Top guns phone home
Fort Worth-When Lockheed Martin test pilots Steve
Barter and Troy Pennington lifted off in their F-16 tactical fighter on August
27 of this year, they weren't just testing a new communications system that uses
AIRSAT 1TM, AlliedSignal's communication network for airborne
technology. The pilots also demonstrated a move toward expanding the use of
commercial products in military applications.
The demonstration was the first in a series of activities planned by Lockheed
Martin that provides over-the-horizon voice and data exchange capability to the
tactical cockpit from a commercially owned and operated satellite communication
system. "Use of commercial communication systems is part of a need for
integrating various sections of the military and enabling communication among
them," says Kathryn Hayden of Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems (LMTAS).
"In the past, it was the military that developed technology that was
subsequently transferred to commercial applications," she continues. "Now, it's
the other way around."
The LMTAS operations center maintained successful two-way communication with
the aircraft from taxi and takeoff to Mach 1.6 at altitudes up to 42,000 feet.
The demonstration included basic flight maneuvers and a series of climbs, dives,
rolls, and turns.
The flight was the first supersonic test of an off-the-shelf, Iridium-based
communication network on an F-16. Iridium is a company that provides worldwide
satellite communication services. Unlike traditional communications methods, the
Iridium-based system is not limited by line-of-sight.
By Charles J. Murray, Senior Regional Editor
Knoxville, TN-Saying that it is targeting the import-conscious
baby boomer, Cadillac recently previewed the 2000 DeVille. To attract these
still-younger consumers, Cadillac engineers slimmed down the vehicle and added a
raft of new safety technologies, including: Night Vision; LED taillights;
improved yaw control; road-sensing suspension; and Ultrasonic Rear Parking
8,000 sensors control mega-freighter
Long Beach-When the Susan Maersk sailed into the
Port of Long Beach on her maiden voyage this summer, she established a new
record as the largest container ship ever to call on a United States port. The
container ship is 1,138 feet long longer than three and one-half football
fields--and 140 feet wide31 feet wider than the Panama Canal. Five floors deep
into the hull lies a massive 12-cylinder, 75,000 horsepower main engine--one of
the largest and most powerful marine diesels on earth, giving a speed of 25
knots. The engine's main propeller is 30 feet high with 6 blades making 94
revolutions a minute. The super freighter has a deadweight of 104,690 metric
tons. It can stack 6,600 containers with space and power for 700 refrigerated
containers, important to California agricultural exporters to bring citrus fruit
to Asia. The power supply features five auxiliary engines generating a total of
15,000 KW. The Susan Maersk can cross the Pacific from Hong Kong to Long Beach
in 12 days.
Longer than 3 1/2 football fields and wider than the Panama Canal, the
captain of this sensor-driven mega-freighter controls the behemoth
freighter by keyboard and mouse.
The giant vessel's unique design features allow it to be piloted by a crew of
15. A centralized computer links 2,000 engine control and monitoring sensors
with 6,000 sensors in the cargo holds for safe navigation and handling. An
electronic seachart system lets the captain call up navigation charts on video
screens, providing up-to-date information on channels and depths. An integrated
computer system controls virtually every function onboard the ship.
A synthetic with a rich bouquet and a fine nose?
American Canyon, CA-Next time you're in a fine restaurant
and you order that bottle of Lane Tanner or Robert Mondavi wine, take a good
look at the cork. It looks like the traditional tree-bark cork, but there's no
wood grain and it's ultra smooth.
Welcome to the newest addition to the mystique of wine making: the synthetic
Neocork Technologies has developed a cork made with AFFINITY polyolefin
plastomers (POPs) that, says the company, is tougher than traditional corks and
won't break when pulled out of the bottle.
"We've pulled thousands in tests of this product and never broken one," says
Stuart Yaniger, Neocork's chief technical officer and a person who admits to
breaking many tree-bark corks over the years.
Dow Plastics (Midland, MI) supplied the material and worked with Neocork to
develop the cork.
"There were several specific performance requirements we had to meet with
this product," says Dow Project Leader Dan Falla. "The material had to be
compressible and yet expand to grab the bottle. It had to seal well, be
non-absorbent, and insert into the bottle the way traditional corks do." The
AFFINITY POP meets all those requirements and has the same oxygen-transmission
rates as natural wood corks, he adds.
How difficult is it to pull this cork out of the bottle? Sixty pounds of pull
force with a standard corkscrew will do it, says Yaniger. Traditional tree-bark
corks have pull forces that range from 30 lb to 150 lb.
Yaniger says 22 wineries are now using the new synthetic cork. But engineers
outside the wine industry may soon express interest too, says Falla. For
example, food packaging engineers like AFFINITY POP's sealing characteristics
and the fact that it seals at low temperatures. One food product wrapped with
the material: bacon.
Coated fabrics on the upswing
Cleveland-A new study from the Freedonia Group predicts annual
growth of nearly 4% in the demand for coated fabrics. While automotive airbags
will drive much of the increase (look for nylon fabrics to have plenty of growth
here), the study also forecasts gains in protective clothing and other niche
markets. PVC will continue to hold sway as the most popular coating, while
polyester will remain the most widely used substrate.
Embedded sensor minimizes positioning problems
By Bruce Wiebusch, Regional Editor
Florence, KY-Hydraulic cylinders with externally
mounted electronics are prone to break down because exposed sensors,
transducers, and other delicate electronics get bumped, banged, and bashed. The
HLT II, a new hydraulic cylinder from Hydro- Line (Rockford, IL), overcomes such
breakdowns by encapsulating a Micropulse® magneto-restrictive
position sensor from Balluff in the cylinder.
Engineers from the two companies collaborated and designed a special flange
that allows complete encapsulation of the sensor--with the exception of the
power connector--in the cylinder's cap. Encapsulation eliminates the possibility
of damage to electronics protruding from the cylinder cap and isolates the
sensor from adverse environmental conditions.
"It wasn't really a performance issue that prompted development of the HTL
II," says Scott Rosenberger, an engineer with Balluff. "It had more to do with
convenience. There's no real installation or maintenance with the HTL II. You
hook up the electronics and go."
Nevertheless, the new design did yield performance improvements.
"Magnetorestrictive position sensors provide high shock and noise immunity,"
says Dale Luick, an engineering test lab supervisor with Hydro-Line.
The HLT II hydraulic cylinder provides precise feedback in motion simulators
used with amusement park rides, clamping assemblies used in wood processing
equipment, and other position-critical applications. Its linearity is ± 0.02%.
Hysterisis is 0.00004 inch.
The HLT II is available in three pressure ratings from 250 to 3000 psi. A
variety of analog and digital outputs are available.
Panelists address need for CAD interoperability
Detroit-Interoperability was the subject of a
special panel at September's Computer Technology Solutions show moderated by
Design News Chief Editor Paul E. Teague. Interoperability is a hot topic
because of the many kinds of software engineers use and the need to transfer
files from one program to another during the design process. That transfer is
often difficult because, due to the proprietary nature of each software's
architecture, the software doesn't talk to each other. IGES and other
translators help, but often produce incomplete translations, the panelists
Speaking on the panel were Bruce Morgan, president of Spatial Technology Inc;
Stephen Brown, marketing director for the Americas at Unigraphics Solutions;
James Daag, vice president for software development at Altair Computing; Eric
Underwood, product manager at ANSYS; Robert Bean, president of CADKEY; and Doug
Johnson, general manager of the Shared Space Division of CoCreate.
"Data translation shouldn't be necessary," said Spatial's Morgan. Both he and
Unigraphics' Brown talked of technology their respective companies have for
fixing models so they can be passed from one software system to another.
Altair's Daag said that manufacturers must insist on interoperability from their
software vendors, and talked about Altair's open formats. ANSYS' Underwood
described how his company's CadFIX tracks errors that occur during model import.
Bean, of CADKEY, said that "pure geometry," which underlies his software,
facilitates interoperability, and referred to tools in CADKEY that enable
manipulation of pure geometry. And CoCreate's Johnson explained how OneSpace
software aids interoperability by enabling real-time collaboration over the
Plasma sintering cuts thermoelectric and battery costs
By John Lewis, Northeast Technical Editor
Newton, MA-A new technique uses induction heating
of argon/oxygen plasma to lower the cost of sintering ß-alumina--a critical
material in Alkali Metal Thermoelectric Converter (AMTEC) technology as well as
sodium sulfur (Na/S) and Zebra battery technologies. Under a Phase 1 Department
of Energy Small Business Technology Transfer grant, academia, government, and
corporate entities developed a continuous plasma sintering process that is
readily automated, according to the Department of Materials Science and
Engineering at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and Advanced Modular Power
Systems Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI). Thanks to induction heating equipment donated by
Edgewood, NY-based Lepel Corp., the process presents an economical basis to
start developing high-volume ß-alumina production and offers exciting and
far-reaching implications for energy conversion and conservation in the next
In plasma sintering, ß-alumina ceramic is usually formed as tubes in a
controlled-atmosphere chamber. Tubes processed at Northwestern Univ. are
now being evaluated by the Dept. of Energy and the team anticipates
developing prototype designs and production specifications.
AMTEC's potential 25-30% energy conversion efficiency, low weight, silent
operation, and low emissions, targets it at uses such as residential
cogeneration (a 2-5kW AMTEC power unit could supply electrical and thermal needs
of a home), silent generators for recreational vehicles, and a variety of
military applications. Moreover, the DOE/NASA Advanced Radioisotope Power
Systems (ARPS) program is developing AMTEC systems as potential power sources
for future missions to the outer planets.
Sintering sodium ß-alumina (approximately 90% Al2O3, 9%
Na2O, and 1% Li2O) to high density and high ionic
conductivity previously used conventional furnaces and expensive,
labor-intensive encapsulation in either platinum or magnesium oxide containers
to prevent loss of the sodium-oxide component. The new sintering method reduces
costs because its fast reaction rate retains the sodium oxide without
encapsulation while achieving high density, strength, and good conductivity.
To learn how much high-volume production will actually reduce costs usually
involves establishing large, expensive facilities that would include large
furnaces and heavy automation--an obstacle that must be overcome before either
AMTEC or the battery technologies can become effective for widespread use. Using
Northwestern's induction heating for sintering, however, allows one to assemble
and test, at rather low cost, an RF plasma sintering station that is, in fact, a
full scale model capable of sintering tubes continuously as they pass through
Essentially, the induction heating unit is a double walled glass (quartz and
borosilicate) tube within, but not in contact with, a three-inch diameter coil.
The power supply is a 2.5 kW vacuum tube unit with a frequency range of 3-8 MHz.
Lepel, a manufacturer of induction power supplies for special applications,
donated the induction-heating equipment to the university as part of the
company's long-standing program of support for advanced materials research.
According to Lepel the future of the processing technique looks very bright
because for very high volumes it's easy to set up any number of the same
stations in parallel and essentially know the full large-scale production cost.
This is a tremendous advantage for planning and bringing realism to the (usually
optimistic) cost estimates.
How AMTEC converts heat to electricity
AMTEC operates as a very simple direct-heat-to-electricity conversion device
that relies on a ß-alumina electrolyte membrane to separate high and low
pressure chambers. As heat is applied, sodium in the high-pressure chamber
ionizes, enters, and passes through the ß-alumina electrolyte membrane. The
neutral sodium then evaporates into the low pressure chamber, condenses on its
cooled inner surface, and is returned to the hot high pressure chamber by a
capillary structure to complete the cycle. Evaporator and condenser temperature
ranges of 900-1,100K and 500-650K, respectively, are typical.
Chipset enables low-power postage stamp-sized systems
By Jean Young Gonzalez, Western Technical Editor
Dallas-Texas Instruments has produced what it says
is the industry's first chipset combining radio frequency (RF) data transmission
and reception with a microcontroller unit (MCU).
"This integrated chipset has its roots in our development of a field utility
meter, which demanded RF capability so it could run for 5 years without a
battery change," Ron Drafz, TI's strategic marketing manager. "Adding RF
communications to microcontroller technology opens up a number of different
application areas, especially those where low power consumption is important."
The TRF6900 integrated chipset is designed for energy management,
wireless data transmission, home security and portable remote
Applications include home energy management and security systems, wireless
phones and modems, headsets, printers, speakers, smart toys, intrusion alarms,
portable instruments, and patient monitors. "Any device which has a low total
system cost, requires a fast time to market, and which demands the flexibility
of a highly programmable design, can benefit from this RF-MCU chipset," says
Drafz. "This integrated chipset enables the design of low-cost systems as small
as two postage stamps, with a bill of materials of less than $6."
The device consists of the TRF6900 single-chip RF transceiver and the MSP430
MCU. Both chips are designed to conserve power, with combined standby power
consumption of only four µA.
Here's how IT designers chopped power consumption: The TRF6900 is a
single-chip, 850-950 MHz UHF transceiver which provides output power up to +6
dBm and delivers data rates up to 200 kbit/s. This device conserves power with
fast 500 ms turn-on and 100 ms turn-off times and selective disabling of
functional blocks. Operating voltages for the device range from 2.2 to 3.6V.
The TRF6900 saves system space by integrating key components such as
phase-locked loop, voltage controlled oscillator and transmit power amplifier.
An important innovation in a low-cost RF transceiver is an on-chip 24-bit direct
digital synthesizer (DDS). Until now, transceivers of this type have been able
to support only a single or a few transmission frequencies, limiting their
usefulness. By contrast, the TRF6900's DDS supports channel hopping, which
allows the device to scan for clear frequencies and handle multiple
transmissions. Depending on conditions, a single TRF6900 can communicate with 50
or more external systems. In addition, the DDS allows a single system design to
be used for the same application in different regions of the world with
different frequency bands.
The chipset's MSP430 device, is a 16-bit reduced instruction set computing
MCU, which provides sleep modes to reduce current consumption during many
operations, plus a single-cycle execution time of less than 200 ns for most
instructions to reduce active time.
A wireless interface to the TRF6900 transceiver, the MSP430 simplifies design
and saves board space. The TRF6900 is packaged in a 48-pin, low-profile plastic
quad flatpack, while the MSP430 MCUs are available in a variety of packages.
The TRF6900 went into production in November. A design kit version is also
available, which contains datasheets and application notes, an evaluation module
board, schematics, bill of materials, gerber files, a PC-based software utility
program, and MSP430 baseband software routines.
CTS attendance low, but products shine
Detroit-In terms of attendance, the Computer
Technology Solutions (CTS) show, formerly known as Autofact, could be considered
slow. Although no numbers have been released yet, many vendors complained that
foot traffic was disappointing. For some of the lesser known companies, however,
the conference proved to be extremely successful.
"We are the new kids on the block, so everyone came by to see what we are all
about," says Dave Meadors, operations manager for Varatech Engineering
Consultants (Molland, MI), makers of Sigmund, a Windows-based and graphics-based
1D- and 3D-tolerance software. The assembly variation analysis software reads
CAD data from programs such as SolidWorks and Solid Edge as well as standard
IGES files. Available as either an integrated or a stand-alone tool, Sigmund
performs quick 1D stackups and allows engineers to evaluate 3D process and
assembly variations and their effects on the final project.
e-Vis.com from EAI and HP is an Internet portal where manufacturing
companies and their suppliers can share project data using EAI’s
collaboration, visualization, and analysis tools, on HP’s secure Internet
In spite of the small crowd, the products offered were impressive.
Interoperability, the Internet, visualization, and 3D vendors expanding their 2D
drafting tools were common themes.
Forming partnerships with other software vendors seems to be one popular
solution to the interoperability problem. For example, TekSoft®
announced CAMWorks 99 Plus that is compatible with SolidWorks® 99.
"Machinists live and die around changes," says Frederick Dubek from TekSoft.
"With our integrated technology, they can simulate the tool path on a solid
model and when a change is made, CAMWorks will automatically reprogram the tool
path to reflect the change."
SmartEdge 3.1 was the outcome of a relationship between SmarTeam Inc.
(Beverly, MA) and Solid Edge from Unigraphics (St. Louis, MO). The PDM plug-in
application for Solid Edge Version 7 manages drawings, documents, assemblies,
and workflow processes so engineers don't have to, the company says. A new
"Query By Example" feature allows users to build advanced searches of the
With SmartEdge 3.1, PDM software from SmartTeam exclusively for Solid
Edge users, engineers won’t have to leave their design environment to
communicate with co-workers.
2D still alive. Despite the proliferation of 3D solid modeling software on
the market, 2D is alive and well among users. "People who are using 3D solids
are still in the minority," says President of SolidWorks, Jon Hirschtick, during
a CAD/CAM Industry panel discussion hosted by D.H. Brown Consultants (Port
Chester, NY). He admitted that 3D solid modeling won't eliminate the need for
drawings, but it can make them better and easier to understand. To facilitate
this, SolidWorks announced eDrawings, a patent pending compressed electronic
drawing file that enables users to create, view, send, and receive mechanical
design drawings via e-mail. Each eDrawing file includes a self-contained viewer,
so recipients can start using the drawing information immediately whether or not
they use SolidWorks or any CAD system at all. This will be free for a limited
time at the SolidWorks website.
The Internet was perhaps the biggest news at the show. MSC.Software announced
on-line onDemand licensing where engineers can basically rent FEA software from
MSC, including MSC/NASTRAN and MSC/ Patran, and pay for only the time they use.
(See Design News, 11/1/99, p. 104).
This assembly with more than 750 components is easily viewed with
SolidView’s new SolidWorks interface. The model can be saved in SFX file
format so that it is only 10% the size of the original CAD
In addition to a new Virtual Factory suite of products from EAI (Ames, IA),
the company teamed with Hewlett-Packard to offer companies the option of renting
a portal to share project information among a manufacturing company and up to
1,000 of its suppliers.
Envision-i from Vuent Inc. (formerly Adaptive Media) (Sunnyvale, CA) will
provide real-time communication and collaboration. Its
Intelligent-StreamingTM technology allows users with any standard Web
browser on a desktop PC to view, collaborate, and navigate through large,
complex data sets. Multiple users can view several data streams within one Web
browser, even if these originate from different CAD systems.
Vendors are feeling quite generous these days as several offered free
downloadable programs. Solid Concepts Inc. (Valencia, CA) announced the
immediate availability of SolidView/Lite, a free 3D CAD viewer based on their
SolidView product. Users with Windows 95, 98, and NT can view popular 3D CAD
formats such as STL, OBJ, VRML, and SolidWorks part and assembly data.
SolidView/Lite can also view and measure 3D data saved in SolidView's Solid File
eXchange (SFX) file format. For those who don't mind spending a little, the full
version allows non-CAD users to directly view, measure, and markup native CAD
part and assembly data on their PCs for CAD programs such as CATIA,
Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, and Unigraphics.
Another PDM software vender entered the fray. NEC Systems Inc. (San Jose,
CA), an affiliate of NEC Corporation debuted the English language version of
Obbligato IITM, a Windows NT-based product data management (PDM)
software suite popular in Japan. According to the Techno System Research, Inc.,
"PDM Business Market Analysis Report," May 1998, Obbligato is Japan's leading
product data management software. Available as a modular and scalable package,
Obbligato allows small and mid-size companies to implement a PDM system--to
manage documents and parts, change orders, and bill for materials, as well as
sort and link items to related information.
The next Computer Technology Solutions show will not be until Fall of 2001.
But for more products from this show, see the New Products, Computer
Productivity Section of this Issue.
Good looking plastic sets printer apart
By Joseph Ogando, Mid-Atlantic Regional Editor
Wilsonville, OR-With Apple Computer proving that
good looks help sell computers, some printer manufacturers have started moving
away from "beige-box" designs too. Consider the new Designer Edition Phaser 840
printer from Tektronix. Though its internal workings mirror those of an earlier
Phaser model, the Designer Edition sports a colorful new housing that emulates
the look of Apple's Power Macintosh G3.
Like its companion computer, the Designer Edition's blue-and-white case
reveals some internal components while it hides others. "Part of the charm of a
transparent cover is watching the paper move through the machine," says Rich
Chambers, an industrial design engineer at Tektronix. At the same time, the
design team took pains to conceal less attractive interior elements--such as
wires and structural features on the housing's underside. "There are some things
that you really want to keep hidden," Chambers says.
The printer owes its peek-a-boo look to Visualfx, GE Plastics' (Pittsfield,
MA) line of special-effect plastics, which includes a newly-commercialized
light-diffused Lexan polycarbonate. According to GE market development manager
Jeff Pembroke, GE can tailor the diffusion levels to a given application. For
Tektronix, this ability proved crucial as the individual pieces of the case
required different diffusion properties and colors, depending on whether they
had to hide or reveal the interior.
Because each housing part's color, thickness, and distance from internal
components influences the diffusion effect, arriving at just the right material
formulation for each piece came down to trial-and-error work around a molding
machine. Tektronix engineers first molded the parts in a clear Lexan, using
molds built for the original Phaser 840. Working from this fully exposed model,
they began to add diffusion selectively until they achieved the right balance of
color and diffusion. "It helped that we had a clear objective about what we
wanted to be able to see," says Chambers. No pun intended.
Remarkably, the color matching process molding trials all took place over the
course of two days at GE's Innovation Center (Richmond, IN), which offers
on-site compounding and molding capabilities. "It was literally a case of
color-and-diffusion matching while you wait," Chambers recalls. As a
side-benefit to all its speedy aesthetics work, Tektronix brought the printer to
market in a record eight weeks.
For all its marketing benefits, looking good does come at a price. Visualfx
resins cost two to ten times more than comparable standard resins, depending on
the additive loading needed to achieve a given effect. Still, the material used
by Tektronix "cost less than a lot of reinforced engineering resins," according
to Kurt Jenkins, plastics procurement manager at Tektronix and a member of the
printer's design team. Indeed, Pembroke argues that the Visualfx components
don't really represent an alternative to plain plastic parts as much as to
decorated parts. "Visualfx materials are more cost effective than painting and
other secondary decorating options," Pembroke says.
Another potential trade-off, the loss of mechanical properties that could
hurt parts made with these additive-rich materials, didn't affect Tektronix at
all, reports Jenkins. "The only trade-off for us has been in yields," he says,
explaining that clear parts show more molding defects than colored ones. "This
product is sold visually," Jenkins adds. "So every part has to be perfect."
Hot Spots in Cyberspace
Catch a Reality Wave
This is definitely not your father's VRML. RealityWave (www.realitywave.com/default.htm,
best viewed in Explorer 4.0 or above) enables engineers to use Streaming 3D.
This technology is similar to the concept of streaming audio or video, with the
initial data being presented instantly. The difference being that audio and
video have a pre-determined data order, whereas a 3D file can be looked at from
a variety of viewpoints, all dependent on the user. The program offers an add-in
to SolidWorks that lets you collaborate with others during all phases of your
development process. There are several demos of the products on line, so you can
see how easy it is to use.
Get funky, get down-loaded
Fluent Inc., a supplier of computational fluid dynamics or CFD software, now
has a downloadable library of "ready-made" parts models for Icepak users. Icepak
is a thermal analysis and design software for electronics cooling. The library
has accurate models of commercially available heat sinks and fans with IC
packages to be loaded in the future. Users can download full models or a compact
version. Check it out at
Get the message?
A new message board for engineers and manufacturers is now online. There are
several boards--metalworking, surface treatment, control systems, CAD/CAM, used
equipment--plus job and contract listings. Head to http://www.industrycommunity.com to
check it out.
Scope this out
Artesyn Technologies Inc. introduced SimScopeTM, a web-based
oscilloscope that is a virtual lab for engineers to select various products,
configure input and output circuitry, set up test parameters, then view voltage
and current waveforms at any point in the application. You have to register to
use (www.artesyn.com), but it's free.
We be zoomin'
Southco's site at http://www.southco.com
let's you download CAD drawings, check out applications, see how latches work on
a design, review installation instructions, and more. Users need Adobe Acrobat
reader and can download it right from their site. In addition, click on the Zoom
CD, and they'll send you their product catalog. If you're a hands-on type of
person, check out their handbook, available in both English and Spanish.
Check your meter
Your laugh meter, that is. When you need a break, this is one of the best
have found for lots of engineering laughs that most folks just
won't get. Head to: http://www.repairfaq.org/sam/humor.htm#humtoc.
You can find a discussion on transformer
design for a tomato launcher,
the ultimate engineering test, real replies on airplane repair from the
mechanics, or how much battery power it would take to "run" a human.