A mobile stress test to fast-track aircraft certification

1MILLIKELVIN, Media releases

A unique Australian technology wins awards, and gets smaller, simpler and even more capable.

DSTG Group Leader Dr Nik Rajic with the new stress imaging device. Credit DSTG

Media call at 11 am Friday 3 March 2023 on the Defence Stand, Exhibition Hall 3, Australian International Airshow at Avalon.

A technology invented in Melbourne can quickly reveal how stressed an aircraft is.

It will help fast track structural testing of new aircraft designs.

Using a thermal imaging sensor in a device about the size of a smart phone, it can measure temperature changes of less than one thousandth of a degree Celsius (i.e. less than one milliKelvin) and could radically improve testing of structures at risk of stress and fatigue.

Melbourne spin-out company 1MILLIKELVIN will launch the second generation of its technology at the Avalon Airshow on Friday 3 March.

On Tuesday 28 February they received the National and SME Innovation Awards at the Airshow.

Stress testing is critical in determining the life of aircraft and is usually done with the aid of strain gauges, which can only provide single point measurements of strain. The inability of these gauges to provide more pervasive coverage means that structural analysts are faced with many blind spots where the lack of empirical data leads to significant uncertainty which can result in unexpected and often costly structural failure

1MILLIKELVIN’s stress imaging devices can identify the stresses that lead to cracks by detecting the small changes in temperature that occur when a structure is stressed.

The technology was initially developed by Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group. They combined compact low-cost thermal cameras with smart algorithms to produce a stress imaging capability that could outperform previous technology at a fraction of the price and in a much more compact and rugged package.

They used the technology, which they named MiTE (Microbolometer Thermoelastic Evaluation), to support the structural life extension of the F/A-18 Classic Hornet, leading to significant cost savings for Defence.

MiTE was also successfully used by Lockheed Martin to support structural certification testing of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“We thought that the technology could be made much smaller and easier to use, which would not only better support Defence requirements, but also create exciting new possibilities,” says DSTG Group Leader Dr Nik Rajic. “So we supported the creation of a spin-out company, 1MILLIKELVIN.”

“Our first generation device, the LTS-640V, was launched last year at Singapore Airshow,” says Kheang Khauv, 1MILLIKELVIN’s managing director. “It’s the size of an SLR camera and is in use at RMIT and DSTG. Importantly, you don’t need a science degree to use it.”

“Today, we’re launching the second-generation device, the ITS series. It’s about the size of smartphone and will be about a tenth of the cost of competing technologies. That means you’ll be able to strap dozens of these devices to an aircraft and conduct a comprehensive stress test in hours. We have a working prototype and plan to bring the device to market later this year,” says Kheang.

Most aircraft manufacturers still rely on strain gauges which will often miss important areas of stress concentration, meaning problems are only discovered when cracks develop, sometimes after years of testing.

“Our devices can identify problems within hours, allowing for fast troubleshooting during aircraft design and certification testing, Kheang says.

“Ultimately, we hope we will be able to embed these devices in nooks and crannies within aircraft during test flights and directly measure stresses in-flight in real time,” he says.

“It’s been a fantastic partnership with Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group that is supporting the defence of Australia and contributing to the development of high technology jobs,” Kheang says.

“We’re grateful to the Victorian and Australian governments for their support through the ‘Boost your Business’ grants and the AMESRF (Advanced Manufacturing Early Stage Research Fund) grant provided through the AMGC (Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre).

“We’d also like to thank the Defence Science Institute and RMIT for their collaboration to help enhance this technology, and finally the design team at Outerspace for working with us throughout the journey to develop these amazing products.

“We are already thinking about other potential applications where structural stress and fatigue are an issue, for example, bridges, race cars, even roller coasters,” he says.

Media contacts

Niall Byrne for 1MILLIKELVIN, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, +61 417 131 977.

Defence contact: media@defence.gov.au

Company site: https://www.1millikelvin.com/

Extended DSTG story: https://www.dst.defence.gov.au/news/2023/02/23/revolutionary-stress-imaging-device-takes-out-national-innovation-award

Kheang Khauv, 1MILLIKELVIN’s managing director