Power in a petite package
Though automotive fuel cells are almost a decade away, fuel cells and reformers in smaller sizes should be coming to an application near you soon
Christine M. Ferrara, New Products Editor
Newton, MA--Despite all the attention given to fuel cells for automotive applications (see Design News, 6/22/98, p. 86), they won't be part of the infrastructure for at least six years. Fuel cells for smaller applications, however, should be available within the next two years.
Indeed, several companies are working on these smaller-sized fuel cells. Some examples:
Ballard Power Systems Inc., Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, is developing a 20 to 100W small fuel cell that they say will be available commercially within a few years for various customer applications.
ElectroChem Inc., Woburn, MA, is selling 200W hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells that measure 9 × 9 × 16 inches for portable power applications.
And H Power Corp., Belleville, NJ, recently won a contract with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a fuel cell backup source for solar-powered intelligent transit signs. The contract calls for a total of 65 units, and 13 of these signs have been delivered and placed into service.
The signs use H Power's PowerPEMTM-VMS50 fuel cell system, which reportedly solves the problems of previously used solar panels, such as lack of operability in varied weather conditions. The system runs at 50W and produces 12V of output voltage. The fuel cell weighs 29.8 lb, and measures 10.9 × 14.6 × 18.8 inches. Other applications the fuel cell can be used for include remote signage and railroad equipment.
"Batteries are running out of possibilities," says H. Frank Gibbard, chief executive officer of H Power, who worked for years for a battery company. "What people want is a long-lasting battery to run their device. A hydride-fueled fuel cell can store more energy than any battery of the same size and weight. Ultimately, the systems will be used in laptops and cellular phones with more miniaturization."
H Power says it was the first company to launch commercial fuel cell production. In size, the fuel cells range from 4.2 × 7.9 × 9.4 inches for the PowerPEMTM-D35, used in educational, scientific, surveillance, medical, and demonstration applications; to 10.9 × 14.6 × 18.8 inches for the PowerPEMTM-PS100, used in electric tricycles in conjunction with batteries as a hybrid system, traffic signals, and as a general-purpose portable battery charger.
H Power's fuel cells can't work alone in these applications. Reformers, the part of the fuel cell system that takes fuel in and reacts it with air and water to produce a hydrogen-rich gas stream containing hydrogen, CO, CO2, and nitrogen, actually process fuel. Currently, three methods of reforming fuel exist.
The first is steam reforming, which is an endothermic method. The user injects water into the system, and hydrogen comes out, while the carbon monoxide byproduct is cleaned up. This method is used for large-scale hydrogen reforming, in such applications as welding, says Gibbard.
The second method, partial oxidation reforming, is an exothermic method, where the fuel is partially burned but water is not added. This method can be made small, but it is not as efficient as steam reforming.
The third method, autothermal reforming, is a combination of the first two methods, Gibbard adds.
Selective, or preferential, oxidation is a CO cleanup step required by all processors to keep the fuel mixture from poisoning the fuel cell.
Since there is no mass market yet, H Power doesn't need a traditional mechanical assembly line. The company creates the fuel cells on a manual line now. But it does need strategic partners, such as manufacturers of generators, specialty vehicles, and reformers. The last part is where Epyx, Cambridge, MA, a subsidiary of Arthur D. Little, comes in. Epyx reforms using a combination of partial and selective oxidation.
Propane power. H Power is currently working with Epyx on a $3.16 million contract from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on a propane-fueled fuel cell power system targeted for use in telecommunications applications. What Epyx brings to the NIST table is the hardware, such as the fuel processor, CO cleanup, water systems, pumps, and controllers. H Power integrates these with the fuel cell to provide a complete system.
| The small-scale sub-1 kW fuel cell system incorporates several parts to produce power for small applications.
"The NIST program is a way of taking a higher-risk technology and developing a product out of it," says Bill Mitchell, vice president of engineering for Epyx. "It's not an R&D program, but a development program." Potential telecommunications applications include use in repeater stations and power backup.
Epyx must have their portion of the NIST contract work completed between December 1999 and February 2000. Epyx will be able to ship multiple prototypes by June or July 1999.
"The same system will be used in development of commercial applications separate from the NIST program in areas besides telecommunications during late 2000 through early 2001, such as the residential market, which is creating a buzz in the media right now," says Mitchell. "The NIST proposal is opening the door in all these 5-kW areas."
Scaling the system. Epyx's demonstrator small fuel cell system is a basic system that measures 17 × 14 × 13 inches and weighs 45 lb. The system can be scaled up and down for various applications, such as portable power and telecommunications.
The demonstrator system, which consists of a fuel cell, reformer, CO cleanup, and fuel tank, feeds the propane fuel and air into the fuel processor unit. The unit, rated to be fired at 500W, usually runs at 300W. The fuel comes out of the reformer, a scaled-down version of the system currently used in cars, as reformate, a "relatively rich" hydrogen gas stream, says Matt Dorson, systems engineer for Epyx.
"We can do either of two things at that point," Dorson adds. "We can send the reformate into a burner and combust it, or we can direct it into the CO cleanup device to remove the carbon monoxide."
As the user waits for the reformer to come up to temperature, the system consumes the reformate in a burner. The system defers the reformate into the preferential oxidizer, or CO cleanup, which removes the carbon monoxide to levels of 10 parts per million to avoid poisoning the fuel cell.
"Once the reformate system is clean enough, it goes into the fuel cell, where it produces electricity and we can start to take the dc output," Dorson says. "The end result from the exhaust stack is CO2, nitrogen, and water."
The system allows Epyx to get a first look at how to put the integrated system together. "This shows us all the issues you have to deal with when you put a complete system together, from controls to managing heat to testing startup schemes," says Mitchell.
One of the system's most significant features, says Brian Morriseau, engineer of fuel cell specialties for Epyx, is that it will start itself. "It is completely self-contained," he says. "All you have to do is change the propane."
So what were Epyx's design challenges? A big one was controlling heat in smaller devices. "We had to use a novel approach," Mitchell says. "The surface area-to-volume ratio and heat loss are different in smaller devices. We had to come up with a new design in heat exchangers."
Another challenge is that perennial, price. "We know we can make them, but can we make them cheap enough for mass consumption?" he says.
The cost of downtime is one of the major reasons telecommunications companies have shown interest in small fuel cells at this early stage. "The large companies are not as sensitive to price, and when their systems go down, it costs them a fortune," Dorson says. "What you can offer is no moving parts. Some of the maintenance intervals on the fuel cell system, if the projections are correct, are significantly longer than a diesel engine."
For portable power, much of the market is the Third World and remote areas, H Power's Gibbard says. "They don't have access to the grid, and it costs about $80,000 a mile to run wires," he says.
Gibbard adds that the future of small fuel cells points to use in anything with a host device, such as a laptop or any other electronic device that needs a power supply. "It's a lifetime power source, it's environmentally friendly, and it will outlast batteries," he says.
Overall, the outlook for small fuel cell systems looks promising. "We're really just getting started," says Epyx's Morriseau. "You can't imagine where it's going, or what's going to be coming on line."
What this means to you
A full redesign of specific parts, rather than a simple downsizing of parts, may be necessary for miniaturization.
Thermal management is a critical issue. In this case, engineers designed a new heat exchanger.
Small power sources will create job opportunities for engineers as these fuel cell systems are commercialized.
BBQ sits safe on polyester feet
Rumilly, France--Tefal S.A. has taken the heat off the feet of its new electrical barbecue by turning to polyester. The grill can be used indoors and out.
Tests on the new design showed that heat could transfer from the metallic element used to heat the cooking surface to the base of the unit. "We needed a material with excellent heat-resistant properties to stop this heat from transferring into the feet, especially since the unit was designed for tabletop use," says Tefal's Giles Lamarche.
Lamarche found that material in THERMX from Eastman Chemical Co. (Kingsport, TN). "The material's mechanical and chemical-resistant properties make it resistant to extremely high temperatures, and that makes it perfect for this application," Lamarche adds.
For example, in certain markets, Tefal makes an electric barbecue with a grill that has big grate bars. In this design, all the heat transfers to the feet of the units, which can reach temperatures as high as 100C (212F). Al-though the barbecue can hold cooling water to prevent heat transfer, the special THERMX feet provide an added degree of safety.
Tefal considered other materials, but chose THERMX not just for its heat resistance, but also for its high mold strength and appearance, Lamarche says. "It proved to be the ideal material for our barbecue's mounting feet."
Hannover Fair to spotlight automation
Hannover Messe: 19-24 April 1999
David J. Bak, International Editor
Hannover, Germany--Industrial automation takes center stage at this century's final Hannover Fair. All the technologies and modular elements that constitute a modern, automated factory will be on display, from electrical and mechanical drives and controls, fluid power, and sensor technology to actuation systems, software, and robotics.
More than 100 U.S. companies will be among the fair's 7,500 exhibitors--many as participants in one of five USA Pavilions. Organized and managed by Hannover Fairs USA--a subsidiary to Germany-based event organizer Deutsche Messe AG--the USA Pavilions will showcase factory automation, power transmission and control, subcontracting, and lighting technology. The fifth pavilion will focus attention on economic development opportunities.
Hannover Fair '99 at a glance
Number of exhibitors
10.8 million sq.ft.
Number of exhibition halls
April 19 - 24, 1999
9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
"The USA Pavilions provide small and mid-sized American companies with a simple and affordable way to reach decision-makers from around the world," says Kurt Marttila, executive vice president, Hannover Fairs USA. To reinforce that statement, Marttila notes that 330,000 visitors from more than 100 countries attended last year's Hannover Fair.
Decision-makers frequenting the fair will include managers looking for factory automation systems that provide a complete solution for their needs. End- users on the engineering side will be looking for new stand-alone solutions and practical know-how.
"Each USA pavilion offers turnkey packages and marketing support services exclusively to American companies," Marttila adds. "The pavilions are certified by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and feature on-site trade support from the U.S. Embassy--Bonn.
Numerous congresses, symposiums, company presentations, and press conferences round out Hannover Fair '99. Of particular note is Advantage: Design, a new component of the fair that will focus on design issues confronting small and medium-sized companies within the capital goods industries. Supported by leading German industry associations, Advantage: Design will encompass exhibits, seminars, and workshops that provide information on design-related subjects.
In addition to the Hannover Fair itself, Hannover Fairs USA organizes American exhibitor participation in other important international trade shows that focus on key global growth markets.
For more information about Hannover Fair '99, contact Hannover Fairs USA Inc., 103 Carnegie Center, Princeton, NJ 08540; Phone (609) 987-1202; FAX (609) 987-0092; www.hfusa.com
For a country-by-country exhibitor list, visit www.hannovermesse.de.
Embedded systems mostly prepared for Year 2000
Cambridge, MA--Ongoing Year 2000 research by Giga Information Group shows that the impact of the date rollover on embedded systems will not have the crippling effect many industry experts originally thought.
Embedded systems are processors that are part of any electronic product that isn't classified as a "computer." Examples of such products include medical devices, consumer electronics, printers, industrial control systems, and manufacturing equipment. Engineers and the companies that employ them use embedded systems extensively every day.
Giga Information Group has been researching the effect on embedded systems of the rollover from 1999 to 2000 for about two years. "What caused alarm in the beginning--the sheer number of embedded systems potentially affected by the millennium bug--led to practical research on how different types of processors will be affected," says Alistair Stewart, senior Year 2000 analyst with Giga Information Group's IT Practices Service. "Many industries, especially those that are heavily regulated, have done significant work in preparing for the Year 2000."
For example, in the medical device industry, a recent survey of the Health Industry Manufacturers Association members showed few devices that were not Year 2000 compliant. "That means that IV pumps will still pump and diagnostic tools will still help physicians diagnose," says Stewart.
The firm has also conducted extensive research on best practices in preparing embedded systems for the Year 2000 and has three recommendations. First, take an inventory of electronic equipment and systems to determine if they have the potential to be affected by the millennium rollover. Does the product or system have a man/machine interface for putting in or taking out dates? Does it have a secondary power supply like a battery that keeps time even when it is off? Does it have a communications port for sending or receiving data? These are general indicators that an item may be affected.
Second, rank which affected products and systems are most critical to your business. Third, work with the product and system providers to assess the date usage of the items, starting with the most critical items first.
Says Stewart: "Prepare for the Year 2000 rollover as you would for a winter storm. Expect inconveniences at worst, but not Armageddon."
For more information on Giga Information Group and its research projects, visit www.gigaweb.com.
AT THE SHOW
480V drive knocks out step-down transformers
Fort Collins, CO--Check out almost any high-speed automation system from CBW Automation, and you'll find numerous Pacific Scientific (Rockford, IL) motors. With PacSci's new SCE900 digital servo drives, CBW eliminates step-down transformers that would otherwise be required with a 480V line connection, according to CBW Automation's Controls Manager Kim Wahamaki.
CBW designs and builds lightweight robots using its own carbon-fiber technology, and integrates PacSci servos to achieve the fastest part-retrieval speeds in the injection-molding industry, according to Wahamaki. "Shedding one transformer from a design is no big deal," he explains, "but if you're talking a nine-axis servo system, that adds up to huge space and cost savings." Other advantages, says Wahamaki, include decreasing the required control-panel space and reducing power losses in the system.
The biggest challenges in the SCE900's design was meeting the CE requirements for both safety and emitted radiation, says PacSci Engineering Manager Andy Eccles. "At 480V, larger inrush current means a higher surge voltage and more radiated noise," explains Eccles. "That's why most of the models in this family, except the lowest-power member, have built-in line filters."
The all-digital SCE900 closes current, velocity, and position loops using a single DSP. Four output power levels sweep from 7.5 to 60A peak and 3.75 to 30A continuous. The foundation for this series is a base drive that features a command interface, digital control, autotuning, seven-segment status display, and integral power supply.
SCE900 drives can be used alone or with option cards. Option cards include:
OC930 serial interface card
Modular design increases SCE900 functionality, says Eccles, and its open architecture ensures upgradability as does connectivity through option cards. When combined with PacSci's brushless servo motors, says Eccles, SCE900 drives offer exceptional motor performance.
Ethernet connection simplifies valve maintenance
Black Canyon City, AZ--Performance Software, developer of mission-critical embedded software for industrial automation, now develops embedded valve-control systems using a NET+ARM processor from Waltham, MA-based NETsilicon Inc. Residing on top of a valve/actuator package, the NET+ARM chip provides Ethernet connectivity without the need for additional gateways.
The system monitors and controls valve position and records diagnostic values such as excessive friction, speed of response, flowmeter output, and air pressure 24 hours a day. Because programming consumes only 20% of the available memory, engineers have plenty of room to write computer-intensive monitoring and analytical applications that provide operators with real-time data to more accurately predict failures, adjust maintenance schedules and quickly respond to valve problems.
"Instrumentation and valve maintenance costs millions of dollars. Embedding computing power and diagnostic software in these instruments helps operators identify and resolve problems easily," says Performance Software President Tim Bigelow.
NET+ARM's Ethernet connectivity allows the system to alert the control room of critical situations, such as incomplete valve shut-off.
According to Bigelow, the final unit price would increase substantially if engineers selected another microprocessor to interface with Ethernet-capable hardware. "NET+ARM's built-in networking capabilities reduced design time by four to five months because the integration is done for you," says Bigelow.
Plastic solves wireless shelf-labeling problem
Norwalk, CT--Pricing thousands of items on supermarket shelves is an arduous, time-consuming task. In the past, legions of stock clerks continuously priced everything from bottled juice to canned soup. Then came bar coding, a definite improvement in pricing efficiency. However, the advent of the Electronic Shelf Label (ESL) will advance supermarket pricing again.
As the name implies, an ESL replaces paper price tags with a plastic housing that contains an electronically activated liquid-crystal display (LCD). This display provides shoppers and supermarket employees with accurate and timely pricing, product, and merchandising information. With ESLs, shoppers can rely on the price they see at the shelf edge to be the same as the price scanned at the checkout counter.
When first introduced, ESLs were wired in a store-wide network. ESLs on store shelves were wired to a controller that communicated with a computer in the back of the store. Today, Electronic Retailing Systems International Inc. (ERS) has developed ShelfNetTM, a wireless ESL system with minimal below-ceiling wiring. This new generation of wireless ESL radio transponders displays price and product information received via RF signals from antennas mounted in or below the store ceilings.
In developing its original wired system, ERS used an aluminum extrusion known as a "shelf rail" to hold the ESLs in place. Although the rails worked well with the previous wired system, the metal would interfere with the transmission of radio waves used in the wireless system.
To avoid potential radio interference presented by the aluminum rails, ERS explored the use of plastic rails, turning to Crane Plastic Co. (Columbus, OH) to assist in designing the extruded plastic rail it envisioned. Mayte Smith, a mechanical engineer at ERS, reports that her company called in Crane "because they had the manufacturing expertise needed to help us design a plastic rail that met all our requirements, particularly since co-extrusion turned out to be a critical element in the shelf rail's design."
The new plastic rail had to be sturdy enough to attach firmly to a shelf. It also had to be durable enough to stand up to the daily wear-and-tear of retail shopping. Equally important, the rail had to have precise tolerance to prevent the ESLs from sliding to the wrong spot on the shelf. And it had to accommodate shelf talkers and other promotional materials.
To meet all of these requirements, ERS design engineers worked closely with counterparts at Crane to modify the rail design, making it functional and easier to manufacture. The result: Quick AttachTM rails.
The new extruded plastic rails consist of 98% rigid and 2% flexible PVC materials. Notched on the back, they match up with metal shelf brackets that attach them securely to the edge of the store shelves. To prevent sliding, a gripping pad co-extruded as a "bead" of flexible PVC bonds to the rigid PVC plastic rail.
The complex extrusion design called for several different wall thicknesses, so Crane production workers had to make certain the plastic extruded evenly to both thick and thin wall sections. Crane's continuous checks for quality and conformity to specs prevented any wall-thickness variations.
"This was a complex set of co-extrusions with a fairly demanding set of tolerances that had to be maintained throughout," explains Crane Sales Engineer Matt Maglicic. "We had a clear protective cover that had to fit securely on the rail. There was an overall width tolerance, plus a really tight interior width dimension in the channel. On the backside, we had to come up with a part that could hold shelf talkers, but not cause the rail to jut out from the shelf edge. Finally, inside the channel we needed an unobtrusive way to hold an optional brightly colored Mylar® strip that could display printed advertising between the ESLs."
Two versions of the Quick Attach rail accommodate different shelf positions: A bottom rail slants upward at a 45-degree angle for lower shelves; a top rail mounts vertically at or near eye level.
"Supermarket managers have been looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage and improve their profits," notes Kristin Hambelton, ERS product marketing manager. "ShelfNet gives them that advantage by enhancing promotional opportunities, ensuring accurate pricing, and maintaining a more accurate record of stock inventories."
To date, ERS has installed the wireless system in seven U.S. stores. However, a recent survey of senior information technology executives in the grocery industry showed that 42% of the respondents planned to launch or test an ESL program. "Low unemployment, high labor costs, and increasing competition as a result of industry consolidation reinforce the financial arguments that now is the time for ESLs," concludes Hambelton.
Spring redesign produces threefold savings
Westerlo, NY--Hannay Reels Inc. needed to fill a gap in its line of retractable hose reels for industrial applications. The new 50-ft reel, with a range and weight between that of two existing reels, required basic resizing of the retraction spring. During the resizing process, Hannay's spring supplier saw that by simply redesigning the housing it could cut substantial cost, weight, and bulk out of the component--while improving its functionality. Better yet, the design would be a drop-in replacement that required no changes elsewhere in the reel design.
The new spring design, a two-piece steel stamping embossed with the company's logo, replaces a three-piece cast-aluminum and sheet-steel housing. A rust preventative replaces the "moly" grease as a lubricant. Except for resizing, the rest of the spring design remains unchanged.
Sandvik Steel's Spring Products Div. (Clarks Summit, PA) produces the spring. The unexpected innovations reduced spring cost 15% and weight 20%, simplified assembly, and upgraded reel durability and appearance.
The design has proved so successful that Hannay has incorporated it in many of its other reel models. "Our new spring design is a 7,000-unit/year seller for the company," says Roger Hannay, company president and CEO.
"This example shows how routine resizing of a single product can lead to opportunities to improve the design and cut manufacturing costs for an entire line," adds John Petry, vice president at Sandvik's Spring Products Div. "The trick is to look for such opportunities."
One material replaces three for radiator head
San Maurizio d'Opaglio, Italy--Giacomini S.p.A. produces its newest radiator head using a single material instead of three. By choosing an aliphatic polyketone, the thermohydraulic-component producer enjoys easier production, cost savings, and a more attractive end product.
Giacomini recently introduced the R470, a new concept in thermostatic heads for heating radiators. It's made entirely from CARILON Polymers supplied by Shell Chemicals (Houston). The polymer combines stiffness, impact resistance, hydrolytic and chemical resistance, resilience, and low friction coefficient--which together result in high-productivity molding and a more aesthetic appearance.
The thermostatic head allows the radiator temperature to be adjusted by means of a fluid-cell sensor fitted inside the radiator. This design lets users adjust the temperature of each room locally, leading to considerable energy savings.
The head consists of three elements, all molded from CARILON: the handwheel, base, and locknut. The external handwheel features a "cage" structure, instead of a solid one, that allows a better grip and won't retain dirt and dust.
Since the head fastens to a metallic element, it must retain its mechanical strength at temperatures up to 90C. Also, the handwheel and body open and close frequently for system adjustments. As a result, they must operate smoothly without deformation, loosening, or breaking.
Italian standards impose a series of strict requirements for thermostatic valves under a static pressure of 100 kPa. After 20 minutes, the time needed to reach thermal stability, a force of 25 kg is applied for 30 seconds. The product must not deform, break, or crack.
"Compared with materials we used in the past, CARILON Polymers allow us to better comply with the current standards," says Luca Giacomini, technical manager of Giacomini.
Pro/E on ice
Lebanon, NH--Electronics designers can now access Fluent's Icepack thermal analysis software using a direct interface with Pro/ENGINEER from Parametric Technology Corp. (Waltham, MA). The Icepack interface module, version 1.0, lets users define the thermal model within Pro/ENGINEER, dramatically reducing design-cycle times, according to Rajesh Nair, Fluent product manager. Designers can use the interface to export a model to Icepack, where they can concentrate on the thermal- and flow-related parameters, avoiding repetitive modeling.
Get test instruments Y2K ready
Santa Rosa, CA--Ensuring Y2K compliance for electronics products is not difficult, but does require a disciplined review, according to a Hewlett Packard Y2K manager Scott Conrad. The company's test and measurement products operation has a proactive program to enable its customers to identify potential problems.
"Our sales force is contacting HP customers to encourage them to assess the Y2K compliance of their test and measurement environments," says Doug Scribner, Y2K product-compliance program manager. The firm has established a Y2K test and measurement web site ( www.hp.com/go/tm-year2000 ). Here, users can determine if a product is Y2K compliant by entering product name or number. The site also details how products use date information and tells how users can make potentially problematic products compliant.
About 82% of just more than 18,500 HP test and measurement models in use do not do date-related processing. These are compliant, along with 10% that do such processing but will take into account the century change. Roughly 8% need some action for compliance. And for most of this latter group, resetting the device's clock or downloading the necessary software via the Internet is all that is needed.
"Only a small percentage of units would have to be brought into a service center for an upgrade, which can be done during recalibration," adds Conrad. At most this may entail replacing a PC board for compliance. And if the product is under a support contract, warrantee, or delivered after January 1, 1997, upgrade materials are free of charge.
Conrad also offers general Y2K hints. If a device is connected to a network, it must be able to handle the year rollover. For stand-alone systems, all that may be needed is setting the date to 1974 for the proper day/date stamp. Except for the year, everything should read properly, he says.
Systems running at midnight December 31, 1999 may have problems. But they may be shut down and rebooted after midnight.
Beetle bumpers score best in 5-mph crash tests
Wolfsburg, Germany--Volkswagen's latest version of the venerable Beetle wraps modern designs into visual cues of its popular predecessor. What buyers of the new Beetle don't perceive, however, are the safety features incorporated in the design.
Take the Beetle's bumper system, for example. Key components include the front and rear bumper fascia, molded of Dexflex® 162HF thermoplastic olefin (TPO) developed by Solvay Engineered Polymers (Auburn Hills, MI).
Solvay material designers created and refined the European-spec thermoplastic to meet a balance of requirements established by VW body engineers. The target: a material with low-temperature impact resistance, a good coefficient of linear thermal expansion (CLTE), and painted durability. The material also had to have a high melt flow rate for processing by the molder, Plastic Omnium (Mexico City).
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety put the bumper system through four low-speed crash tests. The tests included front and rear impacts into flat barriers, plus two localized impacts--front into an angled barrier, and rear into a pole. All tests were conducted at 5 mph, with the cost of repairing any damage measured and compared among vehicles of similar size.
Damage to the new Beetle totaled only $134, second lowest in the history of the testing. By comparison, most vehicles in the small-car group sustained damages in excess of $1,000, with the worst performer experiencing more than $3,000in damage.
"Qualifying this material and putting it into a product demonstrates how a company must meet the resources of worldwide suppliers," says Louis Martin, European manager for Solvay Engineered Polymers. "We coordinated the efforts of Germany's VW and the Mexican production facilities of a French molder. The material was designed to be made in Europe, using locally available raw materials. We proved out the process at our technical center in Michigan. Consistency of the product was what we would expect if we had done the whole job in North America."
Motion analyzer helps save lives
Anna Allen, Staff Editor
Redmond, WA--Boston Scientific's Northwest Technology Center manufactures the Rotablator® Rotational Angioplasty System, a surgical tool that removes deadly plaque from arterial walls. A tiny handmade, football-shaped burr measuring 1.25 to 2.50 mm in diameter and coated with microscopic diamonds spins through plaque to disintegrate it.
Precise motion analysis is critical to developing burrs that effectively remove plaque deposits. Boston Scientific uses the Kodak EktaPro high-speed motion analyzer, Model 4540, to help R&D. The camera helps engineers study the burrs' rotation and the drive-shaft motion that connects the burr to the turbine in the device.
The burr connects to a turbine-and-bearing assembly that rotates at speeds to 200,000 rpm, giving the burr a surface speed of about 65 mph. The high-speed camera makes it possible to see the Rotablator catheter's motion at work.
Engineers use the data garnered from the motion analyzer to determine areas of efficiency or inefficiency in the spinning motion of the burr. R&D uses this information to build a better burr.
The biggest enemy of the burr is lateral motion because it reduces efficiency exponentially. Energy lost to vibration and lateral motion in the drive shaft does not reach the end of the burr. This lateral type of vibration will also irritate the inside of the patient's artery.
R&D engineers also use the camera to analyze new shapes for burrs and rotating parts. "By slowing down the movement of the burr, the motion analyzer helps us see if the movement of a prototype will be an effective product," says Kevin Reed, a design engineer at Boston Scientific. "Additionally, the motion analyzer has reduced development time by as much as a year and cuts costs by $1 million on individual projects."
The Rotablator catheter's turbine can drive a cyclic oscillation that causes a wavy, snake-like motion in the catheter's driveshaft that can't be monitored by the naked eye. Using the Kodak analyzer, engineers can see how long a vibrational mode is on a drive shaft and watch the movement of the spinning burr. If the motion is too extreme, it can cause discomfort for the patient or damage the Rotablator.
Specifically, at 40,500 frames/sec engineers can capture 15 images during every revolution of the burr. Engineers can also simulate an actual procedure, watching a specific spot on the burr come around and make contact with a simulated plaque deposit. The burr's movement and position is displayed on a video monitor at playback speeds as slow as one picture per second, as well as freeze-frame. In one test, engineers observed a prototype burr. To the naked eye, the burr and drive shaft seemed to operate perfectly. However, some unexplainable results occurred during preliminary tests. Using the high-speed camera, engineers immediately discovered the experimental shape of the burr, a slight modification of the football shape, was causing poor performance.
Engineers immediately scrapped this design. "Without the use of the Kodak high-speed camera, it could have taken up to a year for Boston Scientific engineers to assess the true nature of the problem. The time savings were worth up to $1 million in research costs," says Reed.
PTC to add visualization tools
Waltham, MA--In a move to expand the company's enterprise-wide product offerings, Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC) plans to acquire Division Group plc (Bristol, UK), developer of product data visualization, simulation, and integration tools.
Division sells a stand-alone enterprise-wide viewing technology developed by its subsidiary, Object Logic Inc. (San Diego, CA). "The ObjectLogic viewer allows anyone throughout the enterprise to view related information regardless of where it was created or where it is stored," says Andrew Cohen, PTC's director of business development. "We've been looking at integrating visualization with our Windchill (PTC's product data-management software) and CAD product lines," he continues.
Users view information via their web browsers. This web-centric approach to visualization is in line with PTC's Windchill architecture. In addition, ObjectLogic is CAD-independent. Engineers can examine drawings regardless of CAD supplier.
"While there are other viewers out there, this is the best fit for PTC and Windchill," says Cohen.
Division also sells dV/MockUP software, a family of tools that allow engineers to create virtual prototypes. Using these tools, engineers can visualize and simulate aspects of their products' form, fit, and function in real time, and perform flythroughs and reality simulations.
PTC expects to close the deal by mid-March, pending regulatory approval. Once completed, PTC will begin selling existing products immediately. The enterprise viewer will be fully integrated with version Windchill 3.0, to be released in June 1999.
Design News OEM Directory goes online
Newton, MA--Design engineers rely on the Design News OEM Directory to source product information. Now they can turn to the Internet for updates on companies and products throughout the year. The Design News OEM Directory Online complements the print directory by offering readers an interactive reference tool that will help them quickly locate the right products and suppliers at the right time. Just go to www.designnews.com and click on the OEM Directory.
The Design News OEM Directory Online contains the company and product listings published in the print edition. Included are 50,000 products, 5,800 suppliers, and 2,600 product categories. Major markets covered include automotive, motion control, off-highway and heavy equipment, semiconductor manufacturing, CAD/CAM/CAE/PDM, machine tools/industrial controls, packaging/processing equipment/converting, and medical technology. Companies listed in the print edition of the OEM Directory will automatically be listed in the on-line version. Site users may either search by product/service or by company. Users may also "browse" by product category (650 are listed alphabetically). After a user clicks on a subcategory, he or she may sort the resulting browse list within each category by company name, city, or state.
Cahners Corporate Research recently conducted a survey across a cross-section of Design News readers. Results indicated that readers' use of the Internet has increased in the last year and has shown even more substantial growth from two years ago. Awareness and use of the Design News web site has shown a significant increase.