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Articles from 2001 In October

Software eliminates motion cards

Software eliminates motion cards

Newton, MA-Last week Robert Reback, president and CEO of Cimetrix Inc. (Salt Lake City, UT) visited Design News for a pre-briefing on its October 23 introduction of CODE 6(tm) (Cimetrix Open Development Environment version 6) with Core Motion(tm) technology. CODE 6, a personal computer (PC)-based motion control software package, eliminates the need for intelligent motion cards, reducing hardware costs by 50%, according to Reback.

Core Motion technology provides the same factory floor performance as high-end digital signal processing motion cards and is equipped with VenturCom's RTX real-time extensions for Windows NT, NT Embedded, or 2000. In order to provide a connection from the PC to the motion subsystem, Core Motion uses analog interface cards or network connections to the drive amplifiers. Analog interface cards cost 50 to 75% less than intelligent motion cards, while network cards can drive this cost to almost nothing, according to Reback.

With the increasing power of PCs, Cimetrix's engineers have moved the motion card functionality onto the PC, allowing for a direct connection from the PC to amplifiers and feedback devices. This enables the PC software to control trajectory generation, position loop, velocity loop, input/output scanning, and event generation at the servo rate. Moreover, its simulation capability lets machine application software be developed in parallel with hardware to reduce development time. "Engineers can do much more software design and integration testing before any hardware is available, cutting the time it takes to bring a new machine to market by 25 to 50%."

While proprietary controller architectures have the benefit of single-point responsibility, such systems tend to be inflexible, offer inferior development environments, and may cost an OEM valuable intellectual property in the form of advanced algorithms that must be integrated into the software in order to hit performance targets. "With our open PC-based system," Reback explains, "OEMs can protect their intellectual property, do their own algorithms in Microsoft C++, use the Microsoft debuggers, and choose the best price/performance components for their application."

For more information visit http:\\

Designer's Corner

Designer's Corner

Packless Valve

A recent Design News article about packless rotary valves prompted a reminder about this bent-bellows, rotary-valve seal design. In it, a bellows encapsulates the stem to prevent leakage. With one end fixed to the valve bonnet, the other end of the bellows rotates around the stem axis as the valve is opened or closed. An external housing over the stem and bellows protects and preloads the assembly to allow controlled rotation and acts as a secondary seal. Quarter-turn, half-turn, and fully rotating models are available.

Richard Conley, P.E., Kerotest Manufacturing Corp., 2525 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4680, (412) 392-4230.

Slick sensor

A flexible magnetic material enclosed within a thin stainless steel jacket lets the Speed Sense(TM) system monitor shaft rotation and direction without the toothed wheels normally used in Hall-effect sensing. Originally developed to reduce turbulence in hydraulic pumps, the system should also reduce losses in transmissions and compressors. The patented ring is available separately for custom applications.

Allen Anderson, Temper Corp., Fonda, NY 12068, (518) 853-3467.

Tough fenders

Plastic components on heavy equipment may come as a surprise, but Case Corp. says the polyurethane reaction-injection molded (RIM) fenders on its L-Series(TM) backhoes outperform steel in the application. The 24-lb, 61x21x28-inch fenders can support a 50-lb corner load and rebound from impacts in temperatures from 180 degrees F to -20 degrees F.

Made from 18% glass-filled Bayflex(TM) 110-50 elastomeric polyurethane RIM system, the fenders feature molded-in tool trays and thermos-bottle holders. Their design eliminates ten separate parts and can be molded with nickel-shell tooling, cutting molding costs by 50% compared to steel tools.

Craig Snyder, Bayer Corp. (formerly Miles, Inc.), Mobay Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15205-9741, (412) 777-7454.

Designer's Corner

Designer's Corner

Packless Valve

A recent Design News article about packless rotary valves prompted a reminder about this bent-bellows, rotary-valve seal design. In it, a bellows encapsulates the stem to prevent leakage. With one end fixed to the valve bonnet, the other end of the bellows rotates around the stem axis as the valve is opened or closed. An external housing over the stem and bellows protects and preloads the assembly to allow controlled rotation and acts as a secondary seal. Quarter-turn, half-turn, and fully rotating models are available.

Richard Conley, P.E., Kerotest Manufacturing Corp., 2525 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4680, (412) 392-4230.

Slick sensor

A flexible magnetic material enclosed within a thin stainless steel jacket lets the Speed Sense(TM) system monitor shaft rotation and direction without the toothed wheels normally used in Hall-effect sensing. Originally developed to reduce turbulence in hydraulic pumps, the system should also reduce losses in transmissions and compressors. The patented ring is available separately for custom applications.

Allen Anderson, Temper Corp., Fonda, NY 12068, (518) 853-3467.

Tough fenders

Plastic components on heavy equipment may come as a surprise, but Case Corp. says the polyurethane reaction-injection molded (RIM) fenders on its L-Series(TM) backhoes outperform steel in the application. The 24-lb, 61x21x28-inch fenders can support a 50-lb corner load and rebound from impacts in temperatures from 180 degrees F to -20 degrees F.

Made from 18% glass-filled Bayflex(TM) 110-50 elastomeric polyurethane RIM system, the fenders feature molded-in tool trays and thermos-bottle holders. Their design eliminates ten separate parts and can be molded with nickel-shell tooling, cutting molding costs by 50% compared to steel tools.

Craig Snyder, Bayer Corp. (formerly Miles, Inc.), Mobay Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15205-9741, (412) 777-7454.

Laser processing at your fingertips

Laser processing at your fingertips

Orlando, FL-The Laser Institute of America has just published its 715-page "LIA Handbook of Laser Materials Processing," a comprehensive work covering virtually all laser materials processes.

The handbook is aimed at being the definitive reference in industrial and research environments and provides information such as comparing laser with nonlaser processes, costs, and selection of lasers and components. Applications discussed include rapid prototyping, welding, link cutting, materials, and industrial applications. In addition to specific processes, there is data and information on lasers, optical components, monitoring, technology comparisons. Set-up information and guidelines on selecting lasers and obtaining necessary wavelengths is also included.

For more information go to The website has a page for commentary from handbook readers and updates.

The scoop on scopes

The scoop on scopes

Scope measures analog and digital circuits

Inexpensive 8-bit microcontrollers are replacing 4-bit chips in thousands of consumer, industrial, automotive, and communications products. The in-crease in these mixed-signal (analog/digital) applications puts pressure on design engineers to find the most effective and efficient way to test these systems. Requirements include probing many more points on each chip, dealing with digital signals of widely different frequencies, and capturing waveform data for long periods of time, while preserving the ability to resolve small time intervals.

Hewlett-Packard has responded with the HP 54645D mixed-signal oscilloscope. This single instrument is an easy-to-use alternative to separate oscilloscope and logic analyzer units--saving lab space, test time, and equipment dollars.

The rugged, portable unit has two 100-MHz, 200-megasample/sec, 1-Mbyte oscilloscope channels; 16 logic channels; and scope controls and features. Combined with powerful triggering capabilities, the tester lets engineers view and measure the relationship of both analog and digital circuits on a single display screen.

Key to the scope is HP's MegaZoom technology, which uses a 5-processor architecture in the signal path between the scope and its display. The architecture results in a scope with deep memory; high signal-update rates; a user interface with familiar, analog-like knobs; and fast, responsive post-acquisition waveform pan and zoom.

Base price: $4,995. A $295 option is HP BenchLink/scope Windows-based software for transferring data and screen images from the scope to a PC. Users can also store scope setups for later recall.

Handheld scope packs benchtop performance

New from Tektronix is the 200-MHz TekScope--the THS730A, which combines an oscilloscope with a digital multimeter. The handheld unit can sample data at 1 gigasample/second in real time--true bench-level performance--and features the company's IsolatedChannelTM Architecture. Tek engineers developed the architecture to safely test and measure various combinations of power voltage. The dual channels/dual digitizers isolate the power sources, yet keep the timing relationship intact.

Developed for design and test engineers responsible for electronic circuit design and debut, as well as for field troubleshooting, the THS730A offers high-speed measurement and triggering capabilities for quick timing error detection. Other features include an easy-to-use graphical user interface, advanced triggering functions, glitch capture, and dB and dBm measurements. Battery-powered, the unit trickle charges in only nine hours.

Prices start at $2,995, including two 200-MHz probes.

Industrial troubleshooter in mini package

Smaller and less expensive than the Tektronix offering, Fluke's ScopeMeter 123 combines a 20-MHz scope, digital multimeter, plus a paperless recorder for less than $1,000. The unit is geared for por-table test applications, such as industrial machinery service, plant maintenance, electrical troubleshooting, electronics maintenance, and process control. Even those with little scope experience will find the tester easy to use.

At 9x4x2 inches, Fluke touts the ScopeMeter 123 as the smallest and lightest oscilloscope, multimeter, and recorder combination in the world. It runs on a 5-hour rechargeable nickel cadmium battery pack, requires no grounding, and includes a bracket that lets users mount the unit on a wall or top of a door.

A Windows-like user interface and intuitive keypad with large color-coded keys make it easy for even occasional oscilloscope users to get up to speed quickly. A simple selection menu guides setup and operation. One press of the menu button provides instant access to 26 commonly used measurements, including volts, time, frequency, temperature, resistance, duty cycle, phase, and capacitance.

Users need connect only one test lead to access both oscilloscope and multimeter functions on each of the two channels, eliminating the need to switch probes and leads when switching functions.

Design partners for the ScopeMeter 123 include Philips Semiconductor, which helped design two analog ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) to handle complex analog and high-speed digital functions, and Motorola, whose FlexCore technology led to a single digital ASIC for acquisition, peak detection, constant signal analysis, trigger control, display control, communication, real-time clock, and processing. Both components contribute to the tool's compact form factor and low price.

Scope hits 'giga' heights

LeCroy's latest DSOs--the LC574 Series--have "giga" banner specs: four input channels with 1-GHz bandwidth, 1-gigasample/sec sampling per channel, and up to 4 gigasamples/sec when using a single channel. Uses include such high-end applications as designing and testing computers, hard-disk drives, computer peripherals, telecom equipment, ultrasound and MRI instruments, and aerospace systems. Prices start at $26,490.

Other notable new features: maximum vertical sensitivity of 5 mV/division with amplifier zoom to 40 muV/division, an internal high-speed printer, floppy-disk drive, histogram analysis package, 10-inch color CRT, and 64 Mbytes of processing memory on the LC574AL model. A popular option is the PCMCIA type III slot with 170-Mbyte hard-disk-drive card.

The scopes' long record lengths--up to 2 Mbytes per channel or 8 Mbytes on a single channel--lets engineers capture complex signals with high accuracy. They also improve the scopes' ability to zoom in on key details of long signals. A wide range of triggering features capture signal aberrations, and the Analog Persistence display mode enables users to look at multiple signals by toggling between opaque/transparent displays and different-color waveforms.

Powered by a 96-MHz PowerPC microprocessor, the LC series provides an advanced set of signal diagnostic, troubleshooting, and documentation tools. They include: measurement of 42 signal parameters; worst-case analysis (maximum, minimum, average, and standard deviation) of those parameters; an FFT (fast Fourier transform) package that can resolve 4 million time domain samples into the frequency domain; and a math package with integration, differentiation, square root, absolute value, exponential, log, and a set of six selectable filters.

Cyber contacts

Visit the following Web sites to get the latest scope information from the companies featured in this article:

Fluke Corp.,

How DSOs work

A basic digital storage oscilloscope (DSO) has two or four channels. Signal probes attach to the input BNC connectors, which lead the vertical system's amplifiers and attenuators. These components match the signal to the rest of the circuit.

Next, the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) in the acquisition system samples the signal at discrete points in time. The horizontal system's sample clock determines how often the ADC takes a sample. This frequency is called the sample rate and is measured in samples per second.

Each time it takes a sample, the ADC converts the signal's voltage to 8- to 12-bit digital values called sample points. These values then go to data-acquisition memory, which stores them as waveform points. Together, the waveform points make up one waveform record. The trigger system determines the record's start and stop points.

The record points go to the digital display system, which sends them to the display. Most scopes also let you do some post-acquisition processing, such as FFTs. In this case, the data go from the memory to the processing circuitry, back to the memory, and then to the display.

Boards let PCs double as scopes

Virtual instrumentation technology lets engineers turn PCs into all kinds of test equipment, including DSOs. National Instruments' DAQScope boards and PCMCIA card, along with VirtualBench-Scope software, convert PCI and ISA bus-based PCs and laptops into 20-MHz scopes. Board prices range from $995 to $1,195, including software.

Why use a PC as a scope? Many engineers need to do more than make a measurement--they need to make decisions based on the data they collect. Traditionally, they use a stand-alone scope to acquire the data, then send the data via cabling to a PC, where they can use such tools as Word, Windows, Excel, or LabView to analyze the data.

Using a plug-in scope board puts the instrument inside the computer, eliminating the cabling and large stand-alone piece of equipment. "If you look at a traditional scope, what you have in it is memory, a bus for sending data, a small display, and some acquisition components," notes Ed McConnell, DAQ product manager for National Instruments. "Well, a computer has a bus, memory, a large display--the only thing it doesn't have is the scope hardware for acquiring and digitizing a signal, and that's what we bring to the computer."

Another reason an engineer might choose DAQ Scope over a stand-alone scope is that PC technology lets the user network instruments or create a web page and send data over the Internet.

The VirtualBench scope interface looks almost identical to those of traditional scopes. Instead of having physical knobs you turn with a finger, you have virtual knobs you turn with the mouse. A touch screen is an intuitive mouse replacement.

Enclosures move beyond the ordinary

Enclosures move beyond the ordinary

Newton, MA--Large or small, simple or extremely complex, the right enclosure can make or break a successful application.

Take kiosks for example. Among the most common enclosure applications--they seem to be on every street corner--kiosks must entice users, yet remain practical and functional. As a result, creativity is a key element in any kiosk design.

In fact, today's kiosks have evolved to become more than just attention-getting stands. "A successful, interactive kiosk must be reliable, user-friendly, safe, and flexible in its design to accommodate many audiences," says Greg Swistak, president of Factura Kiosks (Rochester, NY), a division of Microtouch Systems Inc.

As with more traditional enclosures, kiosk design considerations can include ergonomics, environmental conditions, materials, component placement, serviceability, and shipping. Often units must accommodate a combination of PC, monitor/touchscreen, printer, speaker, cooling system, and card-reader system.

And requirements related to the kiosk's specific application add to the list. For example, kiosks used by the general public must comply with such regulations as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Underwriters Laboratories' (UL) safety standards for consumer products, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) emission regulations.

Among Factura's ready-to-ship en-closures, for example, is one that helps customers with public-use products easily meet such re-quirements: Dura-Shell kiosks.

Introduced as the first kiosks specifically designed to withstand harsh outdoor elements, DuraShell units safely house any standard PC system, providing computer access to the general public in settings such as open-air transit stations, shopping centers, and sports stadiums.

Key to accomplishing this goal was creating a weatherproof unit. "Outdoor kiosks need to operate within normal and abnormal ranges of heat and humidity, function in rain and snow, keep out dust and dirt, and not suffer cosmetic or functional damage from exposure to any level of sun," notes Swistak.

DuraShell features a small air conditioning and heating unit that regulates the kiosk's internal temperature and humidity. It maintains the internal environment at a level of relative humidity below 80% and temperatures between 45 and 85F--well within the operating range of off-the-shelf computer hardware.

The climate-control system uses heat exchangers, allowing the kiosk to be completely sealed and air tight. In addition, the waterproof housing consists of durable metal, protected with a two-part urethane paint, designed to draw water away from internal hardware and electrical systems.

To guarantee user safety against injury or electric shock, DuraShell meets UL requirements and maintains FCC-specified levels of electromagnetic discharge to avoid disruption of other nearby electrical systems, such as computers or pace-makers. And, as with any structure located in unattended areas and intended for public use, DuraShell kiosks offer protection against vandalism and theft. Each unit features a tempered-steel casing, uses high-security locks, and can be lag-bolted to the ground to prevent theft.

Alpharetta, GA-based i-MEDIA was among the first users of DuraShell enclosures. Working with IBM, the company developed special kiosks for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. The kiosks helped visitors locate any of the 324,000 bricks sold to fans through the Commemorative Brick Program. Inscribed with the purchaser's name and city of residence, the bricks paved walkways and public areas in Centennial Olympic Park.

"Seventy to 100 people were in line at any given time to access the kiosks," says Mike Booke, president of i-MEDIA, "and the wait on average was 20 to 30 minutes." Once at the kiosk, the user simply entered his/her name, the brick number, or the inscription written on the brick. The kiosk displayed a map showing the brick's location in the park, and printed a souvenir copy for the visitor.

Five such kiosks were located in an informational pavilion in the park. The pavilion, which consisted of a roof but no walls, left the kiosks continually exposed to the elements. That's where the benefits of DuraShell were crucial: maintaining the necessary temperature and humidity levels, and protecting the kiosks' CPU, thermal printer, and 17-inch touch screen. "We had no problems with the systems. Availability was in excess of 99%," says Booke.

Electronics cover-up. Thanks to Carefree Clearwater Ltd. (Atlanta, GA), people all over the world are enjoying clean water in swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas. Carefree manufactures non-chlorine water-treatment systems for non-drinking-water applications, including decorative fountains and water-cooling towers.

"Our products are located in areas with high humidity, water, and corrosive chemicals," says Michael Reynolds, VP of engineering and production at Carefree. "We need to use enclosures that will protect our electronics."

The solution: thermoplastic enclosures with both UL and NEMA 4X ratings from Carlon Electrical Products (Cleveland, OH). Carefree has used Carlon's NC Series enclosures in many of its systems for about three years. Recently, however, the company discovered a use for a different Carlon enclosure.

Carefree's Model 1100 system, which can purify a pool containing 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of water, features an E9802 conduit box, designed to enclose switches in marine applications.

"We needed something that met our specifications, and that would enable us to make our product available to the end-user inexpensively," says Reynolds. The E9802 enclosure fit the bill.

Carefree modifies the enclosures slightly, milling a few internal posts and creating entry and exit holes for the input and output cords. The company also designed a special thermoplastic cover for the system located outside of the box. "Using our cover and their gasket, we've come up with a really good enclosure for a miniature model," says Reynolds. "This enclosure wasn't even designed for our type of application, but we've been able to use it very successfully."

Simple and reliable. Duniway Stockroom Corp. (Mountain View, CA) provides replacement parts for VHS Series ultra-high-vacuum pumps manufactured by Varian Corp. Among the many components supplied are the pump thermostats.

Each thermostat is housed in an aluminum enclosure with 1100-0 alloy from Zero Enclosures (North Salt Lake, UT). The Z40-48 enclosures, which measure just 21/2 inches wide by 3 inches long, have one open end.

Duniway modifies the enclosures by drilling three holes: one for the thermostat and two for the mounting screws. The enclosure is lined with Teflon(R) to provide the needed electrical insulation.

Duniway has used the Zero enclosures for about two years, and couldn't be happier with the products. "The enclosures were exactly what I needed," says Don Benanti, purchasing agent at Duniway. "They are the same--maybe even better--than the original manufacturer's enclosure."

Choosing the right enclosure

Enclosures come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and types. But when it comes to specifying an enclosure, designers in all fields must face similar issues. Here's a short list of some of those concerns.

What is going into the cabinet?

  • Where will the enclosure be located? For example: plant floor, laboratory, processing plant.

  • How much room will the equipment take up?

  • What are the application's climate control requirements?

  • Is the equipment easily accessible in the enclosure?

  • Is the enclosure easily assembled and expandable in the future?

Cyber contacts

You can reach the following companies mentioned in this article on the Internet. Please tell them that you were referred by Design News.

Factura Kiosks: or [email protected]

Shuttle flight honors victims and heroes

Shuttle flight honors victims and heroes

Washington, DC--NASA Administrator Dan Goldin has announced that the next mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour will honor the victims and heroes of the September 11 terrorist attacks. On the STS-108 resupply and crew-exchange mission to the International Space Station, set to launch on November 29, astronauts will carry nearly 6,000 American flags into orbit. NASA's "Flags for Heroes and Families" project will present the flags, mounted on special memorial certificates, to survivors of the attacks and families of victims who were killed in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.

"America's space program has a long history of carrying items into space to commemorate historic events, acts of courage, and dramatic achievements," said Goldin. He added the program is a "fitting tribute to honor those affected by this American tragedy."

Goldin also presented New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani with an American flag flown into space previously, and noted plans to present flags to each city fire house and precinct station that has played a role in the World Trade Center rescue and recovery effort.

For more details on the STS-108 mission and the International Space Station, visit

Is MSC.Nastran an entire simulation market?

Is MSC.Nastran an entire simulation market?

Santa Ana, CA - Saying that it has not raised the price of its Nastran fine element analysis product since 1998, MSC.Software has disputed a recent claim by the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that its 1999 acquisitions of Universal Analytics Inc. (UAI) and Computerized Structural Analysis & Research Corp. (CSAR) gave the company a monopoly on specialized engineering software used in the automotive and aerospace industries. The FTC on October 10, 2001 sought to undo the acquisitions, saying they enable MSC to control Nastran pricing.

Both UAI and CSAR, like MSC, developed Nastran finite element analysis software, originated by NASA.

MSC says that several independent companies still market their own Nastran software, and that Nastran is only one of several reputable FEA codes. Frank Perna, president and CEO of MSC.Software likened the FTC's claim to charging Nabisco with cornering the Oreo cookie market.

Earlier this year, Daratech estimated the overall engineering simulation market worldwide to be valued at $1.1 billion. Of that, the research organization put the FEA solver market, including all varieties of Nastran, at $300 million. The FTC claims that Nastran sales last year accounted for between $60-$70 million of MSC's $178 million sales last year. The company says that sales of Nastran software, excluding training and other services, came to only $30 million - or approximately 10% of the total market, and certainly not a monopoly.

Richard Bush, head of marketing communications for MSC, says that although the company is recognized as the leader in Nastran development, its current business is broken up into systems, services and technology - with FEA solver software a section of its technology business.

Internet-enabled products get connected

Internet-enabled products get connected

From coffee vending machines in Italy to household appliances in Turkey to irrigation systems in Australia, engineers are beginning to find real, practical ways to use Internet connectivity to enhance the functionality of products outside the traditional bounds of the PC and telecom world.

On the front lines are firms marketing off-the-shelf Internet-enabling solutions. They indicate that industrial applications are launching this year, with consumer applications hitting the streets in two to three years, once standards are established.

The market for smart appliances is expected to grow steadily. Home networking standards, expected to be completed this year, should help spur sales.

"There are business segments for which the value added by the Internet connectivity is so important that adoption will be quick," notes Marc Berrebi, CEO of eDevice, and creator of SmartStack(TM), an Internet-enabling solution for non-PC devices. In particular, he sees vending, metering, and industrial control applications leading the way.

Bulent Celebi, CEO of Ubicom (formerly Scenix), a leading supplier of Internet processors and networking software, sees power management a driver, with smart meters a priority, along with commercial installations and building automation.

Others, like Cindy Wolfe, research analyst with Cahners In-Stat, see major opportunities in smart appliances, which require direct access to the Internet. Leading the charge will be consumer audio products. With elimination of the PC gateway, she says, audio can stream right into the unit. Beyond that, she cites dozens of major companies with projects underway, including LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, and Sunbeam/Thalia, and start-ups pushing everything from Internet picture frames to alarm clocks.

But stumbling blocks remain-especially in the consumer sector. "The cost of development is astronomical," laments Joy Weis Daniel, senior manager for product development, Sharp Electronics. The "back-room" supporting infrastructure for a Web-based system is where it really adds up, she contends.

Nonetheless, an increasing number of companies are making "Internet-enabled" a reality today-as evidenced by the variety of applications described here.

Remote monitoring and data collection for coffee vending machines

Company: Lavazza (Rome, Italy)

Design project: Add Internet connectivity to an existing commercial coffee vending machine.

Connectivity function & value add: Via a standard analog phone line, wireless GSM connection or Ethernet LAN, the Lavazza e-espressopoint coffee vending machine automatically e-mails maintenance calls and consumption records, and receives e-mails that automatically update unit configuration parameters. When the rollout is finished at the end of this year, Lavazza and its distributors will have real-time consumption information on over 10,000 machines.

Design challenges: Add Internet functionality to an existing coffee machine that did not have any re-programmable microprocessors or microcontrollers, with minimal mechanical changes or industrial redesign. Keep costs minimal.

Design solution: The existing Lavazza machine had a motherboard to manage coffee-making operations (pump controls, temperature sensing, etc.) and the user interface. To add connectivity, engineers chose SmartStack(TM), a DSP-based Internet-enabling technology from eDevice. The SmartStack technology reads sensor data from the motherboard, and accepts input via either an RS-232 connection or e-mail. SmartStack also integrates a supervision layer, which polls the motherboard for fault detection and stock levels, then e-mails necessary service information; gathers and e-mails consumption records to Lavazza management and distributors; and regularly checks a specified e-mail account for e-mail messages containing vending unit configuration updates.

SmartStack from eDevice: Enter 550

Remote monitoring and energy management of household appliances

Company: Arcelik (Istanbul, Turkey)

Design project: Internet-enable Beko brand appliances under company's Intelligent Home Concept program. Widespread market penetration planned for 2003.

Connectivity function & value add: Connectivity adds control and data communication for Beko appliances directly by the user or through a controller, either locally or remotely. The nature of the specific application dictates the nature of the connectivity. Service calls, for example, trigger e-mail messaging, while remote servicing and control may require Web access. Security is the most important issue. A prototype refrigerator has a touch screen monitor and built-in PC components, capable of full Web access. The goals include comfort for the user, home energy management and remote after-sales service.

Design challenges: The appliance should not become more complicated to use; no additional wiring for connectivity; sufficiently high bandwidth; ease of installation and ease of use for the end user with minimal additional cost; organizing services to take advantage of connectivity; lack of standards in home networking.

Design solution: For ease of installation by the end user, the Arcelik application and design team opted for connectivity through wireless communication (Bluetooth) and PLC (power line communication). They add a wireless home network access board, which includes a connectivity-enabling chip from Ubicom, to each appliance. The Arcelik R&D group worked with Ubicom engineers on the wireless connectivity solution, to enable the Ubicom chip to convert the appliance's internal data format into the Bluetooth wireless network format. The single-chip solution provides protocol conversion, physical interface capabilities, Internet connectivity, device management, and networking capabilities. The appliance control board communicates with the wireless home network access board through proprietary protocol software. Arcelik engineers opted for a central residential gateway through which all appliances are connected for Internet access.

Connectivity enabling chip from Ubicom: Enter 551

Networking of household appliances

Company: Merloni Electtrodomestici (Rome, Italy)

Design project: Create a home network for core business of white appliances including washing machines, dishwashers, stoves, ovens and refrigerators.

Connectivity function & value add: A home network is created over the power lines and controlled by "Leonardo," an Internet-enabled web-pad, which has full Web access and is connected to the Internet via an analog phone line. A project now under development will allow access to the Internet via a PC or WAP phone, enabling the end user to program appliances remotely.

Design challenges: Enable household appliances to be controlled, programmed remotely, and to communicate with each other without extra cables or wiring, using the home's regular electrical lines for the physical network. Direct appliance-to-Internet connectivity was deemed too impractical for reasons of insufficient bandwidth in powerline networking and final cost.

Design solution: Each appliance has a networking board, making it a node on the home network, and onboard electronic controls capable of generating data. The nodes are connected over the power lines via a proprietary networking protocol called [email protected] (Web ready appliances protocol), enabling the appliances to communicate with each other and the Leonardo web-pad. Leonardo, which is built around a 486 processor and Windows CE, is the centerpiece of the Ariston Digital system. It connects to the Internet over regular telephone lines, and can be used to download and display the cooking cycle of recipes stored on the Merloni website, for example. The cooking cycle is displayed on Leonardo and can be downloaded directly to the oven via the power line. Beyond the Merloni site, Leonardo has full Web access and can be used as a standard browser. The remote access project underway will require an "always on" ADSL Internet connection, a personal Web portal for each home, password-based security, and Web pages dedicated to each appliance, indicating its current state and offering programming options.

Digital system from Ariston: Enter 552

Remote monitoring of irrigation systems

Company: Holman Industries (Perth, Australia)

Design project: Develop an Internet-enabled irrigation controller, HAND (home automating network device), for the domestic mass market that allows feedback information to be e-mailed back to an irrigation service provider when fault situations occur or when maintenance is required.

Connectivity function & value add: HAND will primarily send and receive e-mails. However, it will have the capacity to be dialed up and then browsed like a common server. This will allow the consumer or service provider to remotely change data such as start times and watering duration. The goal is to provide professional landscape services with value-added features they can provide to consumers.

Design challenges: Although Holman is a professional engineering firm specializing in electronics, design engineers realized that writing and implementing a full PPP system with a TCP/IP stack and Internet high-level protocols would be expensive to develop, and also ex-pensive to maintain as the Internet evolves. Although the company had all the necessary intellectual properties to cope with many aspects of the project, they realized that the Internet and the associated protocols were an issue for specialist software houses.

Design solution: Holman chose the iChip from Connect One and formed a partnership for the Internet implementation. The result was a modular pack to which Holman engineers could add specialized functionality. Update downloads are available for the end user. Although not strictly necessary, Holman decided to also implement a new custom touch LCD screen, a low-speed modem (Silicon Labs Si2400 ISOmodem), and GSM phone technology to provide customers with a new look and a much greater level of user friendly control. Issues pertaining to power requirements of the GSM phone system were "fairly easily addressed," and the lead engineer describes the entire project as "fairly painless."

i-Chip and iModem from Connect One: Enter 553

In Brief - Electrical/Electronics

In Brief - Electrical/Electronics


Microchip's compact Flash microcontrollers for Controller Area Network (CAN) use have an intelligent CAN 2.0B active interface. The PIC18F248/58 and PIC18F448/58 series are geared for automotive, industrial-control, and medical-equipment applications. The company's Flash process technology allows up to 100,000 erase/write cycles to program memory. Performance for the chip family is 10 MIPS at 10 MHz.

Enter 563


Comtrol's new DeviceMaster Real-Time Servers (RTS) are embedded microcomputers designed to network-enable devices. The system and attached devices can be accessed and managed remotely over the Internet. Because application software can also be run on the DeviceMaster thin server appliance, the architecture can be substituted for general-purpose PC servers that are more expensive and may require more support. DeviceMaster RTS comes in 4-, 8-, and 16-port models.

Enter 564

Omega Engineering

Omega Engineering's DP470 Series single- and six-channel temperature/process indicators feature built-in digital programmability, communications, and Windows-based software for low-cost scanning and datalogging. The three models (thermocouple, RTD, and process input) are available with RS-232 communications or RS-485 and MODBUS protocol. Channel data, alarm status, and min/max values can be viewed simultaneously on all indicators.

Enter 565

Omron Electronics

Omron Electronics F160 vision system combines dual cameras and high-speed processing to boost capture speed by a factor of four and image processing speed by a factor of ten. Features include a "variable box" measurement region for area and defect inspection, which can be set to change automatically when inspecting objects with varying sizes.

Enter 566