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New RealHand Surgical Tool Shows America's Strength

New RealHand Surgical Tool Shows America's Strength

News reports drone on constantly these days with more and more negative information. I don’t get the same kind of vibe when I talk to design engineers every day for my writing about materials and fastening technology for Design News. Most incredible to me are reports on advances in medical technology by American inventors and engineers. The most recent was an interview I had with Dave Danitz, the vice president of research and development at Novare Surgical Systems In California, which recently developed and brought to market an instrument called RealHand that allows laparoscopic surgery through a single port—and even through natural orifice such as a mouth. The result is a dramatic reduction in the risk of infection.


Invented by Danitz, the RealHand is a fully mechanical instrument up to 45 centimeters in length in which jaws at the distal end move inside the human body in reaction to movements of a surgeon’s hands on a handle. Small articulating links connect the jaws to the shaft and the handle to the shaft, which can vary in length from 24 to 45 centimeters. There are no electronics in the device.


Although introduced just six months ago, a number approaching 100 surgeons use the tool.

Siemens PLM Software Backs Danica Patrick Win

Siemens PLM Software Backs Danica Patrick Win

Who would have guessed that PLM software could have any kind of connection to Danica Patrick’s historic win of the IndyCar Series race in Japan. Patrick, part of Andretti Green Racing, won her first IndyCar Series race—the Indy Japan 300–at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan late last month, becoming the first woman to do so. So here’s the connection: AGR cars are developed with the help of Siemens PLM Software  and the company is a sponsor of Patrick. Patrick’s victory came in her 50th career IndyCar Series start in which she drove the #7 Motorola car among the top-eight cars for the entire 200-lap event.


Robotic Lawnmower Recalled

Robotic Lawnmower Recalled

Consumer Reports reported last Friday that the LawnBott LB3200 Evolution, a robotic lawnmower that needs no operator, has been recalled due to a safety hazard. A video on the Consumer Reports web site shows that the mower’s blade keeps spinning after one end of it is tilted upward, posing a danger to users and unsuspecting children. The CR web site adds that a distributor said the mower requires a software update to eliminate the problem. 

Automotive Climate Control System Cuts Fuel Costs

Engineers at TRW Automotive say they’ve developed a climate control system that could save fuel and improve comfort for drivers while simplifying the engineering process and reducing wind tunnel time for auto companies.

Known as Efficient Comfort Control (ECC), the new technology combines infrared (IR) sensors and humidity sensors with a “comfort software algorithm” to create a system that uses less energy while keeping occupants more comfortable. The system is said to be particularly good at reducing air conditioning loads in vehicles.

“If you look at vehicles today, the number one ancillary load is always the cooling,” notes Dave O’Neill, chief engineer for TRW. “So if you’re going to try to find a place to save fuel, why not look at the air conditioning or the temperature control?”

The key to doing so lies in the software algorithm, say TRW engineers. Using an equation based on a physics model, the algorithm predicts an occupant’s comfort level in the car by employing data from the sensors. The equation uses three main parameters -- conduction, convection, and radiation – to make its calculation. TRW engineers say those parameters provide better results than systems based solely on cabin air temperature, which has been the input parameter of choice for climate control up to now.

“It all comes back to a simple question: ‘How do you model how a person feels’” O’Neill says. “We base it all on three fundamental heat transfer methods.”

As a result, the new system is able to maintain an occupant’s comfort while performing energy-saving activities, such as re-heating the car’s evaporator.

“If you allow your evaporator to warm up, then you don’t have to turn on my compressor as often,” O’Neill says. “So we’ll keep warming up the evaporator and reducing the load on the air conditioning compressor.”

At the same time, TRW says that the equation enables vehicle engineers to dramatically cut the development time of climate control systems. Because the ECC system’s core algorithm remains the same from vehicle to vehicle, it simplifies the engineering process.

“Engineers typically spend months in the climate chamber, tuning and tweaking,” O’Neill says. “And every time they make a change to the tooling or the duct work, they have to tune and tweak all over again. With our comfort equation, we can completely characterize the vehicle and tune it for comfort within three eight-hour shifts.”

TRW also says that the ability to tune the vehicle’s climate system so quickly enables development engineers to use less wind tunnel time.

Most important, the ECC system reportedly is able to respond to more efficiently respond to the occupants’ needs. Says O’Neill: “We believe the consumer ends up with a more comfortable vehicle.”

TRW has integrated rain, humidity, in-cabin and glass temperature sensing, as well as infrared and daylight sensing to its Efficient Comfort Control system.

Motion Control: Robotic Highlights from the Hannover Fair

May 1, 2008
Spotlight Story:
Robotic Highlights from the Hannover Fair
Highlights at the Hannover Fair included the world's strongest arm robot and human-friendly fluidic muscle innovations. Video included. Full Story
Goodbye Lubrication, Hello Low-Cost iglide Plastic Bearings

Low-cost iglide® plastic bearings need no oil. They are self-lubricating and maintenance-free. Twenty material blends meet the needs of most applications and budgets. Iglide bearings are UV-resistant and won't corrode. Get complimentary design consultation and samples. Use the online calculator to discover which iglide bearing is right for you. Click Here.
In the News:
Bosch CEO's 2008 Forecast, Views on Engineering
Bosch Rexroth CEO Berend Bracht shares his views with DN Editor-in-Chief John Dodge on the state of his company, engineering education and the engineering profession. Full Story Hannover Fair Highlights Energy-Saving Strategies
A growing energy awareness was on display throughout this week’s Hannover Fair, where major suppliers and users of motion control and automation equipment showcased their energy-reduction strategies and technologies. Full Story

Cleaner Diesels Head Off-RoadWith off-road diesel engines facing stricter emissions standards, they’re starting to look more like their on-highway counterparts.

Full Story
The Mechatronics of DARPA and JHU's Bionic Arm
Contributing Editor Michelle Hopey spent last week at the Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP 2009) Phase II Kick-Off meeting in Maryland. Read More
Phoenix Mars Lander Will Probe for Signs of Life
NASA is setting up a lab May 25 on Mars to analyze polar ice in an effort to determine if the Red Planet can support life. A shovel will chop terrain the consistency of granite. Podcasts included. Read More

Free Guide Helps Choose Tubing and Hose

Features items to consider during plastic and rubber tubing and hose selection, such as ingredient compatibility, temperature limitations, flexibility requirements, pressure and vacuum ratings, custom options, and more. Notes common errors to be avoided. Click Here to request your free copy.
Join Design News at the Mechatronics EXPO May 13, 2008 - Santa Clara, CA Design News, along with Control Engineering, Test & Measurement World and EDN is hosting a FREE one-day seminar with interactive panels and workshops for real hands-on education. Learn how the mechatronics approach to design can help get the job done better, more quickly and at lower cost! Register Now

Nexi, MIT's Newest Humanoid - VIDEO Check out Nexi, the newest robot from the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab. Nexi is a small humanoid robot that exhibits emotions. It has 5 degrees of freedom and moves around in a segway fashion. Watch Now

Solving Sensor Interfacing Issues in Portable Multi-Sensor Systems - WEBCAST
Part of Design News' new Sensor Solutions website!
As sensors numbers increase and specifications tighten, the design challenges of the sensor interfacing portion of the system increase. Guest expert Andreas Heldwein from ZMD AG will identify a solution to simplify interfacing multiple sensors. Watch Now
Sponsored Technology Content
Webcast: Mechatronics in the Age of Digital Images In partnership with Bosch Rexroth, National Instruments and Siemens PLM
Avid photographers talk about image focus, shutter speed and depth of field, but rarely do they talk about image sensors, gyroscopes, actuators and ultrasonic motors. But the digital camera is truly a mechatronics marvel. Kevin Craig's three-part webcast takes you through the basics of photography through the birth of the digital age to explain how mechatronics is revolutionizing the digital camera. Read More

Partnering with Iowa State's Institute for Physical Research and Technology In partnership with Groschopp Inc.
Groschopp Inc. engineers and manufactures customized, high-reliability fractional horsepower electric motors and gear motors for some of the world's most demanding Original Equipment Manufacturers. Find out why the company has turned to IPRT Company Assistance to help it maintain its reputation for products of the highest quality. Read More

Sensorless Field Oriented (FOC) Control for AC Induction Motors In partnership with Microchip Technology Inc.
The requirement of low-cost, low-maintenance, robust electrical motors have resulted in the emergence of the AC Induction Motor (ACIM) as the industry leader. Learn how to apply sensorless field-oriented control of induction motors using a dsPIC® Digital Signal Controller (DSC) from Microchip Technology. Read More

All the Muscle, Half the Space In partnership with ABB
ABB's new all-in-one low voltage drive can increase your productivity, while saving you space and energy. Experience this drive now! Read More
The Latest Motion Control Resources Available:
Featured Vendor
Custom Sensors & Technologies (CST) CST represents a unique collection of companies under one umbrella as a distinct global business unit within Schneider Electric. Now a singular business, they represents a set of proven brands with a long-standing ability to deliver advanced application-specific solutions across a wide array of sensing technologies along with control and actuation products. View All Resources from CST

Automation Notebook: Demystifying Network Communications Vendor:AutomationDirect | Type: Training Guide "Had I known how fast, cool, easy, flexible, or powerful this was, I would have used Ethernet a long time ago." This tutorial defines some common terms and shows you how they fit together. You'll find that networking is no more complicated than ordering a hamburger.

High Performance Sensor Interface Vendor:Enfield Technologies | Type: Design Guide The LS-C30 amplifies the output of bridge-type resistive sensors (pressure sensors, load cells) to ±10 Vdc. This allows low-level sensors to be used with the LS-C10, LS-C41 and C2 controllers.
View All Motion Control/Automation Resources

Robotic Highlights from the Hannover Fair Bosch CEO's 2008 Forecast, Views on Engineering
Hannover Fair Highlights Energy-Saving Strategies
Cleaner Diesels Head Off-Road
The Mechatronics of DARPA and JHU's Bionic Arm
Phoenix Mars Lander Will Probe for Signs of Life
DN's Latest Podcasts, Webcasts & Videos
Resource Center
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Joseph Ogando,
Senior Editor

I was at the Hannover Fair last week, were you? Let me know about your experience: Email me.

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iNEMI offers workshop for feedback into its Roadmap

iNEMI offers workshop for feedback into its Roadmap

The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) will present a workshop of technologies critical to electronics manufacturing on May 14 at its headquarters in Herndon, Va. The iNEMI Roadmap Workshop will offer a sneak peek at work in progress, and workshop participants can produce feedback and direction to ensure the final chapters of iNemi’s roadmap will reflect the sate of the industry. “These workshops are a very important part of the roadmap development process, providing our Technology Working Groups with valuable feedback on their chapters,” says Chuck Richardson, iNEMI director or roadmapping. “The workshops also provide useful information to industry, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Topics to be covered include business processes and technologies such as information management; design technologies such as environmentally conscious electronics; manufacturing technologies such as board assembly and test, inspection and measurement; and component/subsystem technologies such as packaging, interconnect substrates, passive components, organic and printed electronic, and more. The registration deadline is May 8.

The history of circuit bending

The history of circuit bending

Here’s a video that discusses the history of circuit bending. The quick discussion explains how inventors with limited knowledge of electronics can turn electronic products into musical instruments.

Hydrogen for Fuel Cells: Where will it come from?

Hydrogen for Fuel Cells: Where will it come from?

Next week, I will spend a few hours test driving one of a hundred experiemental GM Chevy Equinox powered by hydrogen fuel cells. These vehicles promise zero emissions are represent one of several alternatives to gasoline. The problem, as an MIT professor friend of mine pointed out recently, is that the pure diatomic hydrogen  to power fuel cells either comes from fossil fuels like natural gas or coal and requires significant energy in the refining process. Indeed, where is all this pure hydrogen going to come from? And what will it cost? The Dept. of Energy (DOE) in 2005 doubled its target for hydrogen costs based on a GGE or gasoline gallon equivalent calculation.

The more you dig into what will power vehicles in the future, the more daunting the challenge seems to become. If you accept the DOE’s target price of $2-$3 GGE for hydrogen (before taxes!!), driving won’t be cheap even if we could power our engines with dirt. The only hope for cheap transportation is a purely electric car that you plug in at night and the power comes from solar panels or a wind turbine. Then again, none of power sourcees are  cheap either!

I am looking foward to driving the Equinox and learning more about hydrogen. I also take comfort in the fact a lot of smart people are working on what will replace fossil fuels or substantially lessen our dependence on them. And you can expect a full report in video, words and photos on my driving experience and continuing indepth coverage on renewable fuels.