When engineers at Kadant AES couldn't resolve a gearmotor reliability issue themselves, they turned to NASA for help. The agency's Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program put Kadant in touch with a R&D engineer at a SATOP partner company, who donated 40 hours of his time to get the small New York manufacturer on track. Ultimately, Kadant went back to its motor vendor with specific design changes. They've been working so far, says Kadant Technical Director, Steve Fielding.
Heat and humidity were the big issues necessitating reliable motors, Fielding explains. The company makes showers for cleaning the cloths that hold paper against paper machine dryer rolls. Motor failure meant diminished paper quality. Yet, the high heat of the drying chamber made replacing failed units a major challenge, he says.
Fielding filed a short SATOP form on-line and described the problem. In a few days he was talking with silver alliance partner company Parker Hannifin, whose Electronic Systems Division Chief Engineer, Ira Rubel, put him in touch with Parker development engineer Tim Harned at the company's motor R&D center in New Hampshire. Over several months, Harned and Kadant engineers came up with a short list of recommended changes. Among them was eliminating a stainless steel sleeve holding the motor magnets and potting them in place instead. Better bearings were recommended, too. The solution came at no cost to the NY manufacturer.
Kadant's focused question typifies the Space Alliance program's preferred problem, says Ryan McLaughlin, program manager at SATOP's Syracuse, NY office, one of four offices in the country. Problems as "small chunks" often lend themselves to resolution within the 40 hours of free engineering the program allots, he says.
Member companies include aerospace giants, universities, and systems and components suppliers whose engineers benefit from the program by stretching their imaginations beyond the usual scope of their aerospace work. The program benefits participating small businesses like Kadant that don't necessarily have regular access to specialized technical expertise.
The program helps smaller companies find expert assistance without miring them in the usual sales and applications protocols. The program lets an assigned engineer concentrate on solving a particular and specific problem, Fielding says.
The newly designed motors entered service this past February, he adds.
For more information on SATOP, its member companies, and an on-line application, visit:http://rbi.ims.ca/4399-516.