Engineering News 7935

DN Staff

March 6, 2000

30 Min Read
Engineering News

Work, play, and a Hummer

Detroit-This year's North American International Auto Show featured a mix of items for work and play that appeal to adults, kids, and the kids in adults.

For kids, the Chevrolet Venture minivan is equipped with a back-seat play center from Lego that has two trays for toys and writing.

For adults that might like a life-size Tonka truck to drive, AM General Corporation's 2000 Hummer features a 6.5L, V-8 turbo diesel engine with 195 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque.

For adults that need to pack more work into their daily commute, Ford's 24-7 concept wagon provides passengers access to e-mail, hand-free mobile telephone, real-time route assistance, and customized stock market tracking.

2000 with a Bullitt!

Los Angeles-Before there was a Dirty Harry, before The Streets of San Francisco TV series, detective Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen, in the 1968 namesake police thriller) worked the hills of the City by the Bay. Highlight of the picture was the seminal car chase featuring a '68 Mustang GT. Ford's latest concept car, the Bullitt Mustang GT, shown first at January's auto show (right), is designed with that film in mind. The modified 2000 Mustang features new front and rear fascia and lamps, hood, five-spoke 18-inch aluminum wheels, special gauges, and racing-type seats. The color-"pursuit" green of course!

Organic display has bright future

Rochester, NY-Organic electroluminescent (OEL) is a new display technology from Eastman Kodak (Rochester, NY) based on thin organic films as the light emitter. "OEL is fundamentally different from LCDs, which modulate light," says Dave Williams, a scientist and the general manager of the OEL project at Eastman Kodak. "With OEL, each pixel instead generates light." The new display also uses less power and weighs less than half of its LCD counterpart, which requires backlighting.

Unlike a discrete LED that has crystalline fabrication origins, film-based OEL is an area emitter as thin as a dime that is easily patterned using organic chemistry for producing flat-panel displays. The OEL is self-luminous, so it does not require a backlight.

An OEL display has thin layers of individual carbon-based elements that emit light when electric current is passed through them. A 2.5-inch (measured diagonally) OEL display has 190,000 pixels. Each element or pixel is independently turned on or off for creating multiple colors and fluid, smooth-edged images on the display.

The OEL display's viewing angle is 1608. "OEL is unlike other displays that fade out when the viewer moves from side to side. The display image remains bright and clear when viewed from the side," says Williams. The display is readable in bright sunlight and total darkness.

Motorola uses OEL technology on its new wireless Flip Phone(R), scheduled for introduction in the first half of this year. Additional applications include digital cameras, camcorders, pagers, watches, and automotive display clusters, according to Williams.

Mow-jo working

Port Washington, WI- Engineers at Simplicity Manufacturing, a maker of lawn and garden equipment, aren't ones to let the grass grow under their feet. The company recently introduced a new line of "center-discharge" lawn tractors, which posed at least one major engineering challenge.

Unlike the popular side-discharge style of tractor, which shoots the grass clippings out the side, a center-discharge unit directs them into a rear collection bin. The fact that the two blades in this design are larger and held together with a timing belt, so that the inertia of both is directly connected to the clutch, prevented engineers from meeting stop time requirements.

Designers increased the torque provided by the electromechanical clutch/ brake system from 2.2 to 6.6 ft-lb simply by changing the thickness of the leaf springs in the armature assembly. The mower now meets specs with sales growing like, well, weeds.

For more information, on the mechanical clutch/brake system, check out Ogura Industrial's website at

Making deals easily offers a one-stop Internet site for buying and selling in the built-to-order manufacturing market. Users trying to find the best price from the best supplier go online, enter a standard RFQ, then review the profiles of the registered suppliers. Next, just send out the RFQ to selected suppliers and wait for the best bids. The registered companies include firms across the spectrum of industrial manufacturers and range in size from $1 million to well over $100 billion. Users of the site source and sell built-to-order products ranging from fasteners to plastic molded parts. Registration is required but there are no subscription fees.

Hot spots in cyberspace

Making the mail
Design News now offers five specialized e-mail newsletters or E-Updates for CAD/CAM/CAE; Engineering Plastics; Fastening, Joining, and Assembly; Motion Control; and Power Transmission. Each newsletter features an original article from our editors, new products, website reviews, ask the expert advice, and links to the sites you really want to check out. To subscribe to any or all newsletters, go to and click on the e-mail newsletter button on the left.

Making a spec-tacle
Spec sheets and data are the biggest request of most design engineers. Fortunately, the Internet is perfect for downloading this type of information. One of the better places we've found is at Built by engineers, this site boasts 3.4 million spec sheets.

Under "spec search," users search by product name, company name, or search by product area:

  • Sensors and sensor switches

  • Instrumentation, controls, and lab & test equipment

  • Data acquisition & signal conditioning

  • Motion & controls

  • Mechanical & electrical components

  • Computer boards

  • Video/imaging

But the best part of the site is that users can fine-tune their search parametrically. For instance, under ac Motor Drives, you can fill in the blanks for motor control type, operational modes, motion control, drive type, user interface, drive/amplifier features, and environment. Then you get only the spec sheets that match your criteria. No searching through extraneous stuff you don't want or need.

You can download the spec sheet, e-mail suppliers, get phone numbers and websites, check online catalogs, or search for other products just from one supplier. The site also features an area with the latest new product releases from companies that haven't made it into the main database. Even better, check out their resource area for white papers, standards, CAD tutorials, guides, even jokes. One note, if you don't want cookies, you won't be able to use the site. After you find the desired spec sheets for the first time, the site asks for some basic information and sets a cookie.

Making things pure
Millipore has opened their e-commerce store at Now engineers can search an online catalog with more than 7,000 purification products, access pricing and availability of products, and order products online. The site also offers useful FAQ and application searchable databases.

Making noise
One of the greatest areas of the Internet that has yet to be tapped in the wonderful world of design engineering is that of audio webcasts. Now a general site, The World Webcast Network (www.worldweb introduces an automotive and transportation industry section. The "show" is designed and produced by automotive industry insiders and past programs can be downloaded. Topics have included a virtual walk around the new Mercury Sable with Eric Tech, one of the auto's engineers, a behind-the-scenes look at the 2000 Nissan X-Terra, design scoops on the new Saab 9-5 wagon, and even a discussion on the current state of airborne autos.

Making Du(Pont)
If you haven't hit the DuPont Engineering Polymer website lately, it's time to check it out again. Additional information has been added covering design and molding, including new datasheets which are downloadable in Adobe Acrobat. Users can also sign up for e-mails on specific topics, review a FAQ area or order a free CD-ROM that has the site's content for your review without having to log online.

CAD goes big-time in China

Beijing-In the not-so-distant past, CAD programs were used only by the most technical and highly trained design engineers in each company. But the recent trend toward creating more intuitive, user-friendly packages has opened up huge demand for computer-aided design all the way from the executive offices to the factory and manufacturing floors.

The trend has also sparked a demand for design software in many countries and languages. In December, Chinese science and technology minister Xu Guanhua announced his government's plan to push for new applications of CAD and CIMS (computer integrated manufacturing systems) in the country's state-owned enterprises. In the name of boosting its economy, China will initiate CAD or CIMS technology in more than 90% of its large- and medium-sized state-owned manufacturing firms by the end of 2010, he said. To achieve this goal, China has held CAD and CIMS training programs for more than a million technicians in recent years, and will continue to boost computer literacy among engineers.

Of course, U.S. software companies have long been seeking entry to the enormous Chinese market. Current global market share for CAD runs about 40% for the U.S., 30% for Europe, 20% for Asia, and 10% for the rest of the world, says Greg Milliken, VP of marketing at Alibre, a company that provides mechanical design software over the Internet on a subscription basis.

But U.S. companies have traditionally faced two hurdles to selling CAD programs in Asia. First, the market is fractured into many different languages. Software use is greatest in Japan, followed by Taiwan, Korea, and China. So most U.S. Companies translate their CAD software first into German, Japanese, and French, then into other European languages (Italian and Spanish), and finally into other Asian languages (Chinese and Korean), Milliken says.

Today, "the software is typically used by engineers, so they usually have a better grasp of English, making the burden on needing a localized language less," he says. "However, as CAD becomes more of a commodity, more working-class jobs like drafting and shop floor manufacturing are involved, where the command of English is less, making the need for a localized version almost mandatory."

The second main hurdle is piracy. Many U.S. Companies suspect that CAD is already widely used, although sales remain low. "China and many other Asian countries notoriously copy the software without paying, so China probably has a huge usage totally out of sync with the revenue generated from them," Milliken says.

Now that China has announced its intention to boost its demand for CAD products, the challenge for U.S. Software companies in the next decade is how to solve these riddles of the Asian market.

Weatherseals are no stretch for thermoplastics

Akron, OH-When the weather outside turns frightful, there's no better time to consider the seals that keep that weather outside your car where it belongs. Traditionally, these automotive weatherseals have been made from a thermoset rubber, EPDM. But thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs), especially thermoplastic vulcanizates, have recently surfaced as strong candidates for weatherseals throughout the vehicle.

Weatherseals represent a big opportunity for TPE. Bob Liskiewicz, automotive vice president for Advanced Elastomer Systems (AES), the makers of Santoprene rubber, points out that the worldwide weatherseal market consumes roughly 500,000 metric tons of elastomeric materials every year. EPDM currently represents about 90% of that market, he says. "But there's no reason why every weatherseal on the automobile shouldn't be made from TPE." In fact, Liskiewicz gives a very good reason why more seals will likely be TPE in the future: "There's a real opportunity to provide a lower systems cost."

A good chunk of such savings will spring from TPE's suitability for a new generation of thinner, lighter seals. With a modulus roughly 30% higher than an EPDM of the same hardness, and with an ability to hold extrusion tolerances up to three times as tight as EPDM, thermoplastic vulcanizates, such as Santoprene, support thinner-walled designs, according to John Christensen, Advanced Elastomer's program leader for automotive weatherseals. "For a seal with the same insertion force and extraction force, you can design out 15 or 20% of the material," he says. Contributing further to the weight reduction, even those TPE grades tough enough for weatherseal applications have roughly a 30% specific-gravity advantage compared to EPDM, Christensen adds.

Manufacturing advantages account for more cost-cutting potential. Christensen notes that some types of TPE seals enable coextruded slip coatings and produce window corner sections without hand operations. And for those parts of the world where it matters, TPE seals-whether in-plant rejects or post-consumer-can be ground up and recycled far more easily than their thermoset rubber counterparts.

One thing holding TPEs back so far has been a compression-set disadvantage relative to EPDM. Christensen notes however, that AES will soon introduce new grades that will slash compression set by roughly 30%. These new Santoprene thermoplastic vulcanizate grades are expected to offer a compression set (at 22 hrs and 70C) in the range of 20%, down from the current range of 28-32%.

Already, TPEs have found their way into weatherseals, including glass-run channels and belt-line seals. Earlier this year, Mitsubishi Motor Co. introduced the first TPE tailgate seal. Produced in a single coextrusion process, this dynamic seal consists of a dense thermoplastic vulcanizate substrate, a water-foamed TPE sponge layer for sealing, and a metal carrier. Mitsubishi estimates that the Santoprene TPE accounted for a 5-10% cost reduction compared to thermoset rubber. The last TPE seals to go commercial will be primary door seals, though Liskiewicz says even these will likely be in production in Europe by second quarter this year.

Surfers rejoice!

Brea, CA-No longer will you be at the mercy of the elements for hydrokinetic thrills. Equipped with a long control handle, the surfboard-shaped Igniter 2000TM PowerskiTM JetboardTM clocks almost 40 mph thanks to a proprietary 250-cc, two-stroke, water-cooled engine that puts out between 30 and 50 hp.

The essential difference between the Igniter 2000 and all other craft this size is an ingeniously packaged jet drive system tucked into the board cavity. A single-cylinder engine, with the cylinder positioned parallel to the water and facing forward, drives the jet pump (delivering 350 lbs thrust) through a proprietary gear-reduction transmission.

Currently at the advanced prototype stage, the Igniter 2000 takes personal watercraft back to the original concept with its stand-up rider position. With its center or gravity under the rider, the Igniter 2000 is more stable than other personal watercraft, allowing the rider total control with simple shifts in weight. For more information on the Igniter 2000 engine visit

Hannover Fair to highlight mechanical, electrical, and information technologies

Hannover, Germany-This year's Hannover Fair, March 20-25, consists of six separate exhibit areas that highlight new mechanical, electrical, and information technology from more than 7,000 exhibitors. The six exhibit areas include factory automation, materials handling and control systems, energy, surface treatment, sub-components, and innovations for research and technology.

Of particular interest to design engineers is the sub-components exhibit area. "Responsibility for design and construction is increasingly shifting to the component manufacturers who are expected to supply sub-systems and complete solutions," according to Brock McCormack, communications manager for Hannover Fairs, USA Inc.

The sub-component exhibit area is expected to showcase 1,900 exhibits, many of which are industrial materials. Because selection of materials is important to manufacturers, the fair's organizers added a Materials Forum that features talks and presentations by experts in the field. The sub-component section is second only to the factory automation area in terms of exhibit space. Factory automation has more than 2,500 exhibitors showing robotics, industrial assembly equipment, laser technology, identification systems, and other automation equipment. Production equipment for electrical engineering and electronics will also be included in this exhibit area, located in nine of 26 exhibit halls. Factory automation was the major attraction for half of the fair's 300,000 visitors at the 1999 fair, according to a Hannover Fair survey.

For the first time, software product displays are conveniently bundled with industrial PCs and computer-aided technologies. Software firms account for 300 exhibits.

Hannover Fair 2000 also functions as a platform for meetings and discussions among representatives of government and industry. dn For more information about Hannover Fair 2000, contact Hannover Fairs USA Inc., 103 Carnegie Center, Princeton, NJ 08540; Phone (609) 987-1202; FAX (609) 987-0092;

Let software do your reading

Boston-Want to know how to adjust an aluminum extrusion profile? Or how to increase the corrosion resistance of a particular metal? Or how to adjust a brushless dc motor?, a web-based technical database, offers the answers to these questions and millions more. Based on the semantic processing technology from Invention Machine, this web service searches more than 15 million solutions to specific action-object-oriented problems such as "reduce humidity," or "heat oil" (See Design News, 9/20/99, pg. "Software that does your research for you").

And not only does the program offer solutions based on an extensive search, but it also displays the information in an interactive, graphical format providing a link with the original document. "This is the world's first technology knowledge portal," says Philip George of Invention Machine. Offering relevant technical information for categories such as automotive, aerospace, electronics, manufacturing, and many more. To access this free database, go to

A Cobrain-lite of sorts. KnowledgistTM 1.5 brings this semantic processing technology to your desktop. The software reads and analyzes internal and external sources, extracting the technical knowledge and delivering it in a problem-solution index. Engineers can pinpoint the information they need by selecting a particular document. "This is the world's first vertical reading and research assistant," says George. "It cuts through the information overload by reading and extracting key concepts."

A company can use this information for competitive analysis, to determine if their research is unique, or answer the "make vs. buy dilemma," says George.

Technology and fun get together at NDES

Karen Field, Executive Editor

Chicago-Hang on folks, and get ready for the ride of your life when you stop by the Design News booth (#1214) at the National Design Engineering Show (NDES). This year, we're featuring a monster truck called Maxzilla, a ride that combines a virtual reality display with a full-motion platform capable of 3608 two-axis movement for a true, "what you view is what you do" experience-and, a whole lot more.

"Arguably, the Design News booth is one of the most popular exhibits at the show, due to all of the innovative new technologies and interactive displays that we showcase," says Tracey Farina, Design News promotion director. The select list of guest exhibitors is chosen from the technologies covered in Design News in the past year that generated huge reader interest.

Some of the highlights in the Design News booth this year, which is located on the first floor of the show, the second booth back from the main door, include:

Maxflight's newest simulation ride, called Maxzilla. The only thing virtual about this ride-a showcase for several innovative motion technologies-is the image on its 58-inch display. This will be the ride of your life on a course designed to produce flips and rolls off embankments and other obstacles.

The second annual Design News Wind-up Toy Festival, sponsored by precision component maker W.M. Berg and hosted by Design News humor columnist Marc Abrahams. Marc will be giving away free wind-up toys to engineers who can screw, glue, solder, and breathe new life into a broken windup toy, or at least give it their best shot.

The world's fastest toy train-the Faulhaber Flash, which took first-place honors in a recent toy train competition sponsored by toy maker Marklin & Cie GmbH. Made by MicroMo Electronics and its sister company Faulhaber GmbH, the train accelerated from 0 to 60 in 1.5 seconds, which scaled up is equivalent to an amazing 2,000 mph.

The world premier of Design News' Search Engineer, the hottest, newest search engine developed specifically for engineers. Participants can win cool prizes and meet Design News senior web editor Paula Porter, who will also be demonstrating the new look and feel of the Design News website.

The amazing thermoelectric technology behind Igloo's new dorm-size refrigerator. Developed by engineers at Tellurex, this solid-state cooling technology proves itself to be worthy competition for compressor-based cooling-and takes up less space to boot.

A fourth-generation, 3D input device called the Spaceball lends a hand to design engineers who work on computers. Based on patented opto-mechanical force and torque sensor technology, the device surpasses industry ergonomic standards. Show attendees will have an opportunity to check out features of the new device, developed by Labtec.

A novel two-axis motion stage, winner of the Design News Excellence in Design Competition, from Bell-Everman. The patented flying-V structure uses multiple independent carriages on the same primary axis to achieve movements in two directions.

The LinMot linear motor, a third place winner in the Design News Excellence in Design Competition. Developed by Sulzer Electronics of Switzerland, this amazing motor is truly a product designed for the masses with an attractive low price tag.

Plus, we'll showcase a video and display describing the revolutionary new electrical stimulation technology developed by Design News Engineer of the Year Hunter Peckham. The technology, which sends electrical impulses to muscles, is designed to restore motor function to patients paralyzed by spinal cord injury. Also on display is the newest infrared vision technology from Cadillac. And, last but not least, we'll feature our Best Product of the Year, a line of thermally conductive compounds developed by LNP Engineering, voted number one by Design News readers.

CFD helps optimize advanced fighter aircraft

Los Angeles-One of the largest computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models ever developed helped to optimize the performance of an advanced fighter aircraft. Northrop Grumman Corp. used the 5,000,000-grid point model to investigate vertical landing for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the U. S. Air Force's next generation combat plane (See Design News 2/17/97). The model helped engineers investigate the effects of exhaust flow entrainment, which produces negative lift that must be counteracted by additional engine thrust. A special preprocessor, Gridgen from Pointwise (Bedford, TX) automated most of the model creation process, including strategically distributing grid points for high accuracy while minimizing computation time.

Northrop Grumman, a principle member of the Lockheed Martin team in the competition to develop the JSF, employs a direct lift system for short takeoffs and vertical landings. One of the critical issues that arose during the development of Advanced Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing (ASTOVL), was a concern over negative lift caused by close ground effects during vertical landing. When the plane is hovering close to the ground, the jets at the front and rear of the craft hit the ground, move towards each other along the surface, then form a fountain when they meet that rises to hit the bottom of the aircraft. The result is a recirculation flow that creates a low-pressure zone around the bottom of the aircraft, often producing negative lift that would cause the aircraft to drop to the ground if it were not offset by sufficient engine thrust.

Hot gas ingestion is another related problem that can happen during vertical landing. It occurs when the jet engine inlet draws in hot gas from the fountain described above rather than clean air. As the temperature of the gas ingested by the engine rises, the performance of the engine drops. This effect can interact with the negative lift phenomenon described earlier to cause serious problems during vertical landing. Another related concern is that the hot recirculating gas striking the bottom of the plane could raise its temperature high enough to damage its skin.

While a prototype of the ASTOVL had been built and tested in a wind tunnel, engineers felt that computer simulation would greatly streamline the design process. Wind tunnel testing provides flow and temperature information only at the limited number of surface points where sensors can be placed. Evaluating a different geometry requires an expensive and time-consuming modification of the prototype. A CFD analysis, on the other hand, provides fluid velocity, pressure, temperature, and species concentration values throughout the solution domain. Engineers can usually modify the model in a matter of an hour or two in order to investigate a different geometry or boundary conditions. Simulation allows engineers to evaluate many more alternative designs in a short period of time and provides more information about each design they evaluate. The result is a better design in less time.

Simulating an object as complex as ASTOVL, however, is a difficult challenge. The problem is the analytical model must include the entire aircraft exterior and at the same time capture many small details in order to achieve an accurate simulation. "Conventional CFD preprocessors are not suited to the task," says Northrop Grumman Engineer Mike Malone. "Meshing the entire aircraft is not difficult, but maintaining the level of detail required to define such complex areas as the engine inlets would require a model with an enormous number of grid points." Such a model couldn't be solved in a reasonable period of time, even on the Cray C90 computers at NASA's Ames Research Center that Northrop Grumman engineers have available.

But the Pointwise software program, designed in cooperation with NASA for modeling tasks of this magnitude, provided engineers with the ability to divide a CFD model into contiguous subdomains, called blocks. Subdomains allow use of a fine mesh where needed to capture details, and use of a coarse mesh elsewhere in order to minimize computational time. Gridgen also provides a number of powerful tools that automate many of the more difficult aspects of the meshing such as the asymmetrical allocation of grid points and smoothing the mesh to eliminate negative volume cells. Northrop Grumman engineers run Gridgen on an R8000 Indigo II workstation from Silicon Graphics Inc. (Mountain View, CA).

To produce the mesh, engineers start with an IGES file defining the aircraft's geometry. After reading these surfaces onto Gridgen, engineers decompose it into about 30 blocks. They defined block boundaries around areas that require close mesh spacing because of high pressure or flow gradients. Areas requiring close mesh spacing include those with geometric complexity, such as the engine inlet and auxiliary inlet guide vanes, as well as in defining the boundary layer around the surface of the aircraft. The designers drew connectors on the geometry to define the edges of the block domains, grouped the connectors to form surfaces (domains), and finally grouped the surfaces to form volume defining blocks. In cases where the grids did not adhere precisely to the domains, the engineers used a Gridgen feature that automatically projects a grid onto the geometry.

The next step was distributing grid points along the connectors. Uneven spacing is desirable along most of these connectors. For example, fine spacing is usually needed at sharp and trailing edges of aerospace surfaces while the area in between can usually be quite coarse. This type of mesh distribution is very tedious to produce by hand because of the need to define each grid point one by one in order to provide a smooth transition from a fine to coarse mesh. Instead, on this project engineers used a Gridgen feature that automatically distributes grid points along a connector based on any of a wide range of functions that can be specified by the user. In most cases, engineers used a hyperbolic tangent function to provide the spacing described above.

The irregularity of the ASTOVL geometry meant that the initial grid had areas of negative and zero volume that would have made it impossible to analyze. With a conventional grid generator, Northrop Grumman engineers would have been forced to modify the grid element by element to improve its quality, a process that would have taken months or even years. Fortunately, Gridgen provides an elliptic smoother that allowed the engineers to improve the quality of the mesh by automatically applying elliptic partial differential equation methods. Designers applied smoothness, clustering, and orthogonality controls to improve the mesh. With each iteration of mesh improvement, the program provided a graphical display of negative and skewed volume cells. In only a few hours, they had produced an excellent quality mesh ready for analysis with Northrop Grumman's proprietary CFD solver.

The analysis took about 60 hours on a Cray C90 supercomputer. The results correlated very well with wind tunnel testing. Oil droplets placed on the floor of the wind tunnel were used to determine the flow streamlines in the ground plane, which matched up well to the ground plane streamlines produced as one of the results of the analysis. The most critical area, the stagnation zone where the two jets meet, was precisely predicted by the analysis. Confident in the accuracy of the model, engineers used the results to determine the amount of thrust required to achieve a safe vertical landing.

Ford's hybrid hits 78 mpg

Detroit-Prodigy is a hybrid diesel-electric sedan from Ford that travels nearly 80 miles on a gallon of fuel. "We've proven with the Prodigy that it's possible to improve fuel economy without sacrificing the features customers want," says Chuck Risch, a mechanical engineer and the technology manager for the Ford Prodigy. The car's numerous fuel-saving design features include a low storage requirement (LSR) hybrid electric propulsion system.

The LSR system includes a 1.2-liter diesel DIATA four-cylinder engine. DIATA stands for Direct Injection, Aluminum Through Bolt Assembly. Its name is derived partly from the cylinder head mounting bolts passing completely through the engine block for maximum clamping force. The engine is approximately 35% more efficient than a conventional gasoline engine, and generates 74 horsepower at 4,100 rpm.

Prodigy's starter/alternator delivers up to 47 hp and is packed between the transmission and engine. In addition to assisting the engine when accelerating, the integrated starter/alternator recaptures braking energy to recharge the car's 300V battery. For fuel conservation, the car also shuts down the diesel engine when the car is decelerating or stopped. The DIATA engine restarts in 0.2 seconds when the driver steps on the accelerator pedal.

Improved aerodynamics also increase the Prodigy's fuel efficiency. Side-mounted cameras and onboard monitors replace the side-mounted mirrors that increase drag by hindering airflow around the vehicle. At high speeds, the car's ride height automatically lowers for better fuel economy. Grille shutters and shields also contribute to better aerodynamics and an overall coefficient of drag of 0.199, about 2/3 that of today's "low-drag" autos.

"We didn't do everything we could to reduce fuel consumption," says Risch. "For example, we could have used rear wheel skirts, but didn't. There are some trade-offs we make to maintain features that customers want or don't want." The Prodigy is part of Ford's efforts in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles Program, a collaboration among Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, the U.S. Department of Energy, national laboratories, suppliers, and universities aimed at producing breakthroughs in fuel economy.

CAD joins the open source revolution

Costa Mesa, CA-The penguins are taking over California.

With its tuxedoed mascot visible from Wall Street IPO's to computer shops and bookstores, the Linux operating system is the fastest-growing change in modern computing.

When Finnish graduate student Linus Torvalds created Linux at the University of Helsinki in 1991, he was just trying to make a new, improved version of UNIX. But when he revealed the kernel-the low-level guts of the OS-on the Internet, he became a true revolutionary. In comparison, Microsoft hides the Widows code behind an army of attorneys, then dictates its latest changes. But as an open-source system, Linux is constantly being tweaked, improved and rewritten by thousands of hackers around the world. In economic terms, it's capitalism versus communism. Or if you listen to the raging language on Linux-boosting sites like www.slash or, it's democracy versus totalitarianism.

Now MSC.Software Corp. (www.msc has jumped into the fray with an announcement that it will create a whole new department dedicated to writing Linux-compatible versions of its product design and modeling software. The MSC.Linux division-headquartered in Costa Mesa, CA-will begin by helping MSC's 5,000 major customers to implement Linux-based applications and infrastructure.

And then it will move on to bigger goals. "All of MSC's flagship products will eventually run on Linux," says Greg Sikes, general manager of the new MSC.Linux division. Today, NASTRAN is the only Linux-compatible MSC program, but PATRAN and the other "flagship" MSC products should join it by the end of 2000. NASTRAN is a computer-aided engineering (CAE) tool that helps engineers to model stress, vibration, heat-transfer, acoustics, and aeroelasticity. PATRAN is a finite element analysis (FAE) tool that allows designers to create finite element models from their CAD parts, and do simulated testing on those parts before reaching the manufacturing stage.

Eighty percent of MSC's customers, including names like Ford, Boeing and GM, are still using UNIX systems, but they have begun a slow, powerful transition to Linux, Sikes says. Indeed, industry estimates Linux use on just 9 to 17% of servers today, and on desktops it's significantly below that. But the server figure may rise to 34% by 2002, Sikes says.

Linux proponents attribute this growth to the system's stability (it's said to crash less often than Windows), speed (they say it can extract more performance from your existing hardware), flexibility (it can support more file systems than Windows), and price (you can download it for free off the Internet, or buy it in a store and get tech support as well).

For engineering companies, value is their main motivation, since they can get higher performance for a lower price, Sikes says. Many companies link their computers together for distributed-computing or parallel-memory operations. They can achieve this "supercomputing" effect for a lower cost with Linux, since they pay for just one license (or none). In comparison, Microsoft demands a license fee for every computer that's running Windows.

Eventually, this more powerful computing will translate to better products. "If you have improved throughput on simulations for a fraction of the cost, then it's much easier to procure more systems, and you can do analyses you weren't doing in the past," Sikes says.

This support for Linux does not mean that CAD developers are rushing to reveal their own source codes. The algorithms and object libraries that make a 3D modeling system tick are still so valuable that only a handful have taken this step.

Other Linux-portable CAD programs include: 3dom's 3D Object Modeling (, AC3D Modeler (, BRL-CAD (, Crystal Space (, CoCreate's ME-10 2D CAD software (www. cocreate. com), FREEdraft's Open Source CAD (, LinuxCAD 2000 (, Matra Datavision's Open CASCADE ( The Mops www., Sced's Constraint Based Scene Design ( ed/sced.html), and TGS's 3D-MasterSuite (

Sign up for the Design News Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like