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Articles from 1998 In June


Design for the Global Marketplace

In the Fall of 1987 Zebra Technologies successfully completed open field EMI testing of a new bar code printer slated for the world market. Engineers figured they would also nail the ESD (electrostatic dissipation) test, which is a requirement for most electronics equipment sold in the European Community (EC). But upon coming into contact with the ESD probe, the printer exploded. Tiny bits of plastic and metal rained down.

The trouble was with a part of the printer Zebra had licensed from another firm, a bar code verifier that presumably already met all EC standards. Unfortunately, the original designers failed to include an insulating window over the LCD display, a practice so fundamental that Zebra's engineers never even thought to question it.

Zebra's experience in designing for the global marketplace is not atypical. Some of the best war stories come from engineers who have had to cope with such things as keeping up with the ever-changing multitude of standards, communicating with partners halfway around the world, and as was the case with Zebra, last-minute surprises. But for every horror story out there, there are at least as many remarkable tales of success, as revealed in this special roundtable discussion headed up by Design News.

Design News: All of you work for companies that design products for a global market. Is this international focus now a given?

Emig/Robert Bosch: It certainly is at our company. All of our customers--who are automobile makers--operate all over the world. And when your customers are everywhere, you have to be, too.

Waldor/FMC: That's true. FMC itself is leaning more toward suppliers that have a global presence. It used to be we were dealing with ten different suppliers in one country. Now, many suppliers are expanding internationally and giving us the support we need. With our machines, harvesting equipment, it's critical that they operate around the clock, seven days a week. We need to have the local parts and support, otherwise we would have a big problem.

Jurkowski/Dukane: The customer base is so inviting, no one can afford to ignore it anymore. The U.S. is such a small piece. Just look at Asia, look at Europe, look at China.

Butzen/Zebra: We make bar code printers, and we're approaching all of our product designs with the global market in mind now. We just released a new printer that might be sold all over the world--to people who speak different languages and have widely varying skills sets. The challenge for us was to design a product that could meet all of these different requirements, because we didn't know in what specific markets it was ultimately going to end up.

DN: Where do you perform your engineering design work for products you plan to sell overseas?

Emig/Robert Bosch: More than 80% of our products are developed outside of the U.S. by design teams located all over the world. We have something like 17 or 18 different design locations.

Drivas/Abbott Labs: We design health care products for an international market and unlike Bosch, most of our research facilities are in the U.S., with the exception of one in England. So nearly all of the engineering and design work is done here. However, when we are developing a product for the international market we will go to that locale to get customer input. If the customer base is in Europe, we'll go to Europe. If the customer base is in South America, we'll go to South America.

Medina/3Com: We actually have to get involved with local markets at the design level because of the widely varying telephone networks. We make modems, and each country has different requirements. We have two permanent design teams located in England and one in France, and then we'll send teams out to other countries.

DN: How do you communicate with design teams overseas, and how frequently are you in contact with them?

Emig/Robert Bosch: It depends very much on what you want to achieve. For one-to-one communication, e-mail and voice mail are the most convenient way to operate. But when you have more than two people involved, video conferencing is the way to go. We have it almost as a standard practice for all products. And twice a year we gather all of the engineers together at a meeting so they can exchange information in person.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: We have two design centers--one in the U.S. and one in Germany. The entire engineering team communicates on a monthly basis using a video conference center, but we also regularly use the Internet, FAX, and overnight mail. I think e-mail is the best, although sometimes it can be a pain because you have to wait for a response. Sometimes, you have to wait pretty much a whole day to get an answer from someone. But it allows you to attach and send files, which is great.

Jurkowski/Dukane: Personally, I think you have to be careful with e-mail because you can't see the person and really don't know what he or she may be thinking. You have to choose your words carefully. But I think once it gets to be more reliable, it will be a really good way to transfer data.

DN: Are any of you transferring CAD files or other design information electronically?

Quinn/HK Systems: Our company, which designs material handling systems, gets involved in a lot of custom work for our customers. In many cases, they will send us a CAD drawing of the layout of their existing building for our design engineers to work with.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: Since we use the same design tools in Germany and in the U.S., we are able to share information between the companies, and the Internet has worked quite well for us. The problem we're facing now is that we're evolving to a new system, and we have to make sure that our German counterparts come along at the same rate as we do.

Butzen/Zebra: We're sending CAD files to vendors who make die cast parts for us. It's really streamlined the process for us because we'll send them the solid model and they will tell us right away if there is a problem with something like the location of a parting line. As we get more involved with solid models, we expect it is going to help us with detailed drawings, which are more of an afterthought for us now.

Jurkowski/Dukane: We do the same with our customers. Ford will send us a drawing of an interior door panel, and we'll lay out the machines to map the contours. We will send them the file back, and at that point they might say, "Well we were going to change that next week, so don't do anything just yet." That kind of thing. The ability to communicate electronically is critical today, especially with the larger, international companies. They are all pushing the industry that way.

DN: Just how important is defining the requirements for a product that is to be sold internationally?

Stover/Cummins Engine: I would speculate that the job of gathering the requirements is almost as big as the job of designing the product. Certainly it's a huge undertaking in our case. We make diesel engines that we sell all over the world, and in addition to emissions and noise requirements, there are many local differences. Indian fuel, for example, is different than Asian fuel, which is different than South African fuel. And gases and emissions are regulated in very different ways in different parts of the world. But dealing with standards is not a matter of choice on our part, it's a fixed requirement that we must comply with. So we deal with it.

Drivas/Abbott: I agree that you really have to do you homework upfront in getting input from a regulatory standpoint, but you also need to make sure that it meets your customer's requirements, too. I think one of the biggest pitfalls is to assume that if it works in the U.S., it's good enough for the rest of the world.

Quinn/HK Systems: And what is considered really valuable differs from country to country. In two countries as similar as the U.S. and England, the same product may be viewed very differently. You have to be sensitive to that.

DN: What types of problems have you encountered with international standards?

Stover/Cummins: It's just extremely tough to keep up with local requirements. There are some places, for example, in Europe where diesel engines have to operate more quietly at night. In heavily urbanized areas a lot of construction work is done at that time, so there is a premium on low noise. Requirements like that--which can change substantially and rather rapidly--put a lot of pressure on our product development community to stay on top of things.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: We make large milling machines for a global market and no two markets seem to have the same requirements. We've got machines going into Asia now with environmental requirements that range from -5 to 50C. We've never run into anything like that before, and it's a tremendous challenge keeping up with all of the different standards.

Vanderwiel/Weber: Developing products for a global market is somewhat of a new experience for our company, we haven't been doing it that long. Learning a whole new set of standards has been a real revelation. We've been oriented toward what was going on here domestically with UL, electrical codes, and so on. And now we have to be versed in a whole other language, if you will. We have to put on one hat one day and another hat the next.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: Even when we are in compliance with all the standards, it's not unusual to have the customer's safety people walk through and say "We want this changed and that changed." We spend a lot of time dealing with that issue, trying to anticipate what the safety people are going to come up with.

Quinn/HK: You get surprised. There are times when there is something we think is a real important safety issue, and our customers overseas could care less about it--it's totally irrelevant. Then at other times, they insist on some safety feature for a situation in which there is no recorded occurrence--ever--of an injury.

DN: So how do you manage to stay on top of all of these requirements?

Jurkowski/Dukane: I think the only thing you can do is attempt to keep track of what's going on, whether you do it via the Internet or partners or customers.

Vanderwiel/Weber: Our company decided not to try and do it ourselves. We thought we'd be better off going through a third party, who worked with us initially on CE compliance. They have been a great group to work with, and we are going to be using them on a continuous basis to review our products and make sure we don't get caught by any changes.

Butzen/Zebra: Even though we're a relatively small company, we do have a compliance engineer. Thank goodness, because I don't know what we would do without him. It's his job to stay up-to-date on the latest standards, and he is in constant communication with UL and other agencies. He stays in that loop, and that's his full-time job. Without him, we'd have a nightmare on our hands.

Medina/3Com: I'm a regulatory engineer and so it's my job to make sure that the products we make comply with all of the safety standards and electromagnetic compatibility issues. As far as the Europeans are concerned, the various countries are pretty unified as to what they require. But when you are going around the world to different areas, say to Asia or Latin America, it's difficult to find out what is required and what is significant.

Interpreting the standards, which are often presented in the form of recommendations, is probably one of the biggest hurdles we face. We ran into trouble recently in Asia, where they are using a lot of the same standards that the European community uses. But we could not just assume that since our product complied with the EC standards that we were okay, because the Asian market actually requires some additional testing.

Butzen/Zebra: Testing is one of the big challenges for us. In my experience, it's very difficult for the electrical engineers to know how the product will do in the EMI open field testing. Many times what will happen is we think we've got the design nailed, and the test engineers will come back with aluminum foil all over the prototype and they are saying, "Now what do we do?"

DN: Do you think these tougher standards are putting U.S. firms at a disadvantage?

Medina/3Com: Companies everywhere have to meet the same requirements, so I don't think there is any unfairness as far as meeting the requirements. A lot of U.S. companies just never prepared for it and on January 1, 1996, the deadline date for the EC requirements to go into effect, a lot of people were caught off guard.

Butzen/Zebra: I think Medina hit the nail on the head. If you have time to think and plan upfront, you can figure out ways to meet the requirements. We knew we were going to have problems with EMI on the last new product I was involved with, so we designed this big die casting closure with a die cast cover. The whole thing is a metal shell. In the past we probably would have used plastic.

DN: We're talking about some of the challenges in designing for a global market, but one problem I haven't heard mentioned yet is metric versus English units. Is this an issue?

Stover/Cummins: Our customers are actually demanding a metric product now. We haven't quite gotten to the point where we are talking about kilowatts rather than horsepower, but dimensionally at least, our products have been metric for 20 years. The areas where we have the most trouble, oddly, are points where we have to interface with other components in the system, particularly SAE to ISO interfaces. It's never quite as pure as we would like it to be.

Waldor/FMC: We've done both, and we've also had problems especially when we try to manufacture the same product both in Europe and the U.S. When you get into sheet steel and tubing it's expensive to buy metric sizes in the states so we buy English. What we do when a drawing done in Europe calls for metric is buy the closest size we can and hopefully the design is thought through enough so we don't get a significant tolerance buildup.

DN: Let's shift gears here and talk about what you look for in a supplier.

Stover/Cummins Engine: It's really pretty simple. We look for the characteristics of a good partner, which includes the technical capability, the production capability, and the capacity to do the work both technically from an engineering standpoint and from a production standpoint. We look for the willingness to share the engineering costs, and on our latest products we estimate that as much as 40% or even more of the engineering content of the product is contributed by suppliers as part of their concurrent engineering relationship with us.

Waldor/FMC: We're looking for suppliers that have the technical depth to contribute materially to the engineering on a new product.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: We work with suppliers who will sit down with us and talk about long term product development, who are willing to deal with the problems we run into on some of the special machines and develop special solutions. We look at where we're at and where we want to be in terms of a long term strategy. Then we look at their product development and determine whether there is a match and whether they can satisfy our needs in the future.

DN: How do you evaluate the technical capability of a supplier?

Butzen/Zebra: We recently developed a new platform series, and we went out and looked at suppliers. We evaluated teams of engineers and their quality people because we wanted to see what kind of parts they were making. It was also critical that these suppliers would utilize our CAD drawings, because we could see benefits on that end. In the end, you really have to go out and look.

Drivas/Abbott: We have a quality assurance group whose sole job is to evaluate potential suppliers. They look for quality systems, as well as the control of design and manufacturing information like drawing specs, order requirements, and engineering changes. They look for systems for incoming materials and systems that are used in manufacturing like process inspection and quality control records. I'm just briefly going over some of the things they do, but essentially they want to make sure the company is a keeper of good records.

DN: Do you require CE marking on all of your components?

Jurkowski/Dukane: Sometimes we have to because of the requirements of the CE regulation.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: We decided that we would incorporate all CE components whenever possible. Obviously, there are some things you can't buy that are CE compliant. But overall, this gives us a much better position

Drivas/Abbott: I think the bottom line is that we are requiring the same from our suppliers that we are being required to do.

DN: Do you require your vendors to be ISO 9000 certified?

Jurkowski/Dukane: IS0 9000 doesn't guarantee a quality product, but it goes a long way in saying that at least the company has got something on the ball. At least you know they have procedures that they are supposedly following. You can't use it as the only criteria, but I think you can use it as a good starting point. About 60% of the vendors we work with are ISO 9000 compliant.

Butzen/Zebra: We have some vendors we have partnered with for years and years who are very small and either haven't overcome the inertia obtained or the resources to become certified. The flip side to dealing with a small company, however, is that they may not have the support worldwide. So you're stuck if your machine goes down. In that respect, sometimes you can't always use products from a small company if you want to be a global manufacturer.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: I agree. We need the support around the world because we're putting our machines into virtually any country, so we need the infrastructure there in terms of spare parts, repair facilities, and so forth. The other thing we like is that larger companies have the staying power to meet our problems, and they can support us. The other driving factor is the customer itself. He may insist on certain equipment for his machine, and we are obligated to provide that. In other words, if we are putting a machine tool in Japan, the customer may require Japanese components.

Emig/Robert Bosch: Since we produce product in different locations, we look for suppliers who are active in all of those locations. So for us a local supplier is a major requirement.

DN: How important is product quality to you in selecting a supplier for a global design?

Jurkowski/Dukane: I don't think there's a person out there who would say that quality isn't important. We measure product quality in terms of defects and value. We don't always buy the most expensive product, we buy the product that best meets the requirement. We won't buy gold-plated connectors if silver-plated ones do the job.

Stover/Cummins Engine: From our standpoint, consistency is very, very important. We need to know that 100% of the time we are getting products that meet our specification. Our ultimate objective would be to ship cold engines rather than hot engines, essentially products that have been verified through quality systems and require only a few simple checks during the assembly process, rather than rigorous testing at the end.

Vanderwiel/Weber: Another aspect of quality is how fast a supplier can meet our delivery schedules. We work very closely with our vendors trying to prep them for what we are going to do. We tell them about our production runs, and make sure that we can either get releases of the product or the whole shipment on time so that we can meet our assembly schedules.

Stover/Cummins Engine: Delivery is very, very important to us, too. Most of our suppliers ship to the line, so when the order comes in it goes right to production. That's becoming a more common practice now. But that makes us very dependent, of course, on the whole logistics trail between the second and third tier suppliers and us.

DN: So in the end, where are we going with global design? Is the ultimate goal to have a single product that can be sold anywhere in the world?

Stover/Cummins: We have some special problems in that regard because at Cummins we deal with a product that is an emissions source. In the end, we try to commonize the product as much as we can between markets, but there are always some tweaks required to make a U.S. product acceptable in Europe and so forth. It is very difficult for us to create what we would call a global product because of the need to optimize it for local markets. The hardware tends to be the same, but the controls, calibration, and so forth must be different.

Vanderwiel/Weber Marking: With our latest product introduction, we decided against having what we would call a universal design--a product that we could market anywhere. We had to defer from that ideal for the moment in order to get the product to market as quickly as we could. So in some cases we have to deal with two sets of components, which divides our assembly process and creates all kinds of wonderful log jams.

Butzen/Zebra: We do have a universal design for our bar code printer, and although we've run into some minor issues with motors and things, we've had no real problems. But as these guys will tell you, it's not always easy. For our particular product, we've been able to pull it off, maybe in part because we try to do all our emissions testing as early as we can. Also, we are in an information technology category, where the standards are pretty straightforward.

Jurkowski/Dukane: Our latest ultrasonic welding machine was designed in the 1992-94 time frame, and we knew going into it that we were going to design it for the global marketplace. The advantage of knowing what you're doing upfront is that you can pick the components you need. You can get the testing done early and find out where you're going to have trouble before it's too late.

Medina/3Com: It's certainly easier to design a product from scratch for a global market than try to redesign an existing product. I worked at a lab testing a lot of products that companies were trying to redesign so they would be CE compliant. It was a nightmare for some of them, because they really could not change the design much and it wound up costing them a lot more than they had expected.

Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: Personally, I think that a single product for the entire world is the ideal, but it is probably not going to happen in my industry in my lifetime. Hopefully, someone, someday will come up with a universal standard that makes life easy again.

Success Story

Company: Dukane Corp., St. Charles, IL

Product: Dukane Millennium DPC Ultrasonic Welding System

Description: Ultrasonic welder for thermoplastic and metal welding assembly

Location of Design Team: St. Charles, IL

International markets sold in: Europe, Near East, Far East, and Australia

International standards met: Europe CE, UL

Keys to success:

- Worldwide auto ranging universal voltage imput

- Constant amplitude control via line voltage regulation

- Power factor correction (green effect) reduction of power usage by 25-30%

- Multi-lingual process control menu

Company: Ingersoll Milling Machine, Rockford, IL.

Product: High Velocity(reg) Machine

Description: For-axis CNC machining module with 50 hp, 20,000 rpm, 10,000 rpm spindle. Feed rates 0-76 m/min.

Location of design team: Rockford, IL

Design Team Leader: Tom Lindem Sr., VP Technology

International markets sold in: Japan, India Germany, France and Mexico

International standards met: C.E. Certified, VDI-3423 for machine availability

Keys to Success:

- Successful application of hydrostatic/hydrodynamic spindle bearings

- Application of linear motor drives for X,Y,Z axes

- Achieving a rigid design on a strict weight budget through FEM and solid modeling design tools

- Elimination of high maintenance items such as ballscrews, gearboxes, and clutches

Company: Robert Bosch Corp., Automotive Group, Farmington Hills, MI

Product: ABS 5.3 (Antilock Braking System)

Description: ABS 5.3 is a 4-channel Antilock Braking Systems designed specifically for passenger cars. Bosch was the world's first supplier to use microhybrid technology for ABS technology with this product.

Location of Design Team: Germany, Japan, U.S.

Design team leader: Dr. K. Mueller, Department Manager

International markets sold in: Europe, NAFTA, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Korea

International standards met: Worldwide exchangeability of components and components have same dimensions externally and common interface

Keys to success:

- Early establishment of an international team to set and achieve design goals

- Same specs and test methods worldwide

Company: Zebra Technologies, Vernon Hills, IL

Product: Z Series(TM) Printer

Description: Bar code printer with an entirely modular configuration

Location of design team: Vernon Hills, IL

Design team leaders: Ken Ullenius, Mechanical Engineer-Project leader James Butzen, Mechanical Engineer-Lead mechanical engineer Kerri Thomas, Senior Product Manager-Team Leader

International Markets sold in: More than 75 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Latin America

International standards met: UL 1950, CE mark of compliance, CUL Multilingual documentation is available in 12 languages

Keys to success:

- An intuitive design whereby any user can operate the printer without extensive training

- A modular design

- Outstanding price/performance without sacrificing durability

The roundtable participants

Reiner Emig VP of Engineering Automotive Group Robert Bosch Corp.Automatic braking systems

Nick A. Drivas Project Leader Abbott Laboratories Medical diagnostics equipment

Jim Butzen Senior Mechanical Engineer Zebra Technologies Bar code printers

William Jurkowski Custom Engineering Manager Dukane Ultrasonics Ultrasonic welding, AV equipment, Materials handling

Gustavo Medina Regulatory Engineer 3Com Modems, Video cards

Dan J. Quinn VP-International Business HK Systems Material handling equipment/systems

Tom Stover Executive Director, Engineering Advanced Heavy Duty Engines Cummins Engine Co.Diesel engines

John Osborn Manager-Engineering, Heavy Machines Ingersoll Miiling Machine Machine tools

Steve Waldor Project Engineer FMC Corp. Agricultural equipment

Jim Vanderwiel Manager-Manufacturing Engineering Weber Marking Systems Label print/apply systems

Line-interrupts meet safety requirements

Components satisfying multiple worldwide standards allow OEM customers to provide products for any location. Cherry Electrical Products has introduced five such families of ac line-interrupt switches for home appliance, office equipment, and vending machine applications. The Series F80, F85, FA, F90, and DD switches have a 3-mm air gap and are current rated from 0.1 to 16A (except to 15A for F90s), and meet UL 1950, CSA, VDE, and SEMKO safety standards. The first three series also conform to TUV requirements. All come in snap-in panel-mount cases, except the DD Series of very compact switches (1.091 x 0.468 x 0.622 inch). Cherry Electrical Products: Product Code 4310

In motion control, mechanical must match performance of electronics

After two years working in systems engineering support for IBM, Lind and a classmate from the Harvard Business School purchased Bayside Controls, a small military subcontractor with $300,000 in sales. That was in 1986. Today, the Bayside Motion Group is a $25 million manufacturer of precision gearheads and linear motion products for the motion control market, and reports a 50% annual growth rate in sales. Under his leadership, Bayside introduced NEMA gearheads, the "clamp-on-pinion," right-angle planetary gearheads, and the first helical planetary gearhead. The most recent innovation, from Bayside's Micro Slides division: The Luge, reportedly the first all-mechanical slide that accepts any linear motor.

Computers have increased factory productivity, giving workers the opportunity to use their brains, says Lind.

Design News: What is distributed automation?

Lind: This is really the result of the computer revolution that has been driving our economy for the past 10-20 years. As electronics become smarter, smaller, and less expensive, nodes of automation become more possible. This means that rather than having one large machine that's not very flexible, manufacturers can have many small, flexible machines that can be easily modified and changed over to do different tasks. This has led to a large increase in demand for distributed electronics like servo motors, motion controllers, and sensors, and for the associated mechanical components, such as gearheads, clutches, brakes, and couplings.

Q: What industries are most appropriate for distributed automation?

A: Paper converting and other industries that need continuous high throughput and make products in smaller batches. They need quick changeovers. In the old days, it could take one or two days to change a line over for a different product. Textiles is another industry where distributed automation is appropriate. Some textile companies change to another fabric every 20 minutes. The automotive industry too, as well as the woodworking industry. Even the semiconductor industry, where they use multi-axis servo motors, not for changeovers but for throughput.

Q: What's the effect of all this on employees in a factory?

A: Productivity in the factory increases, but the increase comes from computers and robots. Factories don't need as many workers with manual skills. They do need workers with computer and problem-solving skills. So, it's elevated the role of workers and gives them the opportunity to use their brains.

Q: What industries require high-precision motion control?

A: The semiconductor industry is a good example. They have to bond wires on ever-smaller heads. The packaging industry also requires high precision. Miniaturization drives the need for precision, overall. But, in the broad sense, accuracy is important in every industry. Throughput requires more precision. Modern servo motors perform fast and accurately. The mechanical systems must keep up with the electronic systems.

Q:What's the impact of increased precision in motion control?

A: New electronic, computer-controlled devices are able to do things faster and more accurately than ever before. This has placed tougher demands on the mechanical components of the system to match the precision, accuracy, and overall performance of the electronic systems. Bayside has filled a void in the market by providing precision mechanical products specifically designed and tailored for the high-performance motion control market.

Q: You have an installed base of 250,000 gearheads worldwide. Is Europe a large market for you?

A: Yes, in fact our sales are growing faster there than in the U.S. Our international sales overall are growing at twice the rate of our U.S. sales. We expect strong growth in the Asian market. We may do a joint venture in Singapore, or acquire a company there. We plan to open a factory in Germany this year.

Q: Do you predict any major breakthroughs in precision motion control in the near future?

A: No. Things will get smaller, smarter, and faster. On the mechanical side, we deal with the laws of physics. Advances will come in the field of materials. Our new Stealth Planetary Gearhead uses our own metal and provides 30% more torque with the same size gears.

Q: The motion control industry is growing so rapidly that all companies must need new engineers. What skills do you look for in engineers?

A: We want engineers who can communicate. Often, they lack the ability to synthesize information and communicate it. The basics of communication are more important than ever. The industry needs people who can put information together in a logical sequence. Engineers are not specialized anymore. Ours write catalogs, procedures for the factory, and talk to customers regularly. Communications skills are essential.

Engineering Challenges

- Materials. Bipolar plates, carbon paper, and catalysts all need further development. And, the ideal membrane for PEM fuel cells has yet to be made.

- Modeling. Computer models of total fuel-cell systems need to be created to support advanced vehicle design.

- Durability and reliability. Consumers will demand fuel cell-powered cars to achieve the same level of all-weather performance and reliability they are used to today.

- Fuel processor development. Fuel cells need hydrogen to run, but "reforming" the hydrogen from gasoline could shorten the path to production--if the non-hydrogen components can be prevented from poisoning the fuel cell.

- Fuel storage. An economical, light, compact method of storing and releasing hydrogen would help wean fuel-cell vehicles from hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline and methanol.

- Electronics and sensors. Compact, fuel-cell-specific electronic control systems need to be developed, as do sensors for emissions, such as CO().

- New pumps. Engineers must design them to work with a complex fuel system.

Engineering Lessons Learned

- Be versatile. Early fuel cell development favors engineers with multidisciplinary skills in fields including electrical, chemical, and automotive.

- Persistence pays off. Turning the fuel cell into a viable contender to power automobiles took decades of work with little initial reward.

- Keep an open mind. While millions has poured into developing batteries, most engineers overlooked the fuel cell, which offered far greater performance potential.

- One step at a time. Don't try to force consumers to make several large changes in their habits. Experts say that the potential to use gasoline or methanol will be key to the fuel cell's success. Completely altering the drivetrain and requiring a new fuel infrastructure would almost certainly kill the fuel cell's chances.

Army approves Crusader design

Army approves Crusader design

Minneapolis--In March, the U.S. Army gave the green light to a contractor team to complete detailed design and build four prototypes of its advanced field artillery system for the next century, the Crusader. While the Crusader is big--not just in size but in goals and contract scope as well (DN 5/18/98, p. S23)--its aim is to allow smaller battlefield forces to be more effective. Not merely a self-propelled gun, both the 155-mm weapon and resupply vehicles will use advance technologies, with automation and a minimal crew of three, to give troops a curtain of firepower on future battlefields. Here's some of the vital details on how this is done.

Once a firing decision is made, automation allows firing the first round within 15 to 30 seconds, placing impact where the enemy is, not where he was. With automated ammunition handling and gun pointing, a 10-rounds-per-minute rate of fire is then possible. The gun tube has cooling jackets to reduce temperature and thermal signature. Sixty rounds are carried and these can be lobbed a distance of anywhere from three to more than 25 miles. And out to 19 miles, the control system permits four rounds from the weapon to be fired at different elevation angles and propellant charges to arrive simultaneously on a target. Such capability, in concert with other units, boosts lethality from smaller numbered forces.

United Defense Armament Systems Div. is the prime Crusader contractor and systems integrator. Partner General Dynamics Land System Div. (Sterling Heights, MI) is the mobility subsystem integrator and develops vehicle electronics. Here speed and maneuverability come from an advanced powertrain, improved track, external hydropneumatic suspension, and drive-by-wire controls. Crusader's mobility heart is a 1,500-hp V-12 Varity/Perkins Engines (Shrewsbury, England) diesel built by Caterpillar (Peoria, IL). This powerplant, based on commercial technology, meets or exceeds military requirements. It incorporates electro/hydraulic fuel injectors, and composite materials.

General Dynamics supplies the high- power-density, low-profile transmission whose electronic controller automatically and accurately schedules engine speed and transmission ratio for acceleration, differential-track steering, and optimum fuel economy. On a road the Crusader goes 42 mph, and 30 mph cross country.

Information revolution. Between the two vehicles, 60% of the components are common, and embedded diagnostics ease maintenance and repairs. The command compartment resembles a digital aircraft cockpit. GPS satellite navigation and movement- and fire-planning software, along with interactive training tools, aid the crews.

Such automation allows the crew to focus on dealing with the tactical situation. In current howitzers, most of the time is spent on physical tasks. In an intense battle, crews find it hard to sustain high fire rates with little time for tactical decisions. Crusader's armored crew station allows focusing on the fight since selection, fuse-setting, loading, aiming, and firing are all automated.

The resupply vehicle's streamlined ammunition handling system allows its crew of three to remain "under armor" while automatically transferring up to 60 of 130 rounds carried, propellant charges, fuel, lubricants, and water to the self-propelled howitzer in 12 minutes. To transfer, the resupply vehicle boom mates with the gun carriage and supplies pass through the boom.

Full-scale production of more than 1,650 vehicles, half of each type, could total up to $13 billion. This could have been even higher. But as of last year, the Secretary of the Army has credited the industry and government program team with saving more than $6 billion because of management efficiencies and up-to-date design engineering and procurement tools.

Headlamp technology challenges auto designs

Headlamp technology challenges auto designs

Paris, France--Headlamps can introduce an important styling attribute to a vehicle. In addition, headlamp size and accessibility have taken on new meaning as automakers continuously look for ways to reduce the size of components. A new French headlamp concept addresses both of these concerns.

As part of the European Research Program (Eureka), Valeo Lighting Systems has developed a "breakthrough" headlamp design. Known as Baroptic(reg), the system provides flexibility in the front-end styling of vehicles for the year 2000 and beyond, while optimizing aerodynamics. It significantly reduces the lighting system's size, as compared with today's complex-shape technology, says Valeo's Alban L'Hermine. The reduced size also allows enhanced management of under-the-hood packaging.

Based on a new optical concept, the Baroptic system projects the luminous flux generated by a halogen or HID lamp into an optical guide with reflecting facets. The so-called light pipe (fiber-optic bundle) then projects the beam through lenses positioned along the pipe. These lenses, in combination with bulb shields, define the characteristics of the beam, including width, length, distribution, cut off, and homogeneity.

In contrast, conventional systems radiate the flux on the surface of the reflector (as with a complex shape or parabolic reflector) or directly on the road (such as with a sealed beam or elliptical projector).

The results achieved by the Valeo system, based on either a European or U.S. beam, match 70-mm-high headlamps from traditional designs. If the flux provided by comparable models are the same (300 lm minimum), Baroptic optimizes the distribution of the emitted light, according to L'Hermine.

The system can be positioned vertically, following the line of the vehicle, or horizontally, perpendicular to the road. This makes it adaptable to most car configurations, including sedans and coupes.

Industrial cleaning turns to lasers

Industrial cleaning turns to lasers

Lisses, France--Laser technology has proven successful when cleaning statues and historical monuments--in-doors. Outside on the street is a different matter. Changing environmental conditions in general, and temperature variations in particular, can cause havoc with laser beam stability.

An open-loop correction system, based on neural network technology, promises to remedy this situation. A joint effort between Neural Computer Sciences (NCS, Southampton, England) and B.M. Industrie of France, the system "learns" the relationships present in data through a training process and, once trained, responds accurately to new input data.

Neural network technology is appropriate, says Chris Isbell, NCS project manager, because the relationship between ambient conditions and laser output are imperfectly understood. Temperature variations, for example, can influence laser beam power, quality, and most importantly, pulse beam profile.

Isbell explains: "If power intensity is plotted across the laser beam from edge to edge, a near Gaussian curve will be seen. Ideally, that bell-shaped curve should be symmetrical for maximum effect. If it appears lopsided, the power or internal optics must be corrected."

In order to implement corrective action, B.M. Industries has defined the system's performance-related parameters and has collected training data. NCS is developing the neural net software, its associated embedded control board, and supervisory system software. The resulting system is built into the laser to maintain its performance under conditions common to building cleaning operations.

Funded, in part, by the European Union's Eureka program, the international RESTOR project hopes to offer a system suitable for cleaning 10m(super2) of building facade per hour. Benefits: no erosion from sandblasting; no discoloring from chemical cleaners; no recycling or purification of water jets.

Position sensors pace injection molding

Position sensors pace injection molding

Cologno Monzese, Italy--Negri & Bossi, a leading European injection-molding machine maker, was looking for a way to measure the force holding the dies in its machines together--while at the same time lowering the number of costly mechanical and electrical components. Previously, accessory clamps and strain-gauge load cells directly measured these forces. Too much clamping force can damage a mold; too little results in plastic "flash" bleeding into the mold, resulting in a crudely finished part.

Maurilio Meschia, the company's technical manager, was familiar with the high-accuracy positioning possible with Temposonics magnetostrictive sensors from MTS Systems Corp. (Cary, NC). These could indirectly measure force by directly measuring the strain on the load frame. And MTS Temposonics III sensors are microprocessor based with special embedded software and distributed-microprocessor Control Area Network (CANbus) interface support. All these factors came together to convince Meschia to try the devices. "By installing the multiple magnet sensors, we were able to use fewer sensors and eliminate the use of special strain gauges while still achieving equal or better data," he says. "We tested various sensor products and found only the Temposonics III could give us the performance and flexibility we needed."

The Temposonics III electronics communicate via CANbus to quickly send accurate and repeatable measurements. With 2 microns standard resolution, the devices can measure small changes in the molding machines' platen and tie bar positions. Both open and DeviceNet(TM) version of CANbus can support the sensors.

On the molding machines, the magnetostrictive sensors monitor the positions of four axes: the plastic injector; the injector carriage; the finished-product ejector; and the mold clamp halves. The injector screw and injector carriage are measured by a single sensor, cutting the number of sensors needed from four to three. The clamp-monitoring sensor uses two magnets, one of which determines the most extended position during each mold cycle. This value is compared to the commanded position, and the difference used as feedback to determine stretch in the load frame columns. The controller recalculates the strain, and thus force, to adjust the mold closure pressure on successive cycles. The results were so encouraging that Meschia says, "We are switching all of our series to the new Temposonics III system."

Cookin' up some OLEDs

Cookin' up some OLEDs

The organic light emitting diode (OLED) array used in the OROM reader is made from organic compounds composed of lots of polymer chains with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus atoms. They tend to be wickedly complex and large molecules, often with benzene rings and side chains of polymers attached to the main backbone.

For OLEDs, the side chains' energy absorption is what defines the properties of the light emitter. You adjust the material making up the polymer, tuning the emission wavelength. This material behaves like a semiconductor, which generally have material-defined, atomic energy bands to produce their distinct emission wavelengths when electrons change energy levels.

The polymers can be mixed up and spun onto a substrate at room temperatures. No clean room jazz, no extensive, and expensive, processing, implanting, nor semiconductor crystal growth environments. Just mix and paint. You can make 'em as small or as large as you want, or put them on flexible substrates. Serve and light.