Ed Vernon, a technician at Sandia National Labs, patented a silicon microchain that measures 50 microns from chain link center to center. "This chain could not have been fabricated anywhere else in the world," he says. The chain was fabricated at the Micro-electronics Development Lab (MDL) using the patented SUMMiT V surface micromachining process. "My research shows that the smallest conventionally machined chains are currently used in cameras to operate shutters," says Vernon. He expects that eventually the microchain will have as many applications as macro-scale chains do. "One great advantage of chains is the ability to operate more than one device from a single source," he explains. "This was the driver for my design." Currently, the drivers for surface micromachined devices use about one third of the real estate available for design. The microchain could drive MEMs devices from a motor situated at a distance, thereby saving precious real estate on MEMs-bearing chips. For more information go to Sandia.gov or call Vernon at (505) 844-6706.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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