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Probably one of the most interesting job titles to come along in recent years is that of "Webmaster." Many companies have them. They are the people who, among other things, perform the technical miracles that bring web pages to life, giving them the look, feel, and content that is making them such a large and popular distribution channel for information.

But, there is a new class of Webmaster arising: the engineers who are using Internet technology to improve their ability to design high-quality products faster and cheaper. They're not cybernauts from the arcane world of bits and bytes, just product developers who have recognized the potential the Net offers for improving the design process.

They're taking advantage of chat groups/technical forums, product and literature information, and news on technology that they find on sites such as our own at And, they're forming their own intranets to link up with colleagues and information sources inside their own companies. Design News Western Technical Editor Mark Gottschalk and Internet Editor Paula Porter report on some of the successes these new, unofficial Webmasters are having in this issue.

Vendor companies, too, are mastering the Web and other electronic technology in an effort to support design engineers. For example, Parametric Technology Corp. last month released its new Pro/ENGINE software, a reusable modeling road-map of Pro/ENGINEER processes for designing and manufacturing automotive engines. Next month, it will release Pro/INTRALINK, software for managing the information communication necessary for effective concurrent design. Both are Web-enabled.

More examples: Autodesk has produced an Internet version of its PartSpec catalog of mechanical parts; Some of Bentley Microsystems' products include tools for exporting CAD models as Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) files for posting to the Internet or intranets; and Adra Systems is beta-testing technology to allow engineers to access data through its Matrix product data management system over the Web.

Despite the exotic title, there is little wizardry required to become an unofficial Webmaster. All it takes is recognition of the power and potential the Internet offers to streamline the design process. Don't take our word for that power. Visit and other sites and see for yourself.

Your opinion counts. E-mail me at pteague

Technology Bulletin

Technology Bulletin

Sandia directs Option Red super-computer
for peaceful pursuits

Sandia National Labs will demonstrate a variety of high-performance computing applications at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. on June 26. The event, entitled "Leading the Revolution in Engineering," will demonstrate how Sandia is using its supercomputing capabilities in such diverse areas as manufacturing, health care, transportation, energy and the environment, and personal safety. Sandia currently possesses what it regards as the most powerful computer in the world, the so-called Option Red. The teraflops-capable machine was developed to pursue the labs' primary mission of ensuring a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile. Examples of problems supercomputers can and are being used for include designing drugs, predicting weather, testing aerodynamics and safety of virtual cars, modeling the atomic structure of new materials, modeling the performance of aircraft designs in 3-D, and simulating the interactions among complex molecules in biological systems. Nevertheless, a computer that can consistently beat Garry Kasparov at chess remains out of reach! For more information, call Nigel Hey, Sandia public affairs at (508) 844-7015, e-mail:

SLDRAM technology demonstrator coming soon

Siemens AG, a member of the SLDRAM consortium (formerly known at SynchLink), Cupertino, CA, announced the group is scheduled to complete the first SLDRAM in early 1998. The SLDRAM is the next generation of DRAMs (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and is intended as a low-cost, high-performance memory product based on open standards. Recently, the consortium approved Siemens quarter-micron production process for the SLDRAM. The process is based on technology jointly developed by Siemens, IBM, and Toshiba. "DRAMs are commodity products and therefore need open standards," says Andreas von Zitzewitz, vice president, memory products, Siemens Semiconductor Group. For more information call David Gustavson, SLDRAM Consortium secretary at (415) 961-0305, e-mail:

Hit the beach and pass the pretzels

Veterans of many a video campaign secretly believe they could out-sly the Desert Fox if given half a chance. Apparently, the U.S. Marine Corps thinks there is some merit in these presumptions. Under a DOD-sponsored Small Business Innovation Research program, MAK Technologies, Cambridge, MA, is developing an amphibious assault computer game that will be used to train marines and be available on store shelves. The simulation, called MEU-31 (after a real-life elite Marine Expeditionary Unit), will have two settings: a "real" mode enabling detailed tactics and logistics; and a "fun" mode where the player basically gets to blow stuff up. MEU-31 promises to provide a richly detailed digital battlefield with equipment and missions to match. MAK Technologies has developed a number of simulation products for the defense and entertainment markets. Many use the DOD's Distributed Interactive Simulation standard, enabling games to be networked with other games, even over the Web. MEU-31 is tentatively scheduled for commercial release by Christmas, 1999. For more information, call Sue Hoxie at (617) 876-8085, e-mail:

PDM projected to reach $2 billion by the year 2000

According to CIMdata, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI, the worldwide product data management (PDM) market grew by 31% in 1996, and is expected to top $1 billion in 1997. North America accounts for 44% of the total market, and is home to the largest vendors of PDM products and services. Ed Miller, president of CIMdata, says early investment among North American manufacturers in the technology infrastructure required to track, integrate, and leverage design and supporting data is driving the industry to the next phase of its evolution. "In the growing list of companies considering PDM, most are not asking 'if' but 'when,'" Miller says. "As a result, where PDM was once viewed as the preserve of large firms with significant resources, many new vendors are entering the market with products and services directed at mid-sized companies and departmental work groups." For more information on CIMdata's PDM research, call Patrice Romzick at (313) 668-9922.

Internet-ready printers in the pipeline

Pipeline, Tokyo, Japan, has developed an HTML interpreter chip that will accept documents directly from the Internet. The PowerPage Internet Printing System (PIPS) is designed for embedded printer applications or as a host-based system and could enable a new category of output devices capable of printing directly from the Web without intermediate conversion. Possible applications include Internet-ready printers that work in conjunction with Internet-ready telephones or consumer products, such as Web TV. The PowerPage HTML interpreter supports printing in B&W as well as 8-bit color at the printer's rated resolution. For more information call Michael Tangreti, director of US marketing, at (201) 428-1700, e-mail:

Designer's Corner

Designer's Corner

A sensor for all tasks

Mark III features include enhanced dynamic range for low-contrast sensing and a ten-LED contrast indicator

Regardless of the sensing job, this miniature, high-performance, photoelectric sensor is the right tool. Why? Fully modular construction.

By selecting various combinations of light source, optical block, and mounting configuration, users can optimize the Smarteye(R) Mark III Sensor to almost any application.

Key Features of the Smarteye(R) Mark III Sensor:

  • Quick-change optical blocks allow proximity, convergent, retroreflective, polarized retroreflective, or fiber-optic sensing.

  • Mark III features include enhanced dynamic range for low-contrast sensing, and a ten-LED contrast indicator.

  • Universal mounting adapter snaps onto a DIN rail, or screws to site.

Tri-Tronics Company, Inc., P.O. Box 25135, Tampa, FL 33622-5135, 813-886-4000.

Standards Update

Standards Update

Uncle Sam steps up effort to use industry standards

Hordes of suppliers to auto makers this year have been obtaining certification under QS 9000 standards for quality management. Without the certification, many cannot continue to do business with the Big Three manufacturers. Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford officials adopted the QS 9000 requirement because they felt the ISO 9000 series published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) does not go far enough. ISO's version of quality management standards, they contend, falls short in several areas, including process control, employee involvement, and customer approval. Already, however, automakers are anxious to get out of the costly process of standards writing, according to Paul Scicchitano, managing editor of Quality Systems Update newsletter. Both American and foreign auto executives are urging an ISO technical committee to include the QS 9000 additions in its next versions of ISO 9001 and 9002.

Business group backs ISO 14000, but warns against its misuse

A group that promotes global interests of American industry endorses ISO 14000--with some strong "ifs." ISO 14000 is a family of world standards for environmental management systems. Officials of the United States Council for International Business say the standards could improve both the environment and world trade. But, they add the following provisos: ISO 14000 must stay strictly voluntary. Governments should not use it in their procurement policies. Company documentation developed pursuant to ISO 14000 should remain only for use of internal management. Finally, constant effort must be made to hold down costs of implementing ISO 14000. For example, the council says, self-declaration and third-party registration could give some organizations the flexibility to match their business requirements with their use of standards for environmental management.

New global guidelines target power-transformer safety

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has published a new standard dealing with safety aspects of power transformers. IEC's Technical Committee 96, which specializes in transformers and power supply units, drafted IEC 61558-1 (first edition). The new guidelines cover requirements and tests for protection against the usual electrical, mechanical, and fire hazards as well as abnormal situations in various uses of transformers. IEC 61558-1 applies to dry type transformers having either encapsulated or non-encapsulated windings and to transformers incorporating electronic circuits. Included in the standard are transformers for toys, switch-mode power supplies, and general use. Other IEC technical committees probably will apply IEC 61558-1 to transformers associated with specific items of equipment within their domain.

Industry specifications collide on information superhighway

Telecommunication, broadcast, cable, and computer industries--each with its own set of standards--are converging on the information superhighway. The scramble to harmonize these standards is intense among many groups. The Information Infrastructure Standards Panel of the American National Standards Institute has pinpointed more than 100 crucial standards conflicts in such areas as network interconnection, security, and electronic publishing. The scope of the effort is detailed in a new book, Web Publishing Unleashed, by William R. Stanek. The book, produced by Publishing of Indianapolis, credits three groups with spearheading development of standards and specifications for the Internet and networked computing in general. They are ISO, the Internet Engineering Task Force, and the World Wide Web Consortium. Active, too, is the National Committee for Information Technology Standardization. It proposes adopting more than 230 standards for information technology ranging from computer graphics to data exchange.

Designer's Corner

Designer's Corner

Brushless slip ring

Engineers rely on slip-ring technology to transmit data through rotating interfaces. Conventional slip rings employ fixed brushes that slide across the spinning rotor's surface to pick up signals. Worn brushes require replacement, and the sliding action over the rotor may create unacceptable noise levels that degrade the ability to transmit high-rate data streams.

Slip rings normally employ only two to four points of contact. During rotation, impedance varies as the distance from the ring's lead to the brush contact changes. The brushless slip ring employs a full complement of rolling ball contacts sandwiched between inner and outer conductive rings.

Continuous contact combined with minimal torque, gives more constant impedance/reactance, less noise, and longer life.

Fifth Dimension Inc., 801 New York Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08638, 609-393-8350.

0 Hz - 15 Hz, measured

Crankshaft/camshaft position sensing, wheel- and shaft-speed sensing, and other automotive applications require precise revolution detection.

Variable-reluctance sensors have been used for such duty, but are not accurate at low speed immediately after engine start-up. Also, the signal output of such devices varies relative to speed, demanding threshold adjustment at additional circuit expense. Hall-effect sensors may be employed, but applications are limited to a narrow temperature range.

By directly applying a semiconductor magnetoresistive (SMR) element to a silicon substrate, it is possible to affect a dramatic improvement in precise revolution detection. Made of Indium-Antimony (InSb), such SMR devices transduce magnetic flux changes to resistance changes over a -40C to 150C temperature range. High sensitivity eliminates amplification before conversion to digital signals.

Yasu Ishiai, Panasonic Automotive Industrial Group, 44768 Helm St., Plymouth, MI 48170, Fax: 313-455-9336, or

Wireless encoder

To minimize noise, typical encoders employ six signal wires: A, B, and index differential. Adding two more for power and ground raises the number of wires linking motor and controller to eight.

Here's a better method. Transmit encoder signals over an infra-red path. "Phantom" wireless encoders multiplex sensor information into a single signal which is decoded at the stationary amplifier/controller.

Benefits, besides wireless data transmission, include low noise, high reliability, less maintenance. Applications? Linear motors, multi-axis systems.

MFM Technology, Inc., 200 13th Ave., Ronkonkoma, NY 11779, 516-467-5151.

Dispense valve controls surge

Used to dispense greases and silicones employed in assembly processes, the Model 735HPA dispense valve features an internal adjustment mechanism to control the opening surge common among high-pressure dispensing devices. Surge results when pressurized material is suddenly expelled at the start of the dispense cycle. To prevent surge, the user removes the hose from the quick-connect fitting at the top of the valve, then uses an Allen wrench to turn the stroke limit stop. This action changes piston stroke, and thus limits spool movement. By adjusting spool movement, the user can regulate both the amount of opening surge and end-of-cycle snuffback, for better control without drooling.

Robert Tourigny, EFD Inc., 977 Waterman Avenue, East Providence, RI 02914-1378, 401-434-1680.

Windows: A new scheme for linking CAD and FEA

Windows: A new scheme for linking CAD and FEA

Recent conquests in the field of engineering applications have brought the specter of Microsoft Windows domination to yet another industry: go to Autofact or the National Design Engineering Show and witness the triumph of NT.

Those software vendors that have signed on cite the advantages of abandoning Unix. Intergraph Corp. (Huntsville, AL) has developed an extension to the Windows application programming interface (API) that permits a level of interoperability between different engineering applications never before seen. In effect, users will soon be able to employ Microsoft's Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) to interweave CAD, CAM, and engineering analysis programs.

That's right. The same Windows PC function people have used to plug spreadsheets and pie charts into word processing documents promises to enable engineers to plug CAD drawings into FEA programs. A loose alliance of software vendors has coalesced around Microsoft's technology in order to bring it to the engineering market.

The Design and Modeling Applications Council (DMAC) was formed early in 1995 with the purpose of expanding the role of OLE in engineering applications. Judged by its trappings, DMAC is modest, perhaps, but the organization includes some of the most influential companies in the business: Intergraph, Ansys, SolidWorks.

"Data translators, such as IGES, work adequately with straightforward geometry, but run into trouble with surfaces and edges," says Michael Payne, vice president of development, SolidWorks (Concord, MA). "Ideally, engineers want interroperability with no data translation at all, and this is the key reason to implement the DMAC API."

SolidWorks has already placed an early version of the DMAC API in its solid modeling software in an unpublished form, enabling application developers to work with it.

"The intermediate step of translating data from one application to another stifles interoperability," says Daniel Small, Microsoft's representative for the DMAC effort. "The council's objective is to develop a virtual suite of applications under Windows that cover all aspects of the design-through-manufacture process. By adopting a common interface, application vendors do not have to make changes in the APIs of their respective products."

At the Daratech CAD/CAM, CAE Strategy Workshops in Boston last winter, Small demonstrated how engineering applications could work together seamlessly.

Windows of opportunity. Byron Hanks, chairman of DMAC, is a development engineer at Ansys (Houston, PA) and a firm believer in the utility of OLE on the engineering desktop. "Ansys was invited to provide input for defining a set of interfaces for CAM and FEA," Hanks says. "These would enable DMAC to tackle the more difficult engineering tasks."

The core technology is OLE for Design & Modeling (OLE for D&M): a set of geometry and topology interface specifications that addresses specific requirements of design engineers. Through these interfaces, an application can make its native design and modeling capabilities available to compatible applications without translation. Microsoft Office 97 and other OLE-compliant software, including accounting and product data management applications, can be easily integrated into the engineering environment in a seamless manner.

According to Hanks, the OLE mechanism, as originally conceived, works well in the 2-D world for documents and in the 3-D world has been extended for assembly modelers, but it has limited use in more involved engineering applications. "An assembly problem is very much like linking Word and Excel files," Hanks says. "The individual parts are being displayed together but they are not interacting."

This similarity is what inspired OLE for D&M in the first place. Geometry constructed in different CAD packages running under Windows could be linked together in the same assembly modeling system. This capability falls short of what is needed to link CAD and FEA, however. "You need to do more than simply display data together in the same work space," Hanks says. "An FEA program needs to be able to extract solid model data from the CAD window. To do this, interfa-ces are required that enable a live connection with the geometry so the FEA program can be used to apply loads and boundary conditions and then create the mesh."

OLE for D&M specifies a standard set of interfaces for all applications. It supports embedding, display, and remote activation, as well as access and control of model geometry and topology through the native design. Although model geometry is accessible to OLE for D&M programs, changes can only be made through the original design tool. Model accuracy, precision, and scale are thereby maintained.

The existing SolidWorks API and the ACIS Geometry/Topology data-structures have been used as the starting point and the main inspiration for defining the interfaces. A meeting of the OLE for D&M council, scheduled at press time for late April, intends to present and demonstrate the completed OLE for D&M Geometry and Topology.

Integrated CAD and FEA tools for Windows do not have to wait on DMAC: many are available today. Applications developers at Structural Research and Analysis Corp. (SRAC) have used the Windows API as the basis of its partnerships with several CAD vendors, including Integraph and Solid Works. These partnerships have resulted in products based on the company's COSMOS system that permit designers to select FEA operations as if they were selecting features on a solid model.

How to do preliminary analysis

Sjchit Jain of SRAC offers these observations for designers who want to perform preliminary analyses on their models. FEA is not so intimidating, Jain notes, if you just look at it as another part of the design process.

Create the model using a solid-modeling CAD system: Just do what you have been doing.

  • Assign material properties: Many integrated packages enable users to select materials properties from a library. The designer browses the library, picks the material for his model by name--and often never has to type a number.

  • Assign loads and boundary conditions: This is the phase that most often turns people off. However, the process can be simplified by enabling loads to be assigned as if they were model features, which, for the purposes of analysis, they are. Loads are those forces, such as gravity, that the object modeled is expected to encounter in the real world. Boundary conditions define the scope of the analysis--the "givens" that are assumed. The user picks a model face and selects a load, just as if he or she were selecting a design feature, such as a hole. Boundary conditions are specified just as easily.

  • Mesh the model and run the analysis: There was a time in the not-too-distant past when meshing was a nightmare. However, FEA vendors have made great strides in auto-meshing technology--so much so that it has become a push-button process. Furthermore, some auto-meshers take care of screening unnecessary detail from the analysis, so the model geometry itself does not have to be altered.

Product news

Product news

Gear motor

Size 34 ac induction motor, featuring a fully integrated gearhead, can achieve higher torque at lower speeds than what may normally be possible with the ac motor alone. Parallel shaft gearheads made with precision spur gearing, are available in a broad range of gear ratios. Furnished in die-cast housing, the motor features grease-lubricated gearheads and is equipped with either sleeve or ball bearings to ensure maintenance-free operation.

Designed to meet MIL-Spec requirements, the single- or three-phase motor is reversible operating at variable speed with inverter drives. Rated torque for the size 34 is up to 87 lb-inch. Thermally protected, the single- or dual-voltage motor can be adapted for nonstandard voltages and frequencies.

Eastern Air Devices Inc., 1 Progress Dr., Dover, NH 03820, FAX (603) 742-9080.

Flow meters

EFM Series flow meters provide low-flow sensing capabilities while maintaining accuracy and repeatability characteristics. Instruments in the EFM Series are constructed entirely of chemically inert, porosity-free polymer components. The integral cold-flare-style tubing connections support the low dead-volume properties of the meters. TTL-compatible outputs allow users to interface with standard data-acquisition systems. Linear flow range is 0.17 to 6.6 gpm with pulse resolution at 17,000 per gallon and an accuracy of plus or minus 5%. Applications include monitoring or controlling a wide variety of fluids such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and ultrapure liquids.

Flow Solutions Inc., 8716 E. Myrtle St., Mesa, AZ 85208.


PIC-SERVO controller board provides servo control of dc motors with incremental encoder feedback. It includes a fully protected amplifier capable of driving 6A peak at up to 48V or may be used with an external amp. Motors can be controlled in trapezoidal position or velocity mode. The 2- x 3-inch board is for internal mounting near the motor, reducing wiring complexity and noise. Communications over an RS-485 serial bus allows up to 32 motors to be controlled from a single serial port.

J.R. Kerr Prototype Development, 1713 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City, CA 94061, FAX (415) 367-8487.


M4 and M8 bolted-pump Series is for specialized service in critical chemical-process applications. These 11/2- and 2-inch air-operated, double-diaphragm pumps are capable of delivering up to 70 to 158 gpm respectively and developing up to 125 psig head pressures. The absence of close-fitting parts allow solids to pass through the pumps without harm. Abrasive and viscous product is also pumped easily without damaging fluid characteristics.

Wilden Pump & Engineering Co., 22069 Van Buren St., Grand Terrace, CA 92313, FAX (909) 783-3440.


VALULINE VER insert bearings can be utilized in conveyor rolls, conveyor pulls, bulk-material-handling products, papermaking machinery, web printing presses, unit-handling equipment, textile machinery, and a wide range of other industrial products. The VER line is available in a complete range of sizes from 1/2 to 33/16 inches.

Emerson Power Transmission Corp., 620 S. Aurora St., Ithaca, NY 14850.


Stainless-steel PEM(R) self-clinching fasteners offer corrosion resistance for components subject to adverse environmental conditions. The fasteners install easily by using any standard press; enable secure and permanent attachment; and provide threads in thin metal sheets, including stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum. Available in a range of types and thread sizes they are suited for applications such the assembly of medical equipment and electronics.

Penn Engineering & Mfg. Corp., Box 1000, Danboro, PA 18916, FAX (215) 766-0143.

Touch screen

Color, flat-panel touch-screen interface is for the Machine-WorksTM machine control system. The touch screen, TS-3200-FP, features a high-luminance, 10.4-inch active-matrix screen with wide viewing angles for displaying the MachineWorks interface, which is used to control motion and I/O, and to develop machine operation. The NEMA 4 rated TS-3200-FP can be used in several ways including mounted in an enclosure, placed on a swing arm, or detached and used as a portable unit.

Berkeley Process Control Inc., 1003 Canal Blvd., Richmond, CA 94804, FAX (510) 236-1186.

Power supplies

The ISP200 and ISP300 are low-cost, efficient, 75V dc, unregulated switching power supplies capable of delivering 2.0 or 4.0A of continuous current with peak output power of 200/300W. The units provide high performance power to dc servo motors and other inductive loads, such as stepping motors. The lightweight, compact packaging and small footprint of the ISP200 (3.9 x 4.0 x 1.5 inches) and the ISP300 (4.4 x 4.0 x 1.6) permit easy integration of the power supply into the end-product equipment.

Intelligent Motion Systems Inc., 370 N. Main St., Marlborough, CT 06447, FAX (860) 295-6107.


FLUENT/UNS 4.0 and RAMPANT 4.0 are unstructured solution-adaptive computational fluid-dynamics software packages. The new releases are the first CFD codes to combine unstructured mesh and solution-based mesh adaption capabilities with sophisticated physical models. The software supports 2- and 3-D flow simulations, including steady or unsteady flow with heat transfer, combustion, radiation, discrete particle trajectory modeling, and turbulence models. Fans, blowers, and pumps can be simulated using one of several models for rotating flow analysis. A complete material property database simplifies model creation and user-defined functions allow customization of properties, boundary conditions, and basic transport equations.

Fluent Inc., 10 Cavendish Court, Lebanon, NH 03766, FAX (603) 643-3967.

Telephone simulator

SM-900 telephone central-office simulator bridges the gap between telephone office simulators and full emulation systems. The SM-900 gives the user the choice of many dial codes to choose call-progress tones at various frequencies and levels, including SIT tones, coin tones, ringing patterns to the other line, winks, line voltages, and caller I.D. By entering a simple dial-code sequence the user's equipment is connected to the appropriate telephone system response.

Dianatek Corp., Box 616, North Sutton, NH 03260, FAX (603) 927-4715.

PVC hose

NYLOBRADE braided reinforced PVC hose is produced and stocked for same-day shipment in three wall thicknesses. Built to handle pressure, the hose is suitable for applications that involve air, water, food and beverage, chemicals, instrumentation, pneumatics, low-pressure hydraulics, spray systems, fuels, or oils. NYLOBRADE is made from non-toxic, FDA-approved ingredients. It is listed by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF-51); will not transfer an odor or taste; and is constructed of an open-mesh polyester braid fused between walls of crystal-clear PVC, providing for visual contact with the material flowing through it.

NewAge Industries Inc., Plastics Technology Group, Box K, Willow Grove, PA 19090, FAX (215) 657-6594.

A/D system

DSPA64/DSPHLF A/D system is comprised of the DSPA64 and DSPHLF boards. This combination makes a complete system for A/D acquisition and processing. Sitting outside the PC, the DSPA64 card features a high-resolution 16-bit A/D converter and a 64-channel programmable multiplexer array. Sampling at aggregate rates up to 138 kHz, all DSPA64 inputs are differential and buffered through a low-noise precision instrumentation amplifier. In addition, overall gain and amplitude limits can be user set by resistors, with nominal values of 1.0 and plus or minus 2.75V. Connected by a 16-conductor ribbon cable, the DSP A64 communicates all of its acquired data in serial digital format to the DSPHLF card installed inside the PC.

Symmetric Research, 15 Central Way, Suite 9, Kirkland, WA 98033.

Assembly tool

Tool for automating tube nut assemblies provides for easy, direct-straight-forward and direct-reverse movements on and off hex nuts. Mounting on a slide rail, actuation causes the tool to immediately slide forward, engaging the tube nut. Then the driver quickly runs down the threads and sets final end torque with accuracy and precision. Instantly, the tool retracts, making it ready for the next assembly.

Dynamic Aerospace Tools Co., 1750 30th St., Suite 432, Boulder, CO 80301.


F06180 6-mm tactile dome enhances the feel of remotes and other hand-held electronic devices. It is a four-legged momentary switch that, when used with a pc board, becomes a normally open tactile switch. It will accommodate those applications that require an extensive amount of feedback, along with an attenuated contact life. The domes are placed on a pc board by means of pressure-sensitive adhesive tape.

Snaptron Inc., 2468 East 9th St., Loveland, CO 80537, FAX (970) 667-6261.


A combination of a number of valves commonly used in pneumatic load-holding circuits help reduce costs and simplify circuit design. Load-holding circuits may contain a pilot-operated check with a flow control at the cylinder. By combining these valves in one block, extra fittings, tubing, and installation time are reduced, simplifying circuit design and removing potential leakage points. Manual release and lockout are also available for slowly releasing trapped air without having to remove a fitting, and for protection against accidental release.

NGT, Box 5223, Elm Grove, WI 53122, FAX (414) 782-0197.

Power supply

Power-supply module provides an isolated 24V dc, 1A source from 120V ac mains, with auto-reset output overload protection. Designed for DIN rail mounting, the WT-PWR-W2R Series eliminates the need for fuse replacement. It will automatically restore normal operation after fault condition is corrected and power reapplied. A green LED indicates normal operation while a red LED indicates the presence of an overload condition. The minimum continuous current at which trip will occur is 2.2A with a 45 second trip delay.

Wieland Inc., 49 International Rd., Burgaw, NC 28425.

Pressure transducers

Series 21 industrial pressure transducers are for corrosive liquids, refrigerant gases, compressor pressures, and hydraulic systems. Available in standard pressure ranges from 100 through 8,000 psi, these transducers feature all 316 stainless-steel wetted surfaces and welded construction. Operating from unregulated dc supply, they provide standard outputs including both voltage and current-loop versions.

Keller PSI Inc., 503 Vista Bella, Suite 11, Oceanside, CA 92057, FAX (619) 967-0563.

Molded components and tools

Proprietary, small, interchangeable Hetero-Cavity custom tools and molded components are available. Custom, production tooling and parts are designed, engineered, and supplied in less time and cost than conventional molding. Conventional custom molding is also offered to satisfy larger part requirements, and secondary operations for decorative and mechanical operations.

Security Plastics Inc., Box 4723, Miami Lakes, FL 33014.

Test stand

Model BG-1 Micro-Dilution test stand satisfies all ISO 8178-1 requirements for equivalency testing as compared against USEPA "full-dilution" test systems operated on a steady-state basis. The unit is categorized under 8178-1 as a "mass-flow-controlled" device and utilizes a Caterpillar-patented dilution chamber design and digital mass-flow controllers for dilution ration control and flow quantification. All flow controllers and sampling functions are software controlled for ease of use as well as for enhanced data quality. Sampling time ranges from two to five minutes for a 2-mg-net sample mass depending on engine-particulate output.

Sierra Instruments Inc., 5 Harris Court, Bldg. L, Monterey, CA 93940, FAX (408) 373-4402.

Cable assemblies

Prewired cable harnesses speed up manufacturing and facilitate on-site installation, testing, and start-up. Standard or custom cable assemblies from a prototype to a production run, with circular, rectangular, or electronic connectors, can be assembled to user specifications. Connectors range from 3 to 280 positions, up to 660V 80A; have crimp, solder, or screw terminations; and are UL CSA recognized.

Contact Electronics Inc., 30 Plymouth St., Fairfield, NJ 07004, FAX (201) 575-7208.


Modular LightlineTM provides intense, uniform lighting for industrial web inspection applications. These turn-key illumination systems provide lighting for line-scan camera-based systems that inspect rolled metals, textiles, paper, films, plastics, and similar materials. The product provides high output which means faster web speeds and can be manufactured in long lengths to cover webs more than 80 inches in length. The rugged design is completely enclosed and sealed, and can be positioned 24 inches from the web.

Illumination Technologies Inc., 5 Adler Dr., East Syracuse, NY 13057, FAX (315) 463-1401.

Heat exchangers

Super-clean, reliable, compact, liquid-to-air steel-tubed heat exchangers are for cooling semiconductor manufacturing equipment, test equipment, electronics, industrial furnaces and ovens, and medical and industrial lasers. Available from stock, the 730 Series heat exchangers are manufactured to computer-grade reliability standards. Tubing and manifold circuitry are constructed of 316L stainless steel which is mechanically bonded to corrugated copper fins. The frames for each 730 Series product are fabricated aluminum with gold-irridite finish, complete with fan plenum and mounting fixtures.

Thermatron Engineering Inc., 300 Cummings Center, Suite 232C, Beverly, MA 01915, FAX (508) 922-1687.

Ball screws

Telescoping "multi-extend" ball screws solve the difficult tight-space linear actuation problems where pneumatic and hydraulic actuators present bulk and cost restraints. In addition, they offer high strength-to-weight ratios. Inch-size combinations for two right-hand screws, for example, range from a 0.500 diameter x 0.200 lead inside a 0.875 x 0.200 to a 2.250 x 1.000 inside a 4.000 x 1.000. Extended lengths for two screws can be 16 ft., for three screws, 24 ft.

Thomson Saginaw Ball Screw Co. LLC, 628

Gentlemen, start your computers

Gentlemen, start your computers

How often would you want a driver taking his eyes off the track while clocking 250 mph to check the speedometer? the oil gauge? throttle position?

Data-acquisition, or DAQ, systems can do the checking far more often than any driver--they check car sensors and store the reading every tenth or hundredth of a second. Actually, sensors continuously measure oil pressure, wheel speed, suspension movement, and dozens of other parameters. An on-board computer samples the sensor readings at specified time intervals, and stores the data while the car circles the track. Much of this equipment is standard on Indy cars.

There are two ways to get the data from the racecar computer. Many teams transfer data through a cable to a laptop computer while the car is stopped in the pits. Most Indy cars transmit data to a trackside computer by radio, either in real time or in burst mode.

What to do with all this data? Dragsters can generate 16 mega-bytes in 5 seconds. Engineers use PCs with specialized software to analyze the data and display it graphically in just seconds. The results don't yield immediate answers, but point to what direction to take the vehicle setup or how to improve driver technique. Vehicle changes can range from changing entire parts for improved aerodynamics to modifying the igni-tion timing.

Many professional racing teams run two cars so they can collect data twiceas fast. Data from each car can be superimposed on a graph to show where one driver is faster on the track than another. Engineers can use the data to speed up the slower car. Also, engineers can make different changes to a car to ad-dress the same problem, and see which setup works best.

Data recreation. Gary Denton, an engineer for Penske Racing, which participates in the CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) series, uses a data-acquisition board from Keithley-Metrabyte that has two analog outputs to test Indy cars.

The setup is a chassis rig with a hydraulic ram at the front corner of the car that recreates a lap to test the suspension, wheel, and shock. Road input comes from the Keithley DAS-1802 card's outputs.

The card acquires road data from a DAQ system that actually sits in the car during races. "Our cars have a DAQ system from Pi Research Ltd. (Cambridge, England) that measures suspension travels and loads," says Denton. Approximately 100 channels working at different rates collect 200 kbytes per lap in the Pi system.

The DAS-1802 ISA board acquires data at 333,000 samples/sec, and offers 16 single-ended or 8 differential inputs. Its two analog outputs can send the collected data to actuators or other devices for engineers to experiment and evaluate.

An IBM 486-based desktop PC that is part of the test rig interfaces to the Keithley card via Visual Basic. During the test, engineers measure tire deflection and accelerations that are difficult to measure while the car is actually racing because of engine vibration. On the chassis rig, the engine isn't running.

Engineers view the data with Excel and use results to tune the dynamics of the car; for example, changing damping and spring rates to minimize accelerations.

"We focus on making the cars better," says Denton. "Our drivers are Al Unser Jr. and Paul Tracey, who usually finish a tenth to a hundredth of a second of each other and don't need us telling them how to drive.

"Cars are always going to get faster," continues Denton, "Everything steps up, and DAQ has accelerated that."

As speeds increase, the racing rules change to slow them down for safety reasons. This year, the maximum turbocharge boost for CART cars has been reduced from 45 to 40 inches, which reduces horsepower by about 100 hp. Also, the car aerodynamics has changed to reduce downforce by about 20%, which reduces cornering speeds.

Five-second race. Kell's Automotive, in Las Vegas, uses National Instruments' LabWindows/CVI version 4.1 for Windows 95 as the user interface and control software for custom data-acquisition hardware it designs to take data on engine parameters and optimize race performance. The software package lets users generate C code to control data-acquisition systems--as well as any "virtual" instruments--using function panels instead of writing the code line by line. Kell engineers also write a lot of their own C code, and call it up from LabWindows/CVI.

The heart of the custom DAQ system is a ruggedized computer designed and built by Terry Kell and his partner Blake Gover over the last seven years. The biggest challenge for them was making sure the system would work in the harsh racing environment.

"Just about everything you don't want around a computer is in a racecar," says Kell. "With the cars we run, the ignition's wires can't be radio-suppression wires. And so the interference is just massive. Most computers, when you get them anywhere near an engine like that, they just flat sign off."

Kell and Gover designed their computer in their own engine shop. Most DAQ hardware is usually designed in some electronics firm and then adapted to the automotive world.

The John Force drag racing team is currently using the system. Force, the six-time Funny Car champ, was elected Driver of the Year in 1996--the first time in the award's 30-year history that the honor has been bestowed on a drag racer. He set the national elapsed time record of a quarter mile in 4.88 seconds while racing at Heartland-Park Topeka in July 1996, making him the first Funny Car driver to break the 4.90 barrier.

"On Force's car, we're sampling 100,000 samples/sec/channel on four analog and four digital channels" says Kell.

The digital channels monitor engine speed and crank-shaft harmonics by reading zero-speed digital magnetic sensors.

"One of the things we measure that people said we'd never be able to get on an engine like this is cylinder pressure inside the combustion chamber," beams Kell. "We have a fiber-optic analog sensor mounted inside the cylinder that reads the pressure as it builds."

Analog channels also monitor the ignition wave trace. When the spark goes to the cylinder, it creates a wave pattern that Kell logs so he can categorize it to make sure the ignition timing is where it should be. Otherwise, warns Kell, the performance suffers or the engine can explode when the car is halfway down the track.

Engineers turn on the DAQ computer in the dragster just prior to making a run. Kell built a special fiber-optic communications link to download data at the end of the race because that way the data couldn't be corrupted from other cars. Plus, they wouldn't have to worry about electrically glitching one computer or the other by plugging them in when both are turned on. The 4 million byte/second data-transfer rate certainly didn't hurt matters, either.

On one 5-second run, the computer acquires about 16 megabytes of data. "You have to be able to get it out of the car in a hurry and look at it and decide what adjustments to make for the next run," stresses Kell. As the day goes on, the runs get closer and closer together--the minimum time between races is about an hour and a half. "But you gotta realize they've got to completely disassemble the car, completely disassemble the engine, put everything back together, have it fired up, checked, and back up at the line in that time. And somewhere in there, somebody's got to analyze all this data."

First the engineers download the data into an off-board computer that sorts the data and presents it in a graphical format. Kell estimates that they have the data up and analyzed within two minutes. "We picked LabWindows/CVI because it gets rid of that mundane task of generating all your grids for the graphics," he says. "We'd have to reinvent the wheel if we didn't have a software package like that."

After analyzing the data, the team sometimes makes adjustments right away for the next race. Other times the data leads engineers to machine different components to counteract a problem in a future race.

The process never ends: "There's no such thing in racing as a perfect car," notes Kell. "You always know you can go faster."

Speed records have been broken because of the increased sophistication of data acquisition and the lessons engineers have learned, according to Kell. In the world of drag racing, there was a major increase in performance and reliability when the DAQ systems started appearing on racecars about 15 years ago. The race continues for the most perfect car possible.

Built for racing. Indy cars, such as the ones Penske races, come with a built-in digital dashboard and an optional data-acquisition and telemetry system from Pi Research.

Pi supplies "black box" data loggers, transmitters, receivers, motor racing computers (MRCs), programmable LCD dashboards, and software that lets the teams gather, display, and analyze telemetry data and make changes to the cars' suspension, shocks, aerodynamics, engine, and tires.

Pi also supplies sensors for engines, tires, suspension positions, and strain gauges mounted on the suspension tubes to sense load, as well as steering angle, throttle angle, and brake line pressure sensors.

Pi's systems have a connector that lets the vehicle's engineers plug in signals coming from the engine. The system generates more than 1,000 direct and derived parameters that enable the engineers to continually monitor and fine-tune the car. During a race, a car's transmitter sends data to the pit. At the race's end, engineers plug in their laptops to download data from the MRC's RAM so they can analyze the entire race.

Trucking for data. Indy car racing is comfortable compared with off-road truck racing--a brutal sport for both truck and driver. Races cover 500 or even 1,000 miles of rugged desert terrain with drivers maneuvering their trucks as fast as possible over bumps--often flying 6 to 10 feet in the air. The primary factor limiting truck speed under these conditions is driver discomfort, making the suspension system the key to a winning vehicle.

The bumps are 2 feet tall and spaced about 30 feet apart. Without a good suspension system, the jarring becomes so great that the driver is forced to slow down. A suspension that permits a great deal of wheel travel integrated with precisely tuned shock absorbers lets the tires "kiss" the tops of the bumps. Since the cab remains level, the driver can maintain speeds of 60 to 90 mph.

A typical off-road truck suspension has up-and-down wheel travel of 24 to 30 inches in the rear wheels and 18 to 25 inches in the front. Each wheel sports three shock absorbers with remote reservoirs for cooling fluids. A high degree of wheel travel is an advantage in rough terrain because it allows a truck to stay on top of bumps and skip across them, rather than crawling up one side and down the other.

To perfect a suspension system for Team MacPherson's off-road truck, Light Racing Inc., Catheys Valley, CA, tested system components under simulated race conditions and recorded performance data using the Model 2100 Field Computer System from SoMat Corp., Champaign, IL. This small, portable data-acquisition system withstands the elements and is rugged enough to take the jolts of off-road racing.

The Model 2100 is a series of stackable modules in a bus-like architecture. Up to 20 modules can be stacked to handle virtually any data-collection chore. Reconfiguring the system to acquire different data involves removing one module and adding another, and modifying the test setup file using SoMat's Test Control Software on a notebook computer. After collecting data, engineers can transfer it to another computer or software package for further analysis.

With the goal of increasing tire contact with the ground for as much traction as possible, Light Racing performed tests to perfect the shock-absorber system. The shocks used on off-road vehicles differ from typical velocity-sensitive shocks--they also provide position-sensitive control. With increased speed, normal shock absorbers deliver increased load, regardless of wheel position. An off-road race vehicle needs a shock that gets stiffer as the wheel travels up farther--shock absorption is a function of wheel position in addition to velocity.

To take full advantage of position-sensitive shocks, engineers needed information about wheel position during a race. Position transducers attached to the wheels were connected directly to the Model 2100, located in the cab, to record wheel position during a simulated race. Position data also gave them wheel velocity since velocity is a function of time, which was continuously monitored by the 2100. By determining wheel velocity in various positions of wheel travel, engineers were able to fine-tune the shock-absorber valves for optimal performance at all wheel positions--and a much more comfortable ride for the driver.

Anatomy of a data-acquisition system

Many data-acquisition systems involve a desktop or laptop PC to store, analyze, view, and archive data. For racing applications, these PCs need to be tough. Whether they're in a vehicle, in the pits, or in a trailer, the PCs need to stand up to electrical noise, vibration, heat, and dust.

A typical PC-based data-acquisition (DAQ) system also includes software, a plug-in DAQ board containing analog-to-digital signal-conversion circuitry, sensors, and signal-conditioning hardware. The memory of the PC on board the vehicle stores the sensor readings. After transmitting or downloading the data to another computer--usually a battery-powered laptop--the on-board computer is reset and ready to gather more data.

Easy-to-use software is a necessity for PC-based DAQ systems--some packages require no programming, and some offer intuitive graphical programming. Driver software provides access to DAQ-board functions. And application software simplifies combining those functions with data analysis and presentation.

The most common DAQ hardware device is a multifunction board. It typically has analog inputs for measuring parameters such as voltage and temperature, digital inputs for sensing power outage or switch closures, digital outputs for controlling power to equipment, and timing I/O for synchronization. It may include analog outputs for generating calibration signals or outputting sampled waveforms.

Analog sensor outputs typically monitor parameters such as temperature or force. For example, thermocouples, thermistors, and RTDs typically measure temperature; strain gauges measure force.

In most cases, the analog signal a sensor generates requires conditioning before it connects to an analog input on the DAQ board. Signal conditioning can be amplification, filtering, linearization, or cold-junction compensation for thermocouples. Strain gauges require excitation and bridge completion. And digital signals are computer-ready.

CART, IRL change the rules

Two groups race Indy cars: Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), a group founded by Indy car owners Roger Penske and Pat Patrick in 1978, and the Indy Racing League (IRL), a new Indy car circuit started by the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). The IRL held its first race in January 1996; its 5-race circuit includes the Indianapolis 500, held at the IMS.

Last year, the IRL's first season, CART ran the U.S. 500 at Brooklyn, MI, on the same day as the Indy 500. This year, CART has backed off the direct challenge, running a race instead on the day before the 500 at a new track near St. Louis.

A recent out-of-court settlement between CART and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has opened the door for CART teams to again take part in the Indy 500--the sporting world's richest and most prestigious race.

In 1996, the IRL used racecars that were similar to those CART used. But this year, the IRL has all new cars and engines. For example, CART still uses 2.65l turbocharged engines, but 1997 IRL cars have 4.0l engines without turbochargers. Thus a CART car cannot run an IRL race.

Derrick Walker, the last CART owner to also participate in the Indy 500 says he won't be at Indianapolis in 1997 because he doesn't have the resources to field two different cars.

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Working Model 2D Version 4.0.1

Working Model 2D Version 4.0.1

Working Model 2D Version 4.0.1 combines improved speed, new built-in features, Working Model Basic utilities, and user-interface enhancements to increase the overall productivity of this versatile simulation software.

Version 4, now a 32-bit application, is about twice as fast as Version 3 on the same platform. I compared the speed of Versions 3 and 4 for a variety of simulation models. For reference, I ran Version 3 on two platforms: a 486, 66 with Windows for Workgroups 3.11; and a Pentium 133 with Windows NT 3.51. Version 3 ran 3.5 to 5 times faster on the Pentium than on the slower 486, demonstrating the value of using the most powerful PC available. The new release, Version 4, solved the same models 1.6 to 2.5 times faster than Version 3 on the Pentium/NT platform, a speed improvement apparently due to the change to a 32-bit application. Knowledge Revolution reports speed improvements as great as 8 to 1 for some models.

Version 4 expands the set of body primitives to include NURBS-based curved bodies. Curved bodies are fully supported by collision detection, providing a basis for modeling the interactions of cams and followers as well as a wide variety of other curved machine elements and free bodies. This is an important addition, providing exceptionally flexible modeling of body interactions. Curved body solutions run rapidly. I found them practical for a variety of applications.

Curved body control coordinates can be imported and exported via the clipboard; however, output interpolation, which is offered for curved-slot output, isn't available for curved bodies. This would be a useful addition to increase the accuracy of geometry output to other applications.

Version 4.0.1 adds several WM Basic script files that provide useful functions and excellent examples of the capability of WM Basic as a construction tool. The first, pin friction, adds a motor at a previously defined pinned joint. The utility adds controls which vary effective pin radius and bearing coefficient of friction. The motor generates a torque which models bearing friction as a function of the pin joint constraint force. I've created similar joints myself, and welcome this automatic feature. It saves time and reduces the potential for error in entering the functional description of the friction torque.

The second script file creates a simple, finite-element model of a constant-section, flexible beam. Given a rectangle which defines the beam's height and length, the utility divides the rectangle into evenly spaced sub-rectangles which are joined by pin joints with rotational springs at the joints. Parameters include the number of beam elements and the beam's EI. Discretion is needed when modeling stiff components, since the meshed models can include multiple, high-frequency modes which are computationally intensive. Flexible elements should be used sparingly; but when appropriate, the script utility creates them easily. Adding a nice touch, another script file automatically returns these meshed models back to their original form.

In addition to the printed tutorial, Version 4 adds Workshop Projects to the Help database. These are step-by-step tutorials that can be viewed beside an active Working Model project. This approach offers the potential to include a very large database of example problems; however, screen limitations make it difficult to retain the needed illustrations with the associated text. Improvement in presentation is needed to make this training aid preferable to the printed lessons.

The user interface now includes dockable tool palettes, offering flexibility in workspace organization. This full complement of tools eliminates the need to use pop-up palettes, making it easier for beginners to find tools, and faster for experienced users.

Version 4 is a significant improvement. The speed increase and addition of curved bodies, alone, make the upgrade worthwhile.

Spec box: Working Model 2D Version 4.0.1

Working Model is a dynamics simulation tool with easy-to-use, pictorial input and powerful output-data presentation capabilities. It includes a powerful collision solver, making it easy to model complex machine element interactions. A Pentium with at least 16 MBytes of RAM is recommended. This is a 32-bit application and requires Windows NT 3.51 or higher, or Windows 95. Version 4 uses a Hardware Key for security.

List Price: $3,500

Knowledge Revolution, 66 Bovet Rd., Suite 200, San Mateo, CA 94402; ph: (415) 574-7777;

A similar product: Analytix -- Saltire Software, Box 1565, Beaverton, OR 97075.