From airports, railways, subways, and industrial plants, to crane manufacturers, and even for the engines on ships, the applications for the new, smart, control and safety fastening systems from technology start-up, TOKBO, are diverse and numerous.
TOKBO was created as a result of a research project partnership, launched in 2018, between world leading Agrati SpA, and start-up accelerator, e-Novia, with the Industry 4.0 aim of adding electronics and ‘intelligence’ to its bolts. Now, after testing and validating the first prototypes, the outcome of the research project is that TOKBO has developed a new generation of products, which are already on the market.
These include structural bolts that also act as sensors for ‘real time’ monitoring of clamping force, vibration, and temperature, as well as screws and nuts, which, when positioned at critical points that customers want to monitor, transmit data on tension and elongation, any acceleration undergone, and existing inclination. This ‘intelligence’ allows ‘real time’ understanding of the operating conditions within structures and enables the interception of anomalies in good time; while the product patent developed allows for wireless operation, a direct wiring solution that also provides power has been opted, at this time, for first applications of the products, in order to avoid maintenance related to battery replacement.
By directly monitoring the operating status of the products, in situ, data is collected, which enables users to foresee and anticipate any potential problems, thereby allowing for predictive maintenance to be undertaken, improving overall safety. The singular monitoring points are potentially a first step towards widespread and modular control; control units, which can manage up to 250 ‘smart’ bolts, collect the data, which is then conveyed to the Cloud.
Ivan Moroni, CEO at TOKBO, explains: “We have focused on the ‘big’ world of infrastructure and transport networks, because it is there that the need for control is most evident. If a bridge vibrates when a train passes, for example, the acceleration of the bolt indicates how the structure is reacting, which can also be followed, over time, by comparing it with past data.”
Under the control of parent company, Agrati, whose CEO, Paolo Pozzi, is also president of the European EIFI association, the start-up is currently unlimited in size, but within three years the target is for it to exceed €1.5 million in revenues.
Mr Moroni continues: “While the initial phase is gradual, with customers starting on a limited basis to test these tools, the possibilities of rapidly scaling up the business are real. Think, for example, of a railway operator that has asked us to monitor a specific turnout, a movable piece of track that allows a train to change direction without stopping, if this first step is adopted on the entire network, we can quickly scale up to hundreds, or thousands, of pieces supplied.”
About 10 systems are already active in the field at airports, machinery manufacturers, metro and railway operating companies, and with crane manufacturers. By the end of the year, it is projected there will be 20 applications on the market, again including airports, railways, subways, cranes, ships and industrial plants. However, there are even more potential applications, such as for the monitoring of landslides, buildings, bridges, and signposts crossing motorways. Another possible application is on ships, as is the case at two Ligurian ports to monitor possible spills at sea, with the control ship’s engine suspensions monitored by TOKBO’s system.
Mr Moroni reiterates that the company expects to have “at least” the 20 systems active at customer sites by the end of 2023, with the aim of becoming a reference point in Italy for the monitoring of joints for infrastructure and industrial systems. He added that the company also has contacts abroad and expects to begin cooperation with a partner for Latin America, soon.
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 12 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector – interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe. Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the brand is renowned.