Jan Niemi

A microscope that detects gaps and wear

Measurements performed simply and precisely. That is the result of research towards the development of a "motion microscope" for the process industry.

Successful research always begins somewhere. Sometimes, it starts with random googling. A researcher at Swerim sat at the computer and happened to stumble upon a Ted Talks feature about measurement technology. A researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology had developed software employing image processing algorithms to enable magnification of small movements that are impossible to see with the naked eye. In the USA researchers have used the technology to measure, for example, minute movements in bridge structures. When research engineer Jan Niemi at Swerim learned of the web lecture, he realized immediately that there was potential for developing the technology for application in the process industry.

After gaining approval from researchers in Massachusetts to use the software, he started the REMOTE project (Rörelsemikroskopteknik) to develop the technology so that it could be used, via motion imaging to detect and measure, for example, gaps and elongation strain changes in machines used in steel manufacturing.

In the specific trial that Jan Niemi chose to work with, he mounted the motion microscope on a roller levelling machine. Small movements in the machine can have a big impact on the flatness of the steel. By analysing image sequences the entire progression of movements in the machine can be registered as they occur. These may include wear, gaps, springback and bending.

Movements in the roller levelling machine are currently monitored using laser distance measuring meters.  Jan Niemi's hypothesis was that measurements could be performed with the same precision, but much more easily and faster, with a motion microscope.

The microscope, which captures motion, is mounted on the roller levelling machine. At the same time, measurements were taken with a conventional laser distance measuring meter.  The measurement results were comparable and the hypothesis that the motion microscope would work just as well – but faster and with the ability to measure in all directions – was confirmed.

“Developing the measurement system with our pilot-scale equipment at Swerim has many advantages, "says project manager Jan Niemi.” We can perform extensive measurements without disrupting production. In addition, the process can be run more slowly, which facilitates program development.”

Since the conclusion of the project, companies in the industry have shown considerable interest in developing REMOTE to adapt the technology to their specific production conditions.  The REMOTE project was carried out at Swerim and funded by the Hugo Carlsson Foundation.


Jan Niemi, jan.niemi [at] swerim.se