Chaos Theory: Better QC
by Geoff Miller
Photography: Ann K Purkiss
A new method of testing wire used in the manufacture of springs has been developed using chaos theory mathematics. Warwick University and the Spring Research and Manufacturers' Association (SRMA) have jointly developed FRACMAT, a system designed to improve quality control in the production process.
Until now, manufacturers of spring wire have faced the problem of being unable to identify inconsistencies in the coiling performance of wire before it is used. Tiny inconsistencies can lead to problems. The FRACMAT system enables classification of wires according to their coiling performance and greater consistency of manufacture.
Ian Stewart, a leading chaos theoretician and Warwick University mathematics professor, recently completed the unique industrial project with SRMA to produce the FRACMAT test that identifies the best wire for spring manufacture. Manufacturers of springs have always had to contend with the problem of a lack of consistency in the production process caused by the variability of spring wire.
The FRACMAT process, pictured here, finds the underlying patterns in the variability of the thickness of each length of wire used to produce a spring. This allows manufacturers to devise models which can be used to influence the coil consistency of each spring and achieve previously unobtainable levels of quality control in the production process.
The UK's Spring Research and Manufacturers Association is the only centre in the world dedicated to the research and development of spring technology. Based in Sheffield, in northern England, SRMA carries out research for large and small companies from all industrial sectors, among them IBM, Rolls-Royce, GEC, BP and Rank Xerox.
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