Countdown to Y2K
On the factory floor, embedded systems are the keys to compliance
By Geoff Nairn, Contributing Editor
Amsterdam--Good news for some engineers worried about the Year 2000 problem: Industrial systems do not have as high a failure rate as computers. The bad news? Industrial systems are not only more difficult to remedy than conventional computers, it is hard to know which systems will be adversely affected by the Year 2000 phenomenon.
That was the assessment at last July's "Year 2000 in Industrial and Process Control Systems" conference, organized by IQPC Ltd., London. Held in Amsterdam, the conference was attended by industry representatives worldwide.
Gerry Docherty, managing director of Real Time Engineering, a UK company specializing in handling the Year 2000 problem in real-time and embedded systems, supports the conference conclusions: "It is not easy to take a SCADA (Supervisory, Control, and Data Acquisition) system out of operation and fix it."
While the company has assisted more than 15 major multinationals with their Year 2000 strategies, Docherty worries that remediation programs for industrial systems are not as far along as those for computer systems. "It is unlikely that most organizations will fix the problem in time," he warns. "The best we can do is ensure the impact is minimized by concentrating on the most important areas."
Knowing where to start is the biggest challenge. Before beginning testing or seeking vendor compliance statements, manufacturers must have an accurate inventory of all systems at risk. In a large organization, there may be hundreds of date-sensitive systems, but locating and identifying them can be difficult. Embedded systems are true "black boxes," often hidden in machinery or cabinets with few clues as to their function.
Systems with an active clock--most obviously, a timer on the display panel--are relatively easy to identify. However, there are many without active clock functions that nevertheless may still be vulnerable. Vendor compliance statements are helpful, but clock functions may be programmed into custom software over which the vendor has no responsibility.
PCs a problem. Though the elementary failure mechanism behind the Year 2000 problem is simple to understand, investigating its possible consequences is made difficult in an industrial environment by the wide variety of equipment and the complex interconnections. This is a particular problem for PC-based control equipment.
"We have found that most problems are PC related, and there are a lot of PCs used in industrial environments," says Roger Shaw, Year 2000 project manager for the industrial research association ERA Technology. Some systems, he adds, can be more than a decade old and the manufacturer--if still in business--may no longer support the product.
Another problem is missing or incomplete documentation, or reference to an earlier version of the system before it was upgraded. Klaus Ragaller, senior vice president for Year 2000 at Asea Brown Boveri, calls this the problem of "vertical complexity" and says it is particularly common in process control.
At the highest level of a system, he explains, is the application software. Typically project specific, the application software may or may not have date functions. Below this is the operating system (OS), which may or may not be compliant. Beneath the OS sits the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System--the embedded control software in the microprocessor), and finally the real-time clock, each of which has to be investigated for Year 2000 compliance.
| A scanner on the assembly line reads bar-coded dates; a PLC checks that the scanned date is not more than 6 months older than the reference date previously programmed into the pallet’s electronic tag. If so, component is rejected.
At each level, manufacturers such as ABB have developed different versions of software over time. This can lead to situations where two systems are seemingly identical, but one has a Year 2000 problem and the other does not.
"Although we can test the individual components that go into our off-the-shelf systems, to go through all possible combinations and variants is an extremely difficult task," says Ragaller. "It's like looking for needles in a haystack."
In a typical factory floor environment, several hundred of these products may be interconnected. So, in addition to the internal complexity of individual products, there is the challenge of determining the Year 2000 behavior of the overall system. "Even if the core system works fine, the problems caused by interferences to other systems, such as that of the control center or MIS (Management Information System) department, can have serious consequences," Ragaller concludes.
A typical scenario. An example of this interaction problem was recently uncovered in a production line of a UK automotive supplier by ERA Technology. Used to make airbag assemblies, the line contains a number of embedded systems, several of which are date sensitive. The line reads the two-digit year codes printed on the components from which the airbag is assembled. If a date is more than six months old, the component is rejected.
The company worried what might happen when these date codes rolled over to "00." ERA Technology conducted tests which showed that the PLCs--where the company expected it would have a problem--turned out to work correctly across the millennium date change.
However, the test revealed a Year 2000 problem in a different area. After the airbag is assembled, a station further down the line prints a product label on the bag that includes a bar code containing the current date. When the current date was set forward to 2000, this station printed the year code as ":0'' instead of "00."
This proved a fatal flaw for the line's final station, which reads the assembly date off the label and uploads it to the PC controlling the line. "Because the PC did not recognize ":0" as a valid year, every item that came off the line was marked as rejected," reports ERA's Shaw. "We were not expecting this particular problem, and now must develop a solution."
Lesson? Engineers hoping to beat the Year 2000 bug must learn to expect the unexpected.
| This airbag assembly line contains a number of embedded systems, several of which are date sensitive. Because the assembly system was no longer supported by its manufacturer, the supplier had to call an outside specialist to investigate what would happen when the year code rolls over from 99 to 00.
The Delta-T Probe, from UK company WSP Business Technology, tests microprocessor-based industrial systems whose manufacturers cannot be traced or are unwilling to provide Year 2000 compliance. Delta-T monitors the software code that is fetched by the embedded system's processor from the ROM containing the program. Simultaneously, it monitors the connection between the processor and the clock data source.
When the clock connection goes active, Delta-T knows that the embedded system is performing a time-dependent instruction. Only those parts of the code that are time dependent are thus captured for detailed Year 2000 analysis "offline." The remainder of the code is ignored.
According to WSP, the process takes just 30 minutes compared with the weeks that would be needed to examine the code manually. The probe only handles systems with the following characteristics: 5V technology, 8- or 16-bit microprocessors, separate ROM and RAM, 14- to 64-pin JDEC packages, and a maximum of five RAM/ROM/RTC ICs.
Physical access to the ICs is also required. Software supplied with the Delta-T Probe helps locate and identify different types of ICs, and provides a "smart search" facility complete with pictures and instructions on how to connect the specialized test clips.
What this means to you:
Plastic housing protects next-generation alternator
Stuttgart, Germany--What kind of alternator will appear on millions of U.S., European, and Japanese vehicles in the next few years? It could very well be one from Robert Bosch GmbH that features an integrated, multi-function connector housing made with polyester.
The housing, molded by Mühlemann AG (Biberist, Switzerland) using Rynite® 545 45% glass-reinforced PET polyester resin supplied by DuPont Automotive (Troy, MI), integrates many functions within one component. For example, it provides contacts for electrical/electronic connectors, encapsulates a hybrid microcircuit, serves as a brush holder for the alternator, and holds a heat sink bonded onto the conductor strips within the body of the housing.
"We specified Rynite for this job because of its outstanding combination of properties, especially its wear resistance," explains Alfred Allemand, Mühlemann's sales director. "The connector housing has to work over a broad temperature range and pass a tough temperature-cycling test. Further, the material needs to have high-impact resistance and meet Bosch's strict minimum vibration-resistance specifications."
A key challenge for the design team involved preventing multiple weld lines from appearing on the housing, which could result from the sophisticated insert-molding of several stamped metal parts. Working with DuPont, Mühlemann avoided this problem by precisely controlling the temperature of both melt and tool.
Mühlemann also had to ensure the surfaces of the bonded insert-molded metal parts would stay clear of the plastic and remain perfectly flat. It achieved this by filling the cavity as rapidly as possible and making the holding pressure short, reducing cooling time to about 15 sec. The entire molding cycle takes less than 30 sec.
PEEK produces high-purity, sterile valves
| High-purity valves for the semiconductor industry result from the use of PEEK for key components.
Baden-Wuerttemburg, Germany--Product purity has become a passion in the semiconductor industry. As a result, Gemü turned to a polyetheretherketone (PEEK) to make valve components for its measuring and control systems used mainly in the semiconductor industry.
To ensure absolute purity (no release of metal ions or particles), the all-metal-free Clean valves are molded, cleaned, assembled, tested, and packaged under cleanroom conditions. "PEEK has inherent biological purity and heat resistance characteristics up to 302F (150C)," says Ralph Kroupa, Gemü's corporate training manager. He adds that although his company also employs PSA, PBS, and PTFE resins in some of its valves, the glass-fiber-reinforced PEEK performs best "when we require high-purity and high-temperature properties, particularly for valve actuators that must survive sterilization."
"Gemü employs the polymer for a variety of components in its high-purity valves, including threaded unions, piston bushings, bearing disks, and piston bushing adapters," notes Kevin Jennings, marketing manager at Victrex USA Inc. (West Chester, PA), the company that supplies the PEEK polymer. In addition to semiconductor operations, the valves see service in pharmaceutical, biological, and food engineering environments.
Toyota's TOGO speeds time to market
By Adele Hars, Contributing Editor
Tokyo, Japan--TOGO is a Japanese word meaning "integrated." That is precisely the function of Toyota's TOGO CAD/CAM system. Integration of the carmaker's various design and manufacturing sectors through implementation of the new software system has cut an already impressive time to market even further.
Previously, in-house systems for styling, structural design, and press die production helped Toyota reduce the number of hours it took for the production of drawings and machining. Much of the savings, however, was eaten up by the time it took to convert the data files from one system to the next.
Under the aegis of the new TOGO CAD/CAM system, designers are electronically integrated in the design-to-manufacturing pipeline. The system was developed using technology from Nihon Unisys for 3D and Matra Datavision for design styling. Toyota says developing TOGO was the only way it found to cover the entire development process of new models, through the designing practice to the production preparations.
Currently, TOGO CAD covers three major areas: styling/design, body engineering, and power train production preparation.
Self-contained propeller power for de-icing
By Norman Bartlett, Contributing Editor
Greenford, UK--An entirely new approach to propeller de-icing has been developed by Ultra Electronics: generate the power needed from inside the propeller hub rather than draw it from the aircraft's main power supply.
Designated HIPSS (Hub Integrated Power and Switching System), the system incorporates three units. The control unit mounts on the airframe. It interfaces with the flight deck controls and display hardware. When started by the pilot, the control unit implements the certified de-ice timing cycles appropriate to the propeller.
The generator unit comprises a static permanent-magnet assembly mounted on the gearbox, and a wound rotor fixed to the propeller hub. An electronic unit, mounted in the hub, incorporates the wound sector of the generator as a single rotating assembly. During operation, the electronic unit switches power from the generator, monitors the condition of the power supply to each blade, detects open- or short-circuit heater leads, and isolates individual heater boots if necessary.
There are no slip rings between the static and rotating assemblies. Instead, modulating the generator's magnetic field achieves bi-directional communication. This link is used to transmit commands from the control unit to the electronics, and propeller status information in the opposite direction. Data can be passed at 1,200 bits/sec.
HIPSS is suitable for most turboprop aircraft. It has been flown on a Beech 1900D trial aircraft with Pratt & Whitney engine and Hartzell propeller. The flight program successfully demonstrated the contactless communication, power generation, and built-in test capability of the system.
Ultra is aiming for FAA Supplementary Type Certification (STC) by November 1999. Another version of HIPSS is being developed for the Swiss-built Pilatus PC7 aircraft.
Micro camera system inspects tiny pipes
Montpellier, France--How do you inspect pipes with an interior diameter as small as 3.2 inch (80 mm)? It's as easy as using a new remote-controlled inspection system introduced by HYTEC SA.
Unlike traditional systems that employ motorized wheels or skids to drive a camera through a pipe, HYTEC's TVPM system features a camera mounted on a semi-rigid, motorized cable using a double-sheave assembly. The system has a range of 462 ft (150m), and can be pushed or pulled though a pipe.
The camera reportedly can move inside a pipe at twice the rate of other remote-controlled inspection units. This, says the manufacturer, enables it to avoid propulsion problems sometimes encountered due to obstructions or loss of grip caused by dirty or greasy pipe walls. And, with the drive motor and take-up reel working outside the pipe, the system remains free from chemical or mechanical damage from the pipe's interior environment. It also allows the camera unit to be much smaller.
The system comes with either a black-and-white or color TV camera, the former measuring one inch (25 mm) and the latter 1.6 inch (40 mm) in diameter. Both cameras have swiveling heads for close-up examination of the pipe's interior walls. The system also supports Type 1 and Type 2 explosion-proof cameras for inspecting natural gas supply pipes or ducts used in the petrochemical or mining industries.
NT workstations top Unix in '98
Framingham, MA--Last year marked the first year that Windows NT workstations outsold Unix workstations, according to The Workstation Market, 1998: The Year in Review, a new report from International Data Corp. (IDC).
"NT is driving the growth in the workstation market," says Tom Copeland, director for IDC's workstation research group. "NT workstations have surpassed the start-up phase and have become mainstream in the workstation market." A recent Design News Market Beat Survey also shows the growing popularity of NT workstations for design engineers. According to the survey, 80% of Design News readers use NT workstations; 20% use Unix boxes.
The report estimates total 1998 workstation shipments grew 22% over 1997, reaching 2.3 million; however, market revenues declined by 3% over last year, leveling off at $14.7 billion. "The lower cost of high-performance Intel-based NT systems brought workstation capabilities to a much broader set of users than has historically been the case with Unix workstations," says Copeland. "The result has been a significant increase in units shipped, but a modest decline in overall workstation revenue."
For the second year in a row, reports IDC, the Unix workstation market segment declined in both shipments and revenue, by 6% and 16%, respectively, over 1997. In contrast, Windows NT-based workstation shipments grew by 36% over last year, and revenues increased 36% to $6.8 billion.
Sun led the Unix market segment in both shipments (52%) and revenue (43%), according to the report. In the NT space, Hewlett-Packard and Dell were in a virtual tie for first place in both units (22.8% and 22.3%, respectively) and revenue (21.5% and 21.0%). Hewlett-Packard was the overall workstation market leader in unit shipments (21%), again followed closely by Dell (16%). Sun was the overall leader in revenue (23%), followed closely by Hewlett-Packard (22%).
Looking ahead, IDC expects big companies with large installed bases of Unix workstations to begin moving NT systems into their core application areas in 1999 and 2000, and notes that the transfer will take several years to complete.
Smooth spraying with FEA
Brockville, Ontario--Most homeowners have struggled with manual sprayers to dispense liquids. Whether insecticide, deck sealant, paint, or cleaner, these liquids are viscous and difficult to pump. Often the nozzles clog, and the canisters don't keep consistent pressure. In an effort to make spraying less of a hassle, Black & Decker Canada designed a cordless, rechargeable power sprayer.
During the design process, engineers kept two considerations in mind: high stress concentrations could cause the tank to rupture; and deflection over 0.25 inch would be aesthetically unacceptable to a consumer. To design a slender, ridged tank that would withstand expansion during pressurization, the company used Pro/ENGINEER software from Parametric Technology Corp. (Waltham, MA) and Algor's linear stress analysis software.
MASS, a consulting firm in Toronto, Canada, helped design the tank. MASS created a selection of 3D polyethylene tank models in Pro/ENGINEER. Black & Decker Canada Design Engineer Michael Milligan converted MASS models to 3D shell finite element models in Algor. He used Algor's Merlin Meshing Technology to refine the surface mesh created in Pro/ENGINEER in areas where he anticipated high stress and deflection and Algor's Houdini tool to create a solid FEA mesh.
To save time, Milligan analyzed one-half of the symmetric tank models under pressure. Black & Decker chose the most attractive tank model with the least amount of stress and deflection. Milligan further reduced stress and deflection in the chosen model's midsection by rounding the tank's corners. He decreased the tank wall's material thickness to reduce manufacturing costs.
Black & Decker Canada manufactured a prototype tank-molding tool and 20 tank prototypes.
During the physical prototype testing, laboratory technicians found that the neck of the power sprayer, a narrow section connecting the tank and the air pump, deformed in warm temperatures. This caused air to leak where the neck attaches to the air pump. Milligan turned to Algor linear stress analysis software to uncover the cause.
Milligan applied forces in several directions until the Algor software analysis results were similar to those in the physical test. He determined that the threads in the sprayer's neck, which are intended to secure the air pump when it is screwed into place, were incorrectly angled, causing uneven pressure on the neck and forcing it to deform. He modified the angle of the threads in the Algor model, eliminating the deformation. Laboratory test results of 20 new sprayer neck prototypes correlated closely with Algor software results.
"Some expensive design changes were suggested when the air leak was discovered, such as adding a plastic or metal part to strengthen the neck, but these were avoided because we used Algor software to uncover the root of the problem," says Jake Prosper, Black & Decker Canada's project leader.
Government sticks tariff to traffic
By David J. Bak, International Editor
| Singapore’s Land Transport Authority specifies Scotch VHB Tapes for its Electronic Road Pricing System.
Singapore--To keep this tiny country from developing the traffic jams and smog of other Asian cities, most of the island's 680,000 cars carry an electronic device that accepts a stored-value CashCard. Part of Singapore's new Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, the in-vehicle unit (IU) deducts the appropriate ERP charges from the CashCard each time the vehicle passes through an ERP gantry installed on certain highly traveled roads.
Registration plates of vehicles making illegal entries, such as those without an IU, without a CashCard, or with an insufficient balance on the CashCard, are photographed by the gantry cameras for subsequent enforcement action.
"The system is able to differentiate between a violation and a technical fault," says Singapore's Land Transport Authority Spokesperson Zainul Abidin Ibrahim. "Whether the CashCard was placed incorrectly, or a fuse is blown in the dashboard device, the transport authorities will know."
For securing the IUs to vehicle windscreens, the Land Transport Authority specifies 3M™ Scotch™ VHB™ (Very High Bond) tape. Under dynamic loading conditions, the viscoelastic VHB tapes provide a continuous resilient joint between mated surfaces and prevent stress concentration at specific points, thereby increasing the fatigue life of the tape-bonded assembly.
Compared with traditional mechanical fasteners, moreover, Scotch VHB tapes help prevent galvanic corrosion, compensate for thermal expansion between bonded parts, and dramatically reduce noise. They also resist moisture, solvents, and UV light.
With ERP, notes Ibrahim, commuters are encouraged to choose whether to drive, when to drive, and where to drive. Deducted price depends on time of day, unlike simpler systems based on prepurchased data cards or chips. Violators, however, should beware: System rules adhere as tightly as the VHB tape. There is no grace period.
MSC, Knowledge Revolution now one
Los Angeles--As in the automotive, banking, and telecommunications industries, mergers abound in the CAD/ CAM/CAE software markets. The most recent transaction is The MacNeal-Schwendler Corp.'s (MSC) acquisition of Knowledge Revolution, a 2D and 3D motion simulation software company for design engineers and analysts.
"For us, this means growth," says Jim Archer, senior vice president of worldwide development for MSC. "We are focused on bringing technology to a broader range of engineers and others throughout manufacturing who need engineering information."
The company hopes to continue to build on what it started with MSC/InCheck, a structural analysis capability embedded in mid-range solid modelers, as well as to expand on what Knowledge Revolution started with its software, Working Model--getting more engineering information to people earlier.
"This takes MSC into a high growth segment--value priced, easy-to-use optimization software targeted at the design engineer," says Bruce Jenkins, vice president of Daratech (Cambridge, MA), a market research and technology assessment firm specializing in CAD/CAM/CAE. "MSC is a pioneer and standard in the analysis industry. Now the company can make its high-end technology available to non-specialists."
For Knowledge Revolution customers, says Jenkins, they have the security of knowing their software has the backing of a large corporation.
According to MSC, there are three major engineering communities: analysts, design engineers, and mechanical engineers. By integrating MSC's high-end analysis products with Knowledge Revolution's middle-ground engineering solutions, MSC has a technology base that applies throughout all three communities.
Engineers require a high-feedback interface early in the design process. Archer says, "That is what I saw in Working Model--a high-feedback, high-animation, completely interactive type of solution, but with an opportunity to expand its problem-solving capability by inserting other technology."
Users can expect new products throughout the year as the two companies combine their technologies. First up is the recently announced software package merging MSC/InCheck with Working Model. "A user will be able to open all types of geometric files and simulate animation, moving models, and loads; taking the design directly to the questions 'Will it work?' and 'Will it break?'" says Archer.
He also sees MSC applying the technology as a viewer, though not just for the engineer. This will be for the engineering manager, the sales group, and accounting, he says. People need to know what the product is and how it works. "Not all of these people are engineers, but all understand the moving model."
Design engineers to analysts will be able to link a common family of products built on the same core technologies. This eliminates the need for rebuilding models, Archer continues, or rationalizing why you got slightly different results than expected because you used an assortment of different products. The company will also add web capabilities.
"MSC solutions promise less rework, a faster cycle time, and a quicker time to market," says Archer.
Look for new software products from MSC throughout 1999.
FEA steers reactor safety program
By David J. Bak, International Editor
Ignalina, Lithuania--When Lithuania won independence from Russia in 1991, it became the sole operator of the world's two largest Chernobyl-style power reactors, prompting numerous internationally funded safety programs. One effort, involving finite element analysis (FEA) software donated by Pittsburgh-based Algor Inc., focuses on the reactor accident containment system (ACS). Conducted by the international community and the Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI), this program looks at the behavior of 3D ACS structures using tools not available to the original designers.
While the LEI researchers originally planned to use a CAD system to model the ACS, they decided instead to use the modeling capabilities of Superdraw III, Algor's precision finite element model-building tool. They used Algor's 3D thick-plate "sandwich" composite elements to represent the reinforced concrete walls by specifying smeared uniaxial layers of steel and adjacent layers of concrete. The researchers disregarded the tensile strength of concrete by estimating a neutral surface.
Next, the analysts applied translational boundary conditions to all external nodes that in actuality are connected to adjacent structures. Material properties for steel and concrete were adjusted for a temperature of 143C to account for the steam that would be released during an accident. They also applied static internal design pressure loading to the reinforced containment structures that house the circulation pumps and high-pressure piping, the steam-receiving channel, the connecting channel of the ACS, and the steam reception chamber. Furthermore, the analysts applied loading to the leaktight compartments to simulate the total weight of four circulation pumps.
LEI engineers analyzed the model using Algor's linear static stress processor to determine the maximum stresses and deflections that result when pressurized compartment walls expand outward. The initial results indicated a concentration of high stress in the reinforced leaktight compartments bordering the location of the circulation pumps. The researchers modified the composition of the reinforcement structures and processed the model again. The maximum stresses dissipated and appeared instead on the opposite wall of the leaktight compartments. Maximum deflections corresponded to the largest unsupported wall area of the ACS.
Overall, the modified design exhibited a rather uniform stress distribution. However, when the design pressure was used, the stress of the reinforcement at certain locations of the ACS in the Algor model was excessive. Further analysis is underway to determine whether stresses can be reduced if a gradual pressure history, simulating an accident event, is used instead of a constant pressure.
Aerogel catches stardust
By Roy O'Connor, Contributing Editor
Denver, CO--Space scientists have long yearned to get their hands on bits of a comet. These "dirty snowballs" of dust and ice, they believe, hold vital clues to the formation of the solar system and its planets.
If all goes according to plan, these dreams should come true when the Stardust spacecraft--scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral this month--swings by Earth in January 2006. The seven-year mission: gather interstellar dust and comet particles and return them to Earth.
The task is easier said than done, with particle sizes less than a grain of sand, and relative velocities up to nine times the speed of a rifle bullet. Catching comet dust at such speeds could alter particle shape and chemical composition--and might even vaporize comet crumbs entirely.
To overcome these problems, the Stardust builders, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, is including a special collector on the spacecraft. The two-sided, grid-shaped array contains a new material called aerogel, developed at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Although tested on the Space Shuttle and MIR, this is the first time the material will be used for particle collection of this nature.
Each side of the grid array presents a useful collecting area of 1,000 sq cm. One side will capture interstellar dust, and the other will collect particles from the coma, or head, of comet Wild-2, a rendezvous to take place 400 million km from Earth.
Like glass, aerogel is silica based, but unlike glass, it consists of 99.8% air and is in fact in the lightest known solid. It is therefore an ideal cushion for decelerating small particles traveling at hypervelocities. A particle enters the aerogel, gouges out a cone-shaped hole as it decelerates, and comes to rest at the cone's tip. During later analysis, this makes the particle easy to find in the almost transparent, blue smoky aerogel.
When the Stardust spacecraft swings by Earth in the new millennium, it will release a Sample Return Capsule containing the collected material to a pre-selected site in the Utah desert. A new carbon-based shield developed at the NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, CA) will protect the capsule from the fierce heat of re-entry.
Aerogel's thermal insulation is 39 times better than the best fiberglass insulation. The material is 1,000 times less dense than glass, and almost transparent. Employed on the Mars Pathfinder Mission, aerogels helped insulate the remotely controlled Sojourner vehicle from the biting-cold Martian night.
Space-manufactured aerogel could make a better insulating substitute for window glass. While aerogels produced on the ground exhibit a faint blue haze--due to tiny, irregular pores that permeate the aerogel--tests in the microgravity conditions of space may lead to an improvement in aerogel's transparency. Some of these tests were included in John Glenn's program during his second trip in space.
France drives toward 100% recyclable auto
Paris--Throughout the European Union (EU), from 8 to 9 million vehicles are discarded annually. And these figures are expected to increase as more new vehicles enter the market each year. Moreover, some 25% of each discarded vehicle's weight is considered hazardous, often contaminating landfill soil and groundwater. Such waste represents about 10% of all hazardous material generated yearly in the EU.
To overcome this problem, the European Council asked the European Commission to establish programs designed to eliminate all types of waste materials. Such a proposal is now before members of the EU for action. It calls for 85% re-use and recovery of scrap vehicles by weight by January 2005 and 95% by January 2015.
France hopes to get a head start on its commitment to this proposal, especially in the area of recycling plastics from the country's scrap vehicles. Already, several French automakers, their suppliers, and recycling specialists within the country have reached an agreement that will incorporate such recycling efforts at the vehicle design stage. The agreement also calls for modernizing the waste-collection process and developing economical solutions for material recycling and energy recovery.
Similar to the EU proposal, the agreement sets a target date of 2002 for recycling 85% by weight of all scrap vehicles. New models will have to be 90% recyclable. By 2015, total waste will be limited to the 5% EU proposal figure.
Renault and Peugeot-Citroën have become European pacesetters in this endeavor. "We intend to be the European leader in vehicle recycling by 2002," reports Jean-Paul Vallat, recycling project manager at Renault.
At the design stage, automakers have freedom of choice when it comes to what plastics they use. At present, no material appears to stand out above the rest in recycling terms.
The two French auto groups, Renault and Peugeot-Citroën, alongside their European counterparts (Fiat, BMW, Volvo, etc.), have adopted the ISO 11669 standard for marking plastic parts weighing more than 3.5 ounces (100 grams). This provides a simple code for identifying the different types of materials used and sorted for recycling.
In addition, new cars are being designed for easy dismantling using standard tools or very simple equipment. Many auto trim parts, such as side moldings, are now clipped on rather than glued to simplify their removal. Citroën's Saxo provides an example.
A site set up by Renault and its partner, la Compagnie Française des Ferrailles, south of Paris develops and tests new-car dismantling techniques. Peugeot SA, for its part, has opened a pilot site near Lyons with la Compagnie Française and cement maker Vicat that can recycle 95% of a vehicle by weight.
In France, the main commercial outlet for recycled plastics is the auto industry. Automakers and equipment suppliers now use the recycled materials to produce new vehicle parts. The Renault Mégane includes 16 approved parts made of recycled materials, while Citroën uses recycled ABS on the air ducts of the Xantia and Saxo, and recycled polypropylene on the mud flaps of these same models.
Still, a long-held belief exists that recycled plastic only can be used for parts with less demanding specifications than the original. To refute this, Renault and its partners, Atochem, C2P, Appryl, and Plastic Omnium, recently demonstrated that polypropylene from old bumpers can be recycled to produce new bumpers--without affecting their performance.
Several other EU research programs examine ways to reduce the price difference between new and recycled plastics by industrializing the recovery and recycling processes. Peugeot SA, alongside Fiat, the equipment supplier Reydel, and chemical companies DSM and Enichem, participate in the Eureka Recap (Recycling of Automobile Plastic) program to develop ways to recycle plastic auto parts, including bumpers, tanks, dashboards, and foam seat padding. As part of this program, a new, easily recycled material called Stapron has resulted. Peugeot plans to produce a dashboard made exclusively from the polyolefin on a model due out this year.
Micronization and physical-chemical treatment techniques also have been developed to recycle polyurethane seat padding. In recognition of its work on such a project, the Eureka Recap program received the Lillehammer 98 environment prize.
Cost remains a barrier to many of these recycling efforts. In the Renault and partners project, the cost of the recycled materials remains slightly higher than that of virgin materials. Project members pick up the added cost. However, the participants feel these costs will drop as the recycling technologies are refined.
| Peugeot 486 incorporates many of the latest innovations derived from the European recycling research programs.
High-flying UAV offers low-cost reconnaissance
By Norman Bartlett, Contributing Editor
Farnborough, UK--Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) that give military commanders a bird's eye view of their surroundings are not new. Their use, however, has been limited because of their size and command links.
The CA3 Observer UAV, developed by DERA, a British Ministry of Defense agency, delivers tactical information to frontline commanders almost instantly. A tailless pusher, the CA3 is the size of a large model aircraft with a delta planform and span of 2.4m. Three cameras--vertical, 30 degrees, and 60 degrees --provide fields of view which are electronically merged to give a broader field-of-view (FOV) than previously possible with an aircraft of this size. A fourth vertical camera with smaller FOV provides a high-resolution "Fovial Patch" within the main display.
The UAV launches from a 6m rail with four standard rubber bungees. It is recovered by a combination parachute and landing bag.
The flight plan is pre-loaded by radio link using standard command-link data protocols. Downlink traffic comprises the video signal and aircraft performance parameters. Uplink is geographical coordinate information generated from the map or video displays. GPS navigation helps the UAV modify its flying attitude to adapt for variable wind speeds in locating its target.
A touch-sensitive map or image display permits control. Touch a feature--bridge, crossroads, river--and the UAV automatically heads towards it. Display a map, and the UAV track is seen together with its projected path. Point to a new location and the CA3 automatically adjusts course.
Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. built and tested the UAV. Airframe manufacture, subcontracted to Tasuma UK, involves a carbon/Kevlar™/glass composite with honeycomb/Rohacell cores. The BH88 4.6-kW power plant is supplied by Bernard Hooper Engineering.
As it is so small, the CA3 is difficult to see from the ground. Sound of the tiny two-stroke engine carries only a short distance, so noise is unlikely to give away its position. Finally, radio links are line-of-sight and encrypted so enemy electronic warfare opportunities are limited.