The 73rd Annual Meeting of Advisory Trustees and Board of Directors of Southwest Research Institute, held remotely on Feb. 15, 2021, included presentations on key SwRI research programs conducted during the 2020 fiscal year. We invite you to watch recordings of the presentations linked below. Contact Deb Schmid, +1 210 522 2254, or Robert Crowe, +1 210 522 4630 for more information or to interview the researchers.
View SwRI's 2020 Annual Report.
Integrated Corridor Management
Transportation systems in the U.S. integrate national, state, rural and municipal roadways with long ranging effects on safety, the environment, and quality of life. While hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on highway infrastructure projects, it’s financially impossible to build enough infrastructure to erase traffic congestion. Instead, 11 states and Puerto Rico use SwRI’s advanced transportation management system (ATMS) technologies and services to help traffic flow more efficiently and safely. SwRI has developed an integrated corridor management (ICM) system to optimize the performance of a regional transportation system as an integrated network rather than as independently operated assets. The ICM systems coordinate freeways, surface streets, and transit systems to balance traffic flow and improve performance of an entire regional transportation network. ICM systems fuse vast amounts of data from various public and private sources to address congestion associated with traffic incidents.
Visit https://icm.swri.org for more information.
Josh Johnson, Director, Intelligent Systems Division
Rheology: Understanding the Flow
Rheology is the study of the flow and deformation behavior of matter and can be seen in nearly every material we encounter. Tribology is a related discipline that studies the science and engineering of interacting surfaces as they pertain to friction, lubrication, and wear. SwRI applies these complex interconnected disciplines in a range of areas, including research into how they affect functional fluids in electrified powertrains and other automotive applications. We also apply this expertise to food and drug applications, as well as glass and polymer processing. In the oil and gas arena, we apply rheology and tribology to analyze petrochemical flow and high-pressure viscosity of oils.
Image and caption: https://www.swri.org/file/carlos-sanchez-d022576-2709jpg
For more information, visit Rheology Testing Services.
Dr. Carlos Sanchez, Senior Research Engineer, Fuels and Lubricants Research Division
Large Workspace Robotics
SwRI uses robotics to enable the workforce by assisting with and performing dull, dirty and dangerous tasks. These robotic systems can also help improve quality and repeatability, and, in some cases, increase throughput. For over 30 years, SwRI has been developing robots for large workspaces in variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive and energy. Recent research in aircraft paint removal has led to the development of the world’s largest industrial mobile robot, which uses a powerful laser for efficient coating removal. The Laser Coating Removal robot, recognized as one of the top 100 inventions of 2020 by R&D World magazine, is able to remove a wide variety of coating colors and types from small aircraft to the largest.
SwRI is also working on a project called the Advanced Automation for Agile Aerospace Applications (A5) for the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. This Air Force Research Laboratory-sponsored program has developed a software framework, based on ROS-Industrial capabilities, to enable a range of applications. The capabilities are demonstrated on an omnidirectional robotic platform. Intended for use on an aerospace factory floor, this multi-purpose robot uses real-time sensor feedback for automatically planning its work path across the aircraft fuselage.
Other recent SwRI work in large workspace robotics has included developing a system that can identify and paint aircraft components as they move through a production line. The robots use 3D scan data to automatically create robot motions for efficient part coverage. Another SwRI-developed mobile platform uses a robotic arm to pick up small items, sort them into the appropriate bins, and move the items around in a warehouse environment.
For more information, visit the Innovations in Automation Blog.
Image and caption: https://www.swri.org/file/laser-coating-robot-aircraft-d024588jpg
Image and caption: https://www.swri.org/file/laser-coating-robot-polygon-scannerjpg
Image and caption: https://www.swri.org/file/a5-multipurpose-robotjpg
Meera Day Towler, Senior Research Engineer, Intelligent Systems Division
The Center for Advanced Genomics
SwRI’s wholly owned subsidiary, Austin-based Signature Science, is home to the Center for Advanced Genomics, dedicated to finding technical solutions in human identity forensics. The center supports the criminal justice system to help solve the toughest forensic challenges. The center resolves low-level complex mixtures with STRmix™ probabilistic genotyping software and develops efficient techniques to process the national backlog of sexual assault test kits. The research team developed a proprietary Forensic Recovery of Identification from Shell Casings (FRISC®) technique to recover DNA from spent shell casings. Signature Science develops techniques and tools to extract and quantify DNA, including cutting-edge genomics processing, to solve the toughest forensic challenges associated with trace, degraded and inhibited samples.
For more information, visit https://www.signaturescience.com/vignette/center-for-advanced-genomics/.
Dr. Curt Hewitt, Forensic Scientist, Signature Science