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Coating in the cloud: J F Fletcher, technical support manager at Elcometer looks at coating inspection data management utilising cloud computing.

Until recently there have been two different streams of computing protocols, one for industry and another for consumers. For example, design data could be transferred using CAD-CAM systems for industry and the Internet could be used for e-commerce with consumers buying and downloading books and music on the move. The differences between these two streams have now become blurred with the introduction of Cloud Computing, which allows file sharing to any location for very affordable fees using mobile platforms.

The history of coating inspection processes in the field shows that seventy years ago the industry was totally dependent on skilled individuals and their ability to visually inspect for defects in the coating process. Sixty years ago mechanical, magnetic coating thickness gauges were introduced making measurements of thickness possible in the field. These were followed by electronic gauges, initially analogue designs with moving needle meters indicating the thickness and then digital designs with the thickness displayed as a numeric value.

With the utilisation of microprocessors in the design of hand-held gauges in the late 1970s, improved measurement accuracy was coupled with the ability to collect batches of data and print the results. Further computerlike features soon became available and were developed until the modern gauge with the large memory for readings in multiple batches, wireless data communication via Bluetooth and data management software support became common place. These types of electronic gauges now cover a broad range of measurement parameters for coating processes such as surface profile, climatic conditions, coating thickness, material thickness, gloss, viscosity, etc.

However, the provision of Cloud Computing via the Internet has again revolutionised the way data can be shared, making remote communication without a network, or even a computer, extremely simple and cost effective.

It is already clear that in the emerging markets access to the Internet is via mobile devices, such as a Smart phone, a tablet computer or a feature phone. In fact it was reported in the Financial Times on 7th May 2012 that "This year has seen a momentous change in the shape of the global internet. More people now access the web on mobile phones than PCs in China, home to the world's largest population of Internet users. North America and Europe are not far behind in making that digital switchover, as are fast-growing Internet markets such as Turkey and Indonesia."

"Games developer Rovio, which claims a billion downloads for its original Angry Birds game, had 100m downloads for its latest sequel after just three months--figures rarely attained in traditional PC or console gaming."

A method for sharing inspection data using mobile devices is required to speed communication and decision making and this can now be achieved using the Elcometer ElcoMaster 2.0 software. This software enables simple and quick communication between gauges and either computers running the software or mobile devices operating with Android systems and utilising the ElcoMaster for Android programme.

The Cloud allows data to be transferred, stored and accessed through an Internet provider's hardware, without the need for a local computer. There are a number of providers such as Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Skydrive, etc. and these services can be accessed using both personal computers and mobile Internet capable devices.

Imagine an Inspector working at a remote site with no access to a computer network, or a number of inspectors working at different places on a large site or even on different sites, all needing to quickly communicate data to a central point. It would even be practical for several inspectors at several sites in different countries with a client in yet another country to communicate quickly and simply using the cloud drive as a commonly accessed database resource.

The inspection measurements can be taken on the structure and stored in the memory of the gauge. These readings can then be transferred from the gauge to any Smart phone or tablet using Android via the Bluetooth communications and using the Android-based ElcoMaster Mobile software. This data can be e-mailed to the Cloud. The specific Cloud drive can then be accessed by any other authorised device in any country on any continent to share the information, quickly, accurately and at a low cost.

Using these techniques allows inspection information to be shared instantly and therefore reporting time and costs are greatly reduced. Decision making, based on good quality information can be timely and accurate, particularly when re-working is indicated. At the end of a coating process, approval for the next stage can be quickly made, even when the client is at the other side of the world.

Bluetooth has been preferred to Wi-Fi for the ElcoMaster 2.0 application because it does not suffer from the requirement to dedicate the communication link to a single task such as data transfer from a gauge to a suitable device. For example, if Wi-Fi is used to transfer data to a Smartphone with the intention of sending it to the Internet, all other Wi-Fi connections on the Smartphone, such as to a Wi-Fi hub or to a Wi-Fi headset or to a Wi-Fi hands-free system, must be completely disconnected until the transfer is complete. The link to the Internet from the Smartphone then has to be re-established before the Cloud can be accessed. Bluetooth [R] can be used for multiple communications simultaneously and is password protected for security. It is also the case that the current consumption of a Wi-Fi connection in a battery powered hand-held gauge is very significantly higher than that of a Bluetooth connection.

For protective coating inspection there are three key electronic gauges that now have Bluetooth communications capability, the Elcometer 224 Surface Profile Gauge, the Elcometer 319 Dewpoint Meter for climatic monitoring and the Elcometer 456 Coating Thickness Gauge.

The Elcometer 224 Surface Profile Gauge measures the peak-to-valley height for the profile left by abrasive blast cleaning and it is now available with a separate probe option as well as the well-known integral probe. Recently, a special separate probe designed for measurement on convex surfaces such as blast cleaned pipes and tank walls has been added to the gauge options.

The Elcometer 319 Dewpoint Meter measures relative humidity (rh), air temperature (Ta), surface temperature (Ts) and calculates the dewpoint temperature (Td) and the difference between the surface temperature and the dewpoint temperature M. For safe painting of steel structures the temperature of the substrate (surface temperature) should be at least 3[degrees]C above the dewpoint temperature to ensure that water vapour from the atmosphere is not condensing on the surface of the substrate.

The Elcometer 456 Coating Thickness Gauge sets the highest standards in coating thickness measurements. The gauges are available in a wide range of models measuring dry film thickness on either ferrous (F) or nonferrous (N) metal substrates, with a dual function FNF probe capable of measuring on both types of metal substrate automatically. The Elcometer 456 is even more powerful, rugged and easier to use than ever before.

Key features include:

* 2.4" colour display, clear menu structure and large buttons, making the Elcometer 456 incredibly easy to use.

* Impact resistant and sealed against dust and water, the Elcometer 456 is incredibly rugged and is ideal for all environments.

* Memory capacity of up to 75,000 readings in alpha-numeric batches, interchangeable probes and output to ElcoMaster 2.0 software, the Elcometer 456 is incredibly powerful.

* Measurement capability to [+ or -]1% on smooth, rough, thin and curved surfaces the Elcometer 456 gives you repeatable and reproducible results and is backed by a 2-year gauge warranty.

* Incredibly fast measuring speed of more than 70 readings per minute--the Elcometer 456 is more than 40% faster than other gauges.

The Elcometer 224, 319 and 456 products are all supplied with the ElcoMaster 2.0 data management software included and which is now upgraded for data storage via the Cloud.

The Cloud database offers a significant expansion in the way coating inspection data is transferred and viewed utilising equipment such as a Smartphone, which is already part of the travelling Coating Inspector's normal kit.

For more information on ElcoMaster 2.0 data management software, the Elcometer 224 profile gauge, the Elcometer 319 dewpoint meter, the Elcometer 456 coating thickness gauge or any of the other products in the Elcometer range, contact Elcometer at or visit our website at
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Title Annotation:TEST & MEASUREMENT
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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