The iBlue gathers and records data via three ports: a K-type thermocouple port; a three-pin metal hardness probe port; and a USB port for connecting devices such as barcode scanners and keyboards. It can send the data to a paired Bluetooth-enabled device as a text email, or export it to Microsoft Excel or Notepad. iBlue is compatible with the most operating systems, including Apple's iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows and Linux.
Itamco originally developed the Bluetooth module, as well as several smartphone apps, as part an initiative to bring technology to its own gear-manufacturing plant. “We were in the process of connecting our machine tools to a plant monitoring system, so it made sense to have an electronic method of gathering and distributing the temperature, dimensions and hardness data of our gear products,” explains one of iBlue's developers, Joel Neidig, who is an engineer at Indiana Gear, a division of Itamco.
Machine operators, engineers and quality control staff at Indiana Gear are now using the device. “iBlue is saving me a lot of time on the shop floor because it's an all-in-one tool,” says Michael Blum, one of the company’s quality control specialists. “It's easy to carry around and it's accurate. We're already using data gathered from the iBlue to electronically track and analyse production processes.”
Following the success of the system at Indiana Gear, Itamco has decided to market it worldwide. The device, which costs $499 in the US, comes with a USB charger cable, a belt clip and a K-type thermocouple probe. Videos explaining how the system operates can be viewed via Itamco’s Web site.
As well as iBlue, Itamco has developed several free smartphone apps, including one that converts different temperature scales, and another, called Hardness Tester, that calculates hardness conversion numbers between Rockwell, Vickers and Knoop hardness scales. The apps are available for Apple, Android and Blackberry smartphones.