Wireless, batteryless design developers are becoming a greater asset to companies today in helping to develop cutting edge product designs for manufacturers. Energy harvesting technologies are creating a buzz in the industry as way for product manufacturers to develop more interesting applications.
Wireless developers have created a good deal of digital waves. Cell towers, TV towers and even Wi-Fi hotspots constantly deliver wireless communications to a host of devices. Today developers are finding new ways to use those signals. These waves can be harvested and used to power new types of sensors and wireless devices. The result is a new technology that operates without the use of batteries. It equates to wireless self-sufficiency.
In order to develop these new product designs, they are turning to product lifecycle management (PLM) to optimize their design process, ultimately helping them get to market faster. While many do not have the luxury of spending a design budget of a Samsung or General Motors to manage their product lifecycle, similar to the evolution of energy harvesting - PLM has also been advancing and becoming more streamlined to meet the needs of developers to create wireless, batteryless products. For many, the solution for start-ups and SMBs (small and medium size businesses) is a PLM solutions geared to be well suited for them and their budget.
“The idea of devices that charge themselves continuously, without intervention, access to electrical outlets, or unwieldy cords, has been prevalent among both developers and users for some time, said Eric Woods, research director with Navigant Research. This is the future of devices – and the technology to make it happen has arrived.” In addition, there are now PLM systems available to support companies big and small in their design initiatives to involve energy harvesting technology. WiTricity uses PLM in the development of its highly resonant wireless power solutions. ResearchMoz reports the market potential for energy harvesting markets is projected to increase to $4.2 billion in 2019. This anticipated growth comes from the global demand for sensors and the wireless design development of networks, which transcends all industries.
Smartphone makers are already bringing wirelessly charged phones to market, including several of Google’s Nexus models. Future electric cars and plug-in hybrids will be automatically powered when they’re parked over a charging surface. Toyota’s next-generation Prius will use WiTricity’s technology to automatically charge cars that are parked over a pad-like device in a garage. A number of other high-profile auto suppliers, including TDK and General Motors spinoff Delphi, have taken licenses with WiTricity as well. Medical applications developers are seeing the value of wireless to charge medical devices. For instance, heart pumps manufacturers have begun creating pumps that charge automatically and eliminate a major source of infection in the skin by not having to be plugged in. Wireless power may just be the solution to make operations less cumbersome for soldiers in the U.S. military because they no longer will have to carry heavy battery loads and an unwieldy power cord from vest to helmet.
In the last few years, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) acknowledged the power of energy harvesting technology, ratifying EnOcean as the standard. It is the ISO/IEC 14543-3-10 standard for wireless applications with ultra-low power consumption and the first and only wireless standard that is also optimized for innovating energy harvesting solutions. This international standard sets the framework for achieving a fully interoperable, open wireless technology similar to such standards as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
From a product design perspective, the wireless, batteryless product design opportunity is immense. Imagine wireless, batteryless technology capabilities embedded in everything from structures to vehicles. An office in a skyscraper might alert someone that lights have been left on, a vehicle might alert you if the child safety lock has been tripped or your favorite radio talk program starts in 5 minutes; sneakers could let you know when you’ve reached their optimal mileage threshold. Or what if tunnels could be capable of alerting someone if stress-related cracks form.
Getting These New Products To Market
There exists today a growing number of start-ups and SMBs that want to deliver new or enhanced products and gain a competitive advantage. Leveraging a PLM system to help efficiently develop these products is viewed as key to having a successful launch in new technology fields.
For instance, Petra Solar uses PLM to bring its Smart Energy Solutions to market faster. Their PLM solution automates and streamlines processes around document control, engineering changes, bill of material (BOM) management and compliance. The company has reported improved efficiencies with an estimated 74% time savings in engineering change order (ECO) cycles.
Energy harvesting companies like Lord MicroStrain Sensing Systems, are using PLM in the design and development of their smart, wireless sensors that are in use in such applications as advanced manufacturing, off-highway vehicles, commercial and military manned and unmanned vehicles, civil structures, and downhole tools. Lord Microstrain’s design team enhances and enforces business processes using a PLM system as well as develops advanced integrations with their engineering design and manufacturing environments.
The PLM software implementation has resulted in a decrease of Lord MicroStrain's BOM processing time from two to three days to just minutes. The engineers can access approved parts stored in PLM from within their CAD program. The BOMs generated from the engineering systems are imported into PLM for approval and the released BOM data is sent directly to the ERP for a completely automated and streamlined process. They found their PLM solution helped them to get to market first, stake a larger market share, and maximize profit margins.
Not too far in the future, we will see hundreds of millions of these kinds of devices deployed in environments such as office buildings, houses, hotels, industrial sites, transportation infrastructure and electric vehicles. The development cycle for devices will shorten even further. PLM will be a tremendous benefit to managing the design and production process for companies to stay competitive. Analysis shows that the energy harvesting market will grow to $4.2 Billion within five years including the emergence of thousands of developers and design engineers involved throughout the value chain.