Tough Tracker was established to counter a problem in the scrap metal market - of not knowing where scrap bins (skips, etc.) are located if they get lost or stolen. Electronic tracking devices need to be both robust and with good battery life. Tough Tracker was developed with a high-tech composite casing (Formula 1 grade, stronger than steel) with a combination of a GPS satellite positioning system (the same GPS as used in spacecraft and aeronautics), quad band GSM transmitter with cell location function, anti-jamming technology and a 3-axis accelerometer for ultra-sensitive motion detection.
The complete unit then needed to survive aggressive testing, exemplified by a 2-minute battering with a sledge hammer - demonstrated on Tough Trackers' website video.
Originally, a polyester potting compound was tried to protect the electronics, but its uneven cure lead to exothermic hot spots and shrinkage which caused component damage. While inexpensive, the polyester was hard and not sufficiently shock proof, shattering under impact testing.
Developer James Bryan explains: "Tough Tracker is a new company - we are just 2 years old and had spent the first year in research and development, so we needed a can-do attitude at reasonable cost. When we started to look for something more resilient for our potting compound we found Intertronics by word-of-mouth recommendation and they have exactly met our needs."
Intertronics Product Specialist Simon Gibbs listened to their requirements and suggested that IRS 3071 was evaluated. IRS 3071 is a semi-rigid, room temperature-curing polyurethane resin system specifically designed for the cost-effective encapsulation of a variety of low to medium-voltage electrical and electronic applications. The system is medium viscosity, flame retardant to UL94 V-0 at 6mm and has excellent adhesion to a wide range of substrates. IRS 3071 is resistant to UV, water-based cleaning chemicals, motor oil, lubricants and most dilute acids and alkalis.
The IRS 3071 potting compound is crucial to performance of the Tough Tracker and has been found to be waterproof, impact and thermally resistant, and easy to work with. Importantly, its electrical transmission characteristics allow the tracking signals, whilst its fire-retardant specification also helps with fire proofing. IRS 3071 works well in production, saving wastage of PCBs and enhancing performance in service. A custom metering, mixing and dispensing machine was also supplied by Intertronics, which ensures production efficiency and the consistency of performance essential to reliability of the Tough Tracker unit. Purchase of the machine allowed Tough Tracker to purchase bulk quantities of the potting compound, which led to material savings.
Application of the Tough Tracker technology has now expanded into security of farm machinery, vehicle trailers and perimeter gate alarms. They were recently a finalist in the prestigious EIC Energy and Innovation Awards for Best Asset Security Innovation - a significant tribute to their enthusiasm and use of advanced technologies to solve a simple low-technology problem.
And for the future? Field experience now calls for ballistic testing which is envisaged with a range of weapons from shotguns to 50 calibre rifle - we await the results with interest!