Knowledge of transfer length during production is critical for maintaining continuous production quality in the modern manufacture of prestressed concrete railroad crossties. Traditional laboratory methods for measuring transfer length, using manual instruments such as a Whittemore mechanical gauge or surface mounted resistance-type strain gauge, are simply not suitable for production operation. They are too time-consuming to implement, require extensive surface preparation, and can also require special operator training to provide accurate and reliable surface strain profiles from which the transfer length can be determined in a post-processing manner.

In contrast with earlier manual methods, the newly developed non-contact Laser Speckle Imaging (LSI) technique has been shown to be capable of providing rapid and accurate surface strain measurement and consequently also rapid transfer length assessment. This system has recently been automated and combined with the new Zhao-Lee (ZL) least-squares strain profile fitting technique for quickly and reliably processing surface strain data. The automated system and processing procedure have been shown to provide an improved assessment of transfer length, unhampered by human intervention and subsequent potential human judgment bias.

This paper presents recent progress toward the development of a 5-camera non-contact transfer length measurement system that is capable of continuous monitoring of railroad crossties in a production plant. This is made possible using an optimized version of the previously successful LSI system, which minimizes the number of surface strain measurements required to achieve reliable transfer length assessment. Experimental results and analysis will be presented for the latest multi-camera prototype concept for this new system design, demonstrating that only a few discrete surface strain measurements are required to achieve accurate and reliable transfer length assessment. Thus, for the first time it is now possible to envision practical real-time quality control monitoring of railroad crossties during an in-plant production operation.

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