The theme of this year's Best Products finalists could be described as "more than meets the eye." While some previous winners have been big, bold, and eye-catching, the common thread among the seven contenders for the Best Product of 2000 is high performance and exotic materials in an unassuming package. From a miniature motor with space-age materials under the hood, to medical composites that don't show up on x-rays, to a computer chip that will both compute and communicate, all of these entries demand second and third looks.
At our request, vendors entered what they considered their best products this year. Our technical editors then examined each entry for its ingenuity, uniqueness, and value, and narrowed the field down to the best handful in each category. Then we passed them to our independent panel of judges (see sidebar) to pick what they felt was the best product and one honorable mention per category. Here are the finalists:
Electrical/Electronic. Alcatel Microelectronics (Richardson, TX) was the best in its field with its MTC60110 integrated chip with computing and communication functions.
Power Transmission & Motion Control. EDO Electro-Ceramic Products (Salt Lake City, UT) stood out with its Low Profile Piezoelectric Linear Motor.
Test, Measurement, & Control. The WSO4 Water Sensor from Pall Corp. (Port Washington, NY) was the best in its field for its ability to quickly and accurately measure the water content of fluids.
Fluid Power . The X-Valve™from Parker Hannifin Pneutronics (Hollis, NH) combines utility with small size (8 mm) to win this category.
Computer Productivity Tools . National Instruments (Austin, TX) won with its LabVIEW™6i development software, that includes advanced graphics capabilities and Internet-ready features.
Fastening, Joining, & Assembly. Colder Products Co. (St. Paul, MN) had the best fastener: ChemQuik™CQN08 Series quick disconnect couplings.
Plastics, Metals, & other Materials. Orthtek™composites from Greene, Tweed and Co. (Kulpsville, PA) took this category with "radiolucent" medical implants that don't block x-rays.
Full descriptions, photos, and quotes from our judges follow. Now it's up to you. Read the entries, pick the product that you think is the best example of design engineering, and send in your vote with the ballot at the end of this article, email us at email@example.com (please include company name and subscriber number), or vote online at www.manufacturing.net/magazine/dn/archives/bestnewprod00.htm. Once all ballots are collected, the winner will be the focus of a special feature in our February 26, 2001 issue.
integrates components for added flexibility
The MTC60110 is a system on a chip that includes a CPU, memory, mixed signal interface, RF circuitry, a voice and data interface, embedded flash memory, an antenna, and software to perform Bluetooth functions. The chip is modular, which allows for reconfiguration of both hardware and software to create dedicated Bluetooth products. The design also allows for easy replacement of I/O interfaces, while the antenna is integrated with the IC packaging and includes a bandpass filter, decoupling capacitors, and RF shielding. This integration of components gives designers the freedom to place the module anywhere within equipment without having to route sensitive RF signals. "Alcatel Microelectronics has significantly impacted the convergence of computing and communications with this single integrated chip," says contest judge Derald Herling, an assistant professor of mechanical design at Oregon State University. "This successful integration of data and voice signals through one chip has the potential to equal the replacement of banks of vacuum tubes with transistors witnessed decades ago."
Alcatel USA, 1225 N Alma Rd, Richardson, TX 75081; FAX (972) 996-2503; www.alcatelmicro.com.
adapts for micro-measurement
POWER TRANSMISSION & MOTION CONTROL
This Low Profile Linear Motor uses very low mass solid state piezoelectric ceramic crystals to produce low inertia, EMI/RFI-free, repeatable linear motion. It's packaged on a small printed circuit board that contains all of its electronics, and is modular, which allows it to be combined with additional motor elements in series or parallel configurations to increase speed and/or force output. "Its high drive frequency (130 kHz) provides good speed (250 mm/sec) and dynamic resolution (±1.0 micron resolution over several inches)," says Lawrence G. Cartwright, Senior Lecturer and Laboratory Director at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. "It is generic enough to be adapted to a variety of micro measurement problems," he says. "This motor provides a non-traditional solution to a recurring problem."
EDO Electro-Ceramic Products, 2645 South 300 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84115; FAX (801) 484-3301; www.edoceramic.com.
divining rod finds water
TEST, MEASUREMENT AND CONTROL
The WSO4 Water Sensor allows users to determine the water content of hydraulic, lubricating, and dielectric fluids and fuel oils in the field without the need for laboratory equipment. The unit is portable, battery operated, and features an LCD display that shows fluid temperature and water content. A contamination alarm sounds if the water content reaches 90 percent of saturation level, while a probe allows the unit to be used with bottle samples, or it can be installed into fluid lines or reservoirs. "To be able to ascertain the water content quickly eliminates the need for time-consuming analysis," says Carnegie Mellon's Cartwright, who was impressed enough to pose another challenge to the company: "It would be a great benefit if this technology were adapted to soil mechanics."
Pall Corp., 25 Harbor Park Dr, Port Washington, NY 11050; FAX 516 484-3637; www.pall.com.
valve has tiny footprint
The X-Valve™is the latest in an industry-wide effort to reduce the size of electrical and mechanical devices. A two-position, three-way digital valve, it's 8 mm in width. "Its response time (less than 20 msec) is comparable to its size and mass (less than 5 grams, or the mass of a US nickel coin)," says Francis C. McMichael, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. The valve is designed for use in mechanical and electrical controls, such as low power (less than one watt) and low voltage (3 to 24V dc) applications in electrical and electronic systems. According to McMichael, "The product exhibits good design through use of a small number of materials, simple fasteners, and a geometry that permits easy placement in its working environment."
Parker Hannifin- Pneutronics Division, 26 Clinton Dr Unit 103, Hollis, NH 03049; FAX (603) 595-8080; www.pneutronics.com.
takes measurements and keeps order
COMPUTER PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS
LabVIEW™6i is designed to allow engineers, scientists, and technicians to create solutions for measurement and automation applications. A graphical programming development environment for data acquisition and control, analysis, and presentation, the product is said to combine the flexibility of a powerful programming language with an ease of use not normally found in such programs, thanks to an intuitive programming methodology. The manufacturer holds 32 patents on LabVIEW™, and version 6i is said to perform 10-20 times better than its predecessors, yet is fully compatible with all previous versions. "National Instruments has increased the quality of a great product by addressing the expectations of their users by providing intelligent new features and Internet-ready capabilities," says Derald Herling of Oregon State University. "To remain popular and desirable by engineers and scientists in today's Web world requires more than a few new icon changes. The highlights and add-on tools available in this version are impressive."
National Instruments, 11500 N. Mopac Expwy., Austin, TX 78759-3504; FAX (512) 683-9300; www.ni.com.
FASTENING, JOINING & ASSEMBLY
ChemQuik™CQN08 Series Quick Disconnect Couplings are constructed of ultra-pure virgin PTFE and feature Chemraz®seals that are said to minimize extractable contaminants and make them suitable for semiconductor, pharmaceutical, and laboratory applications. The couplings also feature a metal-free and spring-free flow path that is said to provide smooth, unrestricted flow. The couplings are designed to operate within a pressure range from 0 to 80 psig, a temperature range of 0 to 150 F, and are available in panel mount or in-line configurations. "This is the first not to use traditional ball-and-spring technology. Most ball-and-spring couplings typically drip a small amount," says Carnegie Mellon's Lawrence Cartwright. "Depending on the fluid in use, this situation may be both dangerous and hazardous. The ChemQuik™CQN08 can provide fast, efficient, and safe change-out with minimum loss."
Colder Products Co., 1001 Westgate Dr., St. Paul, MN 55114; FAX (651) 604-0214; www.colder.com.
material helps heal broken bones
PLASTICS, METALS, & OTHER MATERIALS
Orthtek™composites are thermoplastic polymers that are radiolucent, meaning that they do not show up on x-rays and MRIs. This allows for more accurate evaluation and treatment of patients, because the growth and repair of tissue can be more closely and easily monitored if the implant material is invisible on the image. Applications include orthopedic fixators, guides, rings and halos used for alignment and healing of bone fractures. The material can also be used in retractors and other fixture devices to maintain position of tissue during surgery or other procedures. "This material is designed to have desirable engineering properties (density, high elastic modulus, low moisture retention) that are immediately useful in medical devices," says McMichael of Carnegie Mellon University. "Depending on its cost, this is a material that could compete in any application, where selection is dependent on high values of the ratio of Young's modulus to density, and a premium will be paid for lighter weight products."
Greene, Tweed & Co., Box 305, Kulpsville, PA 19443; FAX (215) 256-0189; www.gtweed.com.
|PANEL OF JUDGES
Lawrence G. Cartwright, senior lecturer and laboratory director, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.
Derald Herling, Ph.D., P.E., assistant professor of mechanical design at Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.
Francis C. McMichael, professor of engineering and public policy and of environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.