A crystal ball millennium countdown
New York-Times Square revelers will have a ball this New Year's Eve, but it won't be the same ball they've always had.
To kick off the new millennium, the ball-lowering celebration will feature a new geodesic sphere studded with 504 pieces of Waterford crystal and enough computer-controlled lighting to outshine all the stars on Broadway. But the millennium ball isn't all flash. It required some careful engineering work to meet weight requirements, to accommodate the lighting effects, and to overcome the difficulties of incorporating so much delicate crystal.
Keeping weight to a minimum, so as not to overload 77-foot flagpole atop One Times Square, drove the ball's creators to adopt a geodesic design that inherently eliminates the need for interior structures. "The external frame provides the ball's structure," says Scott Hershman, one of the ball's designers and an associate principle of architectural lighting firm Fisher Marantz Stone Inc. (New York).
More weight savings came from wiring choice. According to David Rosenfeld, electrical designer for the ball's builder, Hudson Scenic Studios (New York), the standard theatrical cabling initially considered for connecting the ball to its power source would have weighed over 1,300 lb for the cable and harness alone--far more than the 1,000-lb target weight for the entire ball. Rosenfeld instead went with an outdoor cable (UV-, abrasion-, and cold-resistant) from Olflex (Fairfield, NJ). This flexible control cable weighs in at only 240 lb with its harness, Rosenfeld says.
"We were initially concerned with breakage and weight," says Hershman. Waterford, however, came up with a star-and-triangle crystal design in which the total weight for the ball's 504 pieces of crystal came to only 250 lb. Waterford also performed tests to ensure that the crystal would withstand the temperature effects caused by potentially frigid ambient temperatures and the heat of the interior lighting.
The crystal triangles bolt onto 168 clear polycarbonate panels, which attach to the sphere and form its exterior skin.
EVs get quick charged
San Dimas, CA-A new conductive charging system from AC Propulsion promises to make life easier for electric vehicle drivers. The Level 2+ system uses up to 75 kW ac to speed charge and reduce the cost of charging equipment.
AC Propulsion has patented several key vehicle technologies, including reductive charging, which integrates high-power battery charger functions into the vehicle's motor drive electronics to provide high-power charging at low cost.
The Level 2+ EV charger provides a powerful charge without weight and size penalties. But the only way to take advantage of it is with ready availability of outlets where EV users can draw the high currents required for a fast charge.
"With our charger," says Tom Gage, AC Propulsion business manager, "a 30-minute charge can provide 50 miles of range, so EV drivers can charge quickly. This will enable extensive daily driving, 200 miles or more, even with low-cost lead acid batteries."
Until now, high power charging required offboard chargers to convert line current from ac to dc.
Conductive charging equipment, says AC Propulsion, economically provides the faster Level 2+ charge. Conductive uses a plug for metal-on-metal contact to charge, as used in Honda and Ford EVs. Inductive charging equipment, which requires a complex offboard charger, is less adaptable to high-power charging for cost reasons. Inductive uses contactless inductive coils to transfer electricity. This system is used in GM's Impact and Toyota's Prius electric vehicles.
Stainless propeller hits record
Reading, PA-A shaft made from Custom 465® stainless steel--a martensitic, age-hardened alloy from Carpenter Specialty Alloys--helped Howard Arneson reach 175 mph piloting the world's fastest racing boat. A 4,500-hp motor attaches to the boat's single propeller shaft.
Propelling the 5-ton catamaran at the record-breaking speed puts 3,000 ft-lb of torque on the drive system's solid shaft. Zeigler Industries (Canton, OH) fabricated the finished shaft that measures 40 ft long by 2.5 inches in diameter in the center, tapering down to just over 0.875 inches at both ends.
When aged in the H1000 condition, the alloy reaches a tensile strength of 300 ksi. Its fracture strength is 100 ksi. The alloy's modulus of elasticity in the H1000 condition is 28.8 x 103 ksi. In addition to drive systems for boats. Applications for the metal include medical and dental instruments as well as aircraft engine mounts, flap tracks, actuators, gears, and other structural components.
Arneson's drive runs with the propeller partly out of the water, thereby reducing appendage drag and cavitation--detriments to efficient propeller performance. The drive pivots left and right like a stern drive, working without a rudder. The pivoting controls the direction of the propeller thrust.
The propeller and drive train extend aft, not down. This positioning reduces draft, noise, and vibration usually conducted from below the hull. It also improves propeller bite, but puts no additional strain on the shaft, according to Arneson. A vertical trim cylinder controls propeller depth, permitting 15 degrees of up and down motion. Torsion on the shaft varies as the boat rises and falls when encountering waves.
After several hours in the water at speeds of more than 100 mph, Arneson removed the propeller and examined the shaft, especially where it engages the spline. "The shaft had no marks at all. It looked new," says Arneson.
You just might be an engineer if:
you have ever saved the power cord from a broken appliance for future use
you use a CAD package to design your son's soap box car
you look forward to Christmas only to put together the kids' toys
you have more toys than your kids
you know the direction water swirls when you flush
the microphone or visual aids at a meeting don't work and you run up to fix them
you have ever tried to repair a $5.00 radio
your three-year-old daughter asks you why the sky is blue and you try to explain atmospheric absorption theory
your wristwatch has more buttons than your telephone
Did you know-
Spencer Silver, 3M specialist in adhesives technology, was going nowhere with an adhesive aimed as a spray-on surface for bulletin boards--allowing easy posting and removal of notices. Meanwhile, colleague Art Fry kept losing paper bookmarks when he opened his hymnal to sing in his church choir. During a moment of divine intervention (or overlong sermon), Fry realized Silver's adhesive would enable a reusable bookmark. The result? The universal Post-it NoteTM.
Fuel cell boom lift
McConnellsburg, PA-JLG Industries has introduced what it calls the world's first fuel cell-powered boom lift. The Concept 2000 lift uses a low-temperature proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology in place of a diesel engine and generator. The system provides electric power for applications where AC power is not convenient for recharging batteries.
| Fuel cells produce power efficiently via a clean, electrochemical reaction.
"This is the first time a manufacturer of construction or maintenance equipment has incorporated fuel cell technology into their equipment design," says Wayne MacDonald, Director of Advanced Concepts Development at JLG.
The fuel cell stack was developed by Allied Signal Aerospace (Torrance, CA) and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and South Coast Air Quality Management District (Los Angeles). The Allied Signal fuel cell was chosen, says JLG, because its high power density, efficiency and compact size made it well suited for a volume-constrained mobile application. Subsystem design and integration was done in partnership with Coval H2 Partners LLC, (Desert Hot Springs, CA).
Fuel cells chemically convert hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy, producing water and heat as harmless emissions. Although fuel cells are now being refined for automotive use, mainstream application to passenger cars is still distant. But according to a California Air Resources Board report, PEM fuel cells come closer than other types to meeting automotive application requirements, such as temperature range and compatibility with carbon dioxide.
"The PEM fuel cell operates at low temperatures between 80 and 90C, which offers a quick start that is good for consumer applications," says Susan Fuhs, Manager, New Business Development, with the Engines and Systems Group of Allied Signal Aerospace. "We think the construction industry is a potential early market for PEM fuel cells, in fact, the whole area of small IC generator sets looks attractive." Small stationary distributed power systems to reduce reliance on off-the-grid power present another market opportunity for fuel cells that Allied Signal aims to tap.
Fuel cells operate like a battery, but require a continual supply of fuel and oxygen. Hydrogen fuel and an oxygen stream pass through a proton exchange membrane, a complex material which looks like Saran wrap, sandwiched between two porous graphite plates. Hydrogen molecules split to produce protons and electrons. The electrons pass through the load and protons pass through the membrane. Electricity is captured and put to useful work, harmless byproducts--water and heat--are recycled or expelled.
The size of the fuel cell determines the amperage. Each cell generates 0.7 to 1.0V, and when stacked in layers, they produce the voltage a system requires. In the case of the Concept 2000 lift boom, 73 individual cells were stacked to generate 63V.
Based on JLG's 12,800-lb Model 45 electric boom lift, the Concept 2000 offers a vertical height of 45 ft (13.7m), a horizontal reach of 22 ft 8 inches (6.9m) with 360 degrees of swing. Two electric traction drive motors, operating on 48V, provide a top drive speed of 2.6 mph. The fuel cell provides 4,000W of power at 48V dc.
Two challenging integration efforts were required in the fuel cell driven boom's development, says Warner Harris, general manager of Coval H2 Partners. Coval H2 Partners integrated Allied Signal's fuel cell stack into the system to guarantee the right mix of fuel, air, cooling and humidification to make it run properly. Then the Coval team integrated the fuel cell into boom lift itself and designed the battery charging system and its interface.
"Our biggest challenge was integrating the fuel cell in the small space available in the M45 boom lift," says Harris. The result was a big boost in operating efficiency55% versus 25% efficiency of a typical diesel engine.
"We've proven that the technology is doable, but the cost of the fuel cell and hydrogen fuel itself is still significant," says Harris. Both need to be addressed."
Harris feels that when the auto industry gets involved in volume production, the price will plummet.
According to Wayne MacDonald with JLG, the fuel cell in the boom lift costs roughly $6,500 a kilowatt versus $1,500 a kilowatt for the diesel engine it replaces, and the cost of diesel is running at about 20% of hydrogen fuel. "There are significant cost hurdles to cross to make this commercially viable, but the technology is ready."
"We are working through the stack element using design-to-cost tools to reduce bipolar plate and other component costs, as well as looking at automated assembly," says Fuhs of Allied Signal Aerospace. Membrane and catalyst electrodes suppliers have active cost reduction programs, says Fuhs.
Hot Spots in Cyberspace
The OEM Yellow Pages
When engineers need supplier information, where do they go? If they are online, they head over to the Design News OEM Directory. Follow these simple steps to get the information you need quickly.
Click on the OEM Directory button on the Design News home page at http://www.designnews.com.
The Design News OEM Directory online is updated monthly. So bookmark the site and come back often.
It does compute
If computers are your life, then bookmark this site http://www.computer.org. Maintained by IEEE, Computer Society is an organization of computer professionals assembled under the umbrella of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The site features a career services center listing tons of jobs, access to 18 magazines and transactions online, and an online book store. In addition, there is an Education and Certification center and a link to industry standards and conferences.
DuPont Microcircuit Materials new web site at http://dupont.com/mcm/cermic.html focuses on ceramic materials design. There you'll find application profiles and technical papers, a list of products available, and technical references. Also on the site is a Green Tape LTCC Design Guide for wireless applications.
The quest for knowledge
If you can't find it on the web, does it even exist? While we can't answer that truthfully, we have found a few sites that are helpful, to say the least. At SmartPlanet (http://www.smartplanet.com/learn.asp) you can register and take online courses, like the basics of wiring your house, troubleshooting your PC, an introduction to role-playing games, or even how to buy hiking boots. You have to register, but many of the courses are free. At ehow (http://www.ehow.com/home/home.asp), you'll find step-by-step instructions (complete with shopping lists if necessary) on automotive topics, electronics, finance and business, real estate and more. We also like Learn2 and their great ways to learn (or is that 2learn?) including2torials, Step-by-step, illustrated instructions; Learnlets"byte"-sized bits of useful information; Community Learn2s; where you can interact with other users; and Online Courses with training in a variety of computer and business topics. Finally, Encyberpedia (http://www.encyberpedia.com) is a living, growing totally web-based encyclopedia. The site also includes a selection of space resources, links to news websites including live radio and video feeds and tons more links for cyber-info junkies.
Enidine Inc., a provider of energy absorption, vibration isolation, and motion control products, allows engineers to download CAD drawings, sizing, and technical data from its site. In addition, look for application uses and sign-up for automatic e-mail updates on new products or innovations. Head over to http:// www.enidine.com/index.html for a look-see.
Have a site to suggest? Then e-mail email@example.com
and we'll check out your suggested site.
Diesel delivers, with high pressure
By Benjamin B. Ames, Associate Editor
Schwieberdingen, Germany-It's the most environmentally friendly diesel engine yet, say the engineers at Robert Bosch GmbH.
Under pressure from government emissions standards and from Europe's notoriously high gasoline prices, Bosch engineers are continuing to push their fuel-injection diesel engines.
| Bosch’s Unit Injector System combines the pump and nozzle in a single module for each cylinder, creating a solenoid valve-controlled diesel engine with injection pressure up to 2,050 bar.
The latest version is a high-pressure Unit Injection System (UIS), a solenoid valve controlled single-cylinder system, also called the pump-nozzle system. With its injection pressure of up to 2,050 bar (29,725 psi), it has the highest fuel injection pressure on the market, says Klaus Krieger, development manager of Bosch's Diesel Injection Technology Division.
The pump and nozzle are combined in a single module, and there is one module per cylinder, so the system can be adapted for an engine with any number of cylinders. The first commercial version can be found in the Volkswagen Lupo 3L TDI (turbo direct injection), launched in Germany in April, 1999.
Bosch claims the three-cylinder, three-liter diesel achieves a maximum fuel efficiency of 2.99 liter/km (79 mpg), thus living up to the 3L in its name. This satisfies the strict emissions regulations of the Euro-IV standard (not mandatory until 2005) of keeping CO2 emissions below 140 grams/km; the Lupo emits just 90 grams/km. And it makes diesel the obvious choice for European drivers, who are used to paying four times the U.S. price for fuel.
But how does it work on the road?
In a recent trip to Bosch's facility here, near Stuttgart, I had the opportunity to drive the Lupo on a short test track. For the most efficient results, the car must be driven in automatic, with the "economy" mode enabled--not in five-speed manual sequential shift. And here is where you see the costs of clean operation.
In the economy position, the engine switches gears to maintain the most efficient rpm, not merely to accelerate the vehicle. So the Lupo speeds through tight curves. But on a straightaway drag, the car shifts much sooner than a normal (gas guzzling) automatic transmission would.
And there are further surprises when you stop the car. Bring the Lupo to a stop for more than four seconds while you're in economy mode, and the engine automatically shuts off. Move your foot from the brake to the gas, and the engine starts up immediately.
Lawrence Livermore unveils world's fastest computer
By Charles J. Murray, Senior Regional Technical Editor
Livermore, CA-To fully appreciate the computing speed of the ASCI Blue Pacific supercomputer, consider this: If you punch one calculation per second into your handheld calculator, it would take 126,839 years to reach four trillion calculations, not including time off for eating, sleeping, or watching Seinfeld reruns. In contrast, the ASCI Blue Pacific could do the same number of calculations in...one second.
The new supercomputer, recently installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is said to be the world's fastest. It's also one of the biggest, incorporating 5,856 microprocessors and occupying floor space larger than two NBA basketball courts. A so-called "scalable" supercomputer, it incorporates 1,464 nodes, then ties them together with more than five miles of wiring, and several more miles of cooling lines.
Although that may be more computing power than the average engineer needs right now, it's not too much for a select group of engineering users. Nuclear weapons designers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, after unveiling the system in October, were elated to have ASCI (Accelerated Strategic Computer Initiative) Blue Pacific's speed. "Using the fastest supercomputer from 1995, it would have taken us 6,000 years to run one iteration of all the currently-available, two-dimensional simulation codes," notes one Lawrence Livermore engineer. "That's why we need as much speed as we can possibly get."
Because the system is scalable, it is also accessible to engineers with smaller computing needs. Built on the foundation of the IBM RS/6000 SP, it can be scaled up from a single-node system to one as big as the ASCI Blue Pacific, or even larger, in some cases. All versions of it are capable of running CAE codes, including those designed for crash analysis, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), structural analysis, and Electronic Design Automation (EDA).
Custom-designed by IBM for Lawrence Livermore, the ASCI Blue Pacific is essentially a more advanced and much larger version of the "Deep Blue" supercomputer that beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It incorporates 2.6 terabytes (trillion bytes) of total memory, 62.5 terabytes global disk space, and 17.1 terabytes of local disk space.
Putting the 'power' back into a PowerPoint presentation
By Laurie Toupin, Associate Editor
Montgomeryville, PA-Question: How many engineers does it take to give a talk?
Answer: Three. One to speak. One to operate the PowerPoint presentation. And one to run around and make sure all the cords are plugged in and the computer operates correctly.
Unfortunately, the person speaking is never in control until now.
The patented Podium ProTM from Numonics Corp. puts the "power" of a presentation back into the hands of the person giving the talk.
The multifunctional computer interface control connects to a PC and an LCD projector. All program functions are transferred to an electronic pen. Electromagnetic technology transmits the pen's coordinate and function information to the computer via an RS232 serial connection.
Special software divides the working area of the Podium Pro into two sections. A row of pre-programmed softkeys on the very top of the pad allows the speaker to quickly launch video, graphics, text, animations, and audio software. The Softkey Editor gives users direct access to any file on the connected PC. The working area below the softkeys is mapped to the screen area of the computer via the software, giving the presenter full access to the image.
"A virtual whiteboard can be activated at any time allowing the presenter to draw illustrations (or make color annotations) so the audience can get the picture," says Clive Rowe, managing director of Channel Marketing of the UK. The whiteboard can also electronically store meeting notes and illustrations.
At 12.5 by 14 inches and weighing only 2.5 lb., Podium Pro can travel. Developing, rehearsing, and modifying a multimedia presentation can be done anywhere by connecting Podium Pro to a PC. "The presenter can decide what to integrate and has complete control of how it is shown," says Alfred Basilicato, president and CEO of Numonics.
So, in the future, how many engineers will it take to give a presentation? Probably still three. Engineers hate giving up control of their computer! Just ask my husband...
Plastic pallet resists burning, bending, breaking
By Charles J. Murray, Senior Regional Technical Editor
Las Vegas, NV-Using a specially-formulated resin, engineers have created a plastic pallet that stands up to the structural rigors of material handling, but does not burn like petroleum-based plastics.
The new product, known as AdvantEDGE, makes plastic pallets a more viable option because it eliminates their chief weakness--namely, that they burn more readily than wood. "In the past, plastic pallets burned hotter than wood, and plastic fires were more difficult to put out," notes Steve Castillo, national sales director for the Material Handling Division of Cookson Plastic Molding, Latham, NY, the firm that makes the new pallet.
Impact absorption (drop test)
Modulus of elasticity
|Noryl MH pallet
||1.76 x 106 psi
To solve the problem, Cookson worked with engineers from GE Plastics (Pittsfield, MA) to develop a more flame-retardant resin. The result: Noryl MH, a resin that engineers say burns like wood. In fire tests, Noryl MH-based pallets actually exceeded the performance of wood, setting off less overhead sprinklers. The Noryl MH-based pallets are the first plastic pallets to receive an Underwriters Laboratories rating.
The key to the performance of the new plastic pallet is that GE engineers departed from the conventional and did not use a polyolefin, which has been the material of choice for plastic pallets in the past. The reason: polyolefins "puddle" at high temperatures, causing plastic pallets to collapse onto one another. In contrast, Noryl MH has a "char-forming" characteristic similar to wood's, which enables it to maintain much of its structural integrity, even as it burns.
At the same time, however, the new Noryl-based material offers greater structural strength than that of wood during ordinary use. In impact tests, the plastic pallet displayed greater longevity, lasting through 10 drops from a distance of one meter. In the same tests, wood pallets lasted through four drops. The plastic pallet also absorbed more energy before failure12,758 ft-lb compared to 7,921 ft-lb for wood. Similarly, it deflected less under load. Using air bag loads, the Noryl-based pallet exhibited 0.78 inches of deflection after five days at 115F. Wood pallets deflected 1.13 inches under the same conditions, GE engineers say.
For those reasons, GE engineers say the plastic pallets last longer than wood, while eliminating such problems as cuts from nails and wood splinters. Because it doesn't absorb water the way wood does, GE engineers say it is also more stable over time. "The pallet you test today is the pallet you test next year," notes Lori Baccaro, a technical manager for GE Plastics.
At the same time, Noryl MH's structural characteristics make it a potential material for use in computers, business equipment, and automotive applications. Says Baccaro: "Anyone who is having problems with breaking, bending, and burning together can use this product."
Single chip solution for digital TV
Fremont, CA-Today, nearly 5% of all broadcasters are transmitting in digital format. That number will increase to 50% by mid-2000, according to the National Association of Broadcasters.
Federal regulations are compelling broadcasters to move to digital and modify towers, but so far the audience isn't there. At present, receivers and digital television sets are too expensive for people to buy.
So what are broadcasters and their audience to do?
SkyTune Corp. manufacturers of digital television and datacasting receivers for personal computers and communications appliances, believe they have an answer--a single chip answer. The start-up company recently teamed up with Sarnoff Corp. (Princeton, NJ), developers of electronic, biomedical, and information technology to produce an integrated chip receiver for the PC and consumer electronic appliances.
Not only will the device and its associated software receive digital signals, but it will be able to differentiate between Internet signals, video, and audio. The technology will also "remember" user preferences, tailoring viewing and listening options based on decisions made in the past. So instead of spending thousands for a new digital television, a $30 solution will be added to a basic PC or a settop box for your television.
Michael Noonen, vice president of sales and marketing for SkyTune, says that the chip will go into trials the beginning of 2000. He expects to begin selling the chip to PC manufacturers by mid-2000. "This chip will become a standard addition to the computers just as the DVD player became a standard," Noonen says.
The initial device, the SKY5201 will be the foundation for a family of low-cost, PC-centric broadcast receivers. First generation receivers have shown only average performance using an indoor antenna due to limited equalization and less than optimal dynamic filter adjustment. To overcome dynamic ghosting, the SkyTune device will feature an enhanced adaptive equalizer. The chip will also support a software-controlled phased array antenna connection. SkyTune and Sarnoff believe that these architectural features will more than adequately address the concerns raised about DTV reception indoors.
"We are building a technology to capture broadband transmission and categorize it. This is the next evolution of the Internet. AOL and Yahoo are becoming broadcast TV channels. That's where we come in. Not only are we capturing streaming digital media from the Internet, but we are also retrieving traditional forms of broadcasts," Noonen says. The chip offers a digital transport stream interface for quadrature phase shift keying, a national TV standards committee analog video decoder, and a PCI (Peripheral Components Interconnect) bus interface.