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Articles from 2018 In May


Up Where the Air Is Thin

Volkswagen, Pikes Peak, ANSYS, Bonneville, aerodynamics

Aside from aerospace, it is hard to imagine a field that applies higher levels of practical technology than motorsports. In fact, many of the tools and techniques used in motor racing have come from aeronautics and aircraft design. This is especially true in aerodynamics, where computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of airflow provide racing engineers the ability to develop a vehicle that optimizes both aerodynamic downforce and drag.

So when I decided to modify the bodywork for an electric land speed record vehicle, which was destined to be raced at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, I knew early on that I wanted to leverage CFD. The Salt Flats are a vast, perfectly flat area where land speed records have been set for more than 100 years. The flats sit at an altitude of around 5,000 feet above sea level. My initial testing was done with a 1/10th scale model and eventually with the full scale vehicle in wind tunnels. These results gave me some design directions, but I knew that I would need CFD to more accurately characterize the vehicle’s performance in the thin air at the altitude of Bonneville.

Volkswagen at Pikes Peak

Volkswagen Motorsport is facing the same problem that I did with my Bonneville racer, albeit on a much larger scale. The company is putting its final touches on the design of an electric competition car, with which they will compete at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado at the end of June. The race course at Pikes Peak starts at an altitude just above 9,000 feet and travels 12.4 miles to the finish at 14,115 feet above sea level. VW’s car is called the I.D. R Pikes Peak. The company’s goal is to break the existing record of 8:57.118 minutes in the Pikes Peak electric prototype class.

Like I did, the VW team started out with wind tunnel testing to help optimize its racer. The VW team used half-scale wind tunnel models in the initial testing and were able to test the full-size vehicle at Porsche’s rolling road wind tunnel at its development center in Weissach in Germany. Porsche is part of the Volkswagen Group.

Thin Air

But the limitations of using a wind tunnel at sea level to develop a race car to compete above 9,000 feet were just as clear to VW engineers as they had been to me in developing a vehicle that was optimized for the 5,000 foot altitude of Bonneville. First, the reduction in air density at the summit of Pikes Peak (about 35% less than sea level) has a negative effect on the cooling efficiency. The two electric motors in the I.D. R Pikes Peak racecar develop a total of 671 horsepower (500 kilowatts). Even with the high efficiency of electric motors (>90%), there is still a lot of waste heat that requires a cooling system that lets in air, but doesn’t produce large amounts of aerodynamic drag.

“We could not manage this solely with data from the wind tunnel, where it is not possible to recreate the thin air,” explained François-Xavier Demaison, Technical Director at Volkswagen Motorsport in a company press release. Using the ANSYS Fluent CFD program allowed the VW team to optimize the cooling capability with minimal drag. “The simulation was a great help in determining the dimensions required for the cooling system,” Demaison added.

Volkswagen’s next concern was optimizing aerodynamic drag and cornering speed. Because my land speed record vehicle was only designed to travel in a straight line, I had been willing to sacrifice cornering speed for reduced drag and hence greater top speed. My objective was to make my vehicle travel through the air as smoothly as possible. But aerodynamic lift can be a dangerous thing at high velocities. Using CFD, I was able to design a small splitter at the leading edge of the vehicle, which produced slight amounts of downforce—even in the thin air at Bonneville—yet with minimal drag. By the time I finished, my effort with CFD studies resulted in a 30% reduction in overall drag compared with my vehicle’s starting point.

Volkswagen Motorsport will attack the Pikes Peak Hill Climb with its electrically powered I.D. R Pikes Peak at the end of this June. (Image source: Volkswagen A.G.)

Big Wings

Volkswagen’s goal is not top speed, but cornering grip. At sea level, this can be accomplished with modest wings at the front and rear, creating enough downforce to press the car down onto the racing surface to maximize cornering grip. But the thinner air at Pikes Peak needed to be accounted for when designing the wings. With 35 percent lower air density, the wings on the car develop 35 percent less downforce than they do at sea level. As a result, they must be made much larger than normal. CFD played a role in the design of the huge rear wing—much larger than would be seen on a normal prototype racing car. “The huge rear wing allows us to compensate for some of the lost downforce,” explained Willy Rampf, a technical consultant to the project.

From looking at photographs of the Volkswagen hill climb car, it is clear that front downforce is being created by a huge front splitter design. Volkswagen claims that even with the thinner air, its car’s aerodynamics will produce downforce greater than the weight of the car during the hill climb run.CFD Advantage

Many different CFD programs are available on the market. Each breaks up the flow field into several million elements of varying size. The Navier-Stokes equations are solved for each of these elements hundreds or even thousands of times to determine an accurate representation of the steady-state flow of air over or through the vehicle. The advent of relatively inexpensive but extremely powerful computing has put CFD analyses capability onto high-powered desktop processors. As did VW for their simulations, I used the popular ANSYS Fluent CFD program for my land speed record analyses.

Some advantages that I found using CFD in an aerodynamic design study include:

  • The ability to make rapid design changes without having to produce new models for the wind tunnel
  • Specification of a moving road surface in CFD that was not possible with the wind tunnels available
  • Ability to easily examine effects of rotating wheels using CFD
  • The ability to change the air density, replicating the reduced air density at the Bonneville altitude
  • Easy visualization tools to examine airflow around various parts of the bodywork
  • Ability to separate out the effects of airflow on individual components and bodywork structures
  • Ability to examine the effects of pitch and yaw of the vehicle on the aerodynamic forces generated

Reaching Goals

Driver Romain Dumas has already been testing the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak in Europe. Dumas is a three-time winner at Pikes Peak. The car weighs just 2,425 pounds, very light for a battery electric racecar. The front and rear axles each have an electric motor, providing all-wheel drive. The car’s top speed of 155 mph isn’t particularly fast for a sports prototype—an indication that the engineers are concentrating on cornering speed and not drag reduction. In any case, the sinuous Pikes Peak course, with more than 156 turns, places an advantage on acceleration and cornering over raw top speed.

I was able to set four FIM World Land Speed Records at Bonneville in 2017, thanks in large part to the CFD aerodynamic studies that I undertook. I have every reason to expect, given a generous helping of luck, that Volkswagen will be successful with its CFD optimized design and in its record attempt this year at Pikes Peak. As a fan of developing aerodynamic solutions using CFD, I’ll certainly be cheering for them.

Design News Senior Editor Kevin Clemens will be presenting "Faster With Electrons: Breaking EV Land Speed Records" at the Open Tech Forum of the September 11-13 Battery Show in Novi, Michigan.

Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.

Electric & Hybrid Vehicles Technologies logoThe EV & HV Info You Need Now. Join our in-depth conference program to learn about topics from new developments in electric motor design to regulations and rollout timelines. The Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo. Sept. 11-13, 2018, in Novi, MI. Get registration info for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM.

Power from Aluminum

Trolysis, hydrogen, aluminum, fuel cell, electricity, renewable

Aluminum is a tremendously valuable material. It is strong, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive. Applications include everything from airplanes to soda cans and the foil in which we bake potatoes. Automakers have recently begun making vehicles out of it in order to reduce weight and improve fuel economy.

But, it turns out, there’s another, more direct way that aluminum can help address our energy challenges. Few people have looked at aluminum as a fuel. Yes, that’s right, a fuel—and a renewable one at that. Aluminum contains a great deal of energy, which is why it has been used as a rocket propellant dating back to the 1950s. In fact, according to Josiah Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Trolysis, “Aluminum is one of the most energy-dense fuels on the planet.”

The problem is, as everyday experience tells us, you can’t simply strike a match and expect aluminum to burn. It’s not as simple as that.

Aluminum to Hydrogen

When fuels burn, they oxidize rapidly—usually in air, giving off energy in a flame that produces heat and light. Nelson’s company has figured out a way to burn aluminum in water with a very interesting result. When pure aluminum is placed in contact with water, it aggressively combines with oxygen to form aluminum oxide (alumina), giving off hydrogen and heat in the process. That hydrogen can then be fed into a fuel cell to produce clean electricity. This represents an alternative to producing hydrogen through traditional electrolysis, hence the company name. You’ve never seen this happen when placing an aluminum pot in the sink because once pure aluminum comes into contact with air, it immediately forms a protective oxide layer.

Scientists have known about this potential use of aluminum for a long time. But the problems of removing that oxide layer, as well as sustaining the oxidation reaction, have thwarted any attempts to successfully harness this potential—until now.

Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, New York, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, IoT, IIoT, cyber security, smart manufacturing, smart factoryINSPIRE. COLLABORATE. INNOVATE. Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing industry event on the East Coast, is the annual must-attend trade show for discovering the latest in design engineering. Source from the region's most comprehensive collection of cutting-edge suppliers, deepen your expertise with free, conference-level education, and network with thousands of professionals who can help you advance your projects — and your career. From prototyping to full-scale production, one lap of the show floor will help you overcome your toughest manufacturing challenges and keep you up to speed on innovations transforming the industry. Everything you need to take projects to market faster and more cost effectively is here. Click here to register for your free pass today!

After working on this problem for nearly four years, Nelson and his team at Trolysis are at the point where they are finally moving the technology into their first product. It should, according to Nelson, hit the market in 12-18 months. An on-board chemical process involving an undisclosed catalyst removes the oxide layer. The large amount of heat given off—and the fact that the aluminum is never in contact with air during the reaction-—prevents a new oxide layer from establishing itself.

Trolysis has invented a device that uses a reaction of aluminum in water to produce hydrogen and, in turn, create electrical power from a fuel cell. (Image source: Trolysis)

The first products will be energy sources aimed at mission-critical applications. The aluminum oxidation process is paired with an internal fuel cell that converts the hydrogen into electricity. Water vapor is the only emission, though the aluminum oxide powder must also be removed periodically and returned for recycling. Ultimately, the company has its eyes on three commercial areas: utilities, homes, and electric vehicles.

Says Nelson, “We've been able to overcome a tremendous number of engineering challenges to the point where we can now compete, on a cost basis, with any of the current methods for producing hydrogen or electricity.”

Many Uses

The energy produced can be considered renewable, as that aluminum oxide can be turned back into aluminum at 99.9% purity with the addition of energy. It lends itself well as a supplement to solar or wind systems because it can produce power on demand in less than a minute. Water is also required, though approximately half the water is recycled.

In the household power system, a small amount of hydrogen is maintained in the tank to provide electricity during the process ramp-up. The result is virtually instantaneous response.

Utilities can use it for load-leveling and frequency regulation, where it is far faster and less expensive than traditional fossil fuel “peaker plants.”

The ultimate goal is to power an electric car. The fill-up would involve adding a number of small aluminum rods and topping up the water level. According to Nelson, roughly $5 worth of aluminum would take a car from Seattle to San Francisco. From a cost standpoint—given the efficiency of electric propulsion and assuming $3/gallon—that would be equivalent to gasoline at nearly 500 miles per gallon.

Says Nelson, “This is renewable power that, unlike solar or wind, can be turned on with the flip of a switch.”

Many of the technological challenges have been solved, while a number of additional challenges remain. One of these is establishing a supply chain to bring the aluminum to the point of use as well as recycling it, which, in itself, can provide an excellent way to store renewable energy from solar or wind.

Still, this technology—if it can reach scale—has the potential to be a game-changer in the energy business.

RP Siegel, PE, has a master's degree in mechanical engineering and worked for 20 years in R&D at Xerox Corp. An inventor with 50 patents, and now a full-time writer, RP finds his primary interest at the intersection of technology and society. His work has appeared in multiple consumer and industry outlets. He also co-authored the eco-thriller Vapor Trails.

You Might Be an Engineer If...

<p>Again, we’re looking at the traits of an engineer—all positive, of course. Really, are there any unflattering aspects of being an engineer? These are traits to make you proud.</p><p>However, there is one red herring in the bunch. Quite likely, an engineer will call foul. Let us know which one is false and why. We’ll run another article in the next couple of weeks revealing which slide is fake.</p>

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, New York, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, IoT, IIoT, cyber security, smart manufacturing, smart factory INSPIRE. COLLABORATE. INNOVATE. 
Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing industry event on the East Coast, is the annual must-attend trade show for discovering the latest in design engineering. Source from the region's most comprehensive collection of cutting-edge suppliers, deepen your expertise with free, conference-level education, and network with thousands of professionals who can help you advance your projects — and your career. From prototyping to full-scale production, one lap of the show floor will help you overcome your toughest manufacturing challenges and keep you up to speed on innovations transforming the industry. Everything you need to take projects to market faster and more cost effectively is here. Click here to register for your free pass today!

New and Improved NREL Automotive Simulator Predicts Drivetrain Efficiency

NREL, FASTSim, EV, Hybrid, simulation, NREL

One of the keys to effective design is good simulation. The ability to try dozens of possibilities, asking “what if” with a computer instead of nuts and bolts, pays off big. But validated simulation programs often don’t exist or can cost many thousands of dollars. That’s why a recent announcement by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is important to anyone who needs to estimate the impact of new technologies on light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles.

NREL's FASTSim program can calculate powertrain efficiencies for light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles. (Image source: NREL)

FAST and FREE

The program is called the Future Automotive Systems Technology Simulator, or FASTSim. It is available here for a free download as either a Microsoft Excel or Python program. The program provides a simple way to compare vehicle powertrains, including conventional internal combustion engines (ICE), hybrids, battery electrics, and fuel cell vehicles. Efficiency, cost, performance, battery life, and CO2 emissions are provided in a series of tables and graphs.

The FASTSim program comes preloaded with a variety of vehicles and drive cycles. This includes the standard US, European, and Japanese drive cycles. There are options to modify the standard set of vehicles, or to upload custom designs and cycles. Using the simulation tool, it is possible to evaluate vehicle performance to quantify energy consumption differences among vehicle and powertrain configurations, determining how this consumption changes under different driving and environmental conditions.

Roots

The program developed from a previous powertrain research tool. “Before FASTSim was created, we had a vehicle powertrain model called 'Advisor' that had a lot of detail,” NREL Senior Research Engineer Aaron Brooker told Design News. “But we wanted to do something that didn’t require as much data all the time. For that model, we had an engine map with torque, speed, and efficiency. You had these curves, these contours, and looked up efficiency for an engine map. You had to have an engine map for that to work and you had to have an electric motor map, and that was torque and speed, and efficiency contours again, or electricity consumption contours. There was a lot of data that went into that. There were a lot of challenges that were easy to mess up and not do things quite right and get unexpected trends,” explained Brooker, who was the lead author of an SAE paper describing FASTSim.

The need was for a program that didn’t require as much initial input data. “We looked at what we could do to really simplify this. We found that you really could simplify down to a power versus efficiency curve,” said Brooker. “That made the controls and the details in the model a lot easier to deal with and made it more of an intuitive tool. Now, we have something that is a lot easier to use. It is easier to find data. For most vehicle options, you can find whatever you need online. You don’t have to do tests on an engine dynamometer—you can find most of the data online, put it in, and it works really well.”

NREL validated its new model with around 700 vehicles and matched within about 5% for fuel economy for most of them, according to Brooker.

Although a new version of FASTSim has been released, the basic program has been available for quite a while. “We’ve been working on it for more than ten years, from the first creation to where it stands now,” explained Brooker. The new release adds updated vehicle models—up to 2016 models. It has also been updated with engine maps to better match today’s vehicles.

Two Versions

The two versions of FASTSim have slightly different capabilities, explained Brooker. “The Python version allows you to do real world drive cycles and we have a database of real-world drive GPS cycles. Our Python version lets us run really long drive cycles, so we can cover a lot of real world driving and get an estimate of how different powertrains or different ambient effects for a given region might impact efficiency,” he said. “The Excel version is more focused on EPA (mileage) estimates—duplicating and simulating their dynamometer tests. You can also import your own custom drive cycles into the Excel version if they are short, say less than 20 minutes,” he added.

FASTSim has been used for many powertrain comparisons internal to NREL. The program allows gasoline, diesel, and natural gas internal combustion engines, hybrid electrics, full battery electrics, and fuel cell powered vehicles. Vehicle price, fuel cost, and battery life estimates allow comparisons of the different vehicle powertrain types, all at the same time.

The program has found users outside of NREL as well. “Externally, it’s a good scoping tool for whoever is interested in looking at what future powertrains might come online. Where it is really adept is when we put in future component targets, and this is a good level for that. We have used it for DOE goals on where we need to get to on component improvements in order to get the emission of energy improvements that we want to see,” said Brooker.

A wide range of information will be available at The Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo on September 11-13 in Novi, Michigan. Here is a listing of the sessions that will make up the Expo.

Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.

Electric & Hybrid Vehicles Technologies logoThe EV & HV Info You Need Now. Join our in-depth conference program to learn about topics from new developments in electric motor design to regulations and rollout timelines. The Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo. Sept. 11-13, 2018, in Novi, MI. Get registration info for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM.

IIC Spells Out a Path to Security Maturity for IoT

Industrial Internet Consortium, IIC, security, cyber security, best practices, security maturity, models

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) announced the publication of a white paper, IIC IoT Security Maturity Model: Description and Intended Use. Building on concepts identified in the IIC Industrial Internet Security Framework, the Security Maturity Model (SMM) defines levels of security deemed mature for a company to achieve, based on its security goals and objectives as well as its appetite for risk. The document is designed to help organizations invest in only those security mechanisms that meet their specific requirements.

The illustration shows a model for analyzing security and creating a pathway to security maturity. (Image source: IIC)

The SMM offers a rubric that can be used to measure the level of security that is appropriate for the individual organization. “It’s about how close you are to your goal. It’s not just technology. You have to understand the business considerations,” Frederick Hirsch, a consultant with Fujitsu speaking on behalf of IIC, told Design News. “We need a model that pulls together the security and the setting. We want to be applicable to people no matter what they’re trying to do.”

The Security Maturity Process

The IIC notes that organizations should apply the SMM by following a process. First, business stakeholders define security goals and objectives, which are tied to risks. Technical teams within the organization, or third-party assessment vendors, then map these objectives into tangible security techniques and capabilities and identify an appropriate security maturity level.  Organizations then develop a security target that includes industry and system-specific considerations. That captures the current security level—or maturity—of the system.

Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, New York, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, IoT, IIoT, cyber security, smart manufacturing, smart factory INSPIRE. COLLABORATE. INNOVATE. 
Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing industry event on the East Coast, is the annual must-attend trade show for discovering the latest in design engineering. Source from the region's most comprehensive collection of cutting-edge suppliers, deepen your expertise with free, conference-level education, and network with thousands of professionals who can help you advance your projects — and your career. From prototyping to full-scale production, one lap of the show floor will help you overcome your toughest manufacturing challenges and keep you up to speed on innovations transforming the industry. Everything you need to take projects to market faster and more cost effectively is here. Click here to register for your free pass today!

A mature security plan takes into account a wide range of considerations, from the individual industry to the organization’s goals and the nature of what needs to be protected. “Your security depends on your level of maturity. How you go about doing things, compliance. You can break it down into domains, like supply chains,” said Hirsch. “Threat modeling and risk assessment need to be included. Plus, each domain has its own practices. At any level, you can get a sense of what you’re doing and how well set-up you are. That process lets you get a handle on your security.”

Standards and Practices

In the IIC, individual organizations share their best practices, thus creating a pool of available knowledge. “It draws on a number of sources and standards of work in security,” said Hirsch. “The knowledge comes from a number of sources. We have participants at assessment companies. The IIC itself is a consortium of companies that participate voluntarily. The IIC has a number groups focused on different aspects of IoT. We have a core group that’s working on security, and we share our knowledge with other groups.”

Companies—even those not belonging to the IIC—can use the collected wisdom to assess the maturity of their security operations and use the assessment to create a path to security maturity. “By periodically comparing target and current states, organizations can identify where they should make improvements,” said Sandy Carielli, white paper co-author and director of security technologies at Entrust Datacard. “Organizations achieve a mature system security state by making continued security assessments and improvements over time. They can repeat the cycle to maintain the appropriate security target as their threat landscape changes.”

The white paper serves as an introduction to the SMM. The "IIC Security Maturity Model: Practitioners Guide" will be released in the coming months and will contain the technical guidance for assessment and enhancement of security maturity level for appropriate practices. “The practitioner’s guide will include visualization techniques to look at security gaps,” said Hirsch. “You might put all your effort into patch management and not look at governance. The guide will help make sure you don’t miss anything. It will tell you where you are and where you need to be. It will show you the trade-offs and how to get comprehensive.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Researchers Develop Battery-Free Smart Toys for Kids

electricity, static charge, children's toys, TENG

Any parent knows the frustration of having to constantly replace batteries for your child’s favorite toy. Now, that problem may be solved with research from South Korea, where a team has applied a common energy-harvesting method to provide power for electronic toys and other mobile devices.

Researchers from Jeju National University in South Korea have incorporated triboelectric nanogenerators, or TENGS, into rubber ducks and clapping toys. TENG energy-harvesters use the triboelectric effect—basically the charge generated when two materials rub together, as in static electricity—to create energy.

While the team has so far used them only to power LEDs that provide lighting in toys, they aim to provide energy for other functions in the future as well, said Arunkumar Chandrasekhar, post doctoral fellow at the university and a lead author on a paper about the work published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering.

Researchers in South Korea have incorporated triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) into common toys like rubber duckies to help provide new features, such as LED lighting, and eliminate the need for batteries for children’s toys. (Image source: ToysRUs)

Kid Power

“The core finding of our work is to exhibit real-time biomechanical energy scavenging and its immediate usage for an interesting application in toys, and also to demonstrate an easy way to commercialize a TENG device,” Chandrasekhar told Design News.

TENG-based power sources are well-suited for toys because of the natural movements children make when using them, such as shaking and squeezing, which activate the energy-harvesting devices, Chandrasekhar said.

“By age 4, every child has had contact with an electronic toy or mobile device, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics,” he said. “These devices required a power source—batteries—that needs to be replaced or recharged. We have explored an alternative way to harvest energy when children play with their toys and that can be used for lighting LEDs that are built into the toys,” he added.

Researchers developed the energy harvesters with aluminum electrodes with an eco-friendly silicone film between them. Squeezing or shaking the toys alternatively separates and brings the electrodes into contact with film, creating an electrical charge. Once activated, the TENGs harvested enough biomechanical energy to illuminate several LED lights attached to each toy.

Chandrasekhar said TENGs were a natural choice for providing power in toys because of their versatility and the relatively low cost associated with building them.

Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, New York, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, IoT, IIoT, cyber security, smart manufacturing, smart factoryINSPIRE. COLLABORATE. INNOVATE. Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing industry event on the East Coast, is the annual must-attend trade show for discovering the latest in design engineering. Source from the region's most comprehensive collection of cutting-edge suppliers, deepen your expertise with free, conference-level education, and network with thousands of professionals who can help you advance your projects — and your career. From prototyping to full-scale production, one lap of the show floor will help you overcome your toughest manufacturing challenges and keep you up to speed on innovations transforming the industry. Everything you need to take projects to market faster and more cost effectively is here. Click here to register for your free pass today!

Added Benefits

“TENG devices are one of the best solutions to meet low-power electronics requirements because they can scavenge energy from various sources—water wave, wind, biomechanical, vibration, rain drops, and so on,” he said. “The development of a TENG device is comparatively simple, cost effective, and bio-compactable in most cases. For less than $1, we can fabricate a device which can drive low-power electronic components, such as LEDs and LCD.”

The TENGs the team designed for the toys also are durable, allowing them to operate for substantial periods and under the sometimes rugged conditions children’s toys experience. Creating toys without batteries also means children won’t have contact with the harmful chemicals that are found in the lithium-ion batteries currently used to provide energy to toys, Chandrasekhar said.

Toys aren’t the only devices that can benefit from the use of TENGs. The team believes that wearable electronics and medical devices also can use the harvesters they developed, as do other scientists who have been experimenting with this type of energy harvesting.

To that end, the Jeju National University team has filed patents associated with its research and aims to commercialize the use of TENGs as power sources for toys and other devices, Chandrasekhar said. “Once we make industrial collaborations for mass production of these products in the near future, these smart toys will be available to the market,” he said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Lessons Learned: Safely Test High-Power Circuit Breakers

Lessons Learned: Safely Test High-Power Circuit Breakers

Wherever circuits need protection against current overloads or short circuits, you’ll find circuit breakers. They range from fingernail-sized devices for semiconductor protection to truck-sized devices for the high-power circuits that supply electric power to cities. Testing high-power circuit breakers safely and accurately can be difficult and extremely hazardous for both personnel and test equipment.

Circuit Breaker Fundamentals

A circuit breaker’s function is to provide an automatic way to remove power from a faulty system in order to protect it from damage caused by excess current. When current is flowing normally through the circuit breaker, its contacts must carry the load current without excessive heating. Once a fault is detected, the circuit breaker must open to interrupt the flow of current. When a high current or voltage is interrupted, an arc is generated. Circuit breakers must also withstand the heat produced by the arc.

An HV6600 high-voltage/high-power isolated digitizer-transmitter in the test cell serves as the data recorder’s remote front end. Its fiber-optic link to the GEN3i eliminates ground loops and guarantees safe isolation between the device under test in the test cell, located up to 800 meters away, and the personnel operating the GEN3i in the control room.

Given the high voltages and currents associated with high-power circuit breakers, research and development activities for these devices have the potential to be extremely hazardous. Because they haven’t been thoroughly characterized at this stage, circuit breakers that are overstressed can explode and/or burn. To limit the possible damage, tests are typically performed in test cells with thick walls and bullet-proof glass. Often, the testing location is separated from the test instrumentation by enough distance to protect operators and equipment from flying debris and smoke.

Circuit Breaker Testing

At Sensata Technologies, a supplier of sensors and controls, engineers knew how challenging circuit breaker testing could be. The company’s engineering test manager, Gene Dobbs, had relied on several oscilloscope-based test systems for more than two decades. Dobbs himself had developed the system’s control software. As the components aged and required repairs, however, Dobbs and his engineering test team realized it was past time to invest in new test systems for their hydraulic-magnetic circuit breaker/protector R&D, production test, and UL testing applications. Here’s a list of vital lessons Dobbs and his team learned from the experience:

1. DON’T let the past limit your future. The two oscilloscope-based test systems used by Dobb’s staff had been in service for more than 20 years. As the system aged, getting support from the original manufacturer got tougher. When the one system failed completely, they knew it was past time to invest in new equipment.

2. DO define what you need comprehensively. Before attempting to “shop” for new hardware, the team took the time to document their requirements. It had to:

  • Support interrupting hundreds of kilo-amps of currents while voltages up to several kilo-volts were present.
  • Provide accurate and reliable test results and allow testing for compliance with international standards.
  • Accommodate hardware challenges like isolation, amplifier drift, noise, electromagnetic immunity, and battery operation.
  • Allow scaling the channel count to accommodate monitoring voltage and current up to three-phase circuit power, as well as an original reference voltage and current from the generator.
  • Withstand damage from prototype circuit breakers that can explode when stressed beyond their design parameters.
  • Include analysis capabilities to obtain calculated results and produce answers within industry standards.
  • Be intuitive enough for non-engineers to operate.
  • Include technical support for creating the user interface.
  • Come with in-house system training for both engineers and operators.

3. DON’T just tell suppliers what you need; show them. A consultant advised the team to use a data acquisition solution from HBM Test and Measurement. Before the testing staff at Sensata’s Cambridge lab met with the team from HBM, they created a cellphone video to illustrate the capabilities they required. Later, HBM created its own video demonstrating how the proposed solution would match up with Sensata’s requirements.

4. DO document what works so you can do it again. The system in the control room of the short-circuit test lab is based on an HBM Genesis GEN3i three-slot data recorder. Fiber-optic cable links two optically isolated receiver cards in the data recorder to eight external digitizer-transmitters. The system is configurable with up to 96 input channels and can be synchronized to other devices in the lab using PTP time synchronization.

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An HV6600 high-voltage/high-power isolated digitizer-transmitter in the test cell serves as the data recorder’s remote front end. Its fiber-optic link to the GEN3i eliminates ground loops and guarantees safe isolation between the device under test in the test cell, located up to 800 meters away, and the personnel operating the GEN3i in the control room. Extra front-end shielding protects the transmitter from harsh environments, including strong electric and magnetic fields. A menu-driven user interface eliminated the need to develop a custom application, saving Sensata time and programming resources. The intuitive software enables the operator to set up and perform any type of test easily, which automatically performs sensor parameterization, data storage, as well as all analysis and report generation in accordance with the standards associated with each part.Two additional short-circuit test labs have been configured with similar application-specific modifications. The systems have interchangeable components, so they can be swapped out for short-term backup if needed. Now, Sensata can verify that its products meet the published specs, comply with the relevant standards, and characterize prototypes quickly, safely, and accurately.

Mike Hoyer is an applications engineer for HBM Test and Measurement.

Op-Ed: Elon Musk and Sergio Marchionne Have a Lot in Common

Op-Ed: Elon Musk and Sergio Marchionne Have a Lot in Common

Last week, Elon Musk (right) tweeted that shipping $35,000 versions of the Model 3 right now would cause Tesla to “lose money & die.” (Image source: Wikipedia/ By Steve Jurvetson).
In 2014, FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne (right) said about his Fiat 500e: “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one, it costs me $14,000.” (Image source: Wikipedia/from Dgtmedia)

Many lessons can be learned from Elon Musk’s recent tweets about the trials and tribulations of the Model 3 electric car, but the main one is this: Musk and Sergio Marchionne have a lot in common.

Musk’s most revealing tweet occurred last week, when he said that shipping $35,000 versions of the “affordable” Model 3 right now would cause Tesla to “lose money & die.” He added that he needs three to six months after reaching production levels of 3,000 to 5,000 cars a week, just for Tesla to stay alive.

As if those words weren’t shocking enough, Musk also announced that Tesla has hatched a plan to market a souped-up, $78,000 version of the Model 3. The underlying plan is for Tesla to sell higher-priced versions of the Model 3 until it can make ends meet with the $35,000 models. This would be accomplished by boosting performance and adding such features as bigger battery packs, automated driving capabilities, glitzy wheels, and colors other than black. Only after that could the company begin delivering lower-cost versions to the 400,000-plus customers who have plunked down $1,000 deposits over the past few years.

Not surprisingly, Musk’s tweets weren’t met with a lot of happiness—even among the media that has helped hype the company for the past decade. In a typical headline, the Los Angeles Times called the Model 3 unaffordable for the masses. Similarly, US News & World Report ran a story saying that Tesla lost $14,000 on each of the Model 3s it delivered (based on an average sales price of $54,000) in the first quarter of 2018.

The Old Reality

In essence, Musk’s comments aren’t much different from those of Sergio Marchionne, the plain-spoken chairman and CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). In 2014, Marchionne made this blunt statement about the little Fiat 500e electric car:  "I hope you don't buy it because every time I sell one, it costs me $14,000." 

Marchionne was, of course, heavily criticized for his comment. But the criticism seldom mentioned the fact that Marchionne recognized the inevitability of electrification. He frequently said that as emission standards were tightened, the auto industry would naturally gravitate toward a combination of combustion and electrics. Under his leadership, Chrysler even launched its effort to build the Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan.The lesson here is that Marchionne’s reality was not much different than the reality now facing Elon Musk. And that same reality is shared by the rest of the auto industry, which has long known that the entry-level market would be a tough nut to crack for the electric car. In fact, the auto industry has known for decades that all small cars—even those with internal combustion engines—exist on razor-thin profit margins.

Somehow, though, that reality has managed to elude much of the public, the media, and even Wall Street. That’s why Tesla’s market cap is so absurdly high. Today, Tesla’s market value is about $450,000 per car sold—about 16 times that of BMW and 90 times that of GM.

What this means is that investors have showered money on Tesla, largely because of its vision of the future. And—let’s be honest here—that assumption is based on the fact that Tesla is a Silicon Valley company led by a genius, whereas the conventional auto industry is characterized as a Midwest, Rust Belt industry with one foot firmly planted in the past.

The corollary to this assumption is that Silicon Valley knows how to quickly drive the cost out of new technology and will do so in batteries and electric cars. In 2010, The New York Times even explained this in an article that introduced the concept of “Moore’s Law for Electric Cars.”

Which, of course, is ridiculous. Gordon Moore’s famous “law” applies to semiconductor chips, not to batteries and not to cars. The cost of electrics is never, ever going to drop the way semiconductor chips did for 40 years.

Detroit knows this and so does Musk. But the public doesn’t, which is why the concept seems to linger.

The irony now is that the viewpoints of the two sides are converging. Detroit (which has brilliant engineers, too) now knows what Musk has taught—that there’s a market for electric cars in the luxury sector. And Musk is learning what Detroit already understood—that squeezing profit from an entry-level electric vehicle is a monumental task that requires a great deal of patience.

Maybe Sergio Marchionne actually knew what he was talking about.

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, New York, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, IoT, IIoT, cyber security, smart manufacturing, smart factoryINSPIRE. COLLABORATE. INNOVATE. Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing industry event on the East Coast, is the annual must-attend trade show for discovering the latest in design engineering. Source from the region's most comprehensive collection of cutting-edge suppliers, deepen your expertise with free, conference-level education, and network with thousands of professionals who can help you advance your projects — and your career. From prototyping to full-scale production, one lap of the show floor will help you overcome your toughest manufacturing challenges and keep you up to speed on innovations transforming the industry. Everything you need to take projects to market faster and more cost effectively is here. Click here to register for your free pass today!

Stratasys Spinoff Evolve Additive Will Champion “Newish” 3D Printing Method Called STEP

Evolve Additive, Stratysis, 3D printing, additive manufacturing, injection molding

Last month, additive manufacturing company Stratasys announced that it was taking research into a lesser-known 3D printing technology called Selective Toner Electrophotographic Process technology, or STEP, and creating a spinoff called Evolve Additive Solutions. According to Stratasys, STEP, which has been under development by Stratasys since 2009, is 50 times faster than other polymer 3D printing processes and achieves more directional strength in the print—particularly in the Z-axis. The result is a high-volume production process that can use a wide range of thermoplastics at speeds comparable to conventional manufacturing processes, but with all the advantages of 3D printing.

Pictured is a part created with the Evolve Additive STEP process. (Image source: Evolve Additive)

For a deeper understanding of STEP, it helps to look inside a laser printer. The process combines 2D imaging technology with proprietary processes developed by Evolve to align incoming layers and bond them to create final parts that are fully dense and have the isotropic properties of injection molding. From the start, this makes the end result superior to other 3D printing processes, according to Bruce Bradshaw, Chief Business and Marketing Officer for Evolve Additive.

“God bless carbon [fiber reinforced polymer], but photopolymers aren’t real engineering-grade thermoplastics,” he told Design News. “When I manufacture in the conventional world, I want to use ABS [acrylonitrile butadiene styrene], not an ‘ABS-like thing.’ I want to use the same materials I can use in injection molding.”  

Image, Align, and Bond

The process has three components: the imaging section, the align section, and the bonding section. The imaging is an electrophotographic process, like with a laser printer that uses a photoreceptor, a light source, and electrostatic principles. The image (or the design, in this case) is transferred to a belt with an electric charge. The belt then carries the image “downstairs” to the bottom half of the unit, where a plate moves back and forth to build the part.

For the bonding area of the process, instead of laying down toner on paper, the process lays down thermoplastic. More precisely, it can lay down a 24 by 13-inch layer every four and a half seconds.

“Lasers use toner for printing on paper,” said Bradshaw. “We’re using toner that’s actually a thermoplastic. Truth be told, what gets put down on paper in the 2D world is actually plastic… just not engineering-grade plastic. In STEP, the magic part is aligning the incoming layer and the build plate from a registration standpoint.”

The third process is the bond or transfuse. Heat is applied to the incoming layer and to the top of the part, so they match when they meet the “nip,” a roller that meets the incoming image. Once the image is out the other side of the nip, it’s cooled.

“That’s a 25 micron layer,” Bradshaw told Design News. “We’re heating, we’re applying pressure, and we’re cooling, just like injection molding. In theory, we’re injection molding every single layer. If we don’t cool to the right temperature, things would turn to goo. It still needs to have some heat about 300 microns down so it can form the X, Y, and Z axes.”

While the process uses ABS, a charge agent is added for the electro-static process, and carbon black is added to absorb heat. At launch, Evolve Additive plans to have three materials available. Bradshaw noted that while the process is being designed for thermoplastics, it could (in theory) be capable of metal printing as well.

Injection Molding without the Mold

The appeal of STEP technology is that it delivers results like injection molding without the expense of molds for smaller production runs. The ideal volume for STEP is between 5,000 and 20,000 production runs. While other additive manufacturing processes are destined for prototyping or very small print runs, Evolve Additive wants this technology to be used on the manufacturing floor to sit beside the injection molding and CNC machines.

When it comes to improving on other AM techniques like fused deposition modeling (FDM), STEP is different. Unlike FDM, parts printed with STEP can achieve a fully dense, isotropic strength, according to Evolve Additive. Secondly, STEP saves on the finishing process after printing.

Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, New York, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, IoT, IIoT, cyber security, smart manufacturing, smart factory INSPIRE. COLLABORATE. INNOVATE. 
Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing industry event on the East Coast, is the annual must-attend trade show for discovering the latest in design engineering. Source from the region's most comprehensive collection of cutting-edge suppliers, deepen your expertise with free, conference-level education, and network with thousands of professionals who can help you advance your projects — and your career. From prototyping to full-scale production, one lap of the show floor will help you overcome your toughest manufacturing challenges and keep you up to speed on innovations transforming the industry. Everything you need to take projects to market faster and more cost effectively is here. Click here to register for your free pass today!

“It’s water-soluble,” said Bradshaw. “You put it into an agitation tank that removes the support materials. In the future, we’re going to automate this process. Our next version of the machine will have a track-based system with trays that move in a circle. Instead of having one tray, we’ll have six trays, which will increase the build speed from four and a half seconds per layer to one or two seconds per layer. You’ll also be able to take it off the track in the middle of the build to add features, such as electronics or RFID components, then put it back into the process on the track until it’s done. Just like you hit the start process on injection molding and parts drop out, our technology will work the same way in the near future.”

To date, Evolve Additive is working with three alpha customer systems and five data systems, according to Bradshaw. The company’s longer-range goal is to put some beta customers into place by next year and get the technology ready for commercial release in 2020.

Tracey Schelmetic graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. and began her long career as a technology and science writer and editor at Appleton & Lange. Later, as the editorial director of telecom trade journal Customer Interaction Solutions (today Customer magazine), she became a well-recognized voice in the contact center industry. Today, she is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing and technology, telecommunications, and enterprise software.

May 25 – Day 5 – AVR Calling

Webinar Information
Start Date: May 25, 2018 - 06:00 PM UTC

The final lecture in this series will utilize the services of a DIGI XBEE Cellular LTE CAT 1 Development Kit to demonstrate how AVR microcontrollers can be used in the realization of cellular-based IoT devices.