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Articles from 1998 In May

Monitor series offers display flexibility

As industrial display systems migrate deeper into hazardous environments, high-resolution monitors on the factory floor become expensive consumables. But as automation rides the silicon wave, CRTs, flat panel displays, and ruggedized workstations improve shop efficiency, productivity and in some cases, safety.

That's why Aydin Corp.'s PROformance Series is a single source for display applications.

For example, Aydin's FST 19-inch PROformance Autosync(reg) 2000 Series offers nearly the same viewing area as the earlier 20-inch model, with an increase in resolution from 1,280 x 1,024 to 1,600 x 1,200.

This new series provides a choice of resolution from VGA to 1,600 x 1,280 in a wide array of standard enclosures, including rack, console, NEMA panel mount, metal cabinet, and plastic desktop. Available in sizes from 14- to 21-inches, all models are offered with optional touch systems and are compliant with domestic and international standards.

The series also includes 14-, 16- and 20-inch AMLCD (active matrix liquid crystal display) flat panels that are also available in a range of sturdy enclosures for the industrial and/or office environment.

Controller packs128-kbyte flash

Hitachi has added 128 kbytes of 5V flash memory to its H8S series of 16-bit microcontrollers to accommodate complex programs. The new H8S/2144 and H8S/2134 operate at up to 20 MHz and have eight power-saving modes to suit portable applications. Peripherals include ADCs, DACs, timers, and support for IrDA and smart-card interfaces. Applications include cellular phones, disk drives, airbag-deployment control, industrial control, and smart-card readers. The company's 8-bit H8/300 chips are upwardly compatible with the H8S series instruction set, enabling OEMs to easily upgrade to 16-bit performance while lowering power consumption. Hitachi Semiconductor: Product Code 4275

Alpha to break gigahertz barrier

The third generation of Digital's Alpha 64-bit microprocessor will break the gigahertz speed barrier by the year 2000, say company sources. Performance of the Alpha 21264 family is expected to begin at an estimated 40 SPECint95 and 60 SPECfp95 and reach more than 100 SPECint95 and 150 SPECfp95 in the next couple of years. The 21264 instructions include Motion Video Instructions (MVI) to enhance visual computing and multimedia performance through improved motion estimation in software. High-performance servers and workstations based on the first family member should be available this summer. Digital Equipment Corp.: Product Code 4274

Plastics spark electronics designs

Faster. Smaller. Cheaper. More powerful. Sound familiar? It should, at least if you work in the world of electronics.

Nearly every day, it seems, some electrical/electronics firm announces a new device that will "revolutionize" the industry--smaller, has twice the capacity of its predecessor, and doesn't cost as much. How do they do it? In today's fast-paced electronics world, plastics, especially the engineered variety, help make these seemingly impossible designs come true. Here's why.

Engineered plastics can serve as a dielectric/insulator or as a mechanical support. They have adequate dielectric strength to resist the electric field between two conductors, and good surface resistivity to prevent leakage of current across the surface of the connector. Moreover, the materials have good arc resistance to prevent damage in case of accidental arcing, as well as good mechanical properties to permit accurate alignment of the connected elements. And that's just for starters.

Because of this versatility, it's little wonder that plastics used in electrical devices will increase in both dollar volume and types of applications they serve. For instance, sales of these materials will spiral from $251 million in 1987 to an estimated $768 million in 2001. Poundage is expected to increase accordingly--from 250 million to 767 million lbs over the same time period. Those predictions come from plastics industry observer The Freedonia Group (Cleveland).

Information storage devices provide the best growth opportunities for engineered plastics, say Freedonia analysts. In this area alone, resins use will reach 117 million lbs in the year 2001. Heading the list: the proliferation of computers and audio devices, plus a burgeoning demand for compact discs and newly introduced digital versatile discs (DVDs). Wire and cable resin demand also will expand to 75 million lbs, primarily as a jacketing material to enhance thermal and flame-resistant properties, Freedonia predicts.

Connectors, switches, and related electrical and electronic components will continue to benefit from engineered plastics. In this segment of the industry, plastics use will grow to more than 400 million lbs by 2001. Energizing this growth will be the improved performance of these materials (primarily high-temperature resistance and dimensional stability) that will enable manufacturers to lower costs through parts consolidation.

Moreover, Freedonia reports, business equipment demand for plastics will expand to more than 170 million lbs in 2001, due mainly to new and growing needs for computer, printer, facsimile-machine, and other housings. Other leading benefactors include: video display terminals, machine covers (for noise reduction and protection), keyboards and keys, paper trays, and other exterior components.

Let's take a closer look at how these engineered plastics are making their mark in the electronic/electrical marketplace:

Conductives catch on. One area where engineered plastics have made big gains is in the conductive polymers arena. This stems from the need to prevent costly electrostatic discharge damage or to provide shielding from electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI). Demand here will reach 290 million lbs by the year 2000, based mainly upon the impressive growth in high-speed electronic devices.

Denser packing of electronic devices also creates higher levels of electronic noise, requiring a greater degree of protection from EMI/RFI emissions. Only increased use of fiber-optic cables and sensors, which are neither affected by nor cause electromagnetic interference, will slow this growth, the Freedonia analysts predict.

Plastic housings provide a good example of how plastics solve the EMI/RFI problem. For instance, 3M, when developing its new model 721 continuous wrist strap monitor, needed a housing material that was static-dissipative and had a high impact resistance. The monitor alerts a user in a manufacturing environment that resistance to ground has increased above a preset value.

3M (St. Paul, MN) tested a number of materials before choosing Stat-Loy(reg) A, an ABS composite, from LNP Engineering Plastics (Exton, PA). "We chose the material because it is inherently dissipative," says Brian Cox, product design technologist at 3M. "It's an essential requirement for our molded electronic packaging equipment in order to ensure minimum failure of sensitive electronic components."

Likewise, Axiohm Transaction Solutions (Riverton, WY) needed a wear-resistant, anti-static compound for the black inner frame of its new point-of-sale thermal printer. The frame houses a roll of thermal paper and a motor to enable the printer to silently roll out miles of customer transaction receipts.

The desired material had to meet three requirements. First, it had to minimize friction and wear where the gear shafts and rollers interact. Second, it had to exhibit conductive properties to eliminate static and ensure smooth paper feed through the printhead. Finally, it had to resist high temperatures from a continually running motor.

RTP Co. (Winona, MN) met all three demands with a single impact-modified polycarbonate compound. The material exhibits unnotched impact strength of 35 ft lbs/inch at 1/8 inch (1,869J/m), volume resistivity of 102-104 ohm-cm, and a heat deflection temperature of 270F at 264 psi (132C at 1,820 kPa).

"We tried two custom formulas before we achieved the right combination of performance features," reports John Bertalan, senior mechanical engineer at Axiohm. "The inner frame holds the key to reliable operation of these printers; no one can afford to have them shut down. RTP really focused on the project and solved the problem in a short time."

Most families now have at least one cellular telephone at their service (see sidebar). So when Motorola's Cellular Subscriber Sector put out the call for a durable, attractive material for the front and rear housings of its next-generation, palm-sized cellular telephone, Bayer Corp.'s Polymers Div. (Pittsburgh) answered with a new grade of Makrolon(reg) polycarbonate (PC) resin.

Before making the final decision, however, Motorola subjected a number of materials to reliability testing that measured the effect of temperature and other environmental factors. It found the Makrolon DP1-1456, an opaque, impact-modified PC, combined good processibility and impact strength.

"The cell-phone industry wants to go smaller and lighter," says Howard Dunlap, telecommunications market manager at Bayer. "Makrolon can fill wall housings from about 0.025 inch thick, helping Motorola to produce a durable, high-tier phone."

In addition, Motorola selected Bayer's Bayfol(reg) CR polycarbonate film for the phone's key set. The thermoplastic polyester and PC blend resists chemicals, making it well suited for membrane-switch overlays.

Processing prowess. When it comes to processing electrical/electronic components, plastics play an equally critical role. A slight variation from the specifications during a production run can cost a semiconductor maker millions of dollars in material waste, downtime, and lost sales.

With this in mind, EGC Corp. (Houston) recently launched a material designed specifically for the semiconductor industry. The new polyimide, called Xytrex(reg) 574 HP, should serve as an alternative to other polyimides typically used in semiconductor processing equipment, according to Steve Kealler, EGC's semiconductor products manager.

"Our new material has excellent resistance to mechanical abuse and permanent deformation," Kealler explains. "It can withstand abrasion without requiring additives that could contaminate the process environment."

Xytrex resists temperatures up to 550F (288C) in a wide range of applications. "It has tensile strength of 20,000 psi compared to 12,500 psi for a typical polyimide," Kealler notes. "At 500F (260C), it has tensile strength of 10,150 psi compared to 6,000 psi for a standard-grade polyimide."

In addition, Xytrex can withstand most chemical fluids and gases commonly found in or near semiconductor process vessels, such as epitaxial reactors, photoresist developers, dry etchers, and ion implanters. It is compatible with most solvents, etchants, electronic chemicals, vacuum fluids, and hydraulic oils.

To ensure that components in its vacuum handling system pose no risk of contamination, H-Square Corp. (Sunnyvale, CA) turned to a polyetheretherketone (PEEK) polymer for the system's vacuum tips. These are the components that remove wafers for test purposes (or from non-working machines) and manually sort them.

"We chose PEEK polymer because it is an inherently pure material with few trace elements," says Bud Barclay, vice president of sales and marketing for H-Square. "By using the polymer for the tips, we minimized the risk of contamination." Victrex (West Chester, PA) supplied the PEEK polymer.

H-Square selected PEEK for yet another reason--the material's continuous service temperature of 500F (260C). "Because silicon wafers are often processed in a high-temperature environment, handling equipment has to withstand extreme temperatures," says Barclay.

For this project, the tips are made from a carbon-fiber-reinforced PEEK. "We needed the addition of the carbon fiber to protect the wafer against ESD," Barclay adds. "A minute amount of static electricity can damage a silicon wafer."

In yet another wafer application, IPEC Planar (Phoenix, AZ) turned to retaining rings made of a chemically resistant polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) to extend service life, add dimensional stability, and produce a low-cost wafer. The company's new Avanti 672 polishing unit comes with two or four polish-head configurations. It can polish up to 100 wafers per hr.

The polisher uses three retaining rings made of Techtron PPS plate supplied by DSM Engineering Plastics Products (Reading, PA). The rings make up part of the integrated wafer carrier heads for the polishing cycle and post-polishing cycles.

A key benefit of the Techtron PPS plate is its ability to be machined to the very close tolerance (±0.001 inch/inch) required for the rings. This enables the heads to securely hold the wafer to maintain process polishing stability. Dimensional stability is enhanced by the low moisture absorption and low coefficient of linear thermal expansion of the PPS.

During polishing, Techtron resists the abrasive and chemically reactive polishing silica slurry needed to produce the wafers. It also wards off the deionized water or dilute citric acid and ammonium hydroxide solutions used in the cleaning stage.

IPEC expects the rings to last up to 5,000 wafer polishing cycles. That's about two to five times longer than traditional materials previously used in such applications.

Air superiority. Polymers came into play in yet another critical application--a new air-traffic control system designed by AlliedSignal.

Currently, the Precision Runway Monitor (PRM) is the world's only operational electronically scanned radar system for parallel runway approaches. Simply put, the system functions as a secondary radar for high-traffic airports to provide more accurate monitoring of plane locations. It uses an electronically scanned phased array antenna system, which has some distinct advantages over traditional mechanically scanning antennas.

For instance, there are no moving parts. Also the scanning takes place electronically so it can be done more rapidly. As AlliedSignal puts it: "The PRM is a complete stand-alone air-traffic control system using an electronically scanned monopulse secondary surveillance radar system for increased airport capacity and enhanced safety, especially during bad weather conditions."

A significant part of the system's magic resides in the antenna. To maintain the needed accuracy--particularly as the thermal environment changes--AlliedSignal engineers made extensive use of RT/duroid(reg) 6002 microwave laminate supplied by Rogers Microwave Materials Div. (Chandler, AZ). The PTFE/ceramic-based material has excellent dielectric constant thermal stability, and a coefficient of thermal expansion equal to that of copper.

More specifically, the RF power dividers, the Butler Matrices, and the RF phase shifters incorporate the microwave laminate material. The material's low-loss, well controlled dielectric remains very stable over a large temperature range.

"These features give RT/duroid 6002 unprecedented system stability," says Gregory W. Bull, key program manager-microwave products at Rogers. "After all, you wouldn't want to bump into the plane next to you or miss the runway a bit just because it is a little cold outside, would you?"

The first production system operates at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport--a good proving ground for cold-weather performance. To date, AlliedSignal has built five systems for the FAA. The other four will reside at New York's John F. Kennedy, and at the St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Atlanta airports.

Keeping pace with progress. Like their electrical/electronic counterparts, plastics suppliers must move quickly to keep up with the demands placed upon them in this dynamic marketplace. Some other examples illustrate that they are meeting the challenge.

For instance, the familiar metal dog tag worn by members of the U.S. armed forces may soon give way to a rugged plastic tag containing medical records on a memory chip. Data-Disk Technology Inc. (Sterling, VA) developed the record carrier, called the Medi-Tag(reg), with an assist from DuPont Engineering Plastics (Wilmington, DE).

The tag has a rugged outer shell of DuPont Zytel(reg) nylon, while inside there's a flash memory chip surface-mounted on an integrated circuit board. The chip's memory can include an individual's complete medical history, x-rays, allergies to medications, dental records, etc. With the tag, medical personnel can read and update the record by inserting it into a slot in a standard PCMCIA reader attached to a personal computer.

"The reliable, long-term protection provided by Xytel is crucial to the tag's reliability as a permanent record," says Tom Clark, Data-Disk president. Relying on encapsulation molding techniques developed by DuPont, Data-Disk achieves a complete, hermetically sealed shell to block penetration by dust and fluids. In addition, the glass-reinforced nylon 612 polymer protects against impact damage, mechanical loads, abrasion, and chemical attack by skin oils.

Clark reports that the tag has performed well in tests conducted by DOD's Telemedicine Technology Area Directorate. "It's a leading candidate for a $40 million contract involving field testing of a personal information carrier by the armed forces in 1998-1999," Clark says.

Metallocene-based polymers also are coming on strong for packaging applications in computer and other electronic components (see Design News, 2/19/96, p. 15). Witness metallocene-catalyzed propylene polymers (mPP) produced by Exxon Chemical (Houston, TX).

"Test results indicate that our Achieve(reg) mPP offers the extreme cleanliness and minimal outgassing critical in packaging for electronic components," says Chris Davey, polypropylene rigid packaging market development representative. "The material measures below the lower detection limit for chlorine compared to 20-ppm chlorine for a conventional polypropylene. This means that it provides a non-corrosive environment essential in packaging applications for computer electronics and other sensitive components."

Achieve also shows better results in regard to oligomer levels when compared to conventional polypropylene. Conventional polypropylene generates a total oligomer level of more than 500 ppm, according to Davey, while Achieve polymers showed a total level of less than 100 ppm. "This indicates that Achieve mPP polymers are super-clean and provide products with significantly less potential to produce haze on sensitive electronic components," he notes.

When it comes to conformal coatings, Nordson Corp. (Amherst, OH) has introduced a coating system it claims can deliver productivity and material savings of more than 50% over traditional dip and spray systems for circuit-board applications. The new Century system robotically applies acrylics, silicones, epoxies, and urethanes that conform to the external shape of the article being encapsulated "only on specified areas of a circuit board," Nordson reports.

The system can accommodate many types of boards, making it suitable for low- to medium-volume, high-mix operations. In contrast to many traditional dip and air-spray coating systems, Century eliminates VOC emissions, Nordson says. Any solvents are contained in the coating chamber, and a ventilation port for connection to exhaust ducting precludes the need for special hoods.

As for prototyping electronic components, check out a new polyurethane material from Ciba Specialty Chemical Corp. (East Lansing, MI) that can produce new "Parts in Minutes." In fact, that's what the company calls its UL 94 V-O-rated transparent material.

The flame-retardant system gels in 60 sec, permitting the demolding of cast parts in less than 30 min. The cured material has a Shore 81D harness, compressive strength of 20,000 psi, and a heat-deflection temperature of 208F. "It's well suited for medical equipment, computer housings, appliances, and other electronic-product prototypes," says Ciba's Bill Geresy.

Such materials and applications only begin to hint at what the future holds in store. As electrical/electronics companies continue to introduce new products at a record pace, it seems likely that plastics producers will follow suit. That's good news for design engineers, who will have more smaller, faster, less costly components to choose from, made from materials that last longer, can withstand more abuse, and give engineers more design flexibility.

What this means to you

- Plastics continue to enhance new electrical/electronic applications.

- Expanded use of these materials permit smaller, faster, and less-costly components.

- Plastic suppliers will tweak a material to meet nearly any specification.

- Increased numbers of materials entering the marketplace give engineers greater design flexibility.

Analog products follow microcontroller market

Analog products follow microcontroller market

Not everything's going digital. As designers embed microcontrollers in more and more products, demand is increasing for analog chips. Reason: Analog circuits convert human input into digital 1s and 0s that digital circuits can process. They also take digital output and convert it back to analog signals that people can understand, such as audio and video. "We are in the middle of the second analog revolution," says Pat Brockett, executive vice president of National Semiconductor's Analog Products Group. "Analog and mixed-signal are the key technologies that connect people in the real world to the digital domain." The global market for analog products is expected to increase 18% from $19.6 billion to $23.1 billion this year, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics.

Plastics wash out old design

Plastics wash out old design

Jackson, TN--Consumer requirements drove the design of Maytag's 1998 dishwasher line which, with the help of Serigraph Inc., (West Bend, WI) converted the aluminum fascia panel and mechanical buttons to a plastic fascia, new graphic appliques, and embossed button pads with electronic switches.

The previous line featured a coated aluminum control panel that dictated the use of removable, mechanical buttons. "Dirt could collect in the cracks and crevices, making cleaning the appliance a bigger chore," explains Darrin Manke, Maytag industrial designer.

Based partly on these problems, Maytag decided the new design should provide operation information, improve the appearance and surface-cleaning ability, and incorporate additional operation features and buttons. These changes called for revised artwork and a new decorating process--which Serigraph provided.

After seeing Serigraph's work at a trade show, Maytag selected the screen and offset printer to create the new dishwasher appliques. Serigraph implemented the decorating changes for five Maytag models in black, white, or almond color options.

Maytag was also interested in embossing. It invited Serigraph to a meeting to discuss the feasibility of converting its aluminum control panels to polycarbonate plastic. Serigraph not only agreed to work on the new program, but asked to participate in designing the new panels.

"Our experiences with these types of polycarbonate bezels has lead us to gather helpful data. We were able to recommend the ideal plastic thickness of the part depending on the application, the ideal height for the embossed buttons according to the type of switch used, and the button activation force needed for that type of switch," says Ken Crass, Serigraph account manager. "All of this information was important in designing Maytag's new dishwasher control panel in terms of functionality and appearance."

The new dishwasher control panel features six to eight large, raised, electronic buttons with switches behind each. Pushing the embossed button pad activates the switch and a small red "flag" appears in the clear window above the button indicating that the function is on.

The embossed buttons are easy to use and create a smooth surface that is easy to clean. The plastic control panel is also hard-coated, providing a high-gloss and scratch-resistant surface.

Maytag also incorporated three additional clear windows for new "Start" features introduced with the 1997 dishwasher line. A red LED (light-emitting diode) is illuminated behind the clear window to indicate the function is on.

None of these design changes or improvements would have been possible with the previous aluminum panel, which could not be embossed or molded to fit a switch behind each button. Also, smooth, clear windows were not an option for aluminum and if die cut into the material, dirt collection would remain problematic.

Serigraph worked closely with Maytag designers to overcome any design limitations with plastic. "Because we did have some flexibility in terms of the size and shape of the button pads as well as placement of clear windows, we were able to produce a very consumer-friendly control panel," comments Menke.

Historically, a costly transfer adhesive was required on the rear of the part. Serigraph's screened adhesive not only met but exceeded the requirements, providing significant cost reductions.

Fan clutches scrimp on energy use

Fan clutches scrimp on energy use

Given that the price of gasoline is hovering around $1 per gallon here in the U.S., fuel economy is hardly a national fixation these days. Just consider the burgeoning fleet of ever-bigger sport utility vehicles on the road, whose average fuel consumption is only slightly better than that of a military tank.

In direct contrast to consumer behavior today, initiatives like the United Nations environmental conference in Kyoto, Japan, last fall are reminders that there remain very real concerns over fuel emissions, air pollution, and the depletion of energy resources. As a consequence, efforts continue apace in the auto industry to improve vehicle fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and develop alternative propulsion technologies.

Articles about electric cars are staples of the daily newspaper. But one technology virtually unknown outside of the transportation industry is quietly making a significant impact on fuel consumption. It's the diesel engine on/off fan clutch, a thermostatic control device originally developed for the trucking industry following the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s. Today, these devices are ubiquitous on Class 7 and Class 8 heavy-duty trucks.

On/off products under development will feature lighter weight, higher torque capabilities, and higher operating speeds. The advancements are being driven by a better understanding of friction materials and component packaging to get the best performance.

The design premise of the device is engagingly simple: The clutch engages the fan only when augmented airflow is required to cool the radiator, significantly reducing the huge variations in operating temperature of a diesel engine--which can range as high as 150F with unregulated, direct-drive cooling. The upshot? Lower fuel consumption.

"Cooling fans on large diesel engines consume as much as 75 hp, which makes them real fuel guzzlers. Since fan on-time with our on/off clutches typically amounts to less than 25% of engine run time for over-the-road operation, there is a significant savings," says Stephen M. Clancey, product manager for engine cooling systems, at Horton, Inc. (Minneapolis, MN).

A mechanical engineer with 14 years of experience in engine technology, Clancey is involved in the design of next-generation fan clutches. "Along with other aspects of engine design, fan clutch technology has evolved over the years, and the latest clutches make significant contributions to diesel engine performance, reducing engine wear, and minimizing abrasion of radiator surfaces by dust-laden air," he explains.

An early approach to reducing the load on diesel engine fans was the application of a viscous fan drive, a technology in use on many automobiles today. Essentially a fluid-coupled device that operates much like a variable torque converter, it consists of a hydraulic turbine with silicone fluid that operates through centrifugal force. A valve, which is controlled by a bi-metallic element that senses the temperature of air passing through the radiator, controls the amount of fluid-coupling slippage. The less slip, the more efficient the clutch, and the higher the fan speed.

A shortcoming of this technology is that it can never be fully engaged or disengaged, leading to over-cooling and high engine load or ineffective fan operation. While this does not impact the performance of smaller cars and trucks, it is an issue with cooling fans on large trucks that consume up to 75 hp.

Electric fan drives are not really an option, given the fact that a Class 8 truck would require a large electric motor of impractical size. But since most trucks have compressed air on board to operate the brakes, pneumatically actuated mechanical friction clutches appeared to be a natural fit.

Early developers discovered that these clutches, which may be designed for either spring-engaged and air-disengaged (normally on), or air-engaged and spring-disengaged (normally off), substantially improved not only overall diesel engine fuel economy (see chart on next page), but reduced the stresses on engine components and prolonged diesel engine life.

The technology has been evolving ever since. Today's clutches are available with either pneumatic or electromagnetic actuation. The advantage of belt-driven electromagnetic clutches is that they are compact, yet extremely efficient. However, the tradeoff is lower torque capability, which makes the light-to medium-duty truck market a better target, explains Clancey.

Rather than having discrete sensors with wires and connectors, the latest generation of on/off fan clutches is controlled by input from a diesel engine's electronic control module (ECM). This microprocessor-based control monitors parameters such as ambient temperature, engine coolant temperature, charge air temperature, and engine load.

The newest approach to fan control includes no clutch at all. It combines electronic controls and engine/running gear inputs with a variable pitch fan drive. "This type of design offers us a powerful opportunity to effectively integrate information from multiple inputs, giving us the ability to provide the precise airflow required to maintain optimum engine temperature under varying conditions," says Clancey.

While this technology is more costly, Horton hopes that the ability to more precisely control critical engine temperatures will offset the higher price.

Will electronic controls supplant mechanical clutches? Clancey doesn't think so. "We think there's a market for both types of technology. The variable pitch drive has a lot of complexity to it and of course a higher cost. It is going to be used in applications that require a greater level of control--say a bus stopping at every corner, as opposed to a long-haul diesel truck operating at constant speed going across country."

Given the substantial benefits in fuel savings, one interesting question is whether the on/off clutch has any future place in the auto industry. Although automobiles have other alternatives, such as electric fan drives, it's a possibility, Clancey cautiously ventures. But first, consumers clearly are going to have to get a whole lot more excited about fuel efficiency than they are today.

For more information

Call 1-800-828-6344 x011 and enter the product code

Clutches from Horton (3): Product Code 4284

Clutches from Kysor (3): Product Code 4285

REALimage 2000 ships--'test it'

REALimage 2000 ships--'test it'

Salt Lake City--You sit inside a white birdcage, staring through a textured sphere rotating around a yellow rose. Through the moving polygon, you peer into a room with black-and-white checked floor tile. A large picture window at the other end frames a view of Yellowstone Park. Despite the layer-after-layer graphical effect, the image still rotates at 18.6 frames per second in true 32 bit color with 1900 X 1200 resolution.

This high-end chipset, REALimage 2000 from Evans & Sutherland (E&S), ingests points, lines, or triangles at rates up to 4 million primitives per second and renders filtered MIP-mapped textured polygons at rates up to 90 million pixels per second. Rick Maule, vice president and general manager of Evans & Sutherland's Desktop Graphics Div., says REALimage 2000 is the fastest, high-performance graphics-rendering engine on the market for OpenGL-based applications such as Pro/E, Softimage, 3D Studio MAX, EDS/Unigraphics, SDRC, Lightwave, and Lightscape. REALimage 2000, compatible with PCI and AGP, is now available from system OEMs.

If you want to test the honesty of the REALimage claims, or any other 3D OpenGL Graphics Accelerator, E&S offers GLAZE(TM) v3.0 for free from the company's web site: GLAZE v3.0 provides 15 pre-set features and functions, such as reflection, so users can compare alternative graphics accelerators on any given NT hardware configuration. Maule wants everyone to download GLAZE and put E&S software through its paces. "This is a Coke vs. Pepsi challenge and E&S is up to the test," he says. Organizations can distribute the recently upgraded software for free with a no-charge distribution license from the company.

Continuing with an "Eat my Dust" approach, the company will release REALimage 2200 this summer. Users can incorporate multiple chips to double and quadruple the number of pixels/sec, says Maule, without compromising color or resolution.

"We are in lock-step with CPU performance improvements," says Maule. "When a user pays for a faster CPU, he will get what he expects--faster graphics, too. This is not true with on-board geometry processors."

Electronically-linked teams design the defense systems of the future

Electronically-linked teams design the defense systems of the future

Government defense budget cutbacks have forced the U.S. armed services to be "lean and mean," even in their basic approach to developing next-generation defense systems. One example is the development of the U.S. Army's Crusader cannon artillery system, a project in which engineers, purchasing professionals, and business managers work closely together to deliver "best-value" technology.

Key to efficiently getting the most bang for the defense buck has been "integrated industry and government product development teams" (IPTs), according to Jeff Van Keuren, manager for public affairs at United Defense (Minneapolis), Crusader's prime contractor. United Defense, its partner General Dynamics Land Systems (Sterling Heights, Mich.), subcontractors, and the Army have personnel on the multi-discipline teams, which balance requirements, cost, and schedule in reaching decisions. Purchasing professionals and engineers on the teams forge links between suppliers, contractors, and the government as more subcontractors come on board, says Keuren. "What also is significant is getting government involved on the teams. We don't have a 'we/they' situation, but instead work toward a common goal."

Steve Flach, Crusader business manager for United Defense, notes the teams are chaired by the company and the Army procurement office based at the Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. Team members are electronically linked at multiple sites (see map) in an integrated-data environment for project data management (PDM).

"The system can provide real-time data exchange and configuration management by a variety of modes: T-1 line, the Internet, or dial-up," notes Flach. "A variety of development tools are available to handle this information, depending on discipline." Noteworthy are Pro/engineer from Parametric Technology (Waltham, Mass.), for CAD; for system development and risk management, RBD/RTM from Ascent Logic (San Jose, Calif.) is used; and Rationale's (Minneapolis) Rose handles software development.

Take me back

Before the IPTs were tooled up and running, team structure and functioning were tested and proven. This took place in 1994 and 1995 at the Minneapolis site. The electronic "tool sets" were identified, selected, tested, and proven for use at the remote sites. This program also formulated procedures and requirements for subcontractors to meet in bidding for program procurements.

Flach says integrated teams are much more effective than traditional government, contractor, and subcontractor relationships.

"There is no alternative to a common development environment," Flach believes. "We are achieving milestones at a faster rate than most Department of Defense projects. Systems integration and interface control are realizing the most benefit, along with reducing the review time between organizations, since everything is in real time."

Integrated environments allow fast component design maturation. Major systems such as the gun, engine, and transmission benefited almost immediately, says Flach, with other subsystems coalescing within six months. He adds that the environment is installed at lower-level suppliers when there is value to be added. "For example, everyone will be using Pro/engineer, except the mom-and-pop machine shops with small contracts, where it costs more to implement than would be saved."

According to Van Keuren, a vital part of bringing about the integrated team success was an "Industry Day" organized by Flach in December 1994, during the requirements phase of the program. This gave potential suppliers an overview of the timing of prospective requests for proposal (RFPs), making them aware of what the program would be asking for and when. Also discussed were integrated-team ground rules and requirements, performance yardsticks, and cost goals. "Many bidders were often finding out about an RFP too late, now they could turn one around quickly by being aware of what was coming up," says Van Keuren. Currently, the program is advertising procurement opportunities six months in advance on the Internet at crusader.

The Industry Day produced another important purchasing result, according to Flach. "The Day resulted in a revised potential supplier list having 450 more companies and capabilities. The Industry Day database was put into a file of key products as a starting point for engineering and is continuously updated. In pre-RFP decisions, a purchasing professional on each IPT goes to the data base and decides if a product needs to be procured (purchased off the shelf) or subcontracted for research and development (R&D) efforts." Engineers then review and comment on the file submitted by purchasing agents.

Van Keuren says the system is working very well due to the automation and software tools in place that provide quality involvement of purchasing professionals with the engineering staff. "Getting a drawing to purchasing is only an e-mail away, and Pro/engineer gives us a bill of materials when the drawing is done."

Once an RFP is published and bids come in, the decision is not a classic "down select," according to Flach. "It's more of a capabilities review of each bidder, which indicates what was desired without closing the door for the future. Any procurement selection is based on 'best value'--not necessarily lowest cost--and is a combination of technical performance, schedule, and cost."

In outlining the team approach, Flach is quick to point out that the product development teams must be flexible in their emphasis. "Early in the program they had to concentrate on system engineering. Now they must emphasize mechanical, electronics, software, and engine design. In a year they'll be focusing on the integration and fabrication phase."

On the civilian front

In addition to the impact of integrated teams, both Flach and Van Keuren note the significance of commercial marketplace influences on military development and procurement. "Like many high-tech civilian purchases, we're looking at small-component production volumes," says Flach. "Our suppliers have to be aware of commercial developments and what would be available for our use. And it will be up to them to maintain our production line using just-in-time practices to cut inventory costs."

But simulation-based defense development and acquisition may prove to be the most important influence from the commercial sector, according to Flach.

"Boeing pioneered this in designing the 777 with virtual prototypes. Now Chrysler, in TV commercials, is showing how they designed their latest cars with simulation-based tests, before any were built. This saves time, which equals money." He says United Defense has established a systems-integration facility in Minneapolis to run virtual prototype testing.

Maj. Gen. John Michitsch, Crusader program executive officer, says, "We can verify performance and ensure everything fits together before a single piece of hardware or line of code ever comes into being. We can bring soldiers into the development environment, incorporating their feedback to verify the design approach--from initial concept through fielding."

Flach and Van Keuren say "cultural" issues--like getting organizations to provide the necessary resources to the Crusader program--were the greatest obstacles to integrating suppliers into the design process. Companies used to producing multiple products had to think about supporting a single one through the life of the program. Many companies saw their matrix organizations as producing end products. "They had to refocus to produce integrated products," says Flach. "One company was accustomed to operating under the low-price bid concept--not just for itself but for its suppliers also," he adds. That was just one case of getting the concept of best-value procurement accepted.

While the Crusader is one of the first major military programs to hinge on integrated teams for development and procurement, it won't be the last. Says Gen. Michitsch: "We're reinventing the acquisition business--a blueprint, or perhaps I should say a CAD file, for the future."

Electric charge breaks ice barrier

Electric charge breaks ice barrier

As the weather turns spring-like, winter's ice build-up on power lines, windshields, and airplane wings becomes a fading memory. Professor Victor Petrenko, of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College (Dartmouth, NH), hopes to keep it that way. The physicist discovered that applying a small electric voltage across an ice-metal interface can break the bond between ice and metal surfaces. Technically, Petrenko says, ice is a semiconductor--included in a small class of substances in which protons, rather than electrons, carry an electrical current. When an electrically-charged surface comes into contact with any other surface, the charged surface induces an opposite charge in the facing surface and, because opposites attract, the two surfaces are drawn together. "This simple attraction accounts for most of ice adhesion," says Petrenko. Breaking the bond between ice and metal, he reasoned, should be as simple as neutralizing the surface charge with an equal amount of its opposite. He tested his theory using a sheet of ice, a globule of mercury--which stays liquid until temperatures dip below -40F--and a small battery with two wires attached. He touched one wire to the ice, the other to the mercury. The mercury drew itself up and away from the ice. Petrenko repeated the experiment using steel and other solid metals. In each case, the electricity caused the ice to lose adhesion. The effect could also be reversed, causing a surface to stick more firmly to the ice. "It may be possible to prevent or significantly reduce icing on the wings of an airplane using a battery no bigger than the one in your car," Petrenko theorizes. Surface-to-surface interactions are also important in manufacturing and machinery. Call: (603) 646-2117.