FORCE Technology celebrates its 80th anniversary
From X-ray certification of steam boilers to IoT and digital twins — much has changed since the founding of Svejsecentralen back in 1940.
It all started with two welded steam boilers from Switzerland. They arrived in Denmark 1938 with the permission of the government, as the Swiss manufacturer was able to document that these boilers had been X-rayed and were approved for use. This drew the attention of the Danish industry — why couldn't we certify X-ray boilers in Denmark?
Two years later, on 25 October 1940, Svejsecentralen ["The Welding Centre"] was founded, so FORCE Technology can now call itself 80 years old. The small business that was founded 80 years ago, out of a need to X-ray and certify steam boiler welds, has grown to become a large, multifaceted business. We have 16 areas of business, 1100 employees, and activities in many countries.
Because of the coronavirus, we are unable to celebrate our anniversary as we normally would. Even so, we celebrate all the exciting inventions and technological transformations that we have been part of.
Welding inspection: From X-ray machines to drones
Manually X-raying welds involved heavy machinery and a large team. Today, we are just a few years away from being able to inspect welds using unmanned drones. These drones will know what to inspect, how to navigate, and — thanks to artificial intelligence — how to sift through all the data.
Precision is a prerequisite for technology
Since 1889, a small weight in Paris was the thing that determined how much a kilogramme weighed. For 129 years, it formed the basis of all weight measurements and calculations. However, in 2018, researchers at the 26th General Conference of Weights and Measures decided to retire the small weight. Since then, the kilogramme has instead been defined based on three physical constants.
FORCE Technology's Weight and Mass Laboratory was founded in 1951, initially calibrating Danish weights that were directly traceable to the weight in Paris. In fact, we had weights from as far back as the 1600s that were once used by Ole Rømer — the man who first measured the speed of light. Those weights were later donated to an exhibition at Rosenborg Castle. Today, the very same laboratory performs its calibrations digitally and according to the new definition, but with the same goal of ensuring correct measurements and calculations in industry and society. Many of our 400 other testing facilities have gone on a similar journey. Today, for example, we are developing digital twins: digital copies of real-world objects. This makes it possible to test, optimise, and monitor products and production processes independently of time and place. One of the methods often used to create digital twins is called computational fluid dynamics (CFD). It makes it possible to virtually display flows within and around structures. Among other uses, CFD calculations have been used to optimise the wind conditions around The Blue Planet.
The first transistor radios
The transistor was invented in 1947, and a few years later, it lent its name to the first portable, battery-operated transistor radios. FORCE Technology, known as DELTA at that time, participated in the development of Denmark's first transistor radio.
At about the same time as the invention of the transistor, the Technical Acoustics Laboratory was established for the purpose of conducting experiments in technical acoustics in areas like telegraphy and telephony. As technology has progressed, that business area became what is today FORCE Technology SenseLab, which performs some of the most precise audio quality tests in the world.
An airport on Saltholm?
In the early 1960s, there was talk of building a large, new airport on the island of Saltholm, located in Øresund between Denmark and Sweden. First, however, politicians wanted an overview of possible noise annoyances associated with the project, and the Technical Acoustics Laboratory — now a part of FORCE Technology — was asked to test sound levels.
The Royal Danish Air Force supplied a North American F-86 Sabre jet fighter. With its afterburner engaged, it served as a noise source for a comprehensive testing programme conducted from 1964 to 1965. Measurements were taken at 10 locations on the island of Amager over 80 nights, under various weather conditions. The surprising results revealed that the noise could "skip" along the surface of the water like a stone, meaning that there was significantly less noise attenuation than there would have been over land. The conclusion from these experiments was that a portion of the Amager coast would be subjected to a certain amount of noise from the airport when the wind was easterly, but there would be no significant issues in the residential areas further inland. As a result, the Danish Parliament decided to build the new airport. Financial issues, however, led to the project's cancellation. The existing airport in Kastrup remained instead. Since then, new technology has made aeroplanes far quieter — fortunately for Amager, which would otherwise be subjected to hellish levels of noise with today's air traffic.
Adventures in oil give way to a green, fossil-free future
In 2050, extraction of oil and gas in the Danish part of the North Sea will end. With that will come the end of an era that FORCE Technology (Svejsecentralen, at that time) was part of from the very beginning.
As early as 1957, Svejsecentralen received its first inspection job in the field of oil and gas extraction. That job was performed in Venezuela, but as gas and oil were discovered in the North Sea in the 1960s, those jobs began appearing closer to home. By the time the Danish oil and gas adventure began, Svejsecentralen had already accumulated 15 years of experience in the field. When the second major oil crisis struck in 1979, it became clear that Denmark, with its relatively high oil consumption and relatively low oil production, would need to find alternatives to oil to meet its energy needs. In the early 1980s, Denmark's natural gas network was established. Svejsecentralen performed X-ray inspections on thousands of kilometres of piping to ensure that there were no cracks or other defects. Today, FORCE Technology is still a major partner of the energy industry, but its outlook has shifted toward a greener, fossil-free future. As an example, one of our main new areas of focus is power-to-X technologies, which can convert sustainable power into hydrogen via electrolysis, and from there into liquid and gaseous fuels. These can ultimately minimise CO2 emissions by making transportation on land and at sea carbon neutral.
Ultrasound device developed for slaughterhouses offers expecting parents a glimpse of their child
In the early years of FORCE Technology's story, when we were still Svejsecentralen, our business was centred around X-ray weld analysis. As times changed, so did technology, and in the 1950s, ultrasound was introduced.
Svejsecentralen's first experiments with ultrasound were hardly major successes, but gradually, the technology improved, and we gained more experience with it. Given the greater precision and safety of ultrasound, it slowly replaced X-ray imaging. Initially, our primary application for ultrasound inspections was in welding, but starting in 1961, slaughterhouses became a major customer segment, since ultrasound could also be used to measure layers of fat, muscle, and meat in pigs and cows. A physician at Gentofte Hospital read about Svejsecentralen's collaboration with the slaughterhouses and had the idea that it might be possible to scan pregnant woman in roughly the same way. Subsequently, a device was produced for hospital use. The photo shows the very same physician in 1966, inspecting a pregnant woman using ultrasound equipment developed by Svejsecentralen. As you probably know, ultrasound is still used to scan pregnant women, but it also has many other industrial applications. FORCE Technology, for example, developed P-Scan, an automated ultrasound inspection system used to inspect welds and check for corrosion.
Technology under our skin and in our ears
Effective diabetes treatment requires careful dosing of insulin. For that reason, ElektronikCentralen ["The Electronics Centre"], which has since become FORCE Technology, produced a prototype for an implantable insulin pump in 1981. The unit was designed to be placed under the skin, where it would dispense exact doses of insulin. From a technical perspective, it was a microcomputer, capable of wireless communication and charging.
Today, FORCE Technology collaborates with many businesses that produce medical devices. For instance, we test hearing aids. In one year, more than 80% of the world's hearing aid designs were tested at our facilities. Our insight into sensors is also relevant in the healthcare system, which has a growing need for technological solutions. Additionally, our knowledge of standards and compliance is an excellent fit for the medical industry, which is highly regulated.
"Aim for their legs!" they yelled — or did they?
Most Danes born in the 1980s or earlier remember 18 May 1993, when dissatisfaction with the results of the referendum on the Edinburgh Agreement led to rioting and arson in the Nørrebro area of Copenhagen.
The police fired 113 rounds, and recordings from that dramatic captured an order given by the police. But what was really said? And was it yelled into a megaphone or not? FORCE Technology analysed the audio recordings for investigators with the National Police. Since then, the phrase "aim for their legs" has become synonymous with that evening. Apart from the recording itself, all the megaphones the police had used were also studied in an anechoic chamber. The conclusion was that the famous phrase was not yelled into a megaphone. This conclusion was later confirmed by the FBI.
Space technology imposes unique requirements on quality and testing
A second golden age of space travel has begun: man-made rovers have been driving around on Mars. Within a few years, man will return to the surface of the Moon. The wealthy are making plans for space tourism. And large businesses like Amazon and SpaceX are sending thousands of satellites into orbit.
Since the European Space Agency (ESA) was founded in the 1970s, FORCE Technology has been a part of technological developments in space travel. For instance, did you know that ElektronikCentralen, which later became FORCE Technology, supplied the equipment used to expand the Hubble telescope's ten-metre solar panels? We also participated in the development of rocket nozzles for the Ariane 6 rocket, which is slated to be launched in 2022. Meanwhile, one of our current employees is a young PhD student who is conducting research at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory — the very ones behind the Mars rovers. Speaking of the Mars rovers, we also had a small hand in Perseverance, which landed on Mars in early February 2021. That rover includes a colour reference that its cameras use to compare and calibrate photographic images. We subjected the colour reference to something known as a pyrotechnic shock test, which shows whether it will survive the violent g-forces that occur during landing. It did.
Microchip triggered tidal wave of new electronics
The microchip was invented in 1958, building on developments in transistor technology. Today, they can be found in every computer, and nearly all other kinds of familiar electronics.
In the 1990s, DELTA (now a part of FORCE Technology) was a leader in microchips. It participated in the development of an ASIC chip that ultimately became a part of the BroBizz electronic toll collection system, used by thousands of drivers every day on the Great Belt Bridge and the Øresund Bridge. With the introduction of microchips, many more electronic products began filling our homes, workplaces, and societies. As it turns out, these products do not exist independently of each other; they interact and affect each other. Consequently, EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) testing became a major new business area for FORCE Technology. EMC testing makes it possible to determine whether a product can function together with other electronic equipment. For example, you should be able to turn on your new LED bulb while charging your mobile phone and playing music on your stereo — without annoying noise coming through the speakers, and without causing the charger to stop working.