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Articles from 2014 In April


Slideshow: Top Cars From the 2014 NY International Auto Show

This year's New York International Auto Show featured an exciting collection of 2015 releases, supercars, and EVs. The show, held April 18-27 at the Javits Center, gave more than 1 million car enthusiasts a sneak peak into the latest trends in the auto industry.

Some highlights from the show included a 1,001 HP Bugatti Veyron, a 1971 Gran Torino customized with 3D printing, and Toyota's personal electric vehicle.

Click the SRT Viper GTS below to see some of the best cars from the 2014 New York International Auto Show.

The SRT Viper GTS Anodized Carbon Edition (to be limited to 50 cars) features the first matte finish paint offered by the company. Only 10 will be made with the Time Attack Group performance package; SRT says they will be the among the rarest Vipers ever created.

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Wind Power Is Getting Big

Wind Power Is Getting Big

The US Department of Energy is counting on wind power to meet 20% of the nation's power needs by 2030, up from 4% today. Advancing technologies play an increasingly critical role in developing offshore wind power. Last November, Clemson University unveiled the world's largest 15 milliwatt Wind Turbine Drivetrain Test facility to create new technologies for the energy market.

Today, the facility has expanded to include a grid simulation lab that makes it possible for manufacturers to test both the mechanical and electrical characteristics of their machines in a controlled environment. With this advanced testing center, companies can test a hardware prototype for any energy resource on a utility scale up to a massive 15 MW -- a first for the industry -- while also gauging the impact of adding this technology to the actual grid before deploying it.

The facility is using National Instruments' integrated hardware and software tools as part of the brains of the wind turbine testing facility. "We work with a lot of national labs on big projects like this. NI's involvement runs from providing products and technology to actually developing products," Brian MacCleery, principle product manager for clean energy technology at NI, told Design News. "There were a lot of different roles NI has played with the Clemson University facility, from grid simulation to energy systems."

For one, NI is simulating the grid operation of the wind turbine. "The grid simulation has become one of the more interesting technologies for the industry," MacCleery told us. "We're also developing different pieces of the technology. It's not just for the drivetrain. We're also developing technology for the complex intersections between the turbine and the grid. We're testing it through all types of wind."

NI is also developing instrumentation systems for the facility. There are two main systems that are being developed: a turbine with 7.5 MW capacity, and one with a 15 MW capacity. Part of the testing involves determining the mechanical stresses on the turbine. The goal is to develop gearboxes for wind turbines that will last at least 20 years.

NI uses hydraulic replicators to model what the wind does to the turbine and simulate what the grid does to a turbine. "We can create scientific conditions to see the effect on the turbine," says MacCleery. "This e-grid facility allows us to do a teardown of the power electronics of the turbine to make it last much longer. One of the things that determines the life of the electronics in the turbine is the temperature cycle. Every time you heat and cool them, it takes away from the lifetime. A temperature swing of 100C will take a lot of life out of the turbine."

NI simulates the electrical grid to show what the turbine will be subjected to. The simulator shows all of the stresses and wear and tear. "A spike in the grid will cause tremendous mechanical strain as well as strain on the power electronics. The simulation allows us to test and validate the mechatronics."

The facility is located on the coast of South Carolina because of the size of the turbines. "There are no turbines in operation today that are this large, but that's where the industry wants to go," says MacCleery. "The largest turbines have to be offshore. Size limits the size of wind turbines on land because you can't drive this size of turbine down a road." He noted that the reason for the enlarged size of the turbine is economic. "The cost per watt comes down with size."

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What Tech Is Next for Industrial Electric Motors?

What Tech Is Next for Industrial Electric Motors?

Three-phase squirrel-cage AC induction motors are the workhorses for the industrial market. However, their development is reaching the limits of physics for efficiency.

A new technology must be adopted to reach the next levels, and this could be permanent magnet motors using some type of rare-earth magnets in the rotor, switched reluctance, synchronous reluctance, or some new technology yet to be identified. Most of these new technologies offer power density improvements over standard induction motors. But most require some form of adjustable speed drive for their operation, which can further aid in energy savings.

At this time, these new technologies are available from motor manufacturers, but have yet to become available through distribution as standard drop-in replacements for existing NEMA or IEC motor designs. Both NEMA and IEC have yet to complete standards for these new technologies, and only CSA has developed an approved test method.

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Video: Glass-Paved Roads Provide Solar Power

Video: Glass-Paved Roads Provide Solar Power

We've told you about solar-energy-harvesting glass, and tiles that can harvest energy from people's footsteps. Now a project devised about eight years ago by an electrical engineer and his psychologist wife combines those two ideas with the development of solar panels that could one day pave our roads.

Scott and Julie Brusaw are the inventors of Solar Roadways, a project to develop solar panels durable enough to be driven on so they can replace asphalt or concrete surfaces of parking lots and roadways. Scott Brusaw has been envisioning the project since he was young, but he and Julie didn't begin work in earnest on developing solar panels tough enough to be placed in the ground until 2006.

The Brusaws didn't immediately respond to comment about Solar Roadways, noting on their website that they are very busy with the project at this time. They did, however, describe their vision for the project, which is not only to derive energy from the sun but also provide lighting and heating elements for safer roadways.

"Suppose we made a section of road out of (durable) material and housed solar cells to collect energy, which could pay for the cost of the panel, thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time," they wrote on the website. "What if we added LEDs to 'paint' the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving? What if we added a heating element in the surface (like the defrosting wire in the rear window of our cars) to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? The ideas and possibilities just continued to roll in and the Solar Roadway project was born."

The federal government -- specifically, the Department of Transportation's US Federal Highway Administration -- was so impressed with the idea that in 2009, it provided the first of two phases of funding to the couple to develop a solar-paneled paving system.

To create solar panels that are durable enough to withstand not only being driven over but also environmental conditions like snow and rain, Solar Roadways created hexagonal panels of strong textured and tempered glass. The glass sits over solar panels that are sandwiched between the glass and a green circuit board. The system also has an underground cabling system called the Cable Corridor that will sit next to a roadway or parking lot.

Solar Roadways already tested the glass surface of its ground-based solar array for traction, load testing, and impact resistance, and phase two of its contract with the highway administration -- to build a prototype parking lot paved with the panels -- is nearly complete.

The project is currently on Indiegogo in an effort to drum up support for the production of the technology, which the Brusaws hope will lead to its commercialization.

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Electric Vehicles Get Good Grades for Reliability

The Nissan Leaf received near-perfect reliability grades for the third straight year. <br /> (Source: Nissan)

When it comes to designing for reliability, electric cars are proving that simpler is better, a recent Consumer Reports owner survey has concluded. "In general, electric cars have been stellar," Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer's Union, tells Design News. "The fact that they don't have to carry around a gas engine or conventional transmission tends to make them pretty reliable."

In its annual reliability survey of 1.1 million vehicles, Consumer Reports gave high marks to the all-electric Nissan Leaf, writing that consumers should expect "reliability of new models to be 60% above average." It was the third year in a row that the Leaf earned near-perfect scores in the survey.

Click on the Chevy Volt below to start the slideshow.

Tesla's all-electric Model S also fared well, with some minor exceptions. Its drive system, electrical system, suspension, brakes, paint, and trim all received good scores, but it did exhibit some problems with squeaks, rattles, and body hardware, Fisher says. "Among 600 Teslas, we didn't see a single problem related to the battery, electric motor, or the electronics," he tells us. "The funny thing was that problems were mechanical. They have these little electric door handles that pop out. They don't always work."

A year ago, Consumer Reports declared that the Model S "blew away" gasoline-burning competitors on its 327-acre test facility, but that victory was in no way connected to the recent owner survey. "The fantastic rating we gave it last year was all about performance," Fisher says. "This is about reliability."

Consumer Reports' survey revealed mixed reviews for hybrids, however. As usual, the Toyota Prius received good feedback from owners, particularly in the areas of engines and transmissions. Its few imperfections were for engine cooling and water pumps, as well as the "regular" 12V battery. The plug-in (Prius PHV) version of that car, however, did not fare as well. It received a below-average overall rating for 2013.

Plug-in hybrids clearly did not perform on the same level as pure electrics, the survey concluded. The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt received middling grades, with Consumer Reports declaring that it was 7% above the industry average. Over three model years (2011, 2012, and 2013), Volt owners reported numerous electrical problems and a handful of engine cooling issues. Another plug-in hybrid, Ford's C-Max, was so plagued by electrical problems that it had the "worst rating in the entire survey," Fisher says.

"When you get a vehicle that is electric and also has a gasoline engine, then you've got all the associated maintenance and you end up losing the advantages of the pure electric powertrain," he explains.

To be sure, feedback on pure electrics is still sparse, with the Ford Focus EV, Chevy Spark EV, Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Toyota RAV4 EV failing to appear in the survey because of insufficient data. Early indications, however, point to pure EVs having a reliability advantage over hybrids and conventional vehicles, at least for now. "The electric vehicle looks good from a maintenance and reliability standpoint," he tells us. "There's just less to worry about."

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Electric Vehicles Get Good Grades for Reliability

Electric Vehicles Get Good Grades for Reliability

When it comes to designing for reliability, electric cars are proving that simpler is better, a recent Consumer Reports owner survey has concluded. "In general, electric cars have been stellar," Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer's Union, tells Design News. "The fact that they don't have to carry around a gas engine or conventional transmission tends to make them pretty reliable."

In its annual reliability survey of 1.1 million vehicles, Consumer Reports gave high marks to the all-electric Nissan Leaf, writing that consumers should expect "reliability of new models to be 60% above average." It was the third year in a row that the Leaf earned near-perfect scores in the survey.

Click on the Chevy Volt below to start the slideshow.

Tesla's all-electric Model S also fared well, with some minor exceptions. Its drive system, electrical system, suspension, brakes, paint, and trim all received good scores, but it did exhibit some problems with squeaks, rattles, and body hardware, Fisher says. "Among 600 Teslas, we didn't see a single problem related to the battery, electric motor, or the electronics," he tells us. "The funny thing was that problems were mechanical. They have these little electric door handles that pop out. They don't always work."

A year ago, Consumer Reports declared that the Model S "blew away" gasoline-burning competitors on its 327-acre test facility, but that victory was in no way connected to the recent owner survey. "The fantastic rating we gave it last year was all about performance," Fisher says. "This is about reliability."

Consumer Reports' survey revealed mixed reviews for hybrids, however. As usual, the Toyota Prius received good feedback from owners, particularly in the areas of engines and transmissions. Its few imperfections were for engine cooling and water pumps, as well as the "regular" 12V battery. The plug-in (Prius PHV) version of that car, however, did not fare as well. It received a below-average overall rating for 2013.

Plug-in hybrids clearly did not perform on the same level as pure electrics, the survey concluded. The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt received middling grades, with Consumer Reports declaring that it was 7% above the industry average. Over three model years (2011, 2012, and 2013), Volt owners reported numerous electrical problems and a handful of engine cooling issues. Another plug-in hybrid, Ford's C-Max, was so plagued by electrical problems that it had the "worst rating in the entire survey," Fisher says.

"When you get a vehicle that is electric and also has a gasoline engine, then you've got all the associated maintenance and you end up losing the advantages of the pure electric powertrain," he explains.

To be sure, feedback on pure electrics is still sparse, with the Ford Focus EV, Chevy Spark EV, Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Toyota RAV4 EV failing to appear in the survey because of insufficient data. Early indications, however, point to pure EVs having a reliability advantage over hybrids and conventional vehicles, at least for now. "The electric vehicle looks good from a maintenance and reliability standpoint," he tells us. "There's just less to worry about."

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XP Is a Sitting Duck for Cyberattacks

XP Is a Sitting Duck for Cyberattacks

If you're still running Windows XP in your plant, you better duck. Microsoft's support for the XP operating system officially ended on April 8, 2014. Windows will no longer provide users with security updates or technical support for the 12-year-old system. Microsoft stated that "PCs running Windows XP after April 8, 2014, should not be considered to be protected, and it is important that you migrate to a current supported operating system."

In a research note, IHS Technology noted that cybersecurity is the largest concern related to the continued use of Windows XP in industrial automation.

"Without the ongoing security updates to protect systems from attacks, users will be exposed to new threats that can exploit vulnerabilities of the operating system. Such threats exist to industrial automation equipment operating on Windows XP, perhaps most notably industrial PCs and distributed control systems."

HIS noted that many end users have upgraded to modern operating systems since the 2007 announcement that XP support would end in 2014. Larger companies -- especially those driven by IT departments -- have been more proactive in making advance preparations to upgrade from XP early. Smaller companies that are less driven by IT have delayed upgrades until absolutely necessary. Many have yet to convert.

According to Andrew Orbinson, an analyst for process, instrumentation, and machinery at IHS, XP users are now at risk for attacks. "Quite simply, there will be no future security updates for XP. The systems will continue to function, but will be more vulnerable to cyberattacks without the continued support," he told Design News. "There are third-party companies that offer continued custom XP support; however, such solutions are more expensive and less reputable than Microsoft's. These solutions are not expected to be widely implemented for control systems."

Some plants still vulnerable
Orbinson noted that industry has had plenty of time to prepare for the discontinuation of XP, and that most companies have already moved on to newer systems. Even so, many plants are vulnerable. "Whilst IHS has not conducted a specific analysis on how widely XP is still deployed, we are aware that there are a considerable number of end users that are still using Windows XP despite its decline," he told us.

Switching to a new operating system is no small matter for a plant. "The two main considerations are common to all upgrades -- cost and time," said Orbinson. As for cost, a number of factors add up. "Implementing a new operating system for control systems throughout an organization takes a substantial investment," he said. "Costs can include licenses, installation, assessments, consultancy, time, training, loss of productivity, modifications to internal XP-based systems and programs, as well as the many hidden costs."

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Video: Autodesk Releases Inventor HSM 2015

Video: Autodesk Releases Inventor HSM 2015

Attention all CNC machining inventors -- manufacturing your designs is about to get much more simple with the release of Autodesk's Inventor HSM 2015 CAM software, which generates tool paths to turn concepts into real-life designs at lightning speed.

Autodesk originally announced the software development in July 2013. It was created to give designers, engineers, and machinists enhanced capability when inventing pieces using CNC machines.

The software is claimed to generate some of the best tool paths available directly through the program. It is expected to help inventors save time and resources by offering reliable, high-quality tool paths to ensure the production of quality products.

The purchase includes a full license of the software, which is being hailed as a fully integrated CAD/CAM solution to guide inventors from the development of the products through its quality manufacture. With this, it also offers 2.5D, 3D, and 3+2 tool path options for the efficient manufacturing of complex designs.

Inventor 2015 offers full integration to Inventor users. With a similar user interface, inventors are expected to be able to fully navigate the program within minutes. The software also allows for designs to be fully incorporated into feasible tool paths that can be sent to manufacture with confidence.

Autodesk claims Inventor 2015 ensures the creation of high-quality parts through reliable, configurable tool paths. All parts are said to be made with the best surface finishes, while still allowing for customization. With this, users are also able to validate the machining procedure before sending it to manufacture to ensure all parts are created picture perfect, every time.

The updated software features a multi-core, 64-bit CAM engine with built-in support for the proper calculations of tool paths. The program also features strategizing techniques, such as Adaptive Clearing, which creates calculations that enhance surface quality, extends machine longevity, and minimizes wear and tear. The Post Processor system was also designed at lightning speed, creating CNC codes at hundreds of thousands of lines per second.

What's more, Inventor 2015 features four 24-core systems to ensure the rapid, accurate creation of complex tool paths, which support intricate, quality designs. It functions for both single and multiple tool designs.

How to Introduce CAE Simulation Into the Product Development Process

How to Introduce CAE Simulation Into the Product Development Process

Congratulations! You've decided to join all the best-in-class organizations that utilize engineering simulation as an integral part of product development. So what happens next? There are lots of ways to get started, and the best method for implementation depends on many factors. Here are a few essential ideas that I've found to be helpful throughout the many years I've been working with companies on various aspects of CAE simulation.

A key factor to success is the CAE software (FEA, CFD, electromagnetics, etc.) which is chosen, but that's a topic unto itself. Let's begin with the assumption that the proper CAE software and support team have been selected, and the engineers have been trained. Where do you go from here?

Pick a project. The biggest obstacle in the introduction of CAE simulation is not technical; it's overcoming the human intellectual inertia, or our natural inclination to return to what we've done in the past. So, rather than simultaneously introducing simulation into the development process of every product in your portfolio and trying to overcome the resistance of a multitude of project managers and engineers at the same time, pick one product or initiative to start with.

The product you chose depends on how confident you are in success, your tolerance for stress and risk, and how badly you want to impress people at your organization. If you want to hit it out of the park, find the most high-profile project you can think of. All eyes will be on you, and if you're successful, you'll be a hero. On the other hand, if things don't go so well, it could get rough. Personally, I like to go for doubles -- mid-profile projects, with reasonable lead times, where you have a good handle on the existing product development process and timeline. Whichever project you choose, it's important that it be a good candidate for quantitatively demonstrating the benefits of simulation.

Identify bottlenecks and develop the simulation plan. Once the project is chosen, the next step is to examine the existing design process and identify the major bottlenecks. Select those points in the process where simulation can help grease the skids. Next, form a detailed plan for how simulation will be used and make the appropriate modifications to the design process. This plan must include the individual responsibilities of cross-functional teams, the types of simulation to be conducted, the level of simulation required, the expected timeline, and defined criteria for an acceptable solution.

It is critical to ensure that there's a way to measure the impact of this plan on time and cost. This is how you're going to convince others that simulation is beneficial. Management cares about numbers, so you need to provide data and not starry-eyed descriptions revolving around the "cool factor" of seeing the videos of the simulation results. Identification of the bottlenecks and developing a plan isn't always intuitively obvious, so you may want to get assistance from an outside expert. This is the most important part of the implementation and one you can't afford to get wrong. Remember, this is a numbers game, and you're looking to demonstrate that the numbers are better with simulation than without.

Communicate the plan. If you're the only one who knows about the simulation plan, this isn't going to end well. It's important to pull all the people together who have a vested interest in the project's success and explain to them what you're trying to accomplish, what their responsibilities are, what will be measured, the required timeline, and how they will benefit from all of this.

The final and arguably most important point is to monitor, measure, and adjust. In a perfect world, you just need to set the plan in motion, go away for a six-month sabbatical, and come back to view the wonderful benefits of simulation. Now, let's get back to reality. The chance that everything will go smoothly on its own the first time out can make winning the lottery look like a sure thing. It's important to carefully monitor the process to ensure that the plan is both being adhered to as well as working as intended. Try to measure what can be measured at every stage. Remember, simulation plans are dynamic, so make modifications as appropriate and in real-time. Don't wait for a post-mortem; it might be yours.

At the end of all of this work, you will have:

  • A better product, released with time to spare
  • A quantifiable measure of how simulation improved the product development process
  • Lessons learned, and a better understanding of how to apply simulation to the next project
  • An established simulation-centric communication process among the cross-functional team members
  • A healthy raise (or at least an "atta boy")

- Nicholas M. Veikos, Eng.Sc.D., is president of CAE Associates Inc.

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Slideshow: Chatty Medical Devices & Apps

Sometimes the best way to tell people how to do something is to talk them through it.

That's the idea behind some of the talking medical devices on the market that provide people with instructions for how to use them, such as a portable defibrillator from Philips.

But instructions aren't the only things medical devices and mobile apps are saying to people these days. Through the use of voice technology, users can get a range of spoken information, advice, and even reminders from devices and applications.

Some devices tell users the information they register and how to set them for correct use. For example, a talking thermometer from BioSense Medical Devices can give someone instructions for setting up the machine, and it can give patients their blood-glucose levels.

Others, like the GlowCap from Vitality Inc., provide reminders. The cap -- which combines a prescription pill bottle cap with a wireless sensor -- doesn't speak words, but it flashes lights and plays chimes to remind people when to take their medication. A person also can use the cap to order prescription refills automatically by connecting to an automated phone system.

Click the GlowCap below to see a slideshow of some of the other chatty medical devices and applications available today.

The GlowCap doesn't speak in words, but it does chime music when it's time to take your medication. The cap, which will fit most prescription bottles, contains a chip that works with a plug-in light to monitor when the bottle is opened. If the botton has not been opened when the medication is meant to be taken, the cap will start glowing and chime music as reminders. Users also can order automatic prescription refills by pushing a button inside the cap. A wireless alert triggers a phone call to the user's cellphone from an automated system
that can help the user order a refill.
(Source: Vitality Inc.)

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