When I read about this new development, I pictured Homer Simpson doing a face-palm and saying, “Doh!” Sometimes, the simplest of things is so obvious. Okay, here's the answer: When you add a sensor to a simple screw and put it on a machine, you can get an accurate measure of force.
Scientists from Germany’s Technischen Universitat Darmstadt integrated a sensor using the process of metal forming to precisely measure internal forces at play within mechanical systems. It was the result of work at the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 805 -- Control of uncertainty in load-carrying mechanical systems.
This is brilliant given that screws are ubiquitous throughout mechanical systems. Because of that, adding a sensor-laden screw right where you need that measurement is a real advantage for accuracy.
The same team that developed the concept is now busy at work creating software which, when used in combination with the sensor/screw, allows a large amount of usable information to flow.
While it boggles the mind as to the number of potential applications for this, the invention caught the eye and subsequent support of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. Now they have incorporated the idea into their Exist Research Transfer Project so that the sensor screw will receive funding for 18 months, which should be time to bring it all the way to production.
I'll provide updates on this as soon as I see them.