Structural safety, wind farms and Ducati motorbikes: new load cell stories for a new year

Published On: January 18 2021


Now that the decorations are down and the kids in their second week of home schooling, it’s time for three new load cell projects that caught our eye for 2021.

Testing Australia’s infrastructure

A new testing facility has been unveiled at Melbourne’s Monash University. The snappily named National Drop Weight Impact Testing Facility (NDWITF) is

“Designed to improve the structural safety of infrastructure and provides an advanced platform for researchers, industry and students to pursue innovation in design and construction.”


The largest of its kind in Australia, the facility will be used to test the safety of elements, including construction materials, in high-risk infrastructures such as bridges, tunnels, road safety barriers. It will also help research into industry -specific issues, such as excavation, blasting and rock fragmentation in mining.

The structure can inflict an impact of up to two tonnes at a velocity of up to 18m/s. Two columns guide the hammer, which is tracked using a laser sensor. Whilst other drop weight rigs depend on gravity and drop height for their force, this testing facility uses gravity and a set of springs, so the impact can be accurately varied. According to Head of Structural Engineering, Professor Amin Heidarpour MIEAust, who developed the facility:

“This is a unique technology delivering complete 3D surface, displacement and strain results in lieu of using a large number of traditional measuring devices, such as strain gauges, LVDTs (linear variable differential transformers) and extensometers. Moreover, the impact force is accurately measured through load cells in shunt mode embedded in the hammer.”


Protecting subsea cables on offshore wind farms

The sea is an unforgiving mistress. The constant movement of waves and tide can cause damage to array cables, the power cables that link all the turbines on a site together. This can cause reduced efficiency and even break the cables altogether. A team from Southampton developed a retrofit solution that monitors the movement, logs the data via eight data loggers and send it to an enclosure a unit mounted higher up on the turbine. According to an article in Offshore Engineer digital magazine:

“The system comprises three dual-axis shear pin load cells, two accelerometers, and a programmable logic controller (PLC). The shear pin load cells are dual-axis shear pins that measure forces across two planes in the positive and negative directions. The working load limit (WLL) of each plane is 50kN, in both the positive and negative direction.”


Take to the road: testing the Ducati Multistrada V4

The new version of this Ducati motorbike isn’t just about the unique gearbox, the optical rdar system, or even the extra padding on the passenger seat. The design team completely redesigned the engine too, to give this long distance bike smoothness at low revs and super sports performance speed at high revs.

As Gianluca Zattoniu and Vincenzo De Silvio of the development team at Ducati explain in an article for Engineer Live magazine:

“For the new valve train countless tests have been carried out, ranging from preliminary measurements with laser instruments, strain gauges and load cells, to a motoring test of over a hundred million cycles. That took more than 20 days non-stop … When we were happy with the lab tests, we started sending our testers around the roads of Italy, to ride up to 120,000km on every single vehicle.”


If you’re tempted, you can configure your own Ducati Multistrada V4, starting from £15.5K for the basics. And if your passenger wants their new more comfortable padded seat heated as well, thats just an extra £129.60.