Revolutionizing roller coaster maintenance with sensor-enabled bolts
Poggipolini is an Italian manufacturing and engineering company that specializes in high-precision machining of critical structural components and fasteners for the automotive, aerospace, and motorsports industries. Their speciality is titanium bolts which can be found on some of the world's fastest automobiles, both on the road and on the racetrack.
Poggipolini has developed a new technology called SENS-IN bolt where sensors are placed insides bolts which can detect physical phenomena such as thermic variations and vibrations. The student team from the University of Bologna and Kyoto Institute of Technology was challenged to find new use cases and solutions utilizing this innovative technology.
The team reached out to experts in various fields such as bridges, construction, chemical plants, dentistry, and prosthetics. However, the field they discovered to be most promising was roller coasters and amusement parks.
Unbeknownst to most park goers, roller coaster maintenance is incredibly time consuming and costly in Japan. Every day, maintenance workers visually check bolts on the karts to make sure that none of them have loosened over the last day. Every year, karts are completely overhauled by disassembling them and replacing some of the damaged components. This can take several month and costs can be in the millions of dollars for a group of karts.
Seeing an opportunity in a traditional industry, the team developed a digital monitoring solution using SENS-IN bolts. The tablet-based system can collect data throughout the day and optimize maintenance work that still relied heavily on pen and paper. If the system proves to be reliable in testing, the annual cycle of overhaul to be prolonged, saving amusement parks and park-goers money.