Where would we be if the Wright brothers didn't act on that small idea they had for an airplane? Where would we be if Alexander Graham Bell never experimented with his idea for the telephone? It is this kind of "I will not limit myself" spirit that bolsters creativity every year for our Best Products of the Year contest.
We asked vendors to submit their best products they introduced between September 2002 and September 2003. The editors at Design News then narrowed each of the six categories to four entries that they thought were the most innovative and ground-breaking in their category. These four finalists in each category were then forwarded to an independent panel of judges who chose one winner:
Fluid Power. The EVP Proportional Control Valve from Clippard Instrument Laboratory, Inc. took top honors in the fluid power category. www.clippard.com
Computer Productivity Tools. The Alibre Design Professional from Alibre, Inc. won this category. www.alibre.com
Electrical/Electronics. The Amulet Technologies LCD takes it all for the Electrical/Electronics category. www.amulettechnologies.com
Fastening, Joining & Assembly, and Materials. W.L. Gore & Associates scored highest for its Trackless Cable AssembliesTM. www.gore.com
Power Transmission & Motion Control. ThinGap won with its TG3300 Series Brush DC Motor. www.ThinGapmotors.com
Test, Measurement & Control. National Instruments' LabVIEWTM 7 Express wins the Test, Measurement, & Control category. www.ni.com
From these six finalists, we need your help deciding which one should reign supreme as the Best Product of 2003. On the following pages, read up on each contender, and see what our judges had to say about its significance. Choose the product that you think best exemplifies creativity, innovation, and usefulness in design engineering and send us your vote via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax to 617-558-4512 (see ballot, page 72). Voters will be eligible to win a $100.00 American Express gift certificate. All votes must be received by December 10, 2003, and only one vote per subscriber, please. The overall winner of the Best Product of the Year contest will be featured in the February 23, 2004 Engineering Awards issue of Design News.
EV/ET Series Electronic Valves from Clippard Instruments
Portional valve uses armature
Based on Clippard Instruments' EV/ET series electronic valves, this new EVP proportional valve uses different armature and body configurations to allow for variable positioning. Most proportional valves use a sliding armature, which can be subject to limited life. The EV/ET valve uses a variable position armature to extend its life. "The armature is light and moves with little friction, resulting in low power consumption. The accuracy and long life of the valve are attractive attributes for medical applications, such as anesthesia machines, respirators, and ventilators," says Judge Douglas Stamps.
The Alibre Design Professional by Alibre
3D modeling with technical guidance
The Alibre Design Professional allows engineers to create precise 3D mechanical designs, make quick changes, and perform what-if analyses and revisions. Complete with integrated data management, a BOM editor, online data sharing, and real-time collaboration, this application also features an on-demand support and technical guidance function, the Alibre Assistant. "It not only provides real-time access to Alibre support engineers who can engage with users in anything from troubleshooting to interactive modeling, but it offers the same capability to connect to support engineers for third party applications," says Judge Dick Miller.
The Amulet LCD from Amulet Technologies
Graphical operating system for GUIs
The Amulet LCD is a 5.7-inch QVGA display panel with an embedded graphical operating system. Amulet's chip integrates a graphic library, dedicated microprocessor, and LCD controller that enables a user to develop GUIs easily. By eliminating the time-consuming and often painstaking processes of contemporary programming methods, precious time and talent is saved because no code writing is involved. Judge Michael Ruane states, "The Amulet LCD addresses important design bottlenecks facing the GUI developer, making attractive GUI development more affordable and giving designers a range of options for improving new and existing systems."
Trackless Cable Assemblies from Gore™
Flat cable without a cable track
Gore's Trackless cable assemblies are high-flex, flat cables that can travel back and forth, up to 60 inches in a rolling flex motion, without a cable carrier. This is achieved by incorporating support elements inside the cable that emulate an endoskeleton that allows it to bend in one direction while preventing it from bending in the opposite direction. Important for applications where space is critical, this hybrid ribbon can support itself over a long enough span to allow it to move back and forth 60 inches without sagging or buckling. Judge Dick Miller states, "The Gore engineers found an elegant way to eliminate issues with the standard cable track found in most applications—they eliminated the entire cable track."
TG3300 Series Brush DC Motor from ThinGap
Brush dc motor, smoother operation
ThinGap's TG3300 Series Brush DC Motor uses a motor coil that is made of precision-machined copper sheet. The motor achieves higher copper-packing density and a higher ratio of copper to total volume than that of motors using copper wire, enabling the production of motors with a higher power-to-weight ratio and greater power efficiencies for twice the run time in battery-powered applications. Judge Dick Miller, also says, "Most notably, these scientific accomplishments translate into quality-of-life benefits by making battery powered products lighter and more powerful. Medical applications alone, such as portable oxygen devices, wheelchairs, and mechanical-assist equipment will improve the ambulatory capabilities of disabled or medically impaired patients."
LabViewTM 7 Express from National Instruments
Software for test and control appplications
LabViewTM 7 Express is NI's newest graphical programming language software tool for engineers. The Express virtual instruments (VIs) encapsulate measurement functionality in easy-to-use, interactive VIs. Measurement Assistants and I/O code generation make data acquisition quick and easy and include a step-by-step wizard for configuring, testing, and programming measurement tasks that can automatically generate code for low level customization. "The design process has led to features that will simplify the development of complex virtual instruments for experts, yet ease the use of this product for novices," states Judge Raul G. Longoria.