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HRL Explores the Failing Health of Digital Electronics

LOS ANGELES, October 4, 2007 — Using computer models and novel probabilistic graphs, HRL Laboratories, LLC is working to predict failures and the remaining lifetimes of digital electronic systems.

Digital electronics dominate commercial and military markets, and manufacturers and users alike need to know more about component reliability over time and under a wide range of operating conditions. How long will vital components last, and what causes them to fail?

According to Dr. Przytula, the overall program manager at the Malibu, California facility, HRL has been developing algorithms and tools for diagnosis and prognosis of electronic systems for over five years, and has numerous publications and patents in this area. HRL just received a contract from Ridgetop Group, Inc., an internationally recognized firm specializing in electronic prognostics and fault-tolerant electronics, to continue and expand the research.

Applications include complex medical equipment, such as MRIs, and aerospace systems, such as aircraft and satellites. Still others are automobiles and energy generation and distribution systems, such as power plants and power grid control, and communication systems, such as telephone switching.

"We have just recently applied our framework with the General Motors Locomotive Group to predict durability of diesel locomotive parts,” he said. "The system covered over 500 components and over 1000 observations. We believe the results will make diesel locomotives that much safer because we can predict the health of critical components."

Will the HRL framework eventually work its way into the hands of consumers to test their own equipment? "Presently most consumer electronics is designed for low cost and is not intended to be maintained by the user over an extended period of time," Dr. Przytula says, "but that may change in the future as the cost of materials and components for the equipment goes up."

HRL develops its model by gathering information from many sources, including laboratory testing, simulations, and in some cases data from the manufacturer of the component. Next, the model is used in the field—tested in real operation. The model actually "learns” from the resulting data.

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California,  is a corporate R&D laboratory owned by Boeing and General Motors. HRL provides custom R&D and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC Members, for the U.S. government, and for other commercial entities.

 

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