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Aras Debuts Second Generation Open-Source PLM

In its first major release since it embarked on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, Aras rolled out a new version of Innovator, its Microsoft-based, open-source PLM platform for product design.

Aras Innovator Version 9 ushers in what Aras dubs the first model-based SOA for PLM. As a result, the software’s object model, data schema, business rules and workflows can be modified on the fly with no programming experience required and no system downtime. “What that means is if a company is outsourcing design to China and their business processes change, you can change the workflows, forms or data model easily through a graphical drag-and-drop interface, and the program will make the changes under the covers immediately,” says Peter Schroer, Aras president. “The idea is to enable process owners to make changes. Why should they have to wait for IT to implement workflow changes?”

Aras’ modern SOA delivers other benefits in terms of reducing complexity associated with integration. “Integrations are a key component of making PLM work and integrations are much easier on this platform,” Schroer says.

Beyond the model-based enhancements, Innovator Version 9 includes single-system, multi-language internationalization capabilities, enabling greater global collaboration. The software coordinates global data and time complexity for collaborative processes such as electronic workflow signatures or program scheduling deadlines, and the multi-language support includes both the solution screens and end user data.

Version 9, which is available to customers as a free, open-source download, supports the latest Microsoft platform products, including Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. As an open-source platform, the software is evolved thanks to contributions from corporate customers, including Motorola and Ingersoll Rand.

Antec: The Bioplastics Debate Is Shifting

Antec: The Bioplastics Debate Is Shifting

Plastics made from sustainable resources, or plants, are at a tipping point, according to several speakers at special session at the annual technical conference (Antec) of the Society of Plastics Engineers in Milwaukee, WI.  According to one research study cited, 40 percent of bioplastics will be used in durable applications in 2011, compared to just 2 per cent today. In the United States, in particular, plastics made from crops, usually corn, are mostly targeted for disposable packaging. As I’ve blogged before, that’s a joke since there are virtually no composting facilities that could handle the biodegradable packaging. The argument works OK for plastic bags that are thrown in the ocean or beside highways. But that’s hardly a reason to develop a new industry. Speakers at the SPE Antec, however, made the point that the argument is shifting from a solid waste viewpoint to a carbon footprint orientation. As a result, some experts feel demand will grow for “bioplastics” because of its potentially favorable position in the global warming debate. Japan has a law requiring greater use of bioplastics over the years, and Toyota among others has embraced the goals. The case is gaining a little strength as oil prices soar. It’s still a tough row to hoe, however. One reason is that bioplastics lack adequate mechanical properties for durable applications, such as cars. Toyota is blending bioplastic with oil-based plastic to boost properties. The other issue is that bioplastic will be significantly more expensive than oil-based plastic, even with sky-high oil prices. Efforts in the past to develop alternates have always collapsed when oil prices dropped. The other big obstacle is the feedstock problem. Use of corn in the United States has hiked food prices. At the Antec, a few experts argued that the real solution will be a switch to biomass that has no food value.

Plastics Woes Could Continue for Ten Years

Plastics Woes Could Continue for Ten Years

Roger Jones, the former president LNP Engineering Plastics, blamed the American government for many of the plastics industries woes in a talk to a standing room only audience at the annual technical conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) in Milwaukee, WI this morning.

 

“Politicians are generally hostile to manufacturing,” said Jones, telling attendees that this year’s elections, particularly at the Congressional level are a watershed for the future of plastics.  “I think one of the material outcomes unless things change is that more manufacturing companies are going to move offshore,” said Jones.

 

He was particularly critical of the subsidization of the corn-to-ethanol industry. “This is a real problem,” he said. “It’s driving up food prices.” Efforts to make plastics from renewable feedstocks, such as corn, are OK, he said, “if they can stand on their own two feet.”

 

Problems go beyond government activities. One problem is a short-range view by major American companies. He cited the example of General Electric, which sold its plastics business last year to the Saudi Arabian Basic Industries corp. (SABIC). “GE’s research activities in plastics went from long term to mid-term to short-term,” said Jones. When GE bought LNP (after Jones had left) they were only interested in orders above 100,000 pounds. “Those small orders had been the lifeblood of LNP’s business,” he commented.

 

Jones predicted the American plastics industry will be in turmoil for another ten years, with only specialty and medical applications showing much growth. Molders may move more into micro parts where the impact of material prices is minimized and part prices are higher.

 

Jones is now a consultant and a frequent speaker at SPE meetings.

Failures Result From Poor Materials Selection

Failures Result From Poor Materials Selection

Forty-five percent of serious plastics product failures result from inappropriate materials selection, said Melissa Kurtz, senior materials scientist at Stork Technimet Inc. in a lively discussion on failure analysis at the annual technical conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers in Milwaukee, WI. “This is especially true in applications involving chemical attack and environmental stress cracking,” she said. In one example she cited a phthalic-based plasticizer used in a rubber seal caused environmental stress cracking of polyetherimide in a medical device. In a panel discussion, a General Motors engineer asked for tips on how to determine if excessive use of captive regrind could be causing a part failure.  Experts suggested testing melt index of material before molding to determine if the molecular weight was out of range.

Precision Aluminum Molds Emerge in China

Precision Aluminum Molds Emerge in China

Chinese tool makers are gaining ground in precision aluminum tooling, according to a presentation this morning at the annual technical conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers. For starters, aluminum billet is cheaper in China than the United States, according to Peter Mooney, president of Plastics Custom Research Services. Then mold makers laminate billets and precision machine the shapes for molds. As a result, it’s less expensive to make machined aluminum molds for complex shapes. The tools are particularly important for rotational molding.

John & Regina's Hydrogen Car Adventure

John & Regina's Hydrogen Car Adventure

Design News Editor-in-Chief John Dodge and Web Editor Regina Lynch will spend the day tomorrow with General Motors and one of its Chevy Equinox hydrogen fuel cell test vehicles. One of the most exciting aspects will be fueling the vehicle at a Shell Hydrogen facility in White Plains, NY (we pick the car up at GM’s Training Center in nearby Ardsley).

I blogged last week about the fact hydrogen still comes from fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. And indeed, it does, but what makes this Shell refueling station (actually located in a DPW) is the hydrogen is made onsite from water and electricity, according to Brad Beauchamp, a GM Team Leader in the hydrogen fuel cell program. And the electricity comes straight off the grid so very well could be generated by fossil fuels. But we know it does not have to be. The more I learn, the more enticing hydrogen becomes. But I have not drunk the hydrogen Koolaid yet. Stay tuned for a full report including video post experience.

Materials/Fastening: Magnesium, Aluminum Will Play Big Role in Auto Weight Reduction

May 5, 2008
Spotlight Story:

Magnesium, Aluminum Will Play Big Role in Auto Weight Reduction
Auto engineers love carbon fiber and other advanced plastics, but will make more extensive use of lightweight and thinner metals as core weight-reduction strategies for cars.

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I’m looking for interesting new applications for adhesives to solve mechanical design problems related to weight, cost or structural integrity. E-mail me



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Update on Solar LED Performance

Update on Solar LED Performance

Last week, I installed a dozen solar-powered LED walkway lamps in my front yard; one of several small DIY projects I have undertaken to adapt my home in a sustainable way to my family’s habits. The details of how these lights work are described in my recent post, “Solar LED Luminaires Light My Path Home”, but I have not had a chance to check on their performance until this evening.

 

I took a picture of my walkway after sunset to show the level of illumination these solar LED lamps provide. I intentionally used my neighbor’s front yard as a backdrop in the photograph because his yard is lit by conventional, wired, incandescent walkway lamps.

The lights in the foreground illuminating the ‘S’ shaped walkway are my solar LEDs, and the line of lights near the top of the photo are my neighbor’s conventional outdoor lamps. My neighbor’s lamps are across the street and thus are farther away than the LEDs, but his conventional lights still appear brighter. Plus, his incandescent bulbs glow with a warmer hue than my LEDs, which have a starker, artificial white tone. Nonetheless, the solar LEDs do their job well, lighting the walkway leading to the front of my house. Plus they don’t add to my electricity bill, and the bulbs should last many, many years. So, I am content with their lighting performance.

 

The energy storage and utilization efficacy of the solar LEDs is determined by the ratio of how long they have charged compared to how long they stay lit. According to gaisma.com, the duration between sunrise and sunset yesterday at my locale was 13 hours and 27 minutes, with sunset coming at 8:14 pm. I took the following picture at 2:44 am this morning, by which time, the solar-powered LED had been continuously running in darkness for about 6.5 hours without any signs of degrading illumination intensity.

Of course, the real test will come in December on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Will these lamps stay lit all night with only a little more than 10 hours of sunlight? Also, given my southern latitude with respect to most of the rest of the country (roughly 33° 13′ North), the performance I report for these lamps is not representative of their ability to stay lit in more northerly (or less sunny) locals like Minnesota, Maine, Washington, or Alaska.

 

By the way, my neighbors across the street turned off their conventional walkway lights just after 10:00 pm, presumably to save electricity.

You Can Put the Seashell Design on Your Roof

You Can Put the Seashell Design on Your Roof

I received a forwarded email from Rick Weinberg, director of communications and public relations, for ArmorLite Roofing Technology of Santa Ana. CA.  Now I don’t get too many pitches from roofing suppliers since I cover materials used in mechanical design at Design News. But the pitch starts likes this:

 

“We have an intriguing story for you: ArmorLite Roofing Technology is launching in June a never-before-seen "seashell" design that is 100% recyclable with 0% waste.   ArmorLite (www.ArmorLiteRoofing.com) is the innovative company that created a futuristic eco-friendly roofing product to compliment unique architectural designs. ArmorLite utilized an architect’s perspective when it developed its revolutionary product that transformed the roofing industry.  With its highly-engineered, patented roofing material, ArmorLite’s creation represents the most significant architectural, artistic and eco friendly breakthrough in the history of the roofing industry. “

 

After a bit more hyperbole, it continues:

 

“ArmorLite is made from a highly-engineered, patented polymer. This is the first time a polymer has been used in roofing. Polymers have superior strength and are used in such applications as Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner jet, as well as the life-saving Kevlar bulletproof vest.”

 

  1. For starters what does this stuff cost? Mr. Weinberg’s pitch notes that “ArmorLite’s seashell design was created for a palatial $10 million home on the sand in Laguna Beach, Calif.”  I asked about the cost, but haven’t gotten a reply yet. I figure it’s got to be pretty expensive since the highly engineered, patented roofing material is a plastic that includes a capstock of Geloy XTW resin and a base layer of flame retardant ABS. I’ll bet that stuff is pretty pricey compared to asphalt shingles.
  2. It’s recyclable? I know it’s fashionable to say that just about everything is recyclable. And I guess just about everything is theoretically recyclable. In terms of plastics, I know there are commercial recycling streams for polyester soda bottle and high-density polyethylene milk bottles. But not much else. Recycling roofing materials? Give me a break. Recycling bi-material roofing shingles? Not in your lifetime. Other vendors are  pitching metal as a green alternative because it’s also recyclable.
  3. The new plastic roofing material is also pitched as “eight times lighter than traditional materials, solving the industry’s century-old weight problems while reducing fuel and energy consumption”. Okay, I guess lighter is great for the guy who has to carry it up there. Plastics reduce hydrocarbon consumption? Does ArmorLite have a study to back that up? Where are they shipped form versus asphalt shingles?
  4. The new polymer shingles (as well as metal systems) have higher solar reflectance than traditional roofing materials. That sounds legit.
  5. Is plastic a great roofing material in California given the problems with wildfires that have plagued the state? The bottom layer is flame retarded. Is the top layer? What is its ignition resistance compared to those beautiful red tile roofs I’ve seen in California?
  6. The pitch says this is great stuff because polymers are also used in the Dreamliner and bulletproof vests. What in the world is the relevance of this? The polymers used in the Dreamlner are about as far removed from thermoplastics as you can imagine. Too much PR puff in this pitch.
  7. And finally who wants a seashell pattern on roofs? Or teddy bears or cobras, or whatever?