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Articles from 2009 In May


"Big Green Lies" Exploits Green Backlash with Questionable Science

The Green backlash is here, and it WILL be televised. The public is being bombarded by messages, many of them in conflict, about how to be environmentally conscious, and we are simply zoning it all out; or worse, regressing to unsustainable habits. As Alex Williams of the New York Times reports in “That Buzz in Your Ear May Be Green Noise“, we are overwhelmed with too much Green advertising, and the result is message saturation leading to consumer burnout.

To complicate matters, scientifically verifiable and sound information about Green choices is virtually nonexistent, or several sources of reliable information are in conflict. To a large extent, companies control advertisement content and warp information to be most conducive to selling their products. Even the credentials of companies with previously bullet-proof green reputations are coming into question. For example, in his in his New York Times Op-Ed piece, “Et Tu, Toyota?“, Thomas Friedman highlights how Toyota joined U.S. automakers to lobby the Federal government against tougher mileage standards, sullying Toyota’s green halo.

What the public needs is a credible, unbiased, scientifically sound message about how to make sustainable choices that is packaged and presented in a tractable and accessible manner. Of course, since there is no agreement in the scientific community about what lifestyle choices constitute sustainable, Green living, no organization or person can legitimately fill this role… but that doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to try.

Enter Seventh Generation, a Burlington, Vermont company that claims a “commitment to becoming the world’s most trusted brand of authentic, safe, and environmentally-responsible products for a healthy home.” On April 22, 2009 (Earth Day) Seventh Generation blitzed the Fine Living Network with “Big Green Lies“, an hour-long Mr. Wizard-style spot intended to “separate ‘green’ myth from fact… when it comes to the conventional wisdom of green living.” See their press release, “Tired of Big Green Lies? Tune In and Save the Planet by Putting Truth on Your Side,” for details.

“Big Green Lies” is anchored by “Investigators” Dave Holmes of MTV fame and television hostess Sara Snow, and it is masterminded by Jeffrey Hollender, Seventh Generation’s Founder and President. It stages five “experiments”, each claiming to illuminate which among a pair of sustainable living choices is the most Green. Five questions are answered: 1) Is the air cleaner inside or outside the home? 2) Which diaper is better for the environment: cloth or disposable? 3) Are hybrids or used cars Greener? 4) Which tastes better: organic or conventional food? 5) Does driving with the windows rolled down improve fuel economy?

I watched the “Investigators” botch each experiment and investigation. They measured indoor air quality by spraying cleaning solution on a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) meter while ignoring pollutants such as particulate matter. They concluded that thick-skinned fruits and vegetables do not absorb pesticides (presumably then presides cannot enter foods through the leaves or the root system). While trying to measure fuel volume to determine gas mileage, they accidentally spilled their gasoline all over the ground. Not very inspiring.

Then, as if they were scientists who had carried out comprehensive, painstaking experiments, the “Big Green Lies” team began drawing questionable conclusions from each botched data set: 1) Inside air is dirtier than outside air; 2) Cloth and disposable diapers are equally good for the environment; 3) Used cars trump hybrid cars if driven carefully; 4) Organic food tastes better than conventional food [but is more expensive]; and 5) Rolling down the windows yields better fuel economy than pumping up the AC.

These people are not qualified to make scientific conclusions about anything. According to Jeffrey Hollender’s biography, he is an audio publishing mogul and mail order catalog executive who became interested in Green living only after nearly dying from asthma. Sara Snow holds degrees in theater performance and telecommunications from Butler University. Dave Holmes is an obscure actor; did the man even go to college? I can’t say. Note that Seventh Generation’s lines consist of products for babies, household cleaning, and the kitchen. The overlap between these product lines and the Green living answers pursued in “Big Green Lies” is too great to be coincidence.

Seventh Generation has attempted to exploit Green Backlash by filling a much needed gap for credible, unbiased, and scientifically sound messages about sustainable choices. For the millions of viewers seeking a well-packaged, clearly presented crib sheet on Green living, they probably succeeded. However, in the opinion of this engineer, the credibility of the program and the quasi-scientific methods they used are suspect. Without better experimental methods and qualified scientists to interpret results, “Big Green Lies” is itself a big green lie.

Even For Electric Drag Racers, It's All About The Battery

Time was when drag racers were drag racers, and environmentalists were, well…not drag racers.

            Now, though, that’s changing. A few drivers of eco-friendly, zero-emission electric cars are showing up at drag strips and beating gasoline-powered Chevy Corvettes and Dodge Vipers. Mike Willmon, pictured on Design News’ cover this month, has done a 12.4-second quarter-mile in – incredibly – an electric 1978 Ford Pinto. Another top electric drag racer, John “PlasmaBoy” Wayland, has pushed his street-legal electric Datsun to a time of 11.4 seconds in the quarter-mile. And Bill Dubé, founder of the so-called KillaCycle team, has reached speeds of 168 mph on his electric motorcycle while doing a quarter-mile in 7.82 seconds.

            If all that sounds unbelievable, then we encourage you to see for yourself:

–Watch Wayland’s Datsun beat a Corvette.

–See Dubé’s KillaCycle.

–More KillaCycle

–Electric Pinto on the dynamometer:

To be sure, Willmon, Wayland and Dubé don’t describe themselves as environmentalists. They are, first and foremost, drag racers. Willmon, an engineer, squeezes every ounce of performance out of his ’78 Pinto by employing 848 pounds of batteries. His battery pack creates 360 V and 1,600 A of current, theoretically generating more than half a megawatt of power.

The trick for this new breed of drag racers seems to be “slamming” huge amounts of electrical current into their DC motors. At times, they reach current levels of 2,000 A. “The more amps you can pack into these motors before they melt, the more awesome torque you have for launching your car,” Wayland said.   

That technique, of course, isn’t likely to be adopted by manufacturers of electric vehicles. But these drag racers are proving a point about electric cars: It still comes down to the battery.

While researching the cover story for our June issue, we talked to numerous electric drag racers. All had two things in common: They love racing; and they’re all desperate for better batteries. “It’s all about the battery,” Dubé told us. “The technology in the rest of the machine is interesting, but the battery is the key.”

Battery experts that we contacted during our research said that the drag racers’ high battery power doesn’t immediately translate to 400-mile ranges in electric vehicles. David Swan of DHS Engineering, a battery consultant for the 245-mph White Lightning Racer that held the EV land speed record a decade ago, said that a good battery can produce high power or high energy, but not both simultaneously. EV engineers, he said, will have to aim for one or the other, or some mix of the two.

Still, Swan indicated that the tremendous power demonstrated by the drag racers provides a ray of hope for future EVs. “The fact that we are seeing batteries with this kind of power bodes well for energy density,” he said.

Even For Electric Drag Racers, It's All About The Battery

Even For Electric Drag Racers, It's All About The Battery

Time was when drag racers were drag racers, and environmentalists were, well…not drag racers.

            Now, though, that’s changing. A few drivers of eco-friendly, zero-emission electric cars are showing up at drag strips and beating gasoline-powered Chevy Corvettes and Dodge Vipers. Mike Willmon, pictured on Design News’ cover this month, has done a 12.4-second quarter-mile in – incredibly – an electric 1978 Ford Pinto. Another top electric drag racer, John “PlasmaBoy” Wayland, has pushed his street-legal electric Datsun to a time of 11.4 seconds in the quarter-mile. And Bill Dubé, founder of the so-called KillaCycle team, has reached speeds of 168 mph on his electric motorcycle while doing a quarter-mile in 7.82 seconds.

            If all that sounds unbelievable, then we encourage you to see for yourself:

–Watch Wayland’s Datsun beat a Corvette.

–See Dubé’s KillaCycle.

–More KillaCycle

–Electric Pinto on the dynamometer:

To be sure, Willmon, Wayland and Dubé don’t describe themselves as environmentalists. They are, first and foremost, drag racers. Willmon, an engineer, squeezes every ounce of performance out of his ’78 Pinto by employing 848 pounds of batteries. His battery pack creates 360 V and 1,600 A of current, theoretically generating more than half a megawatt of power.

The trick for this new breed of drag racers seems to be “slamming” huge amounts of electrical current into their DC motors. At times, they reach current levels of 2,000 A. “The more amps you can pack into these motors before they melt, the more awesome torque you have for launching your car,” Wayland said.   

That technique, of course, isn’t likely to be adopted by manufacturers of electric vehicles. But these drag racers are proving a point about electric cars: It still comes down to the battery.

While researching the cover story for our June issue, we talked to numerous electric drag racers. All had two things in common: They love racing; and they’re all desperate for better batteries. “It’s all about the battery,” Dubé told us. “The technology in the rest of the machine is interesting, but the battery is the key.”

Battery experts that we contacted during our research said that the drag racers’ high battery power doesn’t immediately translate to 400-mile ranges in electric vehicles. David Swan of DHS Engineering, a battery consultant for the 245-mph White Lightning Racer that held the EV land speed record a decade ago, said that a good battery can produce high power or high energy, but not both simultaneously. EV engineers, he said, will have to aim for one or the other, or some mix of the two.

Still, Swan indicated that the tremendous power demonstrated by the drag racers provides a ray of hope for future EVs. “The fact that we are seeing batteries with this kind of power bodes well for energy density,” he said.

Networking Technologies Enhance Automation Control

Networking Technologies Enhance Automation Control

Standard technologies utilizing real-time Ethernet as a basis for automation/motion networks are adding valuable layers of new software functionality. Leading network technologies including Ethernet IP, PROFINET, SERCOS, EtherCAT and Ethernet-Powerlink are all continuing to advance the state-of-the-art with a push to new standards. 

The focus is less on high performance motion control, where existing solutions are established, and more on detailed improvements in network management and topologies, specific device profiles and networked safety.
A key unresolved issue that's important to end users is interoperability, or at the very least co-existence of multiple protocols from different vendors on the same physical Ethernet network. Especially with highly demanding applications, there is debate within networking organizations on how these systems should be implemented.  

"The issue is between standard, off-the-shelf Ethernet hardware and high speed protocols that aren't necessarily compliant with all of the network infrastructure equipment of devices carrying other Ethernet-type traffic," says Richard Harwell, manager of connectivity for Eaton Corporation and chief technology officer for ODVA. "The difference is at the IP layer and whether advanced capabilities are being built on top of the IP layer, or replacing the IP layer for efficiency of transport."

Harwell says compliant IP doesn't necessarily give users interoperability but does achieve effective coexistence on the network. Work is ongoing to develop rules about how messages go over the network and prioritization about how they are handled on the network. Since switches and routers depend on IP to manage network traffic, compliance at that layer allows users to leverage the network infrastructure and run along the bandwidth curve as Ethernet technology evolves and moves ahead.

"I would like to think we will see in the near future more interoperability between networks," says Scott Hibbard, vice president of technology for Bosch-Rexroth. "Users are frustrated that they need to make a decision among the main suppliers and technologies, and it's an area that needs more exploration and development. "

Hibbard says there is an expectation that there will be one bus in the future but it may take longer than we think. The next step is networks that allow more than one protocol to run on them, and users can select what networking technology is most appropriate for their application. 

"We need to realize the key to success doesn't necessarily require interconnection between different types of products," Hibbard says. "If we look at the PC community, we can learn from its evolution and realize the key to innovation is within individual products. We can do a better job of documenting and defining the application layer, and achieve higher predictability that two devices can work together. All of the fieldbus groups have work to do on this issue."

While the interoperability issue is a substantial longer term goal, technology standards in a wide variety of areas are increasing the robustness and performance of automation/motion networks. What follows is an overview of recent other new technology developments and features that are broadening the scope and functionality of automation networks.

SERCOS Master Software Driver Library Submitted as Open Source

SERCOS International (SI) has announced it will provide an open-source software driver library for the SERCOS lll master implementation. Driver software will be available as source code without any license fees and usage limitations. SI is cooperating with the Open Source Automation Development Lab to disclose the SERCOS III master driver.

"With the availability of the SERCOS III master library it will become much easier for manufacturers to develop a SERCOS III master and to benefit from future improvements and extensions of the software," says Peter Lutz, managing director of SERCOS International. With machine builders recognizing the demand for open platforms based on real-time Ethernet, Lutz says Linux is establishing itself as a standard for the industrial market. He says it is advantageous for vendors and users that the SERCOS III master library will become part of mainline Linux and that it now will be supplied under a license compatible with Linux. 

Encoder Profile for SERCOS III

A specification for an encoder profile for SERCOS III is also being developed in consultation with users and suppliers. The goal is availability in November 2009 along with a conformance test being developed to ensure interoperability of different devices.

The new encoder profile ensures the functions of an absolute or relative encoder are made available via clearly defined vendor-independent interfaces. The profile defines the functions supported by a device and how these functions may be used by other devices, such as control systems or servo drives.

"When defining the profile we are considering existing parameters for encoders built into servomotors that are already part of the SERCOS drive profile," says Lutz. "We are also making sure that the requirements of the encoder manufacturers are incorporated, especially with regard to their experience with existing, comparable device profiles of other bus systems."

Ethernet IP Adds Quality of Service

Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms defined for EtherNet IP implementations provide users an ability to achieve better network usage, bandwidth and the right prioritization throughout the system. The concept is to use standard Ethernet networking capabilities, protocols, infrastructure and the capabilities built into the switches and routers, and apply the technology to the industrial area.

"It's all about prioritization of message handling by the network infrastructure and equipment, switches and routers," says Harwell. "But it's also critical depending on how it is applied into devices themselves because the prioritization of messages in the devices also contributes to responsiveness and ability to solve critical applications."

By bringing Quality of Service into the EtherNet IP networking standards, it leverages the capabilities of switches, routers and general Ethernet equipment for use in the factory. "Plus, we can reinforce it within products that conform to the specification and achieve the kind of performance needed to address areas such as motion control and safety systems," he says.

Device Level Ring Topology

Another recent innovation with EtherNet IP is support for Device Level Ring (DLR) as an appropriate network topology for industrial applications. Instead of connecting individual devices through a multi-port switch, device level ring allows users to daisy chain from one device to the next while maintaining a high degree of reliability.

"With a daisy chain, the user can drop it straight down in a line but if you lose a device in that line, you have lost all of the devices below it," says Harwell. "One solution is to utilize a ring topology, so the message can pass in either direction."

Device level ring not only enables that topology to occur and be able to recover within milliseconds from any single failure point within the ring without impacting even very demanding applications. A ring network of 50 nodes implementing the DLR protocol offers a worst case fault recovery time of 3 msec.

PROFINET Wireless Communication for Sensors and Actuators

PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI) has defined that upcoming work for wireless coupling of sensors and actuators for use in factory automation applications will utilize radio technology compliant with IEEE 802.15.1.

Investigations showed that different requirements exist for coupling sensors and actuators in factory and process automation applications. Standardized protocols for HART sensors and actuators (for process automation) and IO-Link (for manufacturing automation) are optimized for the respective requirements.

According to Carl Henning, deputy director of PROFIBUS - PROFINET North America Trade Organization, the question of coexistence is especially important. In addition to coexistence with WirelessHART, it must also be guaranteed with WLAN, the standard for wireless transmission in PROFINET systems.

Specification work for the wireless communication of sensors and actuators in manufacturing automation has already begun. The target for completion of the corresponding documents is later this year. Alternative and integrated uses of the radio technology for process automation (IEEE 802.15.4) and factory automation are being left open for the future by PI.

Fast Start Up for PROFINET I/O

Fast Start Up (FSU) has been specified for PROFINET IO to make it possible for an I/O device on the network to go instantly into a ‘power on' state following a cyclic data exchange with an I/O controller.

In the latest specification of PROFINET I/O, the basic rule defines that the time between the ‘power on' and receipt of the first cyclic input data should not exceed 500 ms.  Because the IO device is parameterized and configured during the first start up, the benefits of FSU may be used only from the second start up.

Protocol optimizations are standardized in the following ways.  Use of fixed transmission parameters instead of automatic detection (only for copper wires) can reduce start up time by up to three seconds.  Network addresses are not passed to the I/O device on each cycle, only at first start up, and parameters are saved within the permanent memory of the I/O device. On every following start up, parameters are retrieved from memory and reused.  I/O devices can also "announce" their readiness to establish communication instead of waiting for the I/O controller to search.

EtherCAT Safety Drive Profile

The EtherCAT Technology Group is developing a new Safety Drive Profile that permits open, vendor-independent configuration and control of safety functions in drives.   With this drive profile, safety functionality of EtherCAT drives with either the CiA402 (CANopen) or the SERCOS drive profiles can be used and configured in a "manufacturer-independent" way.

The IEC 61800-5-2 standard defines safety-relevant functions for drives. Safe stopping of a drive can be implemented using Safe Torque Off (STO) or Safe Stop 2 (SS2) functions, while safe monitoring of motion can be achieved using Safe Limited Speed (SLS). Using these features, dangerous movements at startup or during manual interaction with a machine can be avoided or limited in a safe manner.

Based on functions defined by IEC 61800-5-2, a control word is specified which enables the separate activation of these functions within the drive. Each function is represented by a bit in the control word. If a safety function is selected and operates within its boundaries, it is reported back to the supervision safety logic with a status word. All communication makes use of the underlying safety protocol. The definition of a uniform control and status word allows the user to operate safety drives from different vendors in the same way with their safety controller.

ETHERNET-Powerlink Safety

A significant area of technology growth for real-time Ethernet automation/motion networks is safety. The goal is to replace hardware-based safety functions, more expensive cabling and limited diagnostic options.

The Ethernet POWERLINK Standardization Group (EPSG) has defined a next generation safety protocol for real-time industrial Ethernet called EPLsafety.  The protocol allows both publish/subscriber and client/server communication.  It is suitable for communication cycles in the microsecond range.     

Safety relevant data is transmitted via an embedded data frame inside of standard communication messages. Measures to avoid any undetected failures due to systematic or stochastic errors are an integral part of the safety protocol. EPLsafety is in conformance with IEC 61508. The protocol fulfills the requirements of SIL3, and within specific architectures, also the requirements of SIL 4. Error detection techniques have no impact on existing transport layers.

Detailed information on EPLsafety is available on the EPSG website.

Panel PC Control System Lifts Heavy Loads with Precise Positioning

Panel PC Control System Lifts Heavy Loads with Precise Positioning

Wheeled transporters that move loads greater than 500 tons are leveraging control technology to combine heavy lifting with intelligent operation and extreme precision. An HMI/industrial PC-based system, plus CANbus networking for Ethernet connectivity, is producing moves as small as .001 inch to facilitate load placement and sub-assembly engagements that previously were not possible.

Combining brute strength with a state-of-the-art control architecture, WheeliftTM heavy transporters developed by the Doerfer Companies tackle payloads in the 50 to 500+ ton range. Applications include very heavy products such as transformers, turbine generators, mining machinery and nuclear processes.

While transporter size and capacities are custom-designed to meet individual applications, engineers at Doerfer recently designed three 57 ton-rated transporters to operate both singularly and in tandem. The units have an 18.5-inch deck height with 6-inches of built-in lift. Operators simply position the flexible transporter(s) beneath a load, raise the deck to lift it, transport it wherever it needs to go and simply set it down.

After looking at PLC-based products and developing early designs that utilized black box PCs, thinking shifted toward a more industrialized approach. Critical requirements for the new platform included greater reliability, increased accuracy and higher resolution for the tightly integrated hydraulic and electrical servo systems.

According to Mark Lavallee, a controls design manager for Doerfer, a very small, powerful industrial PC system provided an ideal alternative. "This platform easily fit our new Wheelift requirements for compact size controls paired with speed, performance and reliability improvements," Lavallee says.

The Wheelift team also wanted an IEC 61131-3 programming environment to handle the complex software for unit's Synchrosteer(R) control. Ron Howell, an electrical engineer at Doerfer, says that TwinCAT PLC software from Beckhoff Automation provided that foundation. "We use many of the languages defined by PLCopen, and we favor Structured Text for this application, because it is fully supported by TwinCAT along with many other programming languages," he says.

Howell says they decided to use the CP6201-0001 as a compact, 'all-in-one' control and display solution which reduced the space taken up by the control system. The unit features a 12.1-inch screen and an Intel(R) Celeron(R) M 1.0 GHz processor.

The transporter operates a self-contained system with an on-board engine powering a 480 volt, 3-phase generator which supplies power for the entire system. A three-phase power monitoring module gathers electrical information including phase angles, voltages, watts, current and hertz to continuously monitor power consumption.

Depending on the Wheelift transporter, 8 to 24 servo axes are individually controlled using the CP6201. Howell says that the synchronous, coordinated motion would have been very difficult to accomplish on this scale using a traditional PLC system. "Our updates are 1 msec for critical motion functions. There is plenty of room for additional functions when using EtherCAT paired with a 1 GHz processor," he says.

An Ethernet publisher-subscriber methodology is used for high speed communication between Wheelift transporters. For example, if three transporters are operating in tandem (tied together, each with their own processor) one vehicle can act as a leader with the other two functioning as followers. The master transporter sends commands to the follower transporters, which respond to relay system status.

Real-time Ethernet capabilities allowed Doerfer to tightly synchronize the vehicles for high speed operation. Using CANopen was a critical communications requirement to establish a connection between the Wheelift remote control system and Beckhoff controller. "But even with all the deterministic motion, we're still only using 27 to 30 percent of the total PC processing power, Lavallee says.

New Steels Gain Ground in Detroit's Materials Wars

New Steels Gain Ground in Detroit's Materials Wars

The New Obama fuel mileage requirements for cars are music to the ears of the American steel industry. That might seem odd. After all, aren’t a lot of those concept cars rolled out of Detroit every year loaded with plastic and other lightweight materials options? Yes, but a lot of those concepts remain concepts. Take the Chevy Volt for example. It was first shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2007 with a polycarbonate roof and a hood made from recycled soda bottles. Once GM decided to actually make the Volt, those two ideas were quickly dropped. Too impractical. Too expensive. A study recently released by the American Iron and Steel Institute predicts a 10 percent annual growth rate in the use of advanced high-strength steels through 2020 as auto makers try to meet tough new fuel standards.

Siemens Showcases Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2

Siemens Showcases Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2

Nearly a year after its introduction, Siemens PLM Software has released a sequel to its Solid Edge software with Synchronous Technology, extending the history-free, feature-based modeling capability deeper into the product with improved part and assembly modeling in addition to intelligent sheet metal design.

Part of Siemens' Velocity Series of software aimed at SMB companies, Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 also includes a new, built-in finite element analysis (FEA) tool along with enhancements to the embedded Insight design data management platform. Synchronous Technology, a hybrid modeling technique also featured in Siemens' NX 3-D CAD platform, combines the speed and flexibility of a direct modeling approach with the precise control and automation of traditional parametric or dimension-driven design platforms.

This new release illustrates Siemens' commitment to apply Synchronous Technology to all components in its MCAD series over time. "We're now in the process of building out and incorporating Synchronous Technology to the point that this is becoming a mature version for parts and assemblies," says Bruce Boes, vice president for Siemens Velocity Series. "As a result, many more customers will move to Synchronous Technology as a primary means of operation." Siemens plans to incorporate Synchronous Technology as a mode of operation in all the other modules of Solid Edge over time in subsequent releases, he adds.

The application of Synchronous Technology to sheet metal design will have a wide impact on the Solid Edge customer base, Boes says. Nearly 60 percent of Solid Edge users employ sheet metal as part of their product development process, and with Synchronous Technology they can create models with less pre-planning, make changes more readily and reuse and edit supplier data more effectively, Boes says. Synchronous Technology delivers the flexibility of working with a feature collection, not a history tree, in addition to live rules and the ability to import sheet metal parts from other CAD systems with some intelligence - not just as dumb geometry. "With Synchronous Technology, if you import a sheet metal design, the system understands it as sheet metal parts," Boes says. "We go a lot further in incorporating elements people have built in without having to bring in the overhead of a history tree."

As applied to parts and assemblies, Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 extends the modeling architecture for complex feature creation and advanced sketch editing tools, the goal being to reduce overall design time. The software improves 2-D to 3-D data migration and also supports Live Sections, which let users edit 2-D cross sections cut through any part of a 3-D model, updating the 3-D model in real time.

Solid Edge Simulation is a new optional FEA tool embedded in the main CAD system that is based on the Femap finite element modeling and NX Nastran solver technology. This module enables engineers to perform simulations for stress and buckling on assemblies whereas the earlier versions could only be used for simulating individual parts. The last main feature of the new release is enhancements to the built-in Insight data management tool, including leveraging the latest Microsoft SharePoint platform for improved collaboration, faster release workflows and enhanced security capabilities.

Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 is slated to ship this summer.

Siemens Showcases Solid Edge With Synchronous Technology 2

Drag Racing Goes Electric

NULL

Clock's LEDs Simply Fade Away

Clock's LEDs Simply Fade Away

crapledsa.jpg

Bad LEDs don’t always die. They just fade away and sometimes rather quickly. Glasgow resident Clive Mitchell, a special effects engineer who uses LEDs in his stage work, sent in this rather amusing example of a large LED clock gone all wrong a few years back:

This white LED digital clock displaying departure times at the Glasgow Central Station is clearly suffering from LED fade in a large scale manner. The clock, installed in 2005 and subsequently junked, was one of the first uses of low-quality, Chinese white LEDs. Up to this point, the traditional Gallium Arsenide LED had been considered almost indestructible. So it was a real kick in the teeth to a lot of companies when unreliable LEDs hit the market. I, too, got my fingers burned when I used a load for a TV production. Fortunately there were enough in the application to compensate for the ones that failed.”

Low-quality LEDs are something that some manufacturers today admit is problematic, in large part because the design flaws are not evident until after thousands of hours of testing. Manufacturers say engineers should demand to see the data, as I wrote about in an original post at sister publication Electronics Weekly. Read that article and see examples of charts that engineers should use as a reference when purchasing LEDs.


Trio Motion Technology's Modular MC464 Multi-Axis Motion/Machine Controller

MOTION CONTROL:  The MC464, the latest and most advanced addition to Trio’s Motion Coordinator family, is a multi-axis motion and machine controller featuring a high-performance 64-bit processor in a modular design. It provides OEMs and automation system integrators with a flexible choice of servo and stepper drive interfacing combined with a wide selection of Fieldbus protocols - plus programming flexibility that includes the company’s Trio BASIC or industry-standard IEC 61131 runtime. The MC464 features a 64 bit, 400 MHz MIPS processor with 200 Mhz DDR memory, a 64-bit integer position register and an extremely fast servo loop update rate capability. Axis expansion modules include two Flexible Axis Interfaces for four or eight axes with 16-bit DAC outputs and 6 Mhz encoder feedback. Flexible Axis Interfaces can be combined to provide up to 24 independently configured discrete wired axes for linear or rotary servo motor drives, open loop steppers, hydraulic and piezoelectric drives, with support for SSI and EnDat absolute encoders.