on downward-facing surfaces. While there are thermally-ablative materials that can effectively insulate the interior of the spacecraft from the heat of re-entry, these materials tend to be brittle and fragile. They are extremely vulnerable to impacts, which may damage them to the point where they no longer do their job of protecting the cargo inside. Impact damage to the heat shield may occur at any time, but accidental impacts are most common during maintenance, launch, and orbit (e.g., from micrometeorite strikes). Acellent's impact-monitoring system provides immediate warning of any such impact event, pinpoints the location, and computes the force of the impact, allowing ample time to assess and repair any damage before a re-entry attempt is made.

SMART Bumper System for Pedestrian Protection

Acellent's SMART Bumper system uses our standard impact-monitoring technology to monitor for and detect any impact events that may occur on the bumper of an automobile. All impacts are detected in real-time. Then, it goes one step further: using algorithms developed and tuned specifically for the automotive industry, the SMART Bumper system intelligently differentiates between impacts involving a human pedestrian and those with another, non-pedestrian object (such as a pole, shopping cart, or garbage can). Once a pedestrian impact has been detected, evasive actions can be taken to prevent serious injury or death of the victim, such as deploying a front-mounted airbag or raising the vehicle's hood to reduce the risk of head injury. Because the system can distinguish between pedestrian and non-pedestrian impacts with a high degree of accuracy, these protection mechanisms are only deployed when absolutely necessary, reducing operational costs without sacrificing safety.