Engine mount wins top prize among aluminum
An extruded engine cradle took the grand prize in the 17th International
Aluminum Extrusion Design Competition. The Aluminum Association, based in
Washington, DC, presented $2,000 to the mount's designer, A. O. Smith of
Chrysler Corp. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. produced the cradle for use
on Chrysler's LH Series and LHS sedans. Association officials say the engine
cradle meets or exceeds all performance characteristics of the steel version it
could replace, and at 39 lbs it is 33% lighter. Tested with both stamped and
cast aluminum crossmembers, the cradle's lateral stiffness is 85% better than
steel versions now on cars. It has higher modal frequencies for all modes.
Runners-up in the contest for designs using extruded aluminum were an electronic
heatsink, a telescoping bridge plate, a hammock frame, an electric-vehicle
chassis, and a pistol scope and sight mount.
Product-liability reform unlikely
Any chance left of restructuring the nation's system of product liability awards during this century? Backers of the idea say it would take nothing short of a GOP sweep of the White House and Congress next November. One measure, thought to have the best chance in decades of passage, bit the dust this spring when President Clinton vetoed a bill that would put a cap on punitive damage awards. The House voted 258-163 to override the veto, but that was 23 short of the two-third majority needed. A milder version of a House proposal, the bill set a cap at twice the economic damages claimed or $250,000, whichever is larger. It also fixed a 15-year limit on product liability suits against manufacturers. Supporters maintain that reform would reduce frivolous suits and excessive damages. Clinton said the bill he vetoed "would mean more unsafe products in our homes."
Inventor of the Year award shared by Kodak engineers
Four engineers from Eastman Kodak Company won the Inventor of the Year Award from Intellectual Property Owners (IPO). Based in Washington, DC, IPO represents companies and inventors owning patents. This year's winners are William C. Atkinson, Robert P. Cloutier, Michael L. Wash, and Arthur A. Whitfield. After a decade of research, they invented a system for storing information on magnetic tracks on photographic film. The data enhance flexibility and quality in both picture taking and film processing. Kodak has made the system a major component of Advantixproducts in its Advanced Photo System. IPO also gave an Entrepreneurship Award to engineers John D. Cheever and Sam H. Patterson of Chicago. They were the lead inventors in a series of patents issued to SRAM Corp. on twist-style shifters for bicycle gears.
Federal agencies' metric policy too hard for some to swallow
By insisting on "hard metrics" rather than "soft metrics", federal agencies are driving some firms out of business. That, at least, is the claim of companies testifying at a hearing before Congress' Technology subcommittee. Both the House and Senate are considering bills to revise the 1975 Metric Act again. The Act currently requires all federal agencies to begin using the metric system in procurements, grants, and other business-related activities. But the Act does not specify what method of metric conversion should be used. Few suppliers object to soft metrics in which they simply convert inches and pounds to centimeters and kilograms. Problems arose two years ago when some federal agencies began a hard-metrics policy. They require the use of whole metric units, forcing firms bidding on federal projects to retool to make slight changes in dimensions of their products. Republican-sponsored bills would allow some bidders to use soft metrics if hard conversion is too costly. The Clinton Administration opposes the bills, claiming they would have a "negative effect" on the drive to convert to metrics.
Would you consider yourself a non-academic mathematician?
Mathematics is alive and well but living under different names--and one of those names is design engineering. So finds a study by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). The report is the first part of an effort to create stronger links between industry and the mathematical sciences. Supported by the National Science Foundation, SIAM visited more than 500 "nonacademic mathematicians" and their managers in industrial organizations and federal laboratories. SIAM chose sites where people use math, modeling, and computational simulation. Seldom did job titles there refer explicitly to math, however. Among PhDs in mathematics, 19% said mechanical engineering is a primary technical requirement of their jobs. Of those with master's degrees in math, 10% said the same. The qualities that distinguish these mathematicians from other engineers, according to their managers, fall into two categories: 1) They have highly developed skills in abstraction, analysis of underlying structures, and logical thinking; and 2) They can pick and use the best tools for formulating and solving problems.