CORDIS - EU research results

Solar energy and pressure sensor based solution for truck weighing

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Sensolweighs (Solar energy and pressure sensor based solution for truck weighing)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2016-05-31

The road freight transport activity is growing and will nearly double by 2050. In this growing market, Cogo Bilance s.r.l. an innovative company producing electronic scales and weighing systems since 1773, stands out not only for its products (e.g. Sunsystem powering solution for truck scales) but also for its installation, calibration and maintenance services. Improving road safety is a prime objective of the European Union's transport policy. Reducing fatalities, injuries and material damage is its main purpose. Overloaded trucks make highways and roads much less safe as they damage the roads, have more trouble stopping, face mechanical failures and hit with more force. The European Directive 2015/719 establishes maximum gross vehicle weights and urges for regular weight checks for commercial vehicles in the 28 EU countries. Accurate truck scales are key for businesses large and small as well as transportation agencies delivering their products on the road, as they are used to determine the weight of bulk goods being bought and sold in truckload-sized quantities. Information from the scale is a crucial part of the business transaction functioning much as a cash register. Currently, the construction work, infrastructure and time needed to install a truck scale in a company’s facility results in a highly expensive burden. In addition, connection to the electric grid is indispensable and the heavy materials used make the installation and relocation of the scale a concern. This results in very expensive solutions particularly for SMEs, majority in this particular sector in the EU, than for larger firms, thus, hindering competitiveness. Sensolweighs (incorporating Sunsystem technology, pressure sensors, Wifi system and light container in a resistant material) is a truck scale being developed by Cogo that will greatly reduce not only installation time (by 98%) and costs (by >32%) but will be easily transported and will give the possibility to work off-grid minimizing the energy bill and carbon footprint. Overall objectives of the project are to develop a first prototype that will be tested at Cogo’s site to then be able to carry out field tests with customers and validate our prototype. Next, we will commercialize Sensolweighs in the European market driving Cogo’s exponential growth.
Our feasibility study comprises a detailed technical, market and financial analysis for a successful commercialization of the technology. As part of the technical planification we have analyzed different activities that we will require to design the final hardware components, control electronics and data analysis software as well as the communication system for integral management of the solution.
We have consulted end users of the technology in different industry sectors that are interested in collaborating with us during the testing and validation phase of a Sensolweighs prototype under real operational conditions. This is a key milestone in the project as it supports our idea and confirms the business opportunity we are working to meet.
In parallel, a freedom to operate analysis has been performed to evaluate existing patents and avoid any conflict with Cogo’s technology. The commercial plan evaluates the weighing instruments market and the road freight transport sector prospects in different countries taking into consideration the economic crisis impact in some of them.
We have prepared sales projections based on current market situation and prospects in the light of the last pieces of European legislation including the impact of Directives on measuring instruments (MID) and on automatic weighing instruments (NAWI). This has allowed us to prepare a business plan for commercialization in Italy and abroad revising our business model and costs structure in order to make a consistent and profitable business case for the future exploitation of Sensolweighs.
First, an updated review of the industrial weighing industry situation was completed followed by the planning of internal technical and financial resources. This was useful to be able to select pressure sensors, fluid, and fibre-reinforced polymers that would best deliver Sensolweighs functionalities. Regarding the data management system and software, these will be developed during phase 2 within a dedicated work package. A specific algorithm will be designed to translate electric signal into mass unit. Currently, a prototype has been designed and will be built during phase 2 optimizing the wifi and sunsystem.
Within the major challenges the European road transport faces, safety, congestion and infrastructure quality are some of its priorities. Congestion affects both road and air traffic, it costs Europe around 1% of annual GDP. Infrastructure road quality is uneven across the EU and is damaged by overloaded vehicles. Safety on roads is conditioned by different factors, being overloaded trucks one of them. A study by the International Road Dynamics Inc. found that 10% increase in weight can accelerate pavement damage by over 40%. Furthermore, overload could cause the main part of the vehicle to be damaged and malfunction being one important contributor to accidents. One of The European Commission’s purposes with its “Directive (EU) 2015/719” is to minimize this problem. The directive states maximum gross vehicle weights and urges for regular weight checks for commercial vehicles in the 28 EU countries. Trucks or heavy vehicles are dominant in transporting goods or materials from manufacturer to wholesalers and retailers before distributing it to other small businesses and end users. Also Regulation VI/2 Solas /74 Convention and Resolution MSC380 (94) of 21 November 2014 will make mandatory since 1 July 2016 to verify cargo loaded on ships weighing the packed container using calibrated and certified equipment.
In order to help both companies and governments comply with weight regulations, minimize road infrastructure damage and improve safety, transport and manufacturing companies need attractive cost-effective systems that persuade them to comply with the law while remaining competitive. Sensolweighs weighing system will be a low-cost solution that will be quickly installed in the premises will be powered by solar energy and will provide a cost-effective solution for companies in various sectors including Manufacturing, Chemical or Food & Beverage to measure and control the volume of produced and transported goods.