Multinational committee urges open trade in high-tech
Trade conflicts threaten to damage prospects for international collaboration
in development of new technologies. So warns a committee of technology and trade
experts from Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the
United States. The United States National Research Council and two German
economic research institutes sponsored the panel and its report. Discrimination
against foreign bidders on government contracts should be reduced, a consensus
of the panel maintains. One suggested mechanism for doing this: Place limits on
the degree to which governments may favor domestic suppliers of high-technology
goods and services. Any such price advantage would be made public, capped, and
progressively reduced through international negotiations, as tariffs are. The
report recommends that governments work to eliminate all tariffs in high-tech
sectors by 2000 or sooner. It calls, too, for global efforts to protect
intellectual property rights and to establish common antitrust policies.
Novel solar heater undergoes tests at visitor center
A unique solar device for heating water is getting a year-long test in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the system uses photovoltaic cells in combination with computer technology to maximize capture of the sun's energy. Researchers installed an improved version of the system at a visitor center near Gatlinburg, TN. The NIST technology, patented in 1994, includes an array of PV cells, a water storage tank with multiple electrical resistive elements, and a controller that maximizes conversion of solar energy into heated water. A microprocessor continuously monitors solar conditions. It kicks in the appropriate electrical resistive elements for peak energy conversion from sunrise to sunset. Unlike thermal devices, the PV solar water heater operates without pipes through the roof, fluids that can freeze, or costly pumps. No storage batteries are needed, either. Resistive elements in the storage tank use current produced by the PV cells to heat water in the tank directly. The hot water then serves as the means of storing energy for nights and sunless days.
Industry doubts effectiveness of Fastener Quality Act
The Fastener Quality Act, which became official last May, could wipe out 11 years of advances in fastener technology. That, at least, is the fear of Charles J. Wilson, director of engineering for the Industrial Fasteners Institute. The law is intended to counter the continuing problem of bogus fasteners. It sets up an elaborate and expensive system of quality-control inspections. Originally drafted in 1985, the act embraces manufacturing methods and technology of that time, Wilson says. "Since 1985," he adds, "U.S. fastener manufacturing technology and the quality levels of products has significantly evolved to provide consumers, particularly automotive customers, with just-in-time deliveries and quality levels that far exceed those called for in the law." Officials in fastener and automotive industries hope that goverment enforcers of the act make provisions for on-going evolution in fastener manufacturing technology. Comments Wilson: "The law as it now stands will be highly disruptive."
Team of flight safety experts to advise governments
A new team of experts in 18 flight specialties will advise U.S. and foreign industries and government agencies on aviation safety. David R. Hinson, head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has picked the first 12 experts for the group, called National Resource Specialists for Aircraft Certification. He stresses the importance of having "the level of expertise needed to speak with recognized authority in emerging and expanding areas of aviation science." Guy Gardner, associate administrator for regulation and certification at FAA, will direct the team. Three engineers from Boeing Company: Eugene G. Hill, Anthony A. Lambregts, and David B. Walen are in the group. Hill will analyze icing problems; Lambregts will handle advanced control systems; Walen will tackle electromagnetic interference. Other specialists will concentrate on propeller design and materials, manufacturing quality assurance, software quality assurance, metallic structural materials and processes, propulsion control systems, and human factors.
Autodesk demonstrates sharing drawings over the Internet
Autodesk, Inc. demonstrated its AutoCADŽ R13 Internet Publishing Kit at the Federal Imaging '96 conference in Washington, DC. Users of the kit can convert designs into a new drawing web format (DWF). With DWF files, designers can pan and zoom without accessing the server, reloading the file, or losing visual detail as with bitmap images.