Reliability, all starts here
You may not have noticed, but some products, or parts of them, have to undergo stringent testing before going into production, necessary to ensure their maximum performance or, in a word, reliability.
The research and development centre Il Sentiero International Campus works with the utmost attention to the study of materials, surfaces and processes, to develop innovative solutions applicable to various industrial sectors, including Automatic Machines and Advanced Mechanics.
Among the different fields in which the scientists of Il Sentiero are engaged, also in the field of reliability engineering the activity is scrupulous.
What is reliability engineering?
Reliability engineering is an area of engineering that studies the ability of materials, components, and systems to perform the required function, under certain conditions, for a specified period of time.
This capability depends on several variables, such as time, conditions (environmental, mechanical, chemical, load) which are simulated in both accelerated and non-accelerated tests. Reliability engineering is based either on the verification and validation of new solutions or on data from these tests that replicate problems and failures from the field, which are useful because they make it possible to:
- identify their causes;
- determine their life cycle in a probabilistic manner;
- study alternative materials;
- detect and correct design aspects;
- obtain scientific data to plan maintenance;
- to carry out technical and economic evaluations of alternative solutions.
The task of reliability engineering is to provide answers relating to the development of the project, to ensure that the examined part can perform its function, respecting the established reliability requirements.
As can be seen, the activities cover the entire life cycle of a system, starting from its development, through testing, manufacturing to commissioning and operation.
The activity of Il Sentiero in the field of reliability engineering
The activity carried out by the research centre is entrusted to a group of young scientists with varied skills and coming from technical subjects (engineering, chemistry, biology, etc.). Their task consists in drawing up the test plan in collaboration with the customer, preparing and executing the tests usually using test benches, designed, and manufactured by Il Sentiero International Campus in synergy with the customers.
In the benches, the specific functions of materials, components and systems are reproduced, simulating the industrial environment and the product life cycle under extreme and realistic conditions, to verify failures and breakdowns and then to identify the relevant solutions and maintenance policies.
The results obtained are examined by data or component analysis (chemical, mechanical, measurement, etc.) to develop databases and define overall assessments.
Thanks to the tests, the team of scientists at Il Sentiero can validate new technologies, new materials and their applications, but also new plant designs to increase their useful life and optimise development costs.
Where the reliability engineering activity of Il Sentiero takes place and to whom it is addressed
Il Sentiero International Campus can count on two locations, distinct but related to each other: the one in Schio (Rig area with the prevalent activity of test and analysis area) and the one in Modena (Rig area where it is possible to carry out activities also on machines and complete plants).
The research and development centre collaborates with large and multinational manufacturers of automatic machines, mainly for the food and pharmaceutical sectors but, given the increasing attention paid to the reliability, in recent years Il Sentiero has become an important partner also for companies in other sectors that need to:
- verify the life cycle of components, systems and subsystems;
- automate processes;
- improve safety, the maintenance plan;
- identify critical areas/components;
- improve systems/materials through evaluations linked to performance and economic impact.
The company also has several collaborations with universities, which are also an active part of the funded projects.
The numbers of reliability engineering at Il Sentiero
The reliability engineering team currently consists of seven test engineers with different specific skills. Young professionals with academic backgrounds in different fields: mechanical, automation, materials, corrosion and chemical. A polyhedric team capable of facing various challenges together.
In addition to testing activities, the group is involved with the mechanical (D&P) and automation (A&D) teams in the process of designing and building test rigs.
There are currently around 30 active projects, some in the test rig phase, some in commissioning at the customer’s premises and others in the testing phase. For 2022, a dozen tests have already been approved and many are under discussion, so the trend is expected to grow compared to the previous year.
Looking to the future
Reliability and continuous improvement are two themes that are assuming great importance in the company’s investment choices, both in terms of raw materials and human resources. In fact, the role of the test engineer is increasingly required by companies.
The experience accumulated in this field has allowed Il Sentiero International Campus to establish collaborations also at international level, while the major Italian customer has recognised the research and development centre as a strategic partner.