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Articles from 2003 In April



Integrated architecture

Pay-as-you-grow scalability

Designed for the Network Critical Physical Infrastructure (NCPI), the patent-pending InfraStruXure allows users to create a customized solution from a range of standardized components. It also eliminates unnecessary waste by allowing additional capacity to be purchased and installed when needed. Other features include heat exhaust and cooling distribution for rack environments to prevent overheating; space-efficient, rack-optimized design; web-based build out tool; more enclosure depth; and power and rack-level environment monitoring. American Power Enter 650

Industrial test tool

Reduces maintenance needs

The Industrial ScopeMeter(R) 124 is designed for industrial and plant maintenance engineers to detect signal anomalies, dropouts, and glitches that cause mechanical failure. Available with 20 memories to store measurement data, full setup information, and user text, the tool offers dual-channel 5,000-count, true-rms multimeter functionality, and paperless data recorder capability. It operates as a dual-channel oscilloscope, and provides storage capacity for ten sets of waveform data with setup information and user text. The meter comes with a rechargeable battery pack, alligator clips, hook clips, shielded BNC adapter, line adapter/charger, and shielded test-leads set, as well as a 10:1 voltage probe to limit signal source loading. Fluke Enter 651

Heat exchanger

Polluted, high temp environments

WW3500S is a 3,500W water-to-air heat exchanger that cools electronic and electrical control cabinets. Intended for applications requiring space efficiency and cooling capacities up to 3,500W, it operates in polluted and high-temperature environments. Measuring 14.96 x 47.24 x 8.07 inches, the heat exchanger has a high capacity fan producing 259 cfm of air flow, along with a cooling water flow of 1.76 gpm at 50F, and dual top and bottom water connections. Fittings with 3/8-inch internal threads offer secure hose connections, while 10-mm drain connections offer condensate removal. Haewa Enter 652

Wiring system

Reduced installation time, cost

The Allen-Bradley(R) PanelConnect(TM) wiring system enables quick assembly of input and output devices to programmable controllers without requiring terminal blocks or din rails. Used in output devices and NEMA 4X-rated for input and output modules, the wiring system supports such Allen-Bradley PLC(R) I/O architectures as 1769 Compact I/O, 1756 ControlLogix(TM) I/O, 1746 SLC(TM) 500 I/O, and 1771 Universal I/O. The plug-and-play design reduces labor costs, saves space, makes faster installations, and eliminates wire bundles associated with terminal strips. The module may be used in stand-alone non-DeviceNet(TM) applications in the automotive, packaging, and food and beverage industries. Rockwell Enter 653

RFID system

Tracks, manages info

The BALOGH Distributed by TURCK Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, intended for harsh industrial environments, consists of transceivers, tags, controllers, and cordsets. The system both tracks products and manages information in the process through the controller, which links the user's control or logic systems and the transceiver/tag communication. Available controllers include serial, parallel, and stand-alone ones, while interfaces include DeviceNet, Control Net, Genius, Interbus-S, Ethernet IP, SLC Backplane, Profibus DP, and ISA PC-Bus. TURCK Enter 654

Liquid level control

Open board design

The LLC8 Series single probe liquid level control, with UL353 recognition, offers low level cutoff protection that prevents thermal runaway and high internal pressure in a hot water tank by disconnecting the heating element when the water level gets too low. Used with boilers and steamers, this series has input voltages of 24, 120, or 230V ac, 50/60 Hz, and resistance from 5k to 250 k-ohms. According to the company, the SPDT relay contacts, rated 10A resistive at 120/240V ac and isolated from operating and probe voltages, can switch small pumps, pump contactors, and valves. ABB, Enter 655

Chip set

Simplify design, cut costs

The IRUK3055CQ01 chip set is engineered to simplify the design of low-voltage, high-current multiphase synchronous dc-dc converters, through its IRU3055CQ five-bit programmable, three-phase PWM controller IC with on board drivers, three IRF3711S synchronous HEXFET(R) MOSFETs, and three IRF3704S control HEXFET power MOSFETS. Operating together, the system can deliver up to 60A to support such advanced microprocessors as the Intel Pentium(R) 4. Due to these devices, the chip set can lower conduction, switching, driver and output losses, and can offer output voltage from 1.075V to 1.85V in 25 mV steps, with up to 1% output voltage accuracy. International Enter 656


Low cost, low profile

Made for circuit protection applications, the NT73 negative tempco thermistor features anti-leaching nickel barrier terminations and twelve standard resistance values from 1.0 k-ohms through 150 k-ohms. With an operating temperature range of -55 to +125C and a standard power rating of 5 mW, these thermistors come in sizes 0603, 0805, and 1206, with resistance tolerances of plus or minus 3%, plus or minus 5%, plus or minus 10%, and plus or minus 15%. Thermistors are suited for reflow and wave soldering in such applications as temperature compensation, temperature measurement, circuit protection, portable temperature gauges, fire detection devices, and in-rush current limiting. KOA Speer Enter 657

Temperature sensor

Operates without water cooling

Model MI-500N is a digital non-contact infrared temperature sensor designed for glass, rubber, ceramic, semiconductor, plastic thermoforming, textile, paper, dryer, and infrared furnace applications. Capable of operating in ambient temperatures up to 185F without water cooling, this sensor can use two different sensor heads for a field of view of 10:1 or 2:1. Other features include switchable analog output, temperature measurement between -40F and 1,292F, adjustable emissivity, built-in digital peak/valley storage, relay contact and alarm, and Digital RS232 or RS485 UPP(R) Output. Mikron Infrared Enter 658

I/O board


The PMC-DAADIO multi-function digital/analog I/O board offers eight differential analog input channels, in addition to eight single-ended analog outputs, operating at 12-bit resolution, along with 18 TTL digital I/O lines and counter/timer I/O. Using an onboard DSP56F807 Digital Signal Processor, the board can both manage external I/O uses and reduce processing demands on the PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC) host. Designed for mobile applications, the board offers shock and vibration resistance and noise immunity. Other uses include digital radio, system monitoring, fire control systems, and closed-loop systems, and any other harsh environments needing digital and analog I/O. Thales Enter 659

BNC jack

40% more connector density

The company's new miniature pcb-mounted right angle bulkhead BNC jack, UCBJR250-N, may be used for high reliability data rate and/or high frequency applications, as telco Central Office DS3 and other Carrier Class applications. By not requiring re-tooling or training when used in conjunction with telco industry-standard BNC installation tools, the connector ultimately saves space. It features 75-ohm impedance, fully enclosed beryllium copper spring fingers, 0.000050-inch thick gold-plated beryllium copper center contacts with plating weep hole, and positive tactile feedback. Trompeter Enter 670

Piezo ceramic elements

Lower cost available

Available in standard and feedback types, TRPB Series Piezo Ceramic Benders are engineered to convert electrical impulses to sound waves in a flat diaphragm type package. They come in diameter ranges of 0.1 to 50 mm and frequency ranges of 1 to 10 kHz, with customized assemblies of wire leads with or without connectors. The piezo ceramic elements may suit manufacturing processes in medical, security alarm, toy production, and smoke detection operations. Transducers Enter 671

Digital oscilliscopes

Up to eight analog channels

According to the company, the DL7400 series of digital oscilloscopes is the only series of 500 MHz oscilloscopes offered with eight analog channels. The instruments are designed with advanced triggering, which enables users to trigger an analog signal, a digital signal, or a combination of both. The oscilloscopes may save waveforms into acquisition memory in order to analyze them after acquisition. The digital oscilloscope series consists of: a 4-channel model with 2 MW (M Sample) of memory per channel; 8-channel model with 2 MW/channel; 4-channel model with 8 MW/channel; and 8-channel model with 8 MW/channel. Yokogawa Corporation of Enter 672

Dc/dc converters

No external components required

The CPK-0305/0308 open frame isolated, 6.5W dc/dc converters have an input range of 36 to 130V dc for use in TNV 48V dc line systems, while dual outputs come in 3.3 and 5V (CPK-0305) and 5 and -9V (CPK-0308). Capable of operating without external cooling or a heat sink, these converters also offer continuous short circuit protection and overvoltage. Enter 673

Keylock switches

Crisp actuation, accurate setting

The SK series of PCB mount, keylock switches is engineered for low-current, low-voltage, logic-level circuits, in applications requiring high-density mounting. Switches come in miniature and subminiature sizes for automated wave soldering and washing, and include a gasket between the base and housing for added protection. The positive detent mechanism provides reportedly crisp actuation and accurate setting, with self-wiping contacts. Antistatic and available in single-pole configurations, the switches may be used in commercial, aerospace, peripheral, computer, industrial, instrumentation, and security industries. NKK Enter 674

Power distribution unit

Slim 1U design

The 852Q2J22 Interpower(TM) 19-inch rack-mount Power Distribution Unit provides domestic and international single-phase power to equipment racks, connected via Interpower IEC 60320 "Universal" Jumper Power Cords and Cordsets. This cuts down on inventory parts, customizes lengths to reduce excess cable, and speeds assembly time. The unit comes with ten individually switched IEC 60320 Sheet F outlets and a C20 inlet, rated at 16A for service at 250V ac. Designed with a lighted rocker circuit breaker, it is UL recognized, CSA certified, and TUV approved with the CE mark. Panel Components Enter 675

Vibration tester

PDA-enabled analysis

The MicroVibe(TM) vibration test and measurement instrument is reportedly the fist of its kind to be used with a Handspring(TM) Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). Users in commercial or industrial environments may gain access to analysis of rotating equipment, including Vibration, Time-waveform, and FFT Spectrum Plots. Conforming to the Springboard(TM) expansion slot of a Handspring(TM) Visor handheld, it accepts accelerometers and electro-dynamic velocity pickups, and other sensors. SKF USA Enter 676


Monitors speed, direction

The Absolute Cam Encoder provides users with a means of monitoring speed, direction, and position. Programmable through a serial interface, it features IP65 housing measuring 58 mm in diameter and 78 mm in depth, while providing 24-bit resolution. Users may eliminate the need to index or calibrate it by using the zero point programmed in through the software. Available in shaft sizes of 6 and 10 mm, the cam encoder models may be suited for packaging and filling applications. Baumer Electric Enter 677

Coaxial connectors

Unique interface

The RPL "positive locking" series of sub-miniature coaxial connectors offers a robust interconnection system for use at frequencies from dc to 8 GHz. The self-locking, 50-ohm impedance connectors are made of nickel-plated, machined brass bodies, gold-plated contacts, and Teflon insulation, and are rated for a minimum lifecycle of 500 matings. Designed so that the interconnect will not disengage during use, the connectors feature a minimum contact retention force of 4 kg, connector total engagement force of 0.5 - 2 kg, and maximum disengagement force of 2 kg. RF Enter 678


DeviceNet(TM), Ethernet interfaces

The Controller-E gateway, including new gateways with DeviceNet and Ethernet interface, connects two AS-I systems with information passing transparently to the higher-level network without additional software. The gateway with the DeviceNet interface, configurable via the LCD display, enables users to connect 868 I/O points as one node on the DeviceNet system. The gateway with an Ethernet interface features full web server capabilities and 1 Mbyte of on-board memory, programmable with HTML or Java Script and accessible over a Local Area Network (LAN) or via modem. It uses the industry standard RJ-45 connector and Modbus on TCP/IP protocol. ifm Enter 679

Scope Keeps Going and Going

Scope Keeps Going and Going

Built to last: Fluke's ScopeMeter

Timex watches aren't the only devices built to take a licking. Recently, a Fluke ScopeMeter was put through its paces by some hapless thieves and some wary emergency workers. The equipment was stolen from a locked car owned by electrician Brian Cheney who was taking a training class at Kawasaki's Lincoln, NE plant. During the ensuing police chase, the perps threw the case, with scope inside, out the window. Mystified, the cops had the fire department x-ray the case. After identifying wires and "some type of electrical-looking equipment," the fire department exercised caution by blowing the whole thing open with an explodable dart and then dousing the contents with water. For good measure, they then cut all the leads on the waterlogged scope, which the dart dinged but didn't penetrate. When Kawasaki electricians took the scope back to the shop, and drained and dried it, they discovered it was fully operational.

Unforgettable Face

Unforgettable Face

The National Institute of Standards and Technology and two other federal agencies report that computer error rates in facial recognition have been reduced 50% since 2000. Today's best facial recognition systems offer a 90% verification probability, comparable to fingerprint matching technologies of 1998. The findings? Older people and males, in general, are easier to recognize than young people, and females overall. Visit for the full report.

Good Karma

Good Karma

News for nerds. Stuff that matters. That's the tagline for, a website that between 60,000 and 100,000 users-many of them techies-are logged on to at any given time. Founder Rob Malda tells Design News why.

Describe Slashdot. Basically, Slashdot is a shortcut for the lazy, a kind of Cliff Notes for techies. We point readers to content and ask them what they think about it. Then we manage the flurry of discussion that follows.

How many registered users do you have? I've seen a number like 600,000, but don't believe anybody who tells you that I really know! We have something like 60,000 to 100,000 users logged on at any given time, so I am guessing the actual number of users is closer to a third of a million a year.

Why is Slashdot so popular with engineers? When I first started Slashdot, it was for people I knew, who were mostly Linux guys writing code and working on open source applications. The fact that we were posting information about hardware and software obviously attracted a certain type of reader. What happened then is that other people starting noticing what we were doing, and we began to break on bigger news stories like the Mozilla open source announcement and Columbine. We include the stories that we think are most likely to matter today, but don't go super deep into any particular topic.

The discussion moderation system is key in helping you build your community. How hard is it to do? It is phenomenally hard. I spend huge amounts of my time thinking up ways to improve it and to prevent people from messing with it. If anyone took the information we've learned in the past five years and started from scratch, they could do a better job of it. For example, our moderation scores range from -1 to 5. That's pretty arbitrary. And we're bumping into the problem that a score 4 and a score 5 aren't that different in some discussions. If I were to design the system now, I'd add more points.

How many users actually participate in the discussions? About 60 to 70% of our readers simply read our home page-they're interested, but they know they don't have anything to add to the discussion. There are other people, however, who always have something to say. And they're usually wrong. Which is why we have so many comments rated -1.

Do you make more money from ads or from readers paying to avoid ads? Definitely more money from ads. But I don't worry too much about the business side of the business.

Any plans to take your web model to print? We haven't ruled it out yet. But I don't know what sort of publication would work. The whole nature of Slashdot is that it's good for 12 hours.

What print magazines do you read? Pretty much only comic books.

Last year, you proposed on-line. Your fiance accepted. What was the response from the community? Typical Slashdot. Some people loved it. Some people hated it.

Ask The Search Engineer

Ask The Search Engineer

Dear Search Engineer: Am I nuts or is a calculated torque value the same whether you apply the torque to a bolt head or to a nut? In other words, if we have a bolt assembled into a blind, tapped hole, would the torque value be the same as if it was a bolt with a nut joint? Indianapolis

Dear M.R.: The torque values for friction in the threads would be the same, regardless which is turning. However, the torque due to friction under the bolt head when it's being turned may be lower than the torque from the friction under the nut face when the nut is being turned. Both the bolt and nut have annular areas at their faces that contact the joint. The annular surface area on most nut faces has a radius greater than the average radius of the annular face under the bolt head. Therefore, with the larger radius, a given friction force due to clamping load will cause a higher torque when turning the nut. Torque due to friction in threads and at contacting faces is often very significant and is also the most difficult portion of total torque to estimate. And don't forget that the friction torque is also affected by material and lubrication.

Here's one for you, Search Engineer: We just upgraded to AutoCAD 2002, and I need a way to create revision clouds. Is there a way to do this? -B. S. from L.A.

Dear B.S.: The Revision Cloud Bonus utility is not included with the 2002 version of AutoCAD. But if you find your older version of AutoCAD and copy the "revcloud.lsp" file to the SUPPORT folder in your current version of AutoCAD, the cloud issue will clear up.

Yo, S.E.: I need a recommendation for a finish for phosphorus bronze electrical contacts that will maintain brightness. Ideally, the finish will not dramatically affect conductivity, and will survive some handling during final assembly. The brightness is mainly for aesthetics. -P.E. from Newark

Dear P.E.: The best plating combination for a phosphorous bronze or beryllium copper contact is first a copper strike then a nickel diffusion barrier (50 micro inches) then gold (10 to 50 micro inches). Gold has the lowest contact resistance but nickel is not too bad for higher current applications. Silver has low contact resistance, but it tarnishes and loses its good looks after a while. Gold and silver are very porous, so you need a diffusion barrier. Nickel is very brittle, so you must plate after forming the contact.

Dear Search Engineer: I have an application requiring an extremely "springy" material. The particular property of importance is the dissipative loss or hysteresis, which needs to be minimal. In other words, the ideal material would "ring" indefinitely when struck or plucked. -J.A. from Huntsville, AL

Dear J.A.: A cobalt-nickel alloy is a very good spring material. It has high strength, ductility, excellent fatigue life, and is non-magnetic and suitable for high temperature application.

Dear Search Engineer: I work for a system integrator and we are doing a quote for a customer where we will have to laser mark a serial number on a part made out of POM. Can this be laser-marked? -J.C. in North Carolina

Thanks for asking J.C.: Actually POM is polyacetal, a highly crystalline engineering thermoplastic ideal for parts requiring durability, dimensional stability, and low wear. There are two basic types-homopolymer like Delrin(R), and copolymer, such as BASF Ultraform. And yes, POM can be laser-marked. But there are a couple things to keep in mind for successful laser-marking of POM or other thermoplastics: A homogeneous distribution of absorbing pigment is necessary; therefore, using a precolored resin is generally better than "salt and pepper" coloring or coloring at the machine. And keep in mind that if the base resin contains other fillers or modifiers, this can affect laser markability. CO2 lasers will give a 3D etch into the resin where Nd-YAG laser will potentially yield a white or other color contrast. Good luck!

Dear Search Engineer: I have a question concerning the amount of thread required to protrude past a fastener. I remember that the length of thread that must protrude is one half the diameter of the bolt size. Is this correct? -D.S. from Seattle

Dear D.S.: Usual shop standard is for two full threads to extend past the nut or nylon insert.

Dear Mr. Search Engineer: We control the throttle on a diesel engine with a linear actuator. The device is currently mounted on the side of the engine and experiences all the vibrations associated with a diesel engine. Heat and dirt are also present as the engine is inside a sound enclosure mounted on an off-road vehicle. Input comes from a DPDT switch in the operator cab. Force to control the throttle is small, less than 10 lbs. Current selection fails regularly and warrantee claims are climbing. Is there a better way to provide rugged, low-cost, fail-safe throttle control? -R.P. from Austin, TX

Howdy R.P.: Can I assume that by fail-safe you mean that upon loss of signal the throttle remains in its current position? I am also assuming that because you are using a DPDT switch to control the throttle that one DPDT switch position causes the linear actuator to open the throttle until a limit switch is made and the other DPDT switch position returns the throttle to idle, again with the aid of a limit switch. If you would consider fail-safe to mean that upon loss of signal the throttle returns to idle or at worst remains in its current position, I would suggest that you explore the possibility of using a pneumatic cylinder for an actuator, either controlled by an air valve switch in the operator cab or by the current DPDT switch through a solenoid operated air valve. The air cylinder could be operated between adjustable mechanical stops to provide the idle and fast throttle operating position. Most diesel vehicles utilize compressed air for the brake system and it would not do harm to draw a small quantity of air from the system to operate a small air cylinder. I would suggest using a restriction (orifice) at the fitting where you tap the air to limit air loss to an acceptable level in the event that the air line to this type of throttle controller breaks. For a system that returns to idle upon loss of signal, the cylinder would be pressurized to throttle the engine up and the air exhausted from the cylinder so that the throttle return spring can return the engine to idle. Alternately, each end of the cylinder could be pressurized and exhausted as appropriate to force the cylinder to move, in order to throttle the engine up and down. If an air cylinder is used, it must be carefully selected for the environment in which it will be used with respect to temperature and moisture. Also, it must be designed to operating without externally applied lubrication.

Got more questions or problems for The Search Engineer? Send them to [email protected]. But don't expect personal replies.

New and Notable Product Design

New and Notable Product Design

Anyone's Can Can

Stage Systems Axess2 Chair. "Nothing less than amazing," said the report from the British Furniture Industry Research Association about this chair that exceeded scale limits on its test rig. The seat accommodated a load "an equivalent to 54 stones (756 lbs)."The key to such robustness is the flexible support for the backrest and seat made with DuPont Delrin(R) acetal resin. Anthony Hill, managing director for Stage's parent firm and the chair's designer, says the resin was chosen for its "fatigue strength and good memory-allowing it to flex back to its original position. Other materials, whilst offering similar strength, could eventually fatigue and break, or possibly bend out of shape. Rather than any one property, it's the balance of elongation at yield and stiffness, combined with the design of the chair which allow it to return to its original shape after the application of a heavy load." Managing Director: Anthony Hill, ( Enter 576

Quicker Clicker

Philips Electronics iPronto (Tsi6400). No more wasting time watching your significant other channel surf for the TV programs you want to see. With one touch of a button, this universal remote control automatically changes the channel on your TV. At its heart is the iPronto editor - PC software that helps you build fully customizable user interfaces or choose from one of thousands available online. With it, you can customize your always-on, wireless control panel-giving the iPronto a personal look and feel with your own screens and remote control buttons-to find the weather, news, and sports you want from anywhere in the house. Never fight over the clicker again. Product Manager: Rein Hintzen ( Enter 577

Kayak In A Pack

FirstLight Folding Kayak. There will be a lot more happy campers with this collapsible kayak that fits in a backpack. Depending on the model, it weighs 15-22 lbs and assembles in 15 minutes. Enabling the design is the hull made from a single sheet of Stevens Urethane ST-1880 TPU, eliminating seams under the waterline. "Performance was key, and for our hull that means dimensional strength, elasticity, puncture and abrasion resistance, and UV resistance," notes FirstLight CEO Martin Ross. TPU's elasticity (elongation up to 200%) minimizes rips-if the kayak hits an object, the hull will stretch and return to its original shape. And since the material has no plasticizers, it will not become brittle with age or at low temperatures-critical for years of folding and unfolding. CEO Martin Ross ( Enter 578

Swinging To Perfection

Butch Harmon's Laser Golf Trainer. FORE... Swoosh... right into the sand trap again! Does this sound all too familiar? The Laser Trainer will help you take your golf game to a whole new level. By using two lasers, along with a Graphical Target Mat, a player sees exactly where his/her swing begins and ultimately ends in regards to the final target. Barry Boatner, president of Tour Swing Inc. says, "Initiating your downswing is key to successfully hitting the target." The lasers, one on the club head (Path Laser) and the other fitting the butt end of any standard shaft grip (Plane Laser), emit finely focused beams of red light providing visual indication on the entire range of a player's swing as it tracks across the mat. Boatner adds, "See what you're doing based on science, and you will believe it." Lead Engineer: Barry Boatner ( Enter 579

Stirred But Not Shaken

JMTek USBDrive Weatherproof(TM). Now you can schlep your data without fear of rain, sleet, snow, or dropping it in the swimming pool (or worse). This high capacity (512 Mbyte and 1 Gbyte) USB 2.0 flash memory device is water tight down to at least 3-ft deep. And because of sturdy materials, such as polycarbonate shells, even lower depths just require drying out. According to Managing Director Ahmad Aqqad, "Injection molding techniques allow less leakage into the housing." Water tightness, he says, comes from "a gasket on both halves of the housing, which are ultrasonically welded together." During the design process, engineers found where any water would leak and redesigned those potential ingress points. Managing Director: Ahmad Aqqad ( Enter 580

Cart For The Medical Course

Modo Flo Cart System. Cutting clutter in a hospital room and lending a more "humanized" look are what these medical carts are about. Small footprint, no cable clutter (they're within the center post) were design objectives for a smaller, less "threatening" appearance, along with ease of maneuvering. For the latter, engineer Tom Sjordal, notes "Feel, sound, and touch were important. Balancing relative up and down force of the gas spring was critical to conveying a sense of quality and reliability. We tested gas springs and ranked each based on user responses. We shared this data with Suspa our supplier in developing an improved spring. Our solution combines tight tolerances and improved seals. By using a keyed piston, we reduced parts count and improved reliability." Lead Engineer: Tom Sjordal, ( Enter 581

Top Ten Degrees In Demand

Top Ten Degrees In Demand

Studies show that it still pays to have a technical degree, but liberal arts majors with the right background need not fret though. Companies are giving second glances to resumes with the following degrees:

  • Accounting

  • Business

  • Electrical Engineering

  • Mechanical Engineering

  • Economics/Finance

  • Computer Science

  • Information Sciences

  • Marketing

  • Management Information Systems

  • Computer Engineering

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

Top Dogs

Top Dogs

Gartner Inc. (, a major research and industry analyst firm, has ranked Dassault Systemes as the top financial performer in the growing sector of Product Lifecycle Management software and services. The ranking, completed in March, also includes EDS PLM Solutions, PTC, and MatrixOne as leaders in PLM. Autodesk and MSC.Software also ranked high as challengers.

Gartner said in its report that Dassault and its U.S. marketing partner IBM have committed more resources to their partnership and that Dassault deserves credit for building a complete PLM framework on its V5 architecture.

Dassault President Bernard Charles says PLM is the next revolution for creating manufactured products using 3D modeling.

A Brake for Brakes

A Brake for Brakes

Stromag ( says it has developed new coatings for servomotor brakes that increase friction and eliminate rust. Says the company's Bob MaLain, the coatings let engineers design equal performance into smaller packages. Smaller drive packages more common today place more demands on the holding brake to produce more torque for its size.

Old Meets New in Bathroom Faucet

Old Meets New in Bathroom Faucet

At first glance, the new Standard Collection faucet appears to be one of those new products that spurns the cold, high-tech world in favor of the warm and fuzzy look and feel of a bygone era.

Dripless Design: American Standard's Widespread Lavatory Faucet employes ceramic disk valves beneath each handle.

The faucet, which resurrects the design of a 1920s predecessor known as the York Combination Lavatory Faucet, features soft contours, lever-type handles, and liberal use of feel-good materials, such as porcelain and cast brass.

Underneath that 1920s skin, however, there's a higher tech story. In bringing the old design forward, designers and engineers at American Standard (, Piscataway, NJ), had to deal with a sinkful of technical issues as they updated the technology from the good ol' days of the 1920s.

To meet today's needs, engineers at American Standard had to adopt materials, finishes, and mechanical configurations that weren't available 80 years ago. The company's director of industrial design, Gary Uhl, did that by plucking research and development from the 1960s and then blending it with modern day methodologies and 1920s styling. A key issue was the matter of valve leakage, a chronic problem 80 years ago, which Uhl addressed by incorporating a technology co-developed by his father, engineer John Uhl, during a period from 1964-1967.

"The notion that we were just going to reproduce a product from the 1920s wasn't true," says Gary Uhl. "Our challenge was to find the things that people liked and bring them forward in a way that would meet modern-day needs."

He says the company conjured up the idea of a throwback design after listening to stories of enthusiasts who plumbed the depths of junkyards to find old sinks and fixtures.

"People kept talking about the great old stuff we used to make," Uhl notes. "We kept hearing about people who had fond memories of old plumbing, and how they'd go to almost any measures to revive it."

Back to the Future

The phenomenon, which is also commonplace among automotive enthusiasts, is an understandable one, Uhl says, especially among people who have fond memories of childhood. "The notion of a different time has appeal," he says. "The feeling in the world today is one of angst, and people want to get away from that."

American Standard executives responded to that customer desire by looking back at the company's catalogs from the 1920s, a time prior to the company's merger with American Radiator and prior to it being subsequently renamed American Standard. In the old catalogs, they found a collection of products-faucets, sinks, toilets, and accessories-that matched the look and feel they sought in a new line.

Unfortunately, the company's designers and engineers also learned why such products no longer existed. "The reality is that much of that plumbing should have been torn out of sinks," Uhl says. "There were good reasons why it was no longer being used. It didn't meet today's codes, didn't have today's safety or performance, and didn't have today's ergonomics."

Retro: The design for the new faucet was based on a product from the company's 1922 catalog.

Indeed, for all the warmth and softness of the old design, there were problems. Nickel finishes used on the old hardware tended to rub off on wet hands. Porcelain cracked and left jagged, dangerous edges. Flow spouts were stubby and low, failing to meet today's performance demands. Brass parts of the time had high lead content and came up woefully short of today's code requirements.

Worst of all, in the user's minds, faucets of the time were prone to a maddening drip, drip, drip that caused strong-handed users to crank the handles down tighter, which eventually ruined the valve seats. The result: Replacement of faucet valves was commonplace.

"You simply couldn't sell a faucet like that today," Uhl says. "It wouldn't meet codes and it would require too much care and maintenance."

To deal with that, Uhl turned to the ceramic disk valve technology pioneered by his father during the 1960s. The technology, which uses overlapping ceramic disks to shut off or allow flow of water, had always been regarded as a technical success, but had been more notable for its lukewarm acceptance by 1960's U.S. consumers, most of whom were unwilling to pay the few extra dollars, or possibly were distrustful of the grandiose claim that it would never have to be replaced. Ironically, however, the design had been kept alive by European and Asian consumers, who were enthralled by the valve's no-leak, no-replacement performance.

"As it turned out, the ceramic disk valve was an incredible invention for the time because it never wears out and never has to be replaced," Uhl says. "But it was one of those situations where a huge breakthrough in technology just didn't take off in the market."

Family Affair

American Standard, however, had never been short-sighted about the senior Uhl's development and engineering efforts. The company had built ceramic disk valve cartridges in Kentucky in the 1970s and shipped them to a sister company in Europe, Ideal Standard, which sold them in that market.

Moreover, no one knew the value of the technology better than Uhl, who had grown up with it. Uhl, who has four brothers who are engineers, was immersed in American Standard's culture during his youth. On Saturday mornings during the 1960s, while other kids watched cartoons, Uhl often accompanied his father at the firm's seven-story research and development facility in Louisville, KY, and watched as engineers tested faucets equipped with ceramic disk valves.

"As a kid, I used to see rows and rows of those faucets set up in the lab, going through maybe half a million cycles each," he recalls.

As it turned out, much of the research work done during the '60s formed the basis for the company's current valve designs. The valve, which drew its inspiration from the stopcocks on wine casks, requires only a quarter-turn of the handle to be fully opened or fully closed.

The current version uses two ceramic disks, each measuring about a half-inch in diameter. When the user handle is turned one way, holes in the disks align with one another, allowing water to flow through. Turned the other way, the disks block the flow of water.

The key to the design is the hardness of the ceramic. To harden them, American Standard employs a powder metal using a proprietary blend consisting of 94% aluminum oxide and 6% additives. Disks are pressed in a mold, onto which anywhere from 6 to 55 tons of force is applied. The company makes up to 2,000 disks per hour in this fashion, then moves them to a kiln, where the fragile products can be hardened. By firing the kiln to a top temperature of 2,700F, American Standard engineers can then "bake" the ceramic disks in a three-step process that involves 12 hours of preheating, three hours of high-temperature firing, and nine additional hours of cooling. When the disks leave the furnace, they are said to be of "near-diamond" hardness (about 1,200 Vickers).

American Standard then polishes the disks with a diamond paste, ultimately achieving flatness with a surface quality of 0.02 microns. Thickness is measured optically, using a laser measuring device. Much of the technology was developed in-house by American Standard, which had its own ceramics group. Other parts of it were gleaned through consulting efforts with Coorstek, a manufacturer of technical ceramics for a variety of high-tech applications.

By making the disks so exceptionally hard, the senior Uhl says he was able to endow the valve with long life and no-leak performance. Any potential softness in the material, he says, would have led to scratches if the disks were subjected to sand or other hard debris in the water.

"We had to make sure that if the valve was used in Texas or Florida, where sand sometimes gets in the pipelines, it still wouldn't leak," recalls John Uhl, the now-retired manager of product engineering for American Standard. "So we repeatedly simulated it in the lab, and we learned that if a grain of sand got trapped in there, these ceramic disks would chop it off."

Flatness: A Big Advantage

Uhl claims that the disks are so flat that, during operation, they exhibit a performance phenomenon similar to magnetism: The smooth surfaces of the two disks are held together by atmospheric pressure, thus preventing flow of water through the valve.

The technology is considered so reliable that it's also being used by a separate division of American Standard for hydraulic valves in the antilock braking systems of large trucks.

Most important, however, the ceramic disk valve recently took its place in American Standard's "Standard Collection" of products, all of which are based on the original 1920s design. The company's engineering team, including engineers Jose Leyva, Tony D'Amato, Marin Marinov, Mike Carideo, and Walter Pitsch, worked with Gary Uhl and product director Michele Hudec to incorporate the technology in the new faucet. Known as the Widespread Lavatory Faucet, the new product joins an old-fashioned pedestal sink and elongated toilet, two other products in the line that blend the 1920s design with new technologies.

To enable the new faucet to meet today's performance specifications and codes, engineers also used a plasma-vapor-deposited nickel finish that doesn't rub off, and employed code-compliant brass and porcelain materials in the parts.

With this new line of products, "We had to go back to the 1920s to give people want they want," notes Gary Uhl. "So it has the soft feel that they're looking for, but at the same time, it has the performance that they need."