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Articles from 2001 In May

Stacked ICs talk directly

Stacked ICs talk directly

Singapore-Ball grid array technology is not new. Neither is wire bonding technology. But ST Assembly Test Services (STATS) has engineered a new package called Stacked Die Ball Grid Array (SDBGA) which delivers the best of both worlds.

Many of today's portable devices feature distinct IC groups performing a variety of functions such as amplification and mixed signal scanning. In this design world, signals typically start from one IC, like a SRAM, and pass to another IC, like flash memory, by way of the motherboard. To enhance functionality, circuit designers have tried to either embed logic capability into memory or vice versa. But there are always tradeoffs in this process in terms of performance.

STATS chose a different route for development of the SDBGA. By stacking one IC on another and empowering direct signal transfer, the company was able to enhance functionality while simultaneously reducing space requirements. On the SDBGA, ICs are directly connected so there is no need for signals to go through the motherboard and back to the IC. The result? No signal delay for faster communication.

The key design challenge, says STATS Chief Technology Officer B.J. Han, was to enable the smooth communication between the ICs via IC-to-IC wire bonding. Because ICs are generally of different materials, and because they need to be attached without breaking the passivation, overcoming sensitivity during the attachment process was critical. Optimizing wire bonding with the die attachment material, explains Han, involved proprietary processes and materials engineering. This work, he says, was done in conjunction with materials suppliers who helped develop custom-tailored materials.

With its two-in-one feature, the total SDBGA package height typically measures 1.4 mm. Popular SDBGA sizes are 8 x 8 mm to 14 x 14 mm with pin counts between 80 and 140. Weight and mounting area are only 30% that of conventional packaging.

The product is now in beta customer qualification and shipping should commence shortly once confirmed orders are in.

For more information about SDBGAs from STATS: Enter 538

In Brief

In Brief

Fluid power: Valves

Plast-O-Matic Valve's new thermoplastic check valve prevents reverse flow of highly corrosive and ultra-pure liquids. The check-valve's diaphragm provides normally closed operation with a bubble-tight seal. The multi-port manifold valve is available made from PVC, natural polypropylene, and other thermoplastics. Performance of the valve is not dependent on gravity or mounting position. Available connections include threaded, socket, spigot, flare, and O-ring face fittings.

Enter 620

Burkert's Type 2031 diaphragm valve, when combined with the company's 8045 insertion magmeter, provides continuous flow measurement and batch control of fluids. A built-in electrical connection between the sensor and the valve eliminates the need for wiring from a PLC to sensors and actuators. On/off and continuous pneumatic control loops are available for flow requirements in chemical and food processing applications.

Enter 621

The new Apollo radiant heating valve from Conbraco Industries mixes hot water. The valve has an all-bronze body, stainless-steel springs, brass stem and retainer, and a high-temperature thermostat. The temperature-activated valve has a temperature range between 120 and 180F, but the water inlet temperature range is from 140 to 212F. The maximum working pressure is 125 psi. Standard connections are solder, threaded, union/solder, and union/threaded.

Enter 622

A ball valve from Bee Valve made from glass-reinforced polypropylene is suitable for use with water- and oil-based fluids, chemicals, and some acidic fluids. The valve has a self-aligning ball and a handle that opens and closes it. Its pressure rating is 125 psi.

Enter 623

Product News

Product News

Remote sensing

G-Power Remote Sensing series are the latest and highest-powered addition to this company's sensor line. The series can support up to eight tool-mounted sensors, and also provides a rectangular head version for difficult mounting situations. The product's design eliminates slip rings, which are prone to damage and corrosion, and provides a connector-less hook-up to transmit power and signals.

Balluff Inc., 8125 Holton Dr., Florence, KY 41042; FAX (859) 727-7752;

For Information, enter 615

Temperature transmitters

656T temperature transmitters accept two thermocouple inputs, which is said to lower costs and reduce space requirements. The loop-powered units are said to accept universal thermocouple and millivolt input signal ranges, provide isolation, and output proportional 4-20 mA dc signals. The product is designed for panel shops and end-users with restricted budgets and tight space requirements.

Acromag Inc., Box 437, 30765 S. Wixom Road, Wixom, MI 48393; FAX (248) 624-9234;

For Information, enter 616

Microminiature accelerometers

6000 Series microminiature accelerometers now feature detachable cables, an inverted seismic element for mechanical isolation, and other features normally found only on standard-sized units. The product is designed for general purpose work, and is available in shear mode or case grounded designs, as well as a high temperature unit which operates at up to 500F.

Columbia Research Laboratories, 1925 Mac Dade Blvd., Woodlyn, PA 19094; FAX (610) 872-3882;

For Information, enter 617

Motion analysis cameras

MotionXtra? HG 100+ series cameras are designed for high-performance digital imaging. Similar to the company's HG line of imagers, these products use a more cost-effective sensor. The cameras are rated to a reported 100g in any axis, and are designed specifically for severe environmental conditions, such as automotive crash sled, airborne, and range operations.

Roper Scientific MASD, 11633 Sorrento Valley Rd., San Diego, CA 92121-1097; FAX (858) 792-3179;

For Information, enter 618

Control module

Pulse Sequence Processor is said to use, patent-pending method for the remote-less control of pumps, solenoids, control relays, or other industrial processes in an operator-controlled liquid dispensing application. Applications include pressure, steam, and window washer, agricultural spraying systems, fire control, painting, deicing, and applying pesticides and insecticides.

PulseCON, 5566 E. Vista Del Rio, Anaheim, CA 92807;

For Information, enter 619

Joint Strike Fighter gains through global collaboration

Joint Strike Fighter gains through global collaboration

The Boeing Company (Seattle, WA) is in tight competition for what may be the last Western piloted fighter aircraft - the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), and has built two demonstrator aircraft, the X-32A and X-32B. The X-32A has completed flight testing and has demonstrated conventional take-off and landing for the U.S. Air Force, and aircraft carrier approach requirements for the U.S. Navy. The X-32B will soon demonstrate short takeoff and vertical landing for the U.S. Marine Corps. The production JSF will be used by all three services and their counterparts in the United Kingdom.

For the competition, and also for an on-going affordability initiative demonstration, Boeing created a design, simulation and collaboration environment using integrated product teams (IPTs). The airframe IPT, led by Mark Rosenberger, JSF Air Vehicle Structures & System manager, heads up the work. Individual IPTs are responsible for design to manufacture of major aircraft sections. Each team has the resources and skills to design and deliver its entire portion. In addition, analysis and integration teams work with all the IPTs to make sure interfaces and requirements are consistent within and between teams.

The X-32A has completed flight testing and has demonstrated conventional take-off and landing for the U.S. Air Force, and aircraft carrier approach requirements for the U.S. Navy. The X-32B will soon demonstrate short takeoff and vertical landing for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Most of the X-32 design work took place in Seattle and at the former McDonell Douglas facility in St. Louis. But while the Seattle-based engineers used CATIA for design, those in St. Louis used Unigraphics. So the designers could work together, Boeing's IT organization set up collaboration techniques using the STEP protocol to translate CAD data on a continuous basis to ensure a single source of data for the joint teams. In addition, a web-based program visibility system allowed collaboration with non-CAD data.

As the project progressed, Boeing brought suppliers, both domestic and international (in this case, mainly located in the UK and The Netherlands) into the collaborative framework. Under the name of One Team, all participants are peers sharing and contributing to the JSF. Representatives of the U.S. government also take part.

Rosenberger says, "One Team strengthens the project by bringing everyone's input together. The system enables simultaneous collaboration." Collaboration takes place through frequent video-teleconferences in which up to 26 different locations can share data in real time. "Strong encryption between the sites makes sure our sessions are secure," Rosenberger says.

Collaboration also takes place over the Internet. Currently, One Team members at all the different sites can access product data over the Internet. Because everyone uses common web tools, very few technology changes were needed by the participating companies. "If we modify a design, the change can be posted on the common site, and everyone involved can pull up the data, see the changes, and act accordingly," Rosenberger says.

The JSF will be used by all three services and their counterparts in the United Kingdom.

Real-time collaboration also smoothes design, manufacture and affordability issues. Though designed in Seattle and St. Louis, the X-32 was built in Palmdale, CA. And specifications, set by the U.S. and UK military, define a common set of requirements for all branches of the military. "It's a critical advantage to have common specifications and design criteria for the design teams," Rosenberger says.

The engineers conduct remote liaison with manufacturing via hand-held cameras hooked up to wearable computers with video feed-back. The designers can see problems, and mark up changes on a smart-board so that the factory has instant engineering information.

The teams use simulation at every step. Starting with 3D solid definitions of every component, the teams use a number of analysis tools and simulate everything from design to manufacturing and maintenance. "When we assembled the actual aircraft, it was as if were building it for the third or fourth time," Rosenberger says.

For more information

Go to or enter the number on the Reader Service Card:

CATIA from Dassault Systems: Enter 545

Design software from UGS: Enter 546

Product News

Product News

Fiber optic connector

ST-DRY(TM) fiber optic connecting devices are designed to protect fiber terminations from wet environments which can degrade optical fiber. The connectors are fabricated from corrosion and chemical resistant materials. Ferrules and alignment sleeves are made of precision-machined zirconia, while the connector and coupling adapter bodies are made of either nickel-plated brass or 300 series stainless steel.

Greene, Tweed & Co, Box 305, 2075 Detwiler Rd., Kulpsville, PA 19443; FAX (215) 256-0189;

For Information, enter 581

Fluid sampling

Fluid sampling nipples and kits are designed to detect contamination in hydraulic systems by providing a permanently mounted test point which is said to eliminate the need to shut down or break lines when taking samples, reducing downtime, unscheduled maintenance, and repair costs. The kits provide lab reports on particle count, water content, viscosity, and spectrochemical analysis of over 20 wear metals and additives.

Parker Hannifin-Quick Coupling, 8145 Lewis Rd., Minneapolis, MN 55427; FAX (763) 544-3418;

For Information, enter 576


Control-Matched(TM) variable-speed motors are said to provide complete compatibility and maximum performance when used with the company's variable-speed drives. The motors are said to provide reduced electrical and acoustic noise, improved dynamic response, lower operating temperature, wider torque and speed ranges, and extended service life.

Allen-Bradley, Department 0909, Bloomington, MN 55438; Tel: (262) 512-8446.

For Information, enter 577

Precision parts

Precision machined parts for aerospace, medical, electronic, and instrumentation applications are available in stainless steel, titanium, and nickel alloys in sizes from 0.012 to 1 inch in diameter. Parts can comply with ASTM, AMS and military standards.

Eagle Stainless Tube & Fabrication, Inc., 10 Discovery Way, Franklin, MA 02038; FAX (800) 520-1954;

For Information, enter 578

Dielectric materials

MICROLAM(R) dielectric materials are made from expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) structures which are impregnated with various filled resins to meet different applications requirements. The product is said to offer superior signal integrity, higher density, faster signal speeds, thinner construction, and lighter weight for use in telecommunications, computing, test and measurement, defense, and aerospace applications.

W.L. Gore and Associates, 750 Otts Chapel Rd., Newark, DE 19713; FAX (302) 737-2819;

For Information, enter 579

Mobile PC

PT-8400 ruggedized sealed flat-panel computer is designed for mobile applications which require high shock and temperature resistance. The product has Pentium Class CPU power of up to 266 MHz in a fully sealed NEMA 12 case approximately the size of a lunch box.

Digital Systems Engineering, 4325 S. 34 St., Phoenix, AZ 85040; FAX (602) 426-8688;

For Information, enter 580

Product News

Product News

Fiber optic sensor

The D10 Expert? fiber-optic sensor features dual-output channels with independently configurable set points. The sensor's 16-bit microprocessor and TEACH-mode programming deliver 12-bit A/D resolution within a 300-mm range. The device is available with a choice of dual discrete outputs, or a single discrete output paired with a single 0-10V dc analog output. An LCD provides continuous configuration and performance data.

Banner Engineering Corp., Box 9414, Minneapolis, MN 55440; FAX (612) 544-3213;

For information, enter 602

Master controllers

AS-I master controllers provide a freely programmable interface and come in two models. Model AC 1011 supplies a single master controller with up to 124 inputs and 124 outputs. Model AC 1012 has two controllers integrated in the same housing and can accommodate up to 248 inputs and 248 outputs. They both include a PLC with IEC 1131-3 base programming software. Functions are available for commissioning, addressing, and setting parameters.

ifm efector, 805 Springdale Dr., Exton, PA 19341; FAX (610) 524-2010;

For information, enter 603


A long-range ignitor for use with advanced ballasts for metal halide lamps allows the remote mounting of ballasts up to 50 ft from the lamp. This is for metal halide applications from 35 to 400W. The component is UL recognized and CSA certified. It also specifically addresses the severe requirements of transmitting an ignitor pulse through three-conductor wire.

Advance Transformer Co., 10275 W. Higgins Rd., Rosemont, IL 60018; FAX (847) 390-5109.

For information, enter 604

Stacking connectors

Providing 72 circuits per linear inch, HDM stacking connectors are designed for connecting sub-systems in internetworking and telecommunications equipment. The units can be specified with solder-tail or press-fit pins in 72- or 144-circuit segments, offering a simple building-block design. The optional polarizing and mating features found in stainless steel guidance pins and end walls ease installation in blind-mating applications.

Molex Inc., 2222 Wellington Ct., Lisle, IL 60532; FAX (630) 969-4550;

For information, enter 605

High-bandwidth cable

A selection of cables utilizes a new insulation system that permits large, open eye patterns, producing transmission lines with digital bandwidth I/Os greater than 2.5 Gb over 50 ft. Including equal mechanical and electrical lengths, the cable, incorporating this insulation, is suitable for automatic termination without the need for pre-testing. The insulation's uniform and dispersed cell structure is robust enough for use in multiple pairs within the cable.

Montrose/CDT, 28 Sword St., Auburn, MA 01501; FAX (508) 793-9862;

For information, enter 606

Hot Products

Hot Products

Starter kit slices MCU products' time-to-market

Just introduced by the Electronic Device Group of Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA, the StarterKit Plus for its 8- and 16-bit microcontroller units (MCUs) is aimed at allowing customers to quickly evaluate the company's MCUs in embedded system applications. "The first 120 days of an embedded system project are the most critical," says Richard Sessions, director of the Embedded Systems Dept. in Mitsubishi's Integration, Communications, and Imaging Div. "Here's where the choices of hardware and software are made and the time-to-market determined," he emphasizes. "Thus starter kits, simulators, and emulators can give a fast start to making design choices," understanding a microprocessor's capability, and writing code. At $99.99, StarterKit Plus includes the correct power supply, cables, software, manuals, sample code, and CD-ROM data book. The kit's compiler and debugger come with a 120-day license, renewable for free. The company's M16C 16-bit core microcontroller family uses the same architecture in applications from high-end 8-bit (where it is cost competitive), through 16-, into 32-bit applications, making it easy to migrate designs upward. Mitsubishi Electric:

Enter 563

Microcontrollers get small, offer back compatibility

The PIC18F010 and F020 flash microcontrollers from Microchip Technology offer 10 MIPS performance with 4 kbytes of program memory, 256 bytes of user RAM, and 64 bytes of EEPROM data memory, all in a compact 8-pin package. The company's 0.5-micron process technology allows it to use the 8-pin package, which takes up reduced board space, and, because it requires fewer instructions, RISC architecture makes it easier to use. Flash reprogrammability allows field upgrades. The microcontroller units (MCUs) complement Microchip's existing PICmicro line-with pin compatibility decreasing prototyping time and permitting existing PC board configurations to be used with new features. Software can also be reused because of code compatibility across all 8 to 84 pins of the PICmicro architecture. Low-voltage operation (EEPROM write down to 2V) is suited to battery operation. "The PIC18F010 and F020 continue Microchip's 8-pin, 8-bit MCUs with the flexibility of flash program memory and the performance of the PIC18 architecture," according to Fanie Duvenhage, product manager. Applications include use in the automotive, motor control, industrial telecommunications, and appliance markets. Microchip Technology:

Enter 564

Controller's integrated sensors prolong battery life

The Motorola 68HC908SR12 8-bit microcontroller uses on-chip current and temperature sensors to cut the need for additional components and thus reduce board size. Targeted applications include "smart" batteries and chargers, home appliances, security systems, and other sensing applications. Kevin Kilbane, market development manager for 8- and 16-bit MCUs (microcontroller units), highlights the high level of sensor integration and special algorithms that monitor temperature to speed charging and protect the battery from over-temperatures. "Charging is optimized based on temperature," he says, "and pulsing charge current allows a fast charge and safety," while prolonging battery life. "Users can customize the charging algorithms," Kilbane adds, and thus have several product versions using the same hardware. The chips can be on board batteries or separate in stand-alone charging units. Security system applications involve ensuring battery backup and sensor interface integrity, while industrial control uses are geared to advanced interfacing with processing and temperature sensors. Motorola SPS:

Enter 565

Computer Productivity Tools

Computer Productivity Tools

Advice for CAD developers

SCOTTSDALE, AZ Today's video games have nearly infinite possibilities, incredible graphics, and lightning-fast reaction time.

"But there is no 'Nintendo for Dummies' book on the market, because they're completely intuitive. There's no need. That's good design," said Dick Morley in a keynote speech on April 27 at the COFES conference (Congress on the Future of Engineering Software) in Scottsdale, AZ.

As a successful venture capitalist and an engineer with more than 20 patents to his name (including the programmable logic controller and magnetic thin film), he shared hard-won lessons from his various pursuits, and said that many could be applied to developing a better CAD/CAM/CAE product.

Keep it simple. "If your business plan is over 20 pages, it won't get read," Morley says. "I get a new one in the mail every day! What's the bumpersticker?"

Don't be afraid to take risks. "We're not interested in government bonds; we're looking for high risk/high return. In fact, we don't invest unless you think you'll fail 80% of the time."

Planning is everything. "What happens in the next quarter was determined by decisions you made five years ago."

The advice continued in the second keynote, by author and Design Insight President Peter Marks, who instructed software developers to "Rock and Roll."

In Marks' parlance, that refers to the business metric of Return on Knowledge (ROK) and Return on Learning (ROL), as opposed to the more standard measures, Return on Assets (ROA) and Return on Investment (ROI).

He recognized that knowledge management demands an optimistic outlook. "When you approach a huge mess, an entire barn full of manure, straw, and dirty stalls, you have to be the one who says 'There's a pony in there someplace' and isn't afraid to go digging for the good idea."

An even tougher challenge is measuring your success in this arena. He suggested a concept called "knowledge turns." It's similar to the common measure of Inventory Turns, an economic measure of part turnover, efficient management, and market demand. But one Knowledge Turn happens when an engineer has identified a challenge and contributed a product to solve it; it's a rough measure of time to market for ideas, not just products.

Also at the show, SDRC (Cincinnati, OH) showcased its new, Windows 2000- and NT-compatible user interface for I-DEAS(R). Features include: customizable icon layouts and pull-down menus. Check it out for yourself at windows-ui.shtml.

SDRC is also busy integrating its current products with recent acquisitions like Slate and Inovie(R) Software, and extending a partnership with Microsoft through the Visio application. One goal is to achieve a smooth integration between Slate and Visio, "to keep the architect ahead of the construction crews," said Product Manager Mark Sampson. This would allow engineers to bring the customer into the development process, to anticipate product changes, and ultimately to create products that are "compliant by design."

For more information about software from SDRC: Enter 582

Contact Benjamin at [email protected]

Deere, Hogs, and International Design

Deere, Hogs, and International Design

The National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) reports that U.S. fluid power imports have grown 65% and exports have grown 45% in the past five years. Although the U.S. runs a fluid-power trade deficit with many of its global neighbors, manufacturers are finding growing markets throughout the world, bringing the total of fluid power products sold to more than $11 billion in 2000. While global markets may help increase the bottom line, designing products for culturally diverse markets presents a daunting challenge for design engineers.

Boggling hog noggins. "A big challenge has been controlling complexity so that we can manufacture the different configurations required by the various nations," says Bruce Roberts, a mechanical design engineer at Harley-Davidson (Milwaukee, WI). The company uses hydraulic brake systems, oil pumps, and shock absorbers in its motorcycles (HOGS(TM)) that are regulated by the same global agencies governing the truck and automotive industries.

"We are an American icon and so must be careful to retain important styling queues when designing international products," says Harley-Davidson design engineer Bruce Roberts. Shown here is a 2001 Harley-Davidson International model.

Roberts believes that U.S. manufacturing companies are just beginning to confront the massive task of developing international regulations that will reduce the complexity of motorcycle configurations. Because Harley-Davidson motorcycles are used on public roads throughout the world, Roberts says that the company faces diverse standards, which are mind-boggling. "When certifying for vehicle noise for example, we must test five different standards in order to supply our vehicles to our world markets," he says.

Designing a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for international markets requires constant collaboration among design teams around the world. Roberts works from the Willie G. Davidson product design center in Milwaukee, but remains in touch with teams around the world. "We use videoconferencing, phone calls, e-mail, and on-site or off-site meetings to enhance communication," he says. His advice to other engineers is to stay close to the customers and the markets in which customers are located for quickly reacting to changing customer desires and international regulations.

Deere sees trees and forest. The challenge of meeting local regulations and standards is very significant to international design, according to Derek Eagles, a senior project engineer for electrohydraulic systems at John Deere's Product Engineering Center (Waterloo, IA). "Understanding the different applications and uses of our product throughout the globe cannot be over emphasized," he says.

Eagles points out that one tractor used in North America for utility applications may be used for heavy-duty tillage and earth-moving applications in developing regions of the world. "It is imperative that we understand these types of issues early in the product development cycle," he explains.

One of fluid power's biggest market is in construction, where equipment manufacturers like John Deere use hydraulics for brakes, power steering, and boom attachments in tractors, excavators, and front-end loaders sold around the world.

Eagles and other engineers at John Deere gain understanding of local markets by forming local organizations and employing nationals. "They are in a better position to understand all the forces that come to bear on their markets," says Eagles.

Thanks to an intranet-accessed tool at John Deere called JD MindShare, Eagles and other engineers at John Deere are also plugged into a global picture of what's going on in hydraulic design. Engineers enroll as members of specific "Communities of Practice" and hold regular events for encouraging collaboration. "We hold an annual hydraulics-users conference where John Deere engineers from around the world give presentations to their peers," explains Eagles. They also conduct design reviews over the World Wide Web.

In some cases, John Deere has adopted a modular approach to design with compatible interfaces for subsystems and components. Eagles adds that John Deere prefers adoption of ISO standards because they simplify the process of worldwide compliance with local standards.

"We are working to eliminate the national and international standards that overlap," says Karen Boehme, the International Standards Development Manager at NFPA. "As an organization, we are helping adopt international standards." That's good news for Deere, HOGS, and other animals around the world.

Foreign markets challenge U.S. engineers

Foreign markets challenge U.S. engineers

Next time you're relaxing in front of a roaring fire, take a moment to reflect upon the regulatory difficulties faced by the designers of the fireplace.

Even such a basic item as a gas-burning firebox must be carefully designed to satisfy international regulations. Engineers at Hearth Technologies (Lakeville, MN) faced this challenge with their patented one-piece, gas-burning fireplace. The vacuum-formed ceramic fiber "firebox" provides great insulation, so customers can get more BTUs in less space, while still having a masonry aesthetic.

But when Hearth tried to sell the firebox overseas, they ran into several new challenges, said Hearth's David Lyons:

  • The fireboxes had to be rated by testing agencies like ASTM, since Europe is so stringent in regulating fibrous materials such as insulation. These regulations also demand extensive labeling.

  • European cities tend to have such old buildings that their existing firebox spaces are too small to fit Hearth Technologies' products

  • Filing for European patents is typically very time consuming

The hurdles to selling products in Europe can be so significant that some companies simply seek other places for their products. While Hearth still sells 85-90% of its products in the U.S. and Canada, the company looked beyond Europe and found that Australia and New Zealand had much less stringent regulations. And with more modern architecture, it was much easier to fit the units into existing homes there.

This year, many companies such as Hearth Technologies entered Design News'annual Global Innovation Award competition (sponsored by Omron), describing the challenges they faced in designing a product for the global market, and how they overcame them. This year's winners were a team of engineers from Compaq Computer Corp., who in a "skunkworks" project designed a new computer-the AlphaServer DS10L-after funding for the project was cancelled (see DN2.26.01, p.106). Still, they met international standards and sourced parts from anywhere they could, and today their server is globally assembled and marketed.

Contest sponsor Omron Electronics Inc. (Schaumburg, IL) awarded $5,000 to Systems Engineer Mike Rolla and his team and a $15,000 scholarship, which Rolla designated for the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Entry forms for the 2001 contest will be published in the 7/2/01 issue of Design News, or go to for a complete description of the contest.

In a different industry, Paul Mueller also ran into challenges when he tried to market his carbide indexable endmill abroad. The Millanyangle(TM) 2000 adjusts in increments of one degree, so it can cut any angle, he says. But he couldn't simply set up shop and sell it abroad.

"When I go door to door with this, it sells like hotcakes," says Mueller, VP of R.M. Tool and Mfg. Co. (Elgin, IL). "But I can't just do it all myself."

Some challenges he cites:

  • Foreign patents can be very expensive: he spent more than $7,000 over two years to patent the product in Japan. Translating technical descriptions soaked up much of that time.

  • Translating the instruction booklet added additional time and expense

  • The Millanyangle operates in English units, not metric. While this is not a major problem-since degrees are measured with the same units everywhere-it presents an additional hurdle to marketing the product overseas.

Many of these troubles are easier to handle for companies that are very large, and that have an international presence already. At Ford Motor Co., engineer Jim Loschiavio helped design an interior, glow-in-the-dark, trunk release latch. Cited as a safety goal after several children perished while locked inside hot car trunks, Ford had to make them adaptable not only for new cars, but also retrofittable to all Ford cars worldwide.

Despite the fact that Ford engineers had to work with multinational suppliers and manufacturers, the whole process went smoothly. "Technically speaking, it wasn't a very challenging thing," Loschiavio says. That's because he was working with large companies like Bosch and Eaton; while Bosch may be headquartered in Germany, he always worked with the engineers in their American offices. Even when he had to converse with distant contacts, it all came down to frequent communication: "With the advent of the computer and e-mail, they're only a click away," he says.