IF Vehicles Limited

Developing pressure sensors for zero-emission delivery vehicle containers

Supporting the fabrication and evaluation of pressure sensors to monitor weight fluctuations within containers

IF Vehicles, a micro-company based in Newcastle and founded by design graduate Andrew Hodgson, is developing a novel, zero-emission delivery vehicle to reduce the high levels of congestion and pollution associated with delivery vehicles in inner cities. 

IF Vehicles have designed — and are currently developing — a lightweight, battery-operated micro-container delivery vehicle, with an extending vehicle frame, or chassis (IP pending), that will utilise reusable containers to distribute goods. 

As part of their mission to develop novel, zero-emission delivery vehicles, IF Vehicles needed to develop sensor technology for the reusable delivery containers. IF Vehicles have partnered with CPI to develop pressure sensors to better monitor weight fluctuations within these containers. In addition, the development of a novel printed electronics system will better enable the tracking and recharging of the reusable containers. 

This work was carried out as part of CPI’s Project IMPACT (Innovative Materials via Precision Additive Coating Technologies), which was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

CPI’s state-of-the-art equipment and technical expertise in sensor technology has enabled us to go forward with our container design, which will be invaluable to the next stage of development. ”
Andrew
Andrew, Hodgson – IF Vehicles Limited 

Partners

IF Vehicles Limited

Achievements

Inputs

An input is a unique capability, service or method of support that was provided, such as equipment or expertise.

  • ERDF funding via Project IMPACT 
  • Desk-based research to identify potential uses of sensor technology 
  • Technical expertise 
  • Access to state-of-the-art equipment and technical expertise 
  • Initial product development 
  • Proof-of-concept 

Outputs

An output is the result of the work, such as an experimental finding, an actual product or a pilot demonstrator.

  • Development of a new product 
  • Development of a new manufacturing process 
  • Fabrication and evaluation of pressure sensors 

Outcomes

An outcome arises from implementing the outputs, for example, a profit, an investment, providing jobs or delivering societal benefits. Outcomes continue once an innovation has been implemented and deliver benefit every year.

  • Prototype development 
  • New process development 
  • Identification of further funding programmes 

The challenge

The high number of delivery vehicles within inner cities are resulting in increased traffic congestion and pollution levels. As such, there has been an increased demand for novel, zero-emission delivery vehicles to alleviate both of these issues. 

IF Vehicles’ lightweight, battery-operated micro-container delivery vehicle will utilise reusable containers to distribute goods. In order for these containers to be used to deliver goods, IF Vehicles needed to create pressure sensors that could monitor weight fluctuations, signifying if packages were added or delivered.

The proposed sensors will enable tracking and monitoring as well as charging for the containers, which will help to create a novel, smart delivery system. To achieve this, IF Vehicles needed technical expertise in sensor technology and printed electronics.

How CPI helped

CPI supported IF Vehicles by carrying out initial desk-based research to identify the potential use of sensor technology for this project. This investigation included force sensors (accelerometer and weight), strain gauges, temperature sensors, tamper sensors, associated power requirements and communications (NFC, RFID and communications with the cloud). 

CPI’s Electronics Team, based at Newton Aycliffe, worked on developing an array of printed sensors that can be placed within a reusable container. These sensors would then measure the weight within the container and note whether this weight changed, signifying that items were added or removed. An accelerometer was also added to the container to detect any sharp movements, signifying that the container had been dropped, and the sensor could provide a timestamp for this event. 

Each container will have its own sensor available through Bluetooth connection, along with its own unique Bluetooth module that connects to the vehicle rack, or to a smartphone. The container will be powered by the rack, which will then revert to a coin cell battery as back-up once the container has been removed. 

IF Vehicles are in discussion with a North East-based fabrication company to manufacture the first prototype of this delivery vehicle.

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