Happy New Year!
Now, get set to:
Build with more performance-per-unit-cost materials
These are among the trends engineers will see in 1999, according to
interviews by Design News editors with manufacturers, users, and industry
analysts across the country. Here's a glimpse of some of what you'll be doing
this year and what tools and technology you'll be using.
Materials march onward
Gary Chamberlain, Senior Editor, Materials
Here's a brief look at what should transpire this year in the world of
materials to help make the design engineer's job an easier task, starting with
A new technology could challenge one of the fastest growing segments of the
market--metallocenes. Nova Chemicals (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) claims a new
breed of single-site catalysts unveiled late last year offer many of the same
traits as metallocenes, but can be used as a drop-in technology in the company's
Sclairtech PE production process--with minimal capital costs.
In the field of plastic additives, new light stabilizer and antioxidant
systems are being developed for improved short- and long-term performance of
polyolefins. The development of reduced metal and metal-free heat stabilizers
for PVC resin and the positioning of vitamin E in the antioxidant market will
address environmental issues.
On the conductive polymers front, ABS and PVC will remain the dominant resins
due to their performance, cost, and processing advantages over other resins and
materials. Contributory growth factors include the increased sensitivity and
power of electronic devices, more stringent regulation of electronic noise,
rising raw material costs, and continued electronics product diffusion,
especially in higher-end products.
In the polyol arena, Bayer Corp. (Pittsburgh) found a way to make solid
polyurethane elastomers impervious to wet or humid environments for such
applications as electrical encapsulants, cable splicing, and swimming pool
Patented Graphite FibnlTM nano-fibers announced by Hyperion
Catalysis Int'l. (Cambridge, MA) are said to be free of ESD hotspots, due to the
material's uniform dispersion.
Perhaps Mike Brown, general manager, marketing, GE Plastics, best sums up the
plastics scene: "Product manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce weight,
increase durability, improve appearance, and lower costs," he states. "New
engineering thermoplastic technologies offer design engineers the means to
differentiate their products via design aesthetics and cost savings that appeal
Now for a glimpse at the 1999 metals menagerie:
Steel is battling plastics with a range of design concepts for automotive
doors, hoods, decklids, and hatchbacks that could shave more than 50 lb off the
weight of an automobile. They are the product of the UltraLight Steel Auto
Closures study, a companion to the comprehensive study of auto bodies released
last March (DN, 10/5/98, p. 42).
Currently under investigation by the Center for Powder Metallurgy Technology:
developing missing data required by gear designers trying to specify
high-performance P/M materials; computer modeling of the sintering process; a
lubrication study; and single-tooth fatigue testing of P/M gear products.
GM will use aluminum for the cam covers, oil pans, and bed plates for the
domestic version of its new L-850 engines. Ford will replace magnesium with less
expensive aluminum for its four-wheel-drive transfer cases.
Thixomolding®, a new technology for the high-speed injection molding of
net-shape metal parts, particularly magnesium, achieves a laminar flow of the
material inside the mold, reducing or eliminating machining to obtain a wide
range of wall thicknesses, while minimizing porosity.
Composites are no castoffs in the coming year. Consider: At last year's SAMPE
show, Zsolt Rumy, CEO of the Zoltek Companies, predicted the cost of carbon
fiber will plunge from $6.50 per lb today to $5 at the turn of the century.
As for new composites:
A 350F-curing prepreg from 3M's Adhesive Div. enhances resin transfer
We also contacted a few of our readers to scope out what products or
technologies they foresee making an impact in 1999. Here are some of the
"We are working on a new proprietary process that's a little different from a
materials perspective," says Gary Nearpass, project engineer at Parker Hannifin
Corp. (Lyons, NY). We are always on the lookout for new materials, particularly
plastics, to replace metals. And, since we are in the appliance market, we must
continue to find better ways to maintain leak rates (Freon). Our biggest
pressures today involve the very competitive global purchasing scene."
"We work with the more exotic metals (stainless steel, aluminum, titanium),
and have for years, so it's hard for us to be surprised by any new
announcements," says Michael Ross, engineering manager, Acro Tool & Die Co.
(Akron, OH), a producer of tread-design tire molds. "We are looking to employ
laser equipment for production purposes. We think this will enable us to turn
out components quicker when it comes to 250 to 300 parts. The biggest pressure
we have today is that everyone wants everything now. If we are lucky, a tire
design lasts about one year."
In materials, competition is resulting in new, advanced materials and
processes that can only make the design engineer's job easier.
Fasteners expand materials choices
by Christine M. Ferrara, New Products Editor
Post-holiday dieters and product designers both have the same goal: to reduce
in size and lose weight. The dieters do it by throwing away all the leftovers.
Designers do it by reducing product size and using alternate, lightweight
materials, which require different fasteners.
The trend toward weight reduction, coupled with the smaller sizes of
products, means that plastics come into play in increasing numbers, particularly
in the automotive industry, fastening manufacturers say.
Smaller fasteners are the rule in electronics applications, where board real
estate sometimes seems to be shrinking by the day. "It seems like every year,
engineers want smaller and smaller fasteners than the year before," says Leon
Attarian, manager of marketing and communications for Penn Engineering and Mfg.
Corp. (Danboro, PA). Penn's product for right-angle attachments is the PEM®
Fastening companies say they are unveiling more products for joining
non-standard materials. One alternative material, magnesium, is very brittle and
often damages fastener threads. Mag-Form® fasteners from Camcar Textron
(Rockford, IL) feature a thread that forms strong threads through a compressive
action. This allows minimal debris generation. "The Mag-Form fasteners were only
used by automotive companies, but more and more non-automotive companies are
using magnesium in their designs," says the company's Dean Lamb.
"The automotive industry is the trend leader in the use of new materials.
They are productivity-oriented, and they are changing designs constantly," Lamb
Another pressure engineers are facing is holding one type of material to
another type. "If you don't match the differences in the thermal expansion
coefficient," says George Gates, design engineer for Rotometrics (Eureka, MO),
"you may have a machine sit somewhere for six months in cold weather. One
material contracts faster than the other, and if it heats up, expands faster."
A trend Gates sees is analyzing the stress on fasteners. "We tend to measure
the stress on the screws, on the threads, on the fasteners themselves," he says.
Fastener companies say ease of use, time and cost reduction, and the move to
automation are major trends in the industry. All this means that fastener
companies need to provide a total assembly solution.
Suppliers seek to simplify the assembly process through reengineering of
existing products for specific applications and looking at the process as a
whole. "Rather than just supplying the fasteners, we are taking it soup to nuts,
looking at how things are assembled on the factory floor," says Darren Byrne,
electronics specialist from Emhart Fastening Technologies (Shelton, CT).
And fasteners are coming out of hiding, too. Fastening manufacturers say
engineers are increasingly specifying aesthetically pleasing fasteners, or so
called beauty bolts. "People want fasteners that do more than one thing," says
Penn's Attarian. "It's cosmetic versus functional."
CAN buses move mobile market
Charles J. Murray, Senior Technical Editor, Fluid Power
For more than a decade, the industrial automation community has predicted the
rise of databuses and databus-compatible components.
As the new millennium approaches, however, manufacturers of hydraulic
products have noticed a curious phenomenon: The fastest-growing area of demand
for databus-compatible components is not in industrial automation, but rather,
in mobile markets. For a variety of reasons, agriculture, construction,
forestry, and mining equipment have stepped up use of databuses. That means that
steering, brakes, transmissions, and other hydraulic components on those systems
are now controlled by bus networks. To address that need, most fluid power
component manufacturers are designing valves, pumps, and controllers to put on
The big reason for the newfound popularity of databuses in mobile markets is
control. "It allows us to do things--such as diagnostics--that we could never do
before," notes Kevin Klein, research and development manager for Gomaco Corp.,
Ida Grove, IA. Gomaco was one of the first firms in the construction industry to
use CAN (Controller Area Network) buses on its equipment when it added a network
controller to a paver in 1993 (DN 11/21/94). The system enabled Gomaco's
customers to quickly diagnose field problems that would otherwise cost them
thousands of dollars in downtime. "We've been very successful with it," Klein
says. "Today, we use it on virtually every machine we ship."
In the near future, mobile machine control is likely to stretch diagnostic
capabilities even farther. Increasingly, builders of agricultural equipment are
implementing automated systems that tie in with data from Global Positioning
System (GPS) satellites. Ultimately, such systems may one day be operatorless.
As a result, they will need databuses to enable various hydraulic valves and
actuators around the machines to "talk" to one another.
An automated fertilizing unit, for example, will use the databus to combine
GPS, position, and steering system data, so it "knows" when and where to turn.
It will also determine how much fertilizer to apply to prescribed areas, and
will quickly spot operational problems. "You don't want to drive over a field
and then find out that you didn't put any fertilizer down because a valve was
stuck," notes Fred Phillips, director of advanced engineering for Vickers. "The
databus enables you to spot those problems immediately."
Similarly, manufacturers of mining equipment have also begun to build
"tele-remote control" systems. Such units will eliminate the need for miners in
dangerous situations. Databuses would form the backbone of those systems.
Experts say that such successes would not have been possible were it not for
the mobile market's convergence on a single bus standard. Unlike the industrial
market, where there are now more than 30 different standards, mobile has settled
on CAN-based buses. "In a practical sense, no manufacturer can support 30
different bus standards," Phillips says. "But because the mobile side has
settled on a single standard, it's easier for us to support."
Design engineers now have the tools available to them to begin such designs,
Phillips says. Most major hydraulics manufacturers--including Vickers, Parker
Hannifin, Danfoss, Bosch Automation Technology, Sauer-Sunstrand, and
others--make bus-addressable valves. Some, including Parker Hannifin, offer
entire mobile field-bus systems.
In the long run, some experts believe that mobile bus systems could
ultimately help OEMs reduce the cost of their products. "Studies have shown that
as much as 40% of the cost of most mobile vehicles is related to safety and
comfort of the operator," says David Miller, marketing manager of mobile markets
for Vickers. "If you take the operator off the machine, you eliminate all that
IT invades motion control
by John Lewis, Northeast Technical Editor, Motion Control
Open architecture predominates and interface standards proliferate in motion
control in 1999. According to George Gulalo, president of market-analysis firm
Motion Tech Trends (Inglewood, CA), economic driving factors include inventory
reduction, shorter development time, greater flexibility, continuous process
improvements, and lower costs of ownership. And more engineers look toward
emerging PC software, and networking technologies to meet the demands of mass
customization and agile-manufacturing systems.
PC-based open-control software (OCS) garners interest from industrial
automation users and suppliers as Windows NT becomes the de facto standard
platform. To better reflect the broad application of PC-based control, Dedham,
MA-based Automation Research Corp.(ARC) has expanded coverage to include NT and
CE-based processes, CNC, and general motion control in its latest PC-control
report. The entire OCS market is now at another threshold, as Windows CE shows
promise to unify embedded control applications on the platform already being
used in both control and information products--Windows NT.
Since they share a common Win3.2 API, NT and CE can unify and link a broader
spectrum of applications. Industrial application of CE and NT follows
Microsoft's positioning of its Windows operating systems as a scalable continuum
of information products that integrate easily through standard software
technology. Among other vendors using CE, Control Technology is putting it in
its web-enabled controller.
The prospect of Ethernet-based networks invading the field level further
illustrates the influx of commercial information technology into automation
applications. Extending beyond its traditional availability in large PLCs used
to communicate to higher levels in the plant hierarchy, Ethernet at the control
level is now available on small PLCs. Smaller suppliers such as Grayhill, Opto
22, and PLC Direct were the first to offer Ethernet-based remote I/O, but now
even established players like Schneider Automation are targeting this segment
with their Momentum I/O line.
Engineers also use Ethernet with ac, variable-speed drives because at the
field-network level, Ethernet is a low-cost, convenient, and fast means of
connecting remote I/O to PLCs and data-acquisition systems. Primary advantages
of Ethernet include its low cost and high speed, but its widespread familiarity
is also driving Ethernet in plant automation. Adoption of Internet technology
throughout the enterprise pushes acceptance of Ethernet at all levels. Internet
technologies such as TCP/IP are commonly implemented over Ethernet, which makes
it easier for device and other manufacturers to incorporate web-server
technology into network-connected devices.
Of primary importance is the fact that Ethernet could well serve to be a
harmonizing force to reduce the number of available standards for field
networks. Recent availability of inexpensive Ethernet switches, originally
designed to partition corporate networks, deliver determinism (reliable delivery
of data) to Ethernet. At a cost of about $60 to $100 per switched port,
switching has become a viable and cost-effective method to achieve network
determinism. As this concept begins to catch on, the last major barrier to the
spread of Ethernet in industrial automation evaporates.
To this effect, the Fieldbus Foundation announced their H2 project to build a
version of Foundation Fieldbus based on a fast Ethernet (100Base-T) and TCP/IP
Internet protocols. Similar plans exist for ProfiBus, DeviceNet, and ControlNet.
Schneider Automation currently offers ModBus+ mapped to Ethernet. ARC forecasts
a general convergence of many devicebus and fieldbus protocols to Ethernet with
TCP/IP and the Internet suite of protocols as the underlying form.
CAD users migrate to 3D
by Laurie Ann Toupin, Associate Editor, CAD
These are the software trends engineers will see in 1999, according to
vendors and users:
Lower price and higher functionality
Fortunately for users, CAD is going the way of the computer--higher
functionality at lower prices. Today, one can buy a 333-Hz computer with 32
Mbytes of memory and a 4.3Gbytes hard drive for under $1,000. For CAD, one can
buy a 2D and 3D wireframe, surface, and solid modeler for under $6,000. And the
price is dropping. New price scales for 1999 illustrate the breaking up or
moduling of bundles so users can choose their weapon, rather than buying an
Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC, Waltham, MA) started the trend towards the
end of 1998 when they announced a repackaging of Pro/ENGINEER, offering Pro/E
Foundation for $5,995. Baystate Technologies will be following suit, offering
their CADKEY 2D/3D wireframe for $995 to supplement their core solids modeling
product, CADKEY 98. This lower pricing comes at a good time as the migration
from 2D to 3D continues. Success stories proving that 3D solid-modeling
technology offers decreased time-to-market and better product design are
filtering down to smaller companies that were in only 2D mode, says Robert Bean,
president and CEO of Baystate Technologies (Marlborough, MA).
So what can users expect to get for their money? For starters, ease of use,
says Dominic Gallello, vice president, Mechanical CAD group, of Autodesk (San
Rafael, CA). "CAD will continue to become significantly more intuitive, similar
to a child's game software. My son doesn't read directions or ask to go to a
training course. He just goes in and pokes around, learning as he is doing."
Users say they want a CAD system that they can use only one a day a month
without relearning it every time, continues Gallello. "Ease-of-use and learning
will dramatically change the usage patterns of 3D systems."
"Models will offer more than just geometry," says Baystate's Bean. They will
feature non-graphical data such as tolerances and product definition." Right
now, users must re-enter data such as tolerances before tooling or inspecting
parts. The next evolution in CAD will be from solid to product modeling where
the solid model will contain information needed for manufacturing, says Bean.
Applicon (Ann Arbor, MI) offers such features in its newest release, Bravo 8.0.
Robert Snyder, Solid Edge marketing manager from Unigraphics (Madison, AL),
sees the future of CAD as reducing the time it takes for the user to put data
into the manufacturing system is represented in the new STREAM technology
integrated into Solid Edge 6.0. "We look at the whole system," says Snyder,
"making it a better, more intrinsic process from design to production."
"We will see the end of the 'geometry wars,'" or feature-to-feature
comparison, says Gary Stoll of Visionary Design Systems Inc., makers of IronCAD
(Santa Clara, CA). "Component kernel technology, [such as ACIS from Spatial
Technology], is providing robust enough geometry capability so that companies
will not do an evaluation based on what kind of surface or fillet a system can
create. Finally, companies can evaluate based on the kind of productivity the
software brings to the product-development process."
Finite element analysis and mechanical dynamic simulation are becoming so
closely integrated with CAD that users often don't have to quit one program to
access another. A good example is COSMOS/Edge, a new product from Structural
Research Analysis Corp. (Santa Monica, CA) that runs either independently or
simultaneously with Solid Edge from Unigraphics, with drag-and-drop analysis.
Also, expect systems to move from geometry to design-centric. "Users are
frustrated that there is not an easy way to share design intent within the
engineering organization and through to the customer," says Autodesk's Gallello.
It is clear that there is a huge benefit to customers if they can easily share
their design process know-how.
In addition, vendors will continue to focus on interoperability between
systems as well as associativity among all CAD disciplines, whether entry-level,
mid-range, or high-end. Baystate Technologies, Solid Works, and Visionary Design
Systems Inc., for example, are promoting software that can read CAD data from
other vendors so engineers can work with the information as if it were a
"native" file in their own software.
However, interoperability remains a sticky issue. About 10 years ago, IGES
translated 90 to 95% of the information in a CAD file accurately, said Ken
Versprile of DH Brown at the DH Brown Managing Technology Conference last fall.
Today, the amount of information translated is much less due to all the
proprietary intelligence in CAD files. So although "smarter models" will be more
powerful, a problem still emerges when the data passes to another CAD system or
to a downstream CAM/CAE application.
As for the high-end CAD packages--well, they aren't just for modeling
anymore. Product-data management, enterprise-data management, and the "total
enterprise solution" will be common offerings.
Users perspective. That's how vendors see the market. What about users? As
both a user and a trainer of Pro/ENGINEER from PTC, William Paul from Raytheon
sees ease of use becoming synonymous with intuitive. "Ease of use will drive
future technology releases," says Paul. "CAD's functionality is exploding. But
it doesn't mean a thing if it takes an engineer months to get up to speed."
In addition, Paul expects the next competitive technology will be a CAD
system that aids in conceptual design. "Many of us still use nap-to-sketch--the
old sketch-on-a-napkin brainstorming." Companies need conceptual design
software, complete with a marking board that feeds right into the CAD system, he
Preston Hagman, owner of Express CAD Engineering, a product development
engineering firm, says CAD in the future will be one of many tools in the
virtual private network--the backbone for the virtual company. Hagman says that
companies building web-enabled Windows applications, such as SolidWorks, are
creating this foundation. The entire manufacturing process can be done via a
home PC and cyberspace. Engineering will become web centric, where designs will
be developed, reviewed, and approved electronically.
With CAD vendors on shortened productivity cycles, new releases will continue
to amaze and daze throughout the year.
NT takes off
Julie Anne Schofield, Senior Editor
The major computer trend this year will be the continued growth of the NT
workstation market, say many industry sources. The drivers behind this trend
Breadth of engineering NT applications
"Today there might still be some CAD designers for whom NT isn't good
enough," says Chandler Hall, executive director for product marketing at
Intergraph. "But in a year, NT will be more than good enough for a large group
of them. They'll get the performance they want coupled with the familiarity of
Elaine Mata, Compaq's director of marketing for the workstation division,
sees 1999 as a year in which multiple technologies will converge to give
Intel-based machines a significant performance boost.
"This increasing overall performance is not just within the processors
themselves," says Mata, "but also across other subsystems." She cites the
front-side bus increasing to 133 MHz, memory speed and bandwidth increasing with
RAMbus technology to 400 MHz (SDRAM runs at 100 MHz), and PCI slots moving from
32 bits and 33 MHz to 64 bits and 66 MHz. "There aren't many years when all
these technology boosts have come together at once," she notes.
At Silicon Graphics (SGI), the strategy is to bring a workstation
architecture to the PC. "Up until now, vendors have taken standard Intel chip
sets and added graphics boards to make a workstation out of what is
fundamentally a PC architecture," says Tom Furlong, SGI senior vice president
and general manager of the workstation division. He notes SGI will build a very
high-performance system architecture and run it with the Intel Pentium and Xeon
processors but design-in substantially higher bandwidth for doing 3D graphics
and handling large file sizes. SGI will custom design the motherboard chip set.
Other trends Furlong sees are dual- and even quad-microprocessor
configurations in NT workstations, and a move toward flat-panel displays for
engineers involved in highly visual, complex design. Of course, these engineers
may be using Unix instead of NT.
Unix holds on. Steve Clarke, IBM's manager of visual systems marketing for
RS/6000, agrees with analysts who say that the UNIX workstation market will be
flat to down 4%. However, UNIX won't be going away anytime soon. Companies
such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems continue leapfrogging over
each other announcing UNIX workstations with industry-leading performance.
The reason for all this competition: some engineering tasks need the power of
UNIX. Explains Clarke: "As models get larger and more data--such as FEA
results--are carried along with models, then UNIX has the advantage because of
its improved memory management, more advanced file management, and the power of
the machine to handle all this data."
UNIX workstation vendors will continue to play to their strengths this year
by concentrating on the high end with products powered by such 64-bit
microprocessors as IBM's Power3, Sun's UltraSPACR III, HP's PA-8500, and
Compaq's Alpha 21264. Intel isn't scheduled to have its 64-bit Merced processor
shipping until the second half of 1999.
Electronics designers pile it on
by Rick DeMeis, Associate Editor, Electronics
The need to pack more product into tighter packages is driving many
electronics designs today. Hand-held applications, as well as increased
performance in existing equipment envelopes, are taxing technology--from thermal
management and systems-on-a-chip to the switches and connectors that must tie
user device inputs to output results.
While shrinking hand-held devices are obvious, what is less apparent is the
related trend of industrial control cabinets packing in more functions, or the
related problem of smaller cabinets accommodating the same functions. Arnold
Offner, product manager at Phoenix Contact (Harrisburg, PA), adds that reducing
cabling and wiring time of control cabinet products is also driving
industrial-control cost cutting. "Look for control cabinets to be smaller,
assembled faster, and run more efficiently and intelligently," he says.
Other related developments to watch for:
Connector blocks with multiple rows for higher connector counts to
accommodate sensor functions on bus systems
Solid signals. Maintaining electronic signal integrity will grow in
importance, notes Jim Sykes, director of global technology for AMP (Harrisburg,
PA). The reason: compact devices operating at 1-GHz range speeds are just ripe
for cross-talk-type effects across connectors with high numbers of contacts in a
small volume. "The closer they become, the more potential for action as radar
and RF generators, producing cross talk, EMI, and interference with other
components," notes Sykes. He feels the trend is accelerating due to the
convergence of products with consumer-like functions, such as cell phones for
communication, being combined with PC functions. Sykes notes the PC is becoming
so prevalent that sales of the PCs are expected to exceed those of televisions
worldwide at the turn of the century.
Contact configurations and materials and insulator properties are vital to
keep performance up as device sizes go down, but with increased functionality.
On the horizon: getting rid of EMI via opto-electronics and fiberoptic
connections for even higher frequency devices. Sykes concludes, "We've yet to
know the limits of how much information people can handle. Just look at kids
playing electronic games! And even the latest 'fast' computer still makes us
wait because the processing time is too slow."
In test and measurement electronics, Keithley Instruments' (Cleveland, OH)
David Patricy, vice president and general manager of test and measurement, says,
based on the company's annual survey of customers' engineering needs, that
instrument and sensor performance are no longer the hot issues they were in
previous years. "Today engineers are struggling with budget cuts and controls,
along with staff cuts that put integration and set-up time at a premium.
Instrument companies must respond by making products simpler to use and easier
to configure." Good advice for any electonics designer to heed, whether economic
conditions are prosporous or lean.
Percentage of readers who work with various materials
Other metals 37%
When asked how many fasteners or access hardware items will need to be
ordered in the next 12 months to meet the production needs created by their
designs, readers polled said...
The most popular application area readers use fastening products or access
hardware for is machine tools, say 26% of readers polled.
Source: February 1998 Market Beat Survey, Fastening, Joining, and Assembly
75% of Design News readers surveyed who work in industrial control say that
industrial computers are a viable alternative to PLCs for machine control.
What is most important to you in deciding on CAD or FEA systems?
Ease of use 37%
In 1998, 38% of Design News readers responding said their switch and relay
budget was under $5,000, while 8% spent more than $100,000.