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Articles from 2007 In February

GM's 2-Mode 2008 Hybrid to Hit the Streets

GM's 2-Mode 2008 Hybrid to Hit the Streets

With all the excitement about a future, perhaps 2010, Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid from GM, the soon-to-be-announced full hybrids from the Global Hybrid Cooperation of General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and the BMW Group seem to be taking a backseat. Just like the plug-in hybrid, the two-mode (AKA 2-mode or dual-mode) hybrid is a significant departure from existing hybrids but the engineering effort is complete.

The 2008 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon that will be introduced in 2007 will get better fuel economy thanks to electric motor operation at highway speeds. The power split hybrid approach is similar to single-mode hybrids that create two paths for applying torque to the wheels from a gasoline powered internal combustion engine and a battery powered motor. However, instead of a generator and a traction motor used in single-mode hybrids, the two-mode Electric Variable Transmission (EVT) hybrid has an electric variator that uses two 60-kW motors, one that operates in low speed range and one that operates in the high speed range..

As explained by Peter Savagian, engineering director for Hybrid Power Systems at General Motors, planetary gears split the engine power and can multiply all torque.

Clutches activate the EVT modes and fixed gear ratios. With fixed gears ratios, the motors do not have to carry engine power. The results are improved fuel consumption in real world driving with increased continuous duty operation for towing and increased speed range for high-speed driving. The same EVT will appear on GM's Saturn Vue Green Line in 2008 and a Chrysler Group SUV.

Check out the video that shows the operation of the two-mode EVT and how its design is packaged within a housing similar to a conventional transmission.

Get more information on Front-Wheel-Drive, 2-Mode Hybrid System

2-Mode Transmission System

Motors, planetary gears, fixed gears and clutches fit inside a conventional transmission housing.

GM's 2-Mode 2008 Hybrid to Hit the Streets

Dual-mode hybrid improves fuel economy now

Mechatronics: A Faster Start on "Careering"

Mechatronics: A Faster Start on "Careering"

One of the beauties of the English language is the multiple meanings one can ascribe to words. Careering is one such word. In one sense, careering can be defined as the training and preparation for a lifelong calling. In another, it means rushing at full speed down a given course. Pursuing mechatronics as a career discipline should propel its adherents down this dual road into a promising future.

Over a 25-year career in executive search – much of it focused on engineering – I have witnessed many people backing into their life’s work through accident or misadventure. Whether trained in a university or trade school, many people train for one profession and find themselves in another. Technical disciplines such as engineering provide the means to pursue a variety of career paths, but few veer into the kind of non-sequitur calling that a liberal arts degree often confers. I know. I apply my philosophy focus into the field of headhunting.

Design engineers, process engineers and manufacturing engineers may be EEs, MEs, IEs or PEs but all lend technical expertise to an end product. Blending these disciplines can add additional value to product development and create project teams that can truly create synergy in product development. Often, in the design process, the engineering contributors are fixed upon their individual expertise and fail to consider the electrical, mechanical, software or ergonomic aspects of the end product. One schooled in mechatronics can effect communications between the disparate silos helping each team contribute more effectively toward the whole. 

Going forward (at whatever speed), I want to speak with you about your career. In the Mechatronics Zone we can discuss how your background and training contribute to a meaningful life and the development of vital products in our modern world. We will talk about interviewing, resumes, the workplace and a variety of everyday mysteries. Let me hear from you! Contact me at: jack.o’

Welcome, Speed-Obsessed Engineers

Welcome, Speed-Obsessed Engineers

With the unrelenting time-to-market pressures facing design engineers nowadays, you don't want to spend much of your product development cycle waiting around for physical prototypes and initial production parts. Rather than weeks or months, you're thinking in terms of hours or days. That's why rapid prototyping and manufacturing comes up again and again when we ask Design News readers about the technologies they care about the most. In this new blog, we'll cover a range of prototyping hardware and strategies you can use to get parts in a hurry. Check back regularly for posts on rapid prototyping machines, high-speed machining, rapid tooling and the emerging field of rapid manufacturing. And if there's something you would like to see covered, drop me an email at

Aluminum, Carbon Fiber Favored in European Auto Design

Aluminum, Carbon Fiber Favored in European Auto Design

Look for more aluminum and carbon fiber composites in European cars as producers drive to meet reduced carbon dioxide goals established by the European Union. Despite opposition form luxury car brands in Germany, EU regulators said new-car fleets in 2012 must emit an average 130 g/km of carbon dioxide. More than one fifth of vehicles sold by Peugeot already emit less than 120 g/km.

Aerotech Pushes Mechatronics Envelope with Motion Systems

International Engineering: The Engineering Behind the Chevy Volt Concept Car

February 28, 2007
Spotlight Story:
The Engineering Behind the Chevy Volt
Read about the engineering behind the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, including the first-ever use of thermoplastics as structural body parts. &NOBR>Full Story&/NOBR>
In the News:
Gadget Freak Case #98: Bob Solved His Chip Problem
Bob Neidorff's souped-up shop vac gadget cleans up after wood chip messes even a woodchuck would shun. Watch Video
Take Advantage of the Video World Online video, as seen on sites like YouTube, has taken over the Internet. Take advantage of this inexpensive trend now, while it's still hot. Full story
Soaring Nickel Prices Spur Search for Alternatives Nickel prices will remain extremely high, requiring design engineers to reconsider nickel-content specifications and examine alternatives, such as coated porcelain enamel. Full Story
Suspension System Simulator Improves Race Performance A new suspension system simulator not only helps NASCAR racing teams improve their performance but also promises to aid chassis development for OEM cars. Full Story
Installing Microsoft Vista: It Must Have Been Me Microsoft's latest operating system looks good on paper, with promises of faster applications' handling and greater speed. But installation is more than just a major hurdle to overcome. Full Story
On Demand Webcast from Scientific Computing and Design NewsScientific Computing and Design News present an interactive, educational, streaming video and audio webcast:
Performance, Pricing and Reliability – Selecting and Configuring Scalable CAE Computing Solutions
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Design News Partner Zone Sponsored Technology Content
RAQ’s – Just How Accurate Was William Tell, Anyway?How accurate is an ADC? Their accuracy does not always match their precision. Contributing writer James Bryant relates another strange but true story from the call logs of Analog Devices. Read More

Think You Know the History of Design Engineering?In partnership with Solidworks
Design News is celebrating a special birthday this year: our 60th. Think you know what the next 60 years will bring? To predict the future, you have to know the past. Take this fun challenge and put the world's key events in engineering in chronological order. Match your score against your peers. Click to play now
A reader sent me a note that asks about the "thermocouples" used in gas water heaters. Are they real thermocouples (TCs) or something else? You be the judge. Post a Reply

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The Engineering Behind the Chevy Volt
Gadget Freak Case #98: Bob Solved His Chip Problem
Take Advantage of the Video World
Soaring Nickel Prices Spur Search for Alternatives
Suspension System Simulator Improves Race Performance
Installing Microsoft Vista: It Must Have Been Me
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Few problems with RoHS in Norway

Few problems with RoHS in Norway

Norway’s national network, ELFNET, reports that RoHS has caused few major problems for Norway’s electronics industry as of September 2006. A survey of electronic manufacturing service (EMS) companies found that more than 50 percent of the country’s electronics manufacturers have products outside the scope of RoHS, but those that need to comply have done so without significant hitches.

The EMS providers told ELFNET that finding compliant components was the most difficult part of meeting RoHS requirements. The manufacturers also noted that compliant parts came at a somewhat higher cost. The quality of those parts tended to be equal to non-compliant parts, but some of the components had problems with high temperatures in the manufacturing process. The EMS providers also noted higher prices for compliant laminates, solders and solder paste.

The EMS providers also experienced difficulties in establishing optimal lead-free manufacturing processes. Challenges included difficulties in maintaining a stable soldering process with high throughput and high quality. The difficulties resulted in hand soldering, rework and repair.

A full version of the report is available at the European Lead-Free site.

Are Electrics Too Quiet?

Are Electrics Too Quiet?

One of the beauties of a battery-powered, electronically-controlled hybrid vehicle is that it’s quiet…right?

Well, maybe not. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal ( raises an important point about that lack of noise. Blind pedestrians, it says, can’t hear hybrids approaching because those vehicles are typically so quiet. That’s why the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) is calling on the auto industry to make hybrids emit more noise. An NFB committee has suggested that automakers build a device into axles that makes noise as the wheels rotate.

To be sure, no one has displayed any statistics proving that pedestrian accidents are on the upswing as a result of more hybrids on the road. But automakers are likely to take the matter seriously. And if they do, they may have to deal with a parallel issue: A growing number of pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists can’t hear quiet vehicles because they wear headphones and listen to music while they travel.

Undoubtedly, automakers want their vehicles to be safe. The question is: How loud is loud enough?

Ten years of blogging, engineers remain wary

Ten years of blogging, engineers remain wary

Has it been that long since bloggers exploded onto the scene? Now there's an estimated 70 million blogs, more than one for every man, woman and child in California, New York, Michigan and Illinois combined. Former colleague Dan Farber at ZDNet wrote a worthy retrospective on blogs. Given that many blogs, there must be some engineers out there that do it. True to the anti-social stereotype, engineers just don't seem drawn to blogging. That's too bad given the actual knowledge they have, say, compared to someone simply with political or religious views to express. 

Actually, there's a glimmer of hope. I have found some pretty decent engineering blogs. They include an admissions blog to Cornell School of Engineering; a radio frequency blog that's more like a web site; a Dell blog to tech talk and Curious Cat, a science and engineering blog. With the staggering number of new blogs created every day, how could there not be more engineering blogs than a couple of years when a similar search turned up virtually none? Perhaps, there's only a snowball's chance that engineers will blog en masse. I've tried to coax some into it who I thought would be good, but have enjoyed limited success. We do have Matt Traum, an MIT doctoral candidate blogging on alternative fuels in I Have the Power! Also, another engineer is about to go online at But we need more…perhaps you? We want to liven up the conversation.