DN Staff

December 2, 1996

9 Min Read
The best new products of 1996

1996 proved to be an important year in engineering. The Advanced Photo system (APS), the most massively engineered line of photographic products in history came in the form of Advantix from Kodak; with the help of NASA, Shannon Lucid successfully lived on a Russian space station for 188 days; and hundreds of useful and life-improving products were introduced to the world. These endeavors where made possible by thousands of products and components.

This past summer, Design News went in search of these innovative items. We asked OEM suppliers to nominate their most notable products in seven categories: electrical/electronic; power transmission and motion control; fluid power; computer productivity tools; test, measurement, and control; fastening, joining, and assembly; and plastics, metals, and other materials.

After an initial screening by our technical editors, Design News submitted the best entries to a panel of outside judges. Their selections follow:

- Electrical/electronic. Honeywell Inc.'s Micro Switch Div., Freeport, IL, scored highest with a laser for high-speed data communications.

- Power transmission and motion control. Admotec Inc., Norwich, VT, took top honors with a transducer that achieves top speeds.

- Fluid power. Finish Thompson Inc., Erie, PA, won the blue ribbon with rare-earth magnetic-coupled chemical pumps that have the ability to run dry and can pump liquids heavier than water at full flow.

- Computer productivity tools. Numonics Corp.'s Interactive Product Div., Montgomeryville, PA, earned the highest rating with an flip chart that lets users write on paper and simultaneously record ideas on a computer.

- Test, measurement, and control. Ono Sokki Technology Inc., Addison, IL, won first place with an advanced tachometer that achieves accurate rpm on motors and motor assemblies.

- Fastening, joining, and assembly. Southco Inc., Concordville, PA, won this category with a screw that reduces the risk of accidental or unauthorized access.

- Plastics, metals, and other materials. Apple Rubber Products Inc., Lancaster, NY, scored highest with a composite seal and filter in one.

You can help us choose the best product design of this past year. Use our easy fax ballot, on page 77 of the December 2, 1996 issue, to vote for the product you think is the best example of outstanding engineering. The magazine will hold a drawing of all ballots received, and one of our readers will win a 35-inch Zenith color TV. The product receiving the most votes will also be the subject of a special feature story in our March 3, 1997, Engineering Awards Issue.

Vincent Altamuro, President of Robotics Research Consultants, Toms River, NJ.
Dr. Daniel Graupe, Professor of Electrical Engineering and of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Illinois, Chicago.
Richard Morley,
CEO of Flavors Technology, Milford, NH.


Laser reduces 'noise' for high-speed data communication

The high-performance FHE4080-321 Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser (VCSEL) from Honeywell Inc.'s Micro Switch Div. is for high-speed data communications. The fiber-optic VCSEL combines many of the features of an LED with those of a laser diode. For exambple, it operates in a single longitudinal mode but with multiple transverse modes that reduce coherence and consequent modal noise in multimode fiber applications. Designed to convert electrical current into optical power that can be used in fiber-optic communications, sensing, and other similar applications, the unit can also be used with inexpensive silicon or gallium arsenide detectors.

"This product has an excellent, low-cost design," says University of Illinois Electrical Engineering Professor and contest judge Dr. Daniel Graupe.

Honeywell Inc.
Micro Switch Div.
11 W. Spring St.
Freeport, Il 61032
FAX (815) 235-5988


Transducer operates without a transformer

The Rotasyn transducer from Admotec Inc. has a unique, solid rotor without slots or windings or the need for a transformer. Output voltages are generated by the rotation of the rotor within the stator. The transducer was specifically designed for industrial applications, unlike traditional resolvers designed originally for aerospace environments. With fewer parts and lower inertia, the unit can operate at speeds up to 100,000 rpm and temperatures up to 150C. Improved noise immunity and greater resistance to magnetic interference are due to the resolver's single-stage magnetic design. Because the resolver is mechanically and electrically compatible with traditional resolvers, it can replace them as original equipment or in retrofit applications.

"Overall, this product shows good engineering analysis and excellence in engineering design," says Vincent Altamuro, robotics consultant and contest judge.

Admotec Inc.
256 Route 5
S. Norwich, VT 05055
FAX (802) 649-3908.


Chemical pump can run dry indefinitely

Series 6, 8, and 10 rare-earth magnetic-coupled chemical pumps from Finish Thompson Inc. have the unique ability to run dry indefinitely without damage. With an unbreakable ceramic pump shaft and a unique modular design, expensive and confusing spare parts are eliminated. The technically advanced use of neodyium rare-earth magnets allow the units to pump liquids heavier than water at full flow. A two-part construction includes an impeller head that snaps onto an impeller drive-hub assembly. If the impeller vanes are damaged from debris or trimming, the drive magnets can be reused. Typcal applications include the chemical processing, plating, printed-circuit-board manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals industries.

"The designers of these pumps succeeded in making them modular, robust, and versatile while having them improve the performance of prior products, and have features which those lack," notes robotics consultant Altamuro.

Finish Thompson Inc.
921 Greengarden Rd.
Erie, PA 1650l
FAX (814) 455-8518.


Flip chart lets users save hand-written notes to a hard drive

The Interactive Flip Chart (IFC) from Numonics Corp. provides the flip-chart user in small group meetings with the traditional paper and pen, while simultaneously capturing this information in a computer. This product allows the user to save all meeting data and notes to a hard drive rather than saving curled-up electrostatic sheets. The IFC software saves files and displays them in color. Users can also edit and print using a standard laser or color printer, and they can pass the documents along the network as an e-mail attachment or make them available on the network via a server.

"Designs inherent in this product leave one with an appreciation of harmony between the designer, the user, and the producer," says Richard Morley, CEO of Flavors Technology and contest judge.

Numonics Corp.
InterActive Products Div.
101 Commerce Dr.
Montgomeryville, PA 18936


Tach measures rpm accurately without markers

The FT-500 advanced tachometer from Ono Sokki Technology Inc. achieves accurate rpm on motors and motor assemblies that are considered very difficult or impossible to take measurements on. Since the FT-500 requires no reflective markers to measure rpm, the unit is useful in situations where it is impractical to stop a turbine or fan to add a piece of reflective tape to its blade. Thus, there is no need to stop the machine before taking the measurement. The FT-500 has two input channels, so operator may use two transducers, useful for applications where rotation direction needs to be determined.

"An elegant application of advances in signal processing to solve a very practical problem: measurement of rpm without optical access or need for disassembly," explains Dr. Graupe.

Ono Sokki Technology Inc.
2171 Executive Dr.
Suite 400
Addison, IL 60101
FAX (630) 627-0004


Screw protects hazardous areas from accidental entry

The SentinelTM ratchet-action captive screw from Southco Inc. is UL-recognized and meets both UL1950 and EN 60950 specifications for "service access." Both specifications require restricted access to any area of electronic equipment or machinery where a hazardous condition exists. To help protect hazardous areas from accidental or unauthorized entry, the standards require a "tool-removable" door or cover. To meet these standards, the Sentinel screw is tightened by hand, but if a technician tries to loosen the screw by hand, the head merely ratchets in the opposite direction without disengaging. Captive to the panel, fully retractable, and spring-ejected, the screw is offered in slotted, Phillips, or six-lobed-head styles.

"This product represents good engineering work," says contest judge Altamuro. "It includes many of the factors that a product should have to be deemed as an excellent design.'

Southco Inc.
210 N. Brinton Lake Rd.
Concordville, PA 19331
FAX (610) 459-4012.


Component acts as seal and filter in one

FilterSealTM from Apple Rubber Products Inc. is a custom part designed for automotive applications that combines the function of a plastic mesh screen with the sealing performance of an elastomer. The component acts as a seal and filter in one, eliminating an assembly process and reducing installation costs. By bonding or molding the elastomer seal to a component, product design and assembly are simplified with one part instead of two. These seals provide tighter tolerances and eliminate tolerance stack up as well.

"This product helps out the manufacturer by eliminating an assembly process and reducing installation and manufacturing costs," explains Morley of Flavors Technology. "Indirectly, the automobile benefits with less parts, higher reliability, easy replaceability, and lower costs."

Apple Rubber Products Inc.
310 Erie St.
Lancaster, NY 14086

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