Articles from 1997 In July

Sensors withstand rugged environments

Sensors withstand rugged environments

Designers searching for industrial position sensors that meet global requirements may look to the Temposonics III Series. These sensors are for rugged environment and, according to manufacturer MTS Sensors, are engineered to be faster, smarter, and more precise than other magnetostrictive sensors currently available.

The Series offers a resolution of 2 microns at 10,000 measurements per second standard. In addition, they feature a non-linearity of 0.02% and low hysteresis of 0.004 mm. A simple modular architecture of three components includes: a wave guide, electronics, and an application housing that permits mounting flexibility and easy system integration.

The wave-guide head and electronics are fully encapsulated. A wide selection of application housings are available, including the new embedded-rod style that allows the electronics to be located away from the wave guide and eliminates the need for precise alignment.

The Temposonics III Series offers the flexibility of measuring either two displacement outputs or one displacement output and one velocity output. Analog, Serial Synchronous Interface, and Controller Area Network are standard output options for the units. Digital output capabilities provide absolute output, enabling instant recognition of machine position after power loss recovery.

Additional details...Contact MTS Sensors Technologie GmbH & Co. KG, Postfach 8130, D-5880 L denscheid, Germany, +49 23 5195870.

Snake attack!

Snake attack!

Ty Boyce aims the remote control at the VCR and slows the video to half speed, hoping to reveal subtle details in the scene unfolding on the large-format TV. On screen, the gigantic Queen snake, star of the movie Anaconda, clings to a tree 30 ft in the air, and thrusts its head effortlessly through a cascading waterfall, all the while remaining unaffected by the tons of liquid pounding down on it.

With a click, Boyce advances the tape to another scene where a second anaconda, in a pique, whips its tail across the deck of a river barge, tossing tables and chairs 20 ft into the water. A mere 25 ft in length, this "Warrior" snake, the smaller of the two slithering antagonists, scatters the furniture like an angry child sweeping away doll-house miniatures.

Boyce gestures to the screen. "You see that? The snake actually does that on its own; it's not a special effect," he stresses, sounding more like an animal trainer who teaches anacondas to act rather than an engineer who helped build them.

You can't blame him. The snakes are mechanical--animatronic, technically--and therefore really special effects. However, after observing them up close and in action, you almost acquire more respect for them than for a real anaconda. In fact, the term "special effect" seems completely inadequate in describing the magnitude of the engineering work involved. As possibly some of the most complex robots ever designed, the snakes are no more a "special effect" than the Taj Mahal is a "building."

Snake stats. Mere hyperbole meant to grab your attention? Judge for yourself.

The Queen measures more than 40-ft-long, 18 inches in diameter, and weighs 5,500 lb. Its spine contains 60 two-axis joints controlled in three dimensions by 120 hydraulic actuators (two per joint). Each joint is special--unique valves, unique cylinders, and even unique hose fittings--custom designed for a particular position on the snake.

  • The hydraulic system runs at a heady 5,000 psi, driven by a 200-hp portable power unit. Engineers used more than 40 miles of wire to carry all the sensor and command signals. And to coordinate the snakes' movements, they designed a control system that pumps out 2.4 gigaflops of floating-point processing power--the equivalent of roughly 50 Intel Pentium 100 desktop PCs.

The result: a pair of snakes that couple flexibility with smooth, life-like, methodical, slithering, and terrifying high-end speed and power. The spine provides enough flexibility for each snake to coil back on itself twice. Completely waterproof and corrosion resistant, the snakes operate for extensive periods completely submerged. It's enough to trigger an outbreak of ophidiophobia in the staunchest snake lover.

"We've never clocked it, but we guess that the head of the Queen snake could move at 30 to 40 mph," says Boyce, hydraulic and electrical systems engineer at Edge Innovations, the firm that designed and built the snakes. "It can move so fast it's scary."

Mechanical menagerie. Edge Innovations lies tucked away in a nondescript industrial park in Mountain View, CA, identified by a happy-face sign out front. The inside, however, is anything but nondescript. It looks likes God's workshop, with room after room of mechanical porpoises, snakes, alien creatures, and other animals in various states of disassembly. The menagerie is propped on stands in hallways and offices or, in the case of the 24-ft-long, 14,000-lb. killer whale from the Free Willy series of movies, resting in a sling attached to the ceiling of the two-story model shop. Edge's film and TV credits include Terminator 2, The Abyss, SeaQuest, Flipper, Zeus & Roxanne, Maverick, and White Squall.

Columbia Pictures approached Walt Conti, CEO of Edge Innovations, in early 1995 about Anaconda. From those initial meetings the design specifications and a list of capabilities for the snakes quickly formed. Engineers and artists spent weeks studying real anacondas. The final shape, however, involves a montage of viper, rattler, anaconda, and other reptiles. And though a real anaconda has about 300 vertebrae, engineers determined through a series of structural mockups that 60 joints would provide the snake with sufficient flexibility to look realistic.

Sleek means unique. From eight full-size, foam-rubber prototypes, the movie staff selected a moderately slim shape that measured (for the Queen) about 1.25 ft in diameter. For the engineers--who had to create the internal structure and mechanisms--this set the bar extremely high. "It's not like a dinosaur where you have this torso you can stuff all the mechanism in," says Conti. "It's this slender, extremely limited package that forced us to go custom on all our parts."

From the get go, engineers knew that the only technology that could power such a creation was hydraulics. "You could never get the necessary power density with anything else," says Boyce. But the design pushed well beyond the limits of ordinary fluid power. To obtain the required performance, engineers specified a 5,000-psi system powered by 200-hp pumps (600-hp peak capability with accumulators) built as mobile HPUs by B & T Hydraulics (Sacramento, CA). The units feature full remote monitoring and control capability--a must, since for noise reasons they were placed more than 250 ft from the movie set.

Filters strain the hydraulic fluid down to 3 microns. The snakes had to operate in dirt and water, and any contamination could easily clog the high-frequency response servo valves and necessitate removing a snake's skin for maintenance.

The skin is a proprietary formulation of thick, low-durometer urethane rubber. Some 40,000 scales cover the surface, sculpted by hand into clay mold forms by more than a dozen people working for several weeks.

Each snake mounts at its midpoint to a pedestal through which the hydraulic lines and electrical cables enter the body. The pedestals rotate 120 degrees, driven by a 17/8-inchbore cylinder with a 16-inch stroke. They are attached to poured concrete foundations around the set in order to counteract the more than five tons of reaction force the snakes can produce.

A total of 30 two-axis, stainless-steel universal joints (60 in all) extend forward and backward from the pedestal to form the snake's spine. Each joint, or "link," contains more than 250 components and operates through plus or minus 30 degrees. They are driven by two hydraulic actuators--one for the X-axis and another for the Y-axis--controlled by servo valves developed in conjunction with Dynamic Valve, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA).

Amazingly, no two links are alike. Instead, each is custom designed for its position on the snake's body, and use unique servos and cylinders ranging in bore from 13/4 to 1/2 inches that provide strokes from less than an inch to 3 or 4 inches. Engineers even designed their own fasteners and a line of custom hose fittings when no off-the-shelf items would do.

"The form factor drove everything," says Joss Geiduschek, general manager at Edge. "We were sweating a tenth of an inch in packaging, because even bumps that small would show through the skin and destroy the illusion."

The only stock items they chose were hydraulic hoses from Parker Hannifin (Cleveland, OH) and Furon (Laguna Niguel, CA), and O-ring seals from Apple Rubber Products (Lancaster, NY). "Apple had an incredibly thorough selection of the odd seal sizes we needed," says Boyce.

An elaborate system of sensors provides information, such as joint angle and various loading values--though engineers consider the force-feedback system proprietary and would not elaborate. Signals travel on the more than 40 miles of 30-gauge, medical-grade wire supplied by Cooner Wire Co. (Chatsworth, CA). The wires also carry command and control information for the 120 servo valves.

Routing the hoses and wires through the maze of joints proved so challenging that Edge hired one technician to focus only on this task. Engineers also created full-scale, geometrically precise mechanical mockups out of aluminum to help determine plumbing paths that wouldn't bind. "It was a completely Zen thing," says Geiduschek. "You had to visualize the empty spaces between the links and understand how that space could change."

  • Accelerate a slim, 5,500-lb object at realistic snake-strike speeds, and also let it slither slowly and menacingly.

  • Withstand the force of a cascading waterfall.

  • Operate under water for extended periods.

Heads and tails. The design of the head posed special challenges for mechanical engineer Tom Hsiu. He needed to stuff mechanisms for the jaw, eyes, tongue, and lips in the same space artistic designers wanted to place important cosmetic features, like the teeth and epiglottis. In addition, for both cosmetic and maintenance reasons, every fastener, actuator, wire, hose, and connector had to be accessible from inside the mouth.

Early on, engineers opted to drive all the head mechanisms off the primary 5,000-psi hydraulics. This solution avoided the complication of a second, low-pressure hydraulic circuit or electric motors, which would have required waterproofing and larger wires routed the length of the snake. But it also presented problems. With far more power available than needed, Hsiu had to create mechanical fuses for many components that, should a mechanism become jammed, would fail before more delicate components would break.

Due to space limits, the eyes run off a single actuator and only have the ability to focus. The cylinder has a 3/8-inch bore--providing up to 500 lbs of force--and attaches to the actuator via quick disconnect links found in model airplanes. "These are the most powerful eyes in the world," jokes Hsiu. "Nothing will prevent these eyes from focusing."

The mouth opens 90 degrees using an over-center, four-bar linkage that, to look natural, drops the lower jaw first before the top begins moving. Inside the mouth is the head's most interesting device, the tongue. It not only extends eight inches and rapidly retracts, but also "waggles" up and down in a convincing snake-like manner.

Hsiu accomplishes the extension/retraction with a rack and pinion mechanism. A single cylinder drives the rack, turning the pinion, which, in turn, winds a small stainless-steel chain to move the tongue. To get the waggle, he made the core of the tongue from two thin metal strips connected only at the tongue's tip. At the limit of travel, a cam drives the two strips differentially in pulses, causing the tongue to flutter up and down. "With this design, we get the extension, retraction, and excitation with just one cylinder," he explains.

A similar mechanism controls 36 small joints that taper to a point at the tip of the snake's tail. It uses two hydraulic actuators to drive rack-and-pinion assemblies connected to a pair of pulleys. The pulleys, in turn, carry cables that move the tail either horizontally or vertically.

Input meets output. Building a 120-axis hydraulic snake is only half of the equation. The other half: controlling it.

"Above all else, it had to move realistically," Conti explains. "A snake's entire personality comes from it's movement. It was paramount that we get it right."

Engineers developed, in house, what Boyce describes as "the most sophisticated control system any of us has ever seen." It features 480 analog channels and more than 70 microprocessors--a combination of DSPs and Intel Pentium Pros--that can crunch 2.4 gigaflops of floating-point processing power.

No fewer than six computer monitors can display the performance of any joint in real time. The operator can set the control loop parameters individually for each axis. Numerous filters and damping characteristics can be applied to alter the snake's "personality" for special situations. "It has the capability for a 24th order control-loop closure," Boyce explains.

The control system feeds the snake preprogrammed moves--called "key frames" -- which consist of a series of snake positions placed at desired time intervals. To get from one key frame to the next, the system interpolates the position of each joint at every point along the path.

During a shot, the rate at which the snake moves along the preprogrammed path is determined by a puppeteer turning a knob attached to a rotary potentiometer. Turn the knob clockwise, and the snake advances from one key frame to the next at a speed proportional to the pot's rate of rotation. Turn it counterclockwise, and the snake retreats along the same path.

Select functions--such as the tongue, eyes, jaw, and neck--are also manually controlled by puppeteers with joysticks. This allows the snake to react in a realistic way to the natural flow of scenes during a shot.

After all, the ultimate goal of building such a sophisticated hydraulic robot was to produce the largest, most realistic man-eating anaconda possible. "We go to all this trouble for one reason," says Dave Caldwell, Edge's model shop supervisor. "It's for the moment when people see it for the very first time and say, 'whoa, that's really fantastic.'"

Animation software directs snake's performance

To program sequences of moves into the snake, electrical engineer John Williams created a custom animation program. It applies the "key frame" animation concept in which a user orients an image of the snake on a computer screen in a discrete number of positions--as few as two--and then the computer calculates the path the snake must take to travel from one key frame to the next. Move sequences can then be saved to a file and transferred to the snake's hydraulic control system for playback later.

Initially, engineers used Alias Animator from Alias/Wavefront (Toronto) to do the same task. But the general-purpose nature of that software program made work out of animating move sequences. As an alternative, Williams worked up his Snake Animator with Delphi and Object Pascal from Borland running on Microsoft Windows NT.

Snake Animator can display one, two, or more views of a scene, complete with a three-dimensional snake model mounted to a pedestal. Specific movie sets can be shown, as can such limits as water levels and ceilings.

To position the snake, an operator manipulates on-screen slider controls that correspond to actuators in the snake's body. He or she can also input key-frame positions using a "waldo," a three-ft-long miniature replica of the snake outfitted with pairs of potentiometers at each of the 60 joints. In a way, the waldo acts like an extremely complex computer mouse for controlling the on-screen snake image.

During filming, Williams worked 15-hr days tweaking ongoing shots and programming the next day's action. Linked to the snake control system, his software also functions as a positional feedback tool. "Without it, you wouldn't know where the snake was when it was under water," he says.

Holy moving telescope!

Holy moving telescope!

Burbank, CA--Deep within the cavernous Warner Brothers facility that serves as Batman's lair in the just-released Batman and Robin movie, engineers late last year found themselves scratching their heads over a vexing Bat-problem: How to rotate, pivot, and extend a massive 45-ft-long telescope for the movie's key scenes. After scribbling out some rough calculations, they realized they'd be moving as much as 97,000 lbs.

While engineers struggled with the problem, however, one aspect of it became clear: The prime movers must be hydraulic. "At the time, it was the largest and heaviest moving prop in film history," notes Mark Yuricich, an independent special effects engineer who worked on Batman and Robin. "The only way to move it accurately was with fluid."

Indeed, "fluid" has become the answer to a growing variety of special effects riddles. Before the dust began to settle on the Batman set, engineers had already used fluid power to break cinematic engineering records on two other films: Speed 2 and Titanic. For sheer mass, both movies exceeded Batman and Robin, with Titanic hoisting an incredible 1.8 million lbs.

The use of fluid power in such movies as Batman and Robin has surprised no one in the industry, having long been used to move big movie props. But now, with special effects growing more realistic and props growing bigger and bulkier, fluid power has taken on a greater role. In many cases, no other power medium can replace it.

"Electrical drives don't have the required power," notes Greg Paddock, hydraulic territory manager for Parker Hannifin Motion and Control Group, Irvine, CA. "And if they did, you still wouldn't have the luxury of placing an electric actuator near the item that you are moving. Size prohibits it. That's the real advantage of hydraulics--power density."

For the movie Batman and Robin, hydraulics not only provided power density, but supplied speed. Cylinders for the telescope's extend function, for example, needed to move huge loads as fast as 48 inches per second. A special platform for close-up shots needed to move at 60 inches per second.

On the telescope, the movie's engineers faced four main tasks: design a lower pivot; design an upper pivot; extend the telescope; and rotate it, along with an attached 50-ft-diameter platform. Hydraulic power accomplished all these critical tasks:

Lower pivot. The telescope, located in the fictional Gotham City Observatory, was attached to two huge counterbalance arms. The arms counterbalanced the weight of the fully extended, cantilevered telescope. But they also provided two pivot points, from which the telescope could swing up and down. The lower pivot points, located at the base of each counterbalance arm, employed Parker Series 2H Heavy Duty hydraulic cylinders. The cylinders attached to the platform beneath each arm. By pushing up on the bottom surface of each arm, they could swing the telescope up. To provide the lifting force, each cylinder used a 72-inch stroke, six-inch-diameter bore, and a four-inch-diameter rod, providing a travel speed of seven inches per second.

  • Upper pivot. A cross member spanning the distance between the two counterbalance arms served as the upper pivot point. Engineers employed a single Parker 2H Heavy Duty cylinder on top of the cross member at the centerline of the telescope. The cylinder, which had a six-inch bore and four-inch-diameter rod, tilted the telescope up at a rate of 19 inches per second by pushing on its bottom surface.

  • Extension. The telescope, which consisted of a smaller tube nested within a larger one, needed to extend at speeds reaching 48 inches per second. Engineers accomplished that by pushing on the inner tube with another heavy-duty cylinder. Fully extended, the cylinder pushed the nested inner tube out a distance of 111 inches.

  • Rotation. The 45-ft-long telescope, along with the 50-ft-diameter platform that supported it, was required to rotate at a speed of 3 rpm. The solution: four Parker MZG hydraulic motors, each mounted to their own rubber wheels through planetary gear reducer hubs. Powered by the hydraulic motors, the wheels rode on a circular metal track, providing the torque to move the 97,000-lb structure. A key element of the rotating platform design included the use of modulating control valves at each actuator port and Parker proportional valves. The modulating control valves provided a measure of safety for actors and stunt people during the movie's fight scenes, which take place atop the telescope. The proportional valves also supplied smooth control over acceleration, deceleration, velocity, and position of the platform.

By taking such pains in the construction of the telescope and the design of its motion systems, engineers attained the scientific look that the movie's producers sought. "The telescope had to move on camera and the movie's principal actors had to stand on top of it," Yuricich says. "It needed to have the look and feel of authenticity."

Special effects challenges. Movement of the Gotham City telescope wasn't the only problem facing the picture's special effects engineers. Warner Brothers also called on them to build a special gimbal for close-up scenes and a "Batlift" to lift the Batmobile and Batcycle.

The gimbal, designed to replicate the top portion of the telescope where the fight scenes take place, was initially constructed as a safety measure. Actors, who would have stood more than 40 ft above floor level on the telescope, needed only to stand about seven ft up on the gimbaled platform. The design also enabled the production's camera crew to take tighter shots of the actors, because it kept cameras closer to the action.

The gimbaled platform, which measured about 25-ft by 25-ft square, tilts back and forth at an angle of plus or minus 22 degrees at speeds up to 60 inches per second. Because it was a half-replica version of the telescope, it also needed to rotate like the original.

  • Lift and rotate a 45-ft-long, 97,000-lb telescope and platform at 3 rpm, and extend telescope at 48 inches per second.

  • Move a half-size replica of the telescope at 60 inches per second.

  • Simultaneously raise and rotate at 3 rpm a 50-ft-diameter, 65,000-lb platform holding the Batmobile, Bat Cycle, and 50 people.

  • Design a sealing system that would be 100% leakproof.

To facilitate all those movements, Yuricich worked with Parker Hannifin engineers to create a gimbaled platform that could be actuated from each side. The team placed one Parker Series 2H cylinder at opposite edges of the platform, then tilted it back and forth like a teeter-totter. To achieve the necessary forces and motion angles, they employed four-inch-bore cylinders with 41.5-inch strokes. Rotation of the platform was achieved in the same manner as the real telescope: four hydraulic motors mounted on rubber wheels and controlled by proportional valves.

From an engineering standpoint, however, the Batlift may have been most challenging of the film's special effects. Unlike the telescope, the Batlift was designed to lift and rotate. The 50-ft-diameter platform needed to elevate the Batmobile, Batcycle, and up to 50 people, while rotating at 3 rpm. Including the weight of the support structure, engineers estimated that a loaded Batlift would weigh more than 65,000 lbs. During the movie, the Batlift elevates the vehicles from unseen depths up to the Batcave floor.

Engineers achieved all the goals for the Batlift by designing a support structure, or "lifting ring," that hoisted the Batlift's upper platform into place. The lifting ring was essentially a 50-ft-diameter circular steel truss structure supported by eight steel towers. A metal track on the ring's outer perimeter enabled the upper platform to sit atop the lifting ring and rotate independently from it. As a result, the platform rotated while the lifting ring raised and lowered the load.

Lifting action was generated by a large Parker Series 3H Heavy Duty cylinder with a 10-inch bore and a 4.5-inch-diameter rod. The cylinder, which had a 96-inch stroke, hoisted the platform by attaching to steel pulleys on the towers, which, in turn, lifted the ring. When the cylinder extended, the Batlift moved eight ft at a speed of 12 inches per second. When it retracted, the Batlift moved back down.

Torque for the Batlift's rotation was provided by four hydraulic motors. These were attached to the rubber wheels that rode on the lifting ring's track.

Sealing a key. Although the ability to generate forces was key to the use of hydraulics in Batman and Robin, engineers say that sealing technology proved equally critical. The reason: Big budget productions can stand no downtime.

"You have to design for 100% reliability on these films because downtime can cost between $10,000 and $100,000 per hour," Yuricich explains. "If you lose one hour due to unreliable components, people get very upset."

Led by Paddock, Parker's crew dealt with the issue of potential leakage by employing TS-2000 seals on glands and Hi-Load piston seals. The latter are specially designed for situations in which side-loads can potentially be applied to the pistons. They employ a pair of phenolic wear bands on two outer grooves in the piston and a pair of PTFE primary pressure seals on the inner grooves. Parker engineers also used face Seal-Lok fittings on all hoses and plumbing connections to allow for thermal expansion and to provide resistance against vibration.

The combination of reliability, speed, and power density made hydraulics an obvious choice for Batman and Robin, as well as for scores of upcoming films. "The need for high force and control capability narrows your choices down in most cases to hydraulics," Paddock says. "But in these props, space is also at a premium. And hydraulics allows you to mount the actuator in a nice, convenient package."

How to match fluids with seals

Parker Hannifin engineer Richard Swanson keeps a boxful of failed seals in his office, the better to illustrate the problems of material and fluid incompatibilities. "I regularly receive seals that have been damaged, simply because they've been placed in the wrong fluid," says Swanson, product manager for Parker Hannifin's Packing Div., Salt Lake City, UT.

Seal failures, relatively common when lifting huge loads such as those in Batman and Robin, can be dramatically reduced, says Swanson. "Selecting the right material for a given fluid is critical to the performance of the seal," he notes.

Software programs, such as Parker Hannifin's inPHorm, or the Elastomer Compatibility Guide from Green, Tweed & Co., helps engineers pick the proper material for a given fluid. Six different Parker Hannifin divisions offer specialized versions of the inPHorm software, including the Packing Div. and the O-Ring Div.

To use such programs, engineers typically designate the fluid, temperature range, and maximum pressure for their applications. For certain situations, programs may ask for such information as shaft speed or shaft length. Programs such as inPHorm offer a scrollable list of more than 1,000 fluids from which to choose. Typically, they respond with five or six potential materials, then steer the user to a single one. The advantage of such systems, Swanson says, is that they take the guesswork out for the engineer. Ultimately, they also make seals perform more effectively.

Hot products

Hot products

Easy-mold grade of TPUs unveiled

The Thermoplastic Elastomers Div. of GLS Corp. has introduced its next generation of ultra-soft Dynaflex(R) thermoplastic elastomer compounds. Key to the appeal of the G7900 series is its easy-to-mold characteristics combined with its softness (30 Shore A to 80 Shore A). The line is particularly well-suited for the molding of large, complex parts with uniform low gloss and critical surface appearance requirements. Potential applications include: sporting goods, appliances, lawn and garden equipment, office furniture, and tools. GLS Corp., FAX (401) 245-1242.

Material sets 'new standard' for EPDMs

DuPont Dow Elastomers has debuted a new line of EPDM products based on INSITETM process and catalyst technology. The new product family, called Nordel IP hydrocarbon rubber, "will make it possible for us to deliver consistent performance at a level previously not available to EPDM users," reports Steve Compher, global Nordel business manager. The initial product line meets the performance requirements of a broad range of EPDM applications, from molded goods to calendared sheet to extrusions. DuPont Dow Elastomers. Ph: (800) 853-5515.

Urethane design guide dissects TPUs

An eight-page, full-color guide from JPS Elastomerics Corp. offers in-depth information about the design advantages of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), including specific details of the company's own Stevens urethane film and sheet. Detailed are the properties and performance characteristics of TPU that make the material increasingly popular for high-performance, critical "can't fail" applications. The company's in-depth technical support is also covered. JPS Elastomerics Corp., FAX (413) 552-1199.

'World's first' flexible metallocene foam

Sentinel Products Corp. has introduced FMPTM, a flexible metallocene polypropylene foam, for automotive interiors. The material is said to be twice as soft and possess better thermal stability properties than conventional crosslinked polypropylene (PP) foams now on the market. It is inherently flexible and, unlike PVC or PP, will not lose resilience or become brittle over time. The material contains no plasticizers, which can contribute to window fogging, or toxic substances. Sentinel Products Corp., FAX (508) 771-1554.

Inflatable tanks store, transport liquids

Liquitank from the French company PRONAL is a line of flexible rubber containers that come in various shapes and sizes for storing and transporting liquid materials, including chemicals. The inflatable containers are flame-retardant, UV- and ozone-resistant, air tight, and inhibit the growth of microbes, bacteria, and fungus. Tank capacities range from 5 to 92,000 gal. Recently developed units for use inside ISO containers are said to be ideal for road, cargo plane, or maritime transportation of food stuffs and industrial chemicals. PRONAL, FAX +33 3 20 99 75 20.

TPE bonds to nylon and nylon blends

Advanced Elastomer Systems, L.P. has created thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) grades that can bond with Nylon 6 and blends thereof with excellent adhesion, according to Peter Kay, worldwide program manager. The Santoprene(R) rubber grades should enable designers and manufacturers to develop components with a high-performing elastomer bond to an engineering resin. Previously, the Santoprene rubber grades bonded only to polypropylene. Advanced Elastomer Systems, L.P., FAX (330) 849-5599

BF Goodrich doubles TPU investment

BF Goodrich Specialty Plastics has more than doubled its investment in its Estane Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) division by increasing the manufacturing capacity at its primary domestic plant in Avon Lake, OH. The investment involves a 300% increase in operating floor space; the acquisition of new equipment in its pilot, product, and compound lines; and the creation of a new application development and testing laboratory. The new capacity will allow for more flexibility to make innovative, custom products for a variety of applications, notes Paul Mollinger, manufacturing manager. BF Goodrich Specialty Plastics, FAX (216) 447-5361.

Product news

Product news


The TRIPLESHIEDTM capacitive sensors eliminate environmental interference or static discharges The immunity against electrical discharge is higher than 17 kV and the sensors are immune to interference up to 15 V/m.

Interfering signals from mobile telephones in the 900 MHz range become irrelevant. The insensitivity to spikes, caused by switching motors on or off, for example, could be doubled from 2 kV to more than 4 kV. The sensors are available in several designs including a space-saving flat housing, and lead and plug versions. Carlo Gavazzi AG, Steinhausen, Switzerland, FAX (011) +41 41 740 45 40.


Suitable for use with the Parker Pneumatic range of rodless cylinders and 3D Carrier units, this patented compact brake replaces the standard rodless carriage. Should air pressure failure occur in the system, a simple mechanism ensures that any load linked to the carriage stops . The brake can also be used as a parking device enabling the load to be held in position while a task is being performed. Available in three sizes, the brake can be fitted to 25, 32, and 40-mm rodless cylinders and size 1, 2, and 3 Carrier Units. Parker Hannifin GmbH, Koln, Germany.

Linear module

The Module MKL 20-110 comprises a brushless dc electric linear motor and a size 20 Star ball rail system. The linear motor is integrated into the aluminum precision profile of the Linear Module MKK 25-100. The carriage and the permanent magnet stem do not come into contact with each other. The weight of the payload is transmitted solely to the profiled rail system. Since there are no internal moving parts, the linear motor is not subject to wear and is maintenance free. Applications include automation, medical and biomedical equipment, printing systems, electronics, and the packaging industry. Deutsche Star GmbH, Schweinfurt, Germany, FAX (011) +49 97 21 9 37 0.


The SchaevitzTM PS-3300 Series silicone pressure transducer features an innovative modular design. The unit offers OEMs a combination of low-cost and application flexibility without sacrificing performance. The modular design, which uses the same pressure sensor and electronics module, allows custom versions to be supplied to OEMs with short lead times. Lucas Control Systems Products, Slough, England, FAX (011) +44 1753 823563.

Universal input SMPS

The PU Series universal input SMPS is offered in single-, dual-, triple-, and quad-output units and with power ratings of 30, 40, 65, and 100W, all based on a low-component-count flyback converter, constructed on a single open-frame PCB. All units operate from any input voltage from 85 to 264V ac. The highest power unit in the Series is 200W, constructed as a single circuit board mounted in a metal U channel that provides mechanical support and heat sinking. This unit has autoranging on the input 90 to 130V and 180 to 260V ac, and uses a single-ended forward converter with magnetic amplifier and linear stabilized secondaries. Powerbox Europe AB, Gnesta, Sweden, FAX (011) +46 158 70300.

Rotor production centre

3EX rotor production centre accommodates advanced manufacturing systems such as automatic tool changing and workpiece clamping. Features include hydrostatic bearings in the workhead for higher stiffness and better accuracy, 130-mm bore spindle in the workhead to allow automatic chucking with rear-mounted actuating mechanism, and hydrostatic ways on the cutter-head infeed slide for higher stiffness and better infeed control. A range of ISO tooling offers consistent changeover between rotor sizes, and allows tools to be located on both the tool management centre and the rotor production centre at the same location. Holroyd, Milnrow, England, FAX (011) +44 1706 353350.


Strain-relief, liquid-tight SKINTOP II connector is UL, CSA, VDE, and SEV certified. The unit consists of three parts: an internal ratchet mechanism; a collet finger, which can accommodate a large range of cords, tubes, and cable diameters; and a neoprene compression gland. The ratchet mechanism allows the cap to be tightened without twisting the cord as it is compressed, pushing the collet fingers together to form a liquid-tight seal with the neoprene compression gland. SKINTOP II is useful for panel, switch, control equipment, and machine-tool applications. Olflex Wire & Cable Inc., 30 Plymouth St., Fairfield, NJ, FAX (201) 575-7178.


Millennium bridgehandle is available in 93.5-, 117-, 132-, and 179-mm between centers and can be supplied in two versions, either with a plain bore for use with a socket-cap screw or attached from the underside using a brass-molded insert. Indexable clamping handle is available in four handle lengths: 43, 65, 83, and 104 mm. It comes with a snap-fit cap instead of the usual steel set screw, giving the operator complete electrical insulation as well as a comfortable grip. Both products are produced in a high-impact-resistant glass-filled nylon and are available in a wide range of cadmium-free colors. RENCOL, DFS International Inc., Lake Ellenor Dr., Orlando, FL 32809, FAX (407) 858-9601.

Thermoplastic bearings

Thermoplastic bearings and assemblies offer flexibility and can be integrated with any number of components such as gears, fixing clips, and housing while still maintaining the rolling element bearing as the central feature. The integration opportunity can provide customers with a ready-made assembly replacing any number of individual components. Free design and prototype services are available. Sarnatech BNL Ltd., Knaresborough, England, FAX (011) +44 1423-862259.


The modular software package PC WorX is used for planning, parameterization, and diagnostics of the entire Interbus network and of individual devices. Once the data has been keyed in, it is available to the programmer and the maintenance personnel. The programs developed with this software can operate in an industrial PC or a decentralized, intelligent control node, without any modifications having to be carried out. The software supports all programming languages laid down in IEC 1131. Phoenix Contact, Blomberg, Germany, FAX (011) +49 52 35 3418 25.


Altivar 18 is a ready-to-use frequency converter for 0.37 to 15 kW asynchronous motors. With integrated EMC filters across the range, it reduces the number of add-ons required and the time taken to set up a control system. The unit provides thermal protection of the motor and controller and protection against short circuits, mains supply overvoltage and undervoltage, and automatic restarting. Altivar 18 offers inexpensive solutions including energy saving, four preset speeds, JOG step-by-step operation, PI regulator, flying restart, and fast stop. Schneider Electric S.A., Rueil, Malmaison, France, FAX (011) +33 01 41 29 8913.


With airtight separation between the pilot and the fluid, Series 110 mini solenoid valves are for applications where the fluid must never come in contact with the electromagnetic part of the valve. These two- or three-ported valves have been created for the control of fluids with high-alkyline or high-acid levels or with oxidizing agents. Stainless-steel internal parts and diaphragms/discs in EPDM synthetic rubber allow the valves to handle all fluid control needs in food and medical applications. Asco Joucomatic, Rueil, France, FAX (011) +33 47-51-81-36.

Motor program

A-max dc-motor program provides high performance at an economical cost. Motor housings are precision-made from rolled steel. A reduced-diameter commutator employs more segments and provides longer life. The series includes seven motors from 12 to 40 mm, and versions with precious-metal or graphite brushes, sleeve or ball bearings, and double-ended shafts. Maxon Precision Motors Inc., 838 Mitten Rd., Burlingame, CA 94010, FAX (415) 697-2887.

Metal injection molding

Metal injection molding (MIM) is a metal forming process that combines the advantages of injection molding and sintering. It provides a cost-effective method of producing small, complex, and close-tolerance metal parts with accuracy. Metalor 2000, Mizra, Israel, FAX (011) +972 6-528558.

Positioning control option

The IPOS integral positioning control option supports all major expansion stages and applications of the SEW MOVITRAC(R) 31C frequency inverters and MOVIDYN(R) servo controllers. This option allows point-to-point control of motions in a short time with optimum accuracy. The positioning program can contain up to 100 lines or a maximum of 256 variables. Individual operations can be programmed by a set of commands. In addition, the IPOS offers the user a multitude of variations such as: individual change in speed with the override, on-the-fly detection of the position by touch probe, and manual approach of a position. SEW-EURODRIVE GmbH & Co., Bruchsal, Germany, FAX (011) +49 07251 75 1149.

Spool valve

The WLA3 4-way directional control valve is 26 mm square with a nominal diameter of 3 mm. This valve can be used in a temperature range from -40 to 120C without problems. Features include a maximum pressure of 250 bar, a maximum flow rate of 8 l/min, and a low leakage rating. Solenoid operation exists at 12/24V dc to 110/220V ac. Applications include use in snow cannons, power-supply units for lawn mowers, and industrial trucks. Knapp Microhydraulik KG, Postfach, Barbing, FAX (011) +44 09401 7 85 50.


An extensive range of output components has been extended by the 93- x 45-mm relay coupler version. The PLC System Interface, a product range that is responsible for transfer wiring in control cabinets, reduces installation times. The coupler version system consists of three parts: a PLC compatible I/O connector, a pre-prepared multiple-core round cable with plug connectors at both ends, and a passive or active I/O module. Eight relays with change-over contacts on the RS F10 8R OUT/45 output module can be loaded. This compact module requires only one third of the space in the control cabinet as similar PLC interface modules. Weidmuller Interface GmbH & Co., Postfach, Detmold, FAX (011) +44 5231 14 11 03.

Cartridge valves

Pressure/flow screw-in cartridge valves reach pressures of 420 bar and flow to 500 litres/minute with minimal pressure drops. The units are designed concurrently with production to minimize the cost and hence price. Sterling Hydraulics Ltd., FAX (011) +44 01460 72334.

Magnetic switches

Leads on these magnetic reed switches can be lengthened, shortened, bent, or welded to fit almost any application without eliminating intrinsic reliability. The standard switch range offers dc contact ratings from 3 to 100W, maximum switching currents from 0.25 to 3A, and maximum switching voltages from 100 to 7,500V dc. Also included in the product range are dry reed and mercury wetted relays; position, motion, and inertia/impact sensors; fluid level sensors; level control interface units; and flow switches. Gentech International Ltd., Duffy Int'l., Box 328, Braintree, MA 02184, FAX (617) 848-3171.

Polyurethane foams

Polyurethane (PU) foams improve the acoustic performance of vehicle interiors with molecular control of the elastic modulus and viscoelasticity. This allows the flexible foams to be tuned to match the specific noise and vibration signature of any vehicle. Acoustic attenuation is achieved by isolating and absorbing noise and vibrations generated by the engine, suspension, and tires. ICI Polyurethanes, Everslan, Everburg, FAX (011) +44 02 759 55 01.


The HFUS Series of hollow-shaft gears includes component sets and units that offer a compact design with an integrated output bearing and a large, central, hollow shaft through the gear. The hollow shaft has a diameter of up to 30% of the unit's outside diameter. The HFUS products are available in nine sizes with torque capacities ranging from 18 to 1,840 Nm and standard reduction ratios of 50 to 160. Harmonic Drive Antriebstechnik GmbH, Limburg/Lahn, Germany, FAX (011) +49 6431-5008-18.


Hall-effect clamps offer high-performance electrical characteristics and a user-friendly design. Digital technology built into the clamps provides automatic dc zero adjust. By simply pressing a key, the user will obtain perfect offset with no further adjustments. The voltage output uses an attached 0.5-mm cord. Chauvin Arnoux, Paris, France, FAX (011) +33 46-27-73-89.

Linear motors

The PLATINUMTM Direct Drive Linear (DDL) Series is a brushless permanent magnet design that replaces traditional mechanical assemblies in many applications. The Series consists of two constructions: Ironcore and Ironless motors. With a peak force of 300 to 8,000N, Ironcore motors have a high rated force per frame size and a patented anti-cogging design. The Ironless motors have no attractive force between the coil and magnet components, zero cogging for smooth motion, and a peak force of 120 to 800N. Applications include use in semiconductor wafer handling and inspection. Kollmorgen Motion Technologies Group, 201 Rock Rd., Radford, VA 24141.


The LS TB-START is a standard soft-start motor that operates on a 3-phase 400V plus or minus 10% 50 Hz power supply. Features include motor soft starting with current limiting, thermal relay, and torque limiter for an overpower function. Since the electronics are separated from the connection zone, connections are always made on a traditional terminal block, offering considerable savings in wiring compared to a starter that requires six interconnecting wires. LEROY-SOMER, Leroy, Angouleme, FAX (011) +33 05 45 64 44 24.


Project Engineering System (PEGS) 9.1.1 is an electrical and instrumentation application. At the heart of the program is a flexible data model that allows attributes to be assigned to items and the ownership hierarchy of these items. The system can be instructed to recognize panels as sub-components of cabinets or terminal blocks as sub-components of a panel. PEGS 9.1.1 integrates the data between the piping and instrumentation drawings and the electrical and instrumentation diagrams. CADCENTRE Ltd., 120 Cooper Ave., Upper Montclaire, NJ, USA.

Power transmission products

Bison G line includes the 300 DC Series, which matches parallel shaft gearbox with a continuous duty-rated 180V dc permanent magnet dc motor. The series is rated for torques up to 43.5 Nm, with gear ratios ranging from 5:1 to 245:1. The motors used on these units are rated for up to 0.12 kW. The 650 Series offers a compact package, outputs up to 81.5 Nm, and speeds from 1 to 150 rpm. It is available with gear ratios from 11:1 to 1,413:1. Bison Gear & Engineering, 2424 Wisconsin Ave., Downers Grove, IL 60515, FAX (630) 968-3049.

Shaft encoder program

The RA 58-S 14-bit absolute value shaft encoder features a gray and binary code, parallel and CAN bus interferences, and connection via cable or Conin plug. Applications include use in general mechanical engineering; the packaging industry; and construction of lifts, drives, robots, and printing machines. Hengstler GmbH, Postfach, Aldingen, FAX (011) +49 07424 89 481.


OM 10 micro-ohmmeter is used for four-wire resistance measurement from low values up to 50 k{OMEGA}. The unit can measure dc and ac voltages and ambient temperature, and includes thermal emf and temperature compensation. OM 10 is suited for on-site measurement, is fitted with a removable stand, and is powered by an external mains charger so it can also be used on a bench. AOIP Instrumentation, Evry, France, FAX (011) +33 1-60-79-08-37.


K1 seal is manufactured from a porous synthetic resin. The material is oil impregnated to further improve lubrication and enhance long-term guide performance. In tests, linear guides equipped with K1 seals achieved lubrication-free running to distances in excess of 25,000 km. Applications include environments where oil-related pollution must be prevented including the food industry, and semi-conductor and medical equipment manufacture. NSK-RHP Europe Ltd., Clifton, England, (011) +44 115-936-6466.


The LS TB-START is a standard soft-start motor that operates on a 3-phase 400V plus or minus 10% 50 Hz power supply. Features include motor soft starting with current limiting, thermal relay, and torque limiter for an overpower function. Since the electronics are separated from the connection zone, connections are always made on a traditional terminal block, offering considerable savings in wiring compared to a starter that requires six interconnecting wires. LEROY-SOMER, Leroy, Angouleme, FAX (011) +33 05 45 64 44 24.


Repairable metric pneumatic cylinders conform to both ISO 6431 and VDMA 24562 standards and have a life expectancy rating of 3,000 km. Features include a lightweight, corrosion-resistant extruded-aluminum body; 303 stainless-steel rod, spin-riveted to a high-strength aluminum alloy piston; shock-absorbing pads for noise reduction; and internally lubricated polyurethane piston and rod seals. Bimba Mfg. Co., Box 68, Monee, IL 60449, (708) 534-5767.

Slide bearings

Two hydrodynamically lubricated slide bearings are for shaft diameters between 55 and 100 mm. The EM 92 and ZM7 models are center-flanged mounted units which are self lubricated using an oil ring. Self-lubrication enables peripheral speeds of up to 28 m/s on the shaft. Available options include insulated construction to deal with shaft currents or an oil cooler which is integrated into the bearing and needs no external oil supply. RENK AG, Augsburg, Germany, FAX (011) +49 821 5700 226.


A belt-driven linear actuator facilitates accurate positioning and controlled speed at long strokes and high velocities. The transmission is enclosed in a slotted aluminum extrusion and the slot is covered by a stainless-steel sealing band that protects against dust. The unit is equipped with permanent magnets for position sensing and the extrusion has longitudinal grooves for proximity switches, mountings, and external guides. The unit is available in sizes 25, 32, and 50. Maximum action force for size 25 is 50N and the maximum velocity is 2 m/sec. Hoerbiger-Origa AB, Kungsor, Sweden, FAX (011) +46 227 411 29.

Component production

The VARDEX Micro tool provides the complete solution for hi-tech component production. This multi-system tool requires only one holder for threading, grooving, and boring applications. Micro grooving permits both plunging and turning. The Micro multi-holder also incorporates a through coolant channel and stopper screw. The inserts, produced from high-quality carbide, have two cutting corners and are PVD coated to guarantee long tool life and smooth surface finish. VARGUS Ltd., Nahariya, Israel, FAX (011) +972 04 9825 810.

Presentation tool

The PC-based Interactive White Board (IWB) is a presentation tool. Ideas or illustrations written on the IWB are captured as a Windows file on a PC. Recorded in color, these notes can be made available for meetings via e-mail or fax. Numonics Inc., Montgomeryville, PA, FAX (215) 361-0167.

SRAM family

The Dual-port SRAM family allows pipelined operations, achieving greater performance when transferring bursts of data, and reducing design time by easily attaching to synchronous DSPs, ASICs, microprocessors, and controllers. The dual-ports are also available in flow-through versions which are suitable for random access to individual memory locations and quick transitions from write-to-read operations. During a synchronous write operation, the processor need only apply address and data to the chip for 5 ns. Integrated Device Technology USA, Box 58015, Santa Clara, CA 95052, FAX (408) 492-8674.

Variable-speed motor

The frequency-controlled variable-speed motor fits inside a stylish, purpose-built terminal box. The motor is available from 0.55 to 4 kW and 380 to 480V, using standard motor frames from 80 to 112. Features include compactness, lower installation and running costs, and freedom from EMC problems. Applications include use in both demanding motor-control applications and in less complex situations. Brook Hansen, Huddersfield, England FAX (011) +44 1484 559856.

Circuit boards

These flexible circuit boards are capable of bearing loads up to 30 bar at temperatures ranging from -40 to 50C. A rubber-coated solution allows for flexible housing and static sealing in a single component. This multi-functional sealing component combines the sealing and technical functions necessary for use in sealing fuels, motor oils, and other lubricants. Freudenberg Dichtungs, Weinheim, Germany, FAX (011) +49 06201 88 27 19.


2M2A actuator is a pneumatic bellows-type air cylinder. The maximum diameter is 56 mm. It can utilize pressures from 0 to 7 bar. At 7 bar it can lift 890N. With a minimum height of 31 mm, the 2M2A is well suited for small space applications and provides smooth, flexible actuation. Firestone Industrial Products Co., 701 Congressional Blvd., Carmel, IN 46032, FAX (317) 580-2345.


Series F connectors meet the requirements of the demanding motor-racing industry and are for both engine-management and data-logging applications. The connectors offer weight and space savings and feature a scoop-proof push-pull self-latching system, color-coded keyway identification, and an integral heatshrink boot adaptor. The units are housed in a rugged aluminum-alloy shell with an anthracite conductive finish and are qualified to withstand rapid temperature changes from -65 to 200C, as well as severe shock and vibrations. LEMO SA, Ecublens, Switzerland, FAX (011) +41 21-691-16-26.

Modular enclosures

PROLINETM modular enclosures fulfill a wide variety of uses in industrial, electronic, telecommunications, and networking applications. They meet all existing and emerging international standards for protection and equipment mounting. Features include a stronger, lighter frame; a wider frame opening; EMI/RFI protection; streamlined styling; and universal mounting options. Enclosures can be used for tough industrial applications where protection is needed from dust, oil, water, and other contaminants. Hoffman Engineering, 900 Ehlen Dr., Anoka, MN 55303, FAX (612) 422-2178.


SL2 linear slides are corrosion resistant and maintenance free, making them suitable for applications in hostile conditions and in clean rooms. The flat slide range offered: 12, 25, 35, 44, 50, 60, and 76 mm. These options provide the user with a flexible system capable of many design possibilities. Low-friction characteristics allow the SL2 slides to operate dry with no slide lubrication. Hepco Slide Systems Ltd., Tiverton, England, FAX (011) +44 1884 243500.

Level switch

Series KN capacitive sensors are for applications where level limits of bulk goods and liquids in containers must be monitored. The devices have a built-in microprocessor, enabling the user to carry out various operating functions by pressing buttons on the device or via a separate programming line. A sensor circuit ensures a high level of resistance to electrical interference. Two units are available for flush or non-flush mounting. The flush version is suitable for the detection of bulk goods in direct contact. ifm electronic gmbh, Essen, Germany, FAX (011) +49 201 2422 200.

Sealing rivet

The POP(R) closed-end, stainless-steel, sealing rivet is for high-strength, tight fastening in vapor or liquid applications. The mandrel head of the rivet is completely enclosed in a cup shape, forming a tight seal that prevents passage of vapor or liquid at pressures up to 500 psi. The rivet reduces joint failure due to galvanic corrosion from dissimilar materials in moist and high-humidity environments. The POP(R) rivet also fastens the inside cladding and hardware on commercial vehicles and tightly seals stainless-steel cabinets, medical diagnostic equipment, and marine equipment. Emhart Industrial, Box 859, Shelton, CT 06484.


The Independently Steerable Pulley (ISP) allows a belt to be steered by adjusting the pulley surface without changing the pulley shaft's longitudinal axis. Adjustment is accomplished by loosening the pulley's steering collar and rotating it a few degrees. This changes the pulley's face angle relative to the shaft, thereby tracking the belt in the desired location. The ISP can be adjusted without using bearings or pillow blocks. Individual adjustment of multiple belts or pulleys on a common shaft is possible. Belt Technologies Inc., Box 468, Agawam, MA 01001, FAX (413) 786-9922.

Stepping motor drivers

The IB462 and IB463 miniature bipolar stepping motor drivers offer features normally found in larger drivers. The IB462 packs 160W of output power into a package less than 3 cubic inches; the IB463, only slightly larger, is 3.6 cubic inches with an output power rating of 230W at the inaudible chopping rate of 20 kH. Operating from a single dc supply from 12 to 40V, the IB462 can supply up to 2A per phase, and the IB463 can supply 3.5A per phase. Suitable for pc-board mounting or for frame/chassis mounting, both drives offer either full or half step and a step clock rate up to 40 KHz. Current output is pin adjustable with an external resistor. Both models offer pin-to-pin compatibility in fit and function, with increased power in the IB463. Intelligent Motion Systems Inc., Box 457, Marlborough, CT 06447, FAX (860) 295-6107.


The VIS (Valve-In-Star) 30 motor, measures 6.01 inches from front pilot to endcap and can produce up to 1910 nm of torque. A heavy-duty nine-bolt housing can handle pressures up to 379 bar. Leakage is reduced by a flexible, pressure-balanced wear plate that moves to take up extra side clearance, both at start-up and under normal operating conditions. The VIS design ensures that the motor remains in-time, thereby extending the performance life of the motor. Suitable for propel applications that require smooth, low-speed operation, the VIS provides steady, predictive rotation. Eaton Corp., Hydraulics Products, Ratingen, Germany, FAX (011) +49 02102 406 830.

Motion control software

A library of high-level functions speed the interface of MINT-compatible motion controllers with 16- or 32-bit Windows application software. The software supports the trend to embed PC-based control and user interfaces into industrial automation. The interface library gives Windows programmers access to the advanced motion programming environment designed by the Company, and used by a number of drive manufacturers. MINT can speed the development of motion-control programming by providing high-level commands for common sophisticated applications such as X-Y tables, flying shears, splines, and software cams. Optimised Control Ltd., Bristol, England, FAX (011) +44 117 987 3101.

Power supply solution

IRP6VRM1 voltage regulator module (VRM) powers next-generation microprocessors such as Intel's Pentium Pro. The VRM includes a complete dc/dc converter design based on a synchronous buck regulator topology, in addition to a full bill of materials, schematic and PCB layout in Gerber format. It is intended to shorten the design cycle for microprocessor power supplies by eliminating the task of component selection and evaluation. International Rectifier, 100 N. Sepulveda Blvd., El Segundo, CA 90245, FAX (310) 252-7170.


Flexible beam coupling is for optical measuring and microwave applications. The compact, three-beam unit measure 6.35 mm in diameter and 12.7 mm long. It is available in aluminum with a working torque of 0.4 Nm, or stainless steel with a working torque of 0.5 Nm. The coupling is suitable for shafts measuring from 1 to 3.18 mm and has a set-screw fixing. Hunt Power Drives Ltd., Harrogate, England, FAX (011) +44 1423 881376.

Transducer amplifiers

S7 Series of low-cost transducer amplifiers are CE approved in compliance with the Electromagnetic Compatibility European Directive, 89/336/EEC. The devices, for use in conjunction with sensors, provide noise-immune signal conditioning. They are suitable for a variety of industrial applications such as measurement of position, pressure, load torque, and vibration. RDP Electronics Ltd., Heath Town, England, FAX (011) +44 1902 452000.


Designed for use throughout the entire product life cycle, OxygenTM visual simulation software features a development toolkit as well as ready-to-use applications for solving specific problems related to product development, employee training, maintenance, marketing, and recycling. Oxygen Base is a toolkit that allows the user to do his/her own development, whereas the applications are ready to use when installed on the system--automatically increasing productivity. A reduced number of physical prototypes, reduced lead times, increased quality, and reduced recycling costs are among the benefits. Prosolvia Clarus AB, Gothenborg, Sweden, FAX (011) +46 31 703 5120.


The Twin Lintra double-stroke cylinder has a fixed carriage connected to a moving carriage with a toothed belt via pulleys placed in the end caps. Air applied into the fixed carriage drives the cylinder barrel which simultaneously pulls the moving carriage at twice the speed of the barrel. The final stroke of the carriage is double that of conventional rodless cylinders because both the barrel and carriage moves. Two models are available with 25 and 40 mm bore and the maximum stroke length is 2,000 mm. The cylinder is useful for machine loading and component handling, where long operations are required in a limited space. IMI Norgen Ltd., Lichfield, Straffordshire, FAX (011) +44 0 1543 405352.

Autoranging module

VI-ARM autoranging module is used to continuously track the ac line, ensuring correct operation, even after brown-out conditions. Delivering up to 750 or 500W and 96 to 98% efficient, the unit, which contains the complete front end of an ac input power supply, is designed to be connected to power modules to provide a low-profile, high-density ac-dc power supply. Features include inrush current limitation; module enable; and full international safety approvals including UL, CSA, VDE, TUV, EN60950, and CE marking. Applications include industrial controls, telecom basestations, and instrumentation. Vicor, 23 Frontage Rd., Andover, MA 01810, FAX (508) 475-6715.

Engineering Productivity Kit

Engineering Productivity Kit

Coming: optimized robotics welding

Columbus, OH--1996 showed a 25% increase over 1995 in the number of arc welding robots ordered from robot manufacturers in the U.S., a sign that the use of robots in welding applications continues to increase, according to the Robotic Industries Association (Ann Arbor, MI). Most of these robots use gas metal arc welding (GMAW) and flux cored arc welding (FCAW). The reason: these processes have simple torches, good disposition rates, and tolerance to part fit-up. But they could work even better.

Robotic welding offers many advantages: repeatability, high productivity, and better quality. However, many robot welding technicians lack a thorough understanding of arc-welding fundamentals and, as a result, fail to fully optimize the robot's capabilities, according to Dennis Harwig, senior research engineer at the Edison Welding Institute (EWI). This, in turn, leads to inappropriate selection of consumables and non-optimized weld parameters. The result: higher defect rates, and lower production rates and quality.

Over the last few years, EWI has developed a way to rapidly characterize and optimize arc welding processes. Now, the Institute has undertaken a project to develop a comprehensive welding-parameter database for fillet welds designed to simplify the parameter-selection process and enable assessment of process robustness.

By 1999, the project will develop welding parameter relationships and productivity windows for selected process-consumable combinations over a range of fillet weld sizes. Processes such as GMAW and FCAW will be compared using several consumables for each fillet welding application.

By the project's end, some 50 process-consumable combinations will be evaulated. The yield: considerable cost savings through a minimized need for added parameter development and optimized deposition rates, says EMI's Harwig.

For more information about the high-productivity robotic arc welding project, contact Dennis Harwig, Edison Welding Institute, 1250 Arthur E. Adams Dr., Columbus, OH 43221; ph: (614) 688-5132; FAX: (614) 688-5001; e-mail:

Coating conquers airframe rivet problems

Long Beach, CA--The U.S. Air Force touts a new kind of rivet--or, more precisely, a new rivet coating--as a "revolutionary change."

The coating, recently introduced by the Military Transport Aircraft division of McDonnell Douglas and suppliers Hi Shear Corp. (Torrance, CA) and Aerospace Rivet Manufacturing Corp. (Santa Fe Springs, CA), should cut costs, reduce rework dramatically, and prevent fatigue, while improving airframe quality, says Jeff Behnke, project manager at McDonnell Douglas.

The pre-coated dry sealant for titanium pins and aluminum rivets allows mechanics to work faster and cleaner--and do better work, say its developers. McDonnell Douglas C-17 program accountants predict it will save $2.2 million as each new Globemaster III comes down the assembly line.

Each C-17 military cargo jet has more than 1.4 million fasteners which, until now, had to be installed "wet" using a sealant that costs more to dispose of than purchase because of its hazardous waste condition. "The pre-coated fasteners improve the quality of work life for our mechanics," adds Nick Peralta, senior manager at McDonnell Douglas.

The fasteners also improve the quality of the product, according to Jose Jimenez, team leader in the Drivmatic area. "We get better squeeze on the fastener and avoid problems where the rivets don't fill the hole tightly. Also, if you have to remove a titanium pin, it won't seize up because there is more lubricity." Jimenez explains that the old wet sealant used to clog up the Drivmatic.

The patented technology, which uses an aluminum-pigmented resin with corrosion inhibitors, reduces the process variability factor in installing a C-17's 590,000 titanium pins and 733,000 rivets. And the sealant ensures corrosion protection at each hole.

"We expect a 1.1 million-hour savings in phase 2 of implementation," says Behnke. Phase 1, which began with aircraft P-33, and Phase 2 combined should save 2.3 million labor hours. Behnke expects other military and commercial programs will adopt the technology as well.

Self-tapping screws improve production, cut costs

Palm Coast, FL--When Pete Castellano joined ABB Ceag Power Supplies as principal mechanical design engineer, his primary objective was to create more cost-efficient designs. He quickly realized the process of fastening power supply parts offered such an opportunity.

ABB Ceag's power supply casting requires 50 fasteners to hold it together. Originally, the company used a nut in a three-step process--drilling, tapping, and fastening. Switching to Parker-Kalon(R) Swageform(R) thread-forming screws reduced costs significantly by combining the tapping and fastening steps into one procedure.

The Swageform screws have external threads that tap, or form, their own mating internal threads when driven into existing holes. The swaging of the screw thread does not remove material around the hole, but displaces it around the mating threads, making them stronger.

The result: the screws have a higher resistance to backout and vibration, and don't produce cutting chips of metal as they are driven into the casting.

"Our units are tested with high voltage to pass UL qualifications. If a metal chip has fallen into the unit, pc boards or semiconductors will burn and must be discarded. We can't tolerate a single metallic chip within the unit," explains Castellano. "We haven't had a problem since we started using Parker-Kalon fasteners," he adds.

The new fastening system has increased productivity, cut labor, enhanced quality, and cut costs on piece parts. The cost per hole on extrusions: five cents now, compared with 15 cents previously. For ABB Ceag, that adds up to a savings of $5.00 on every main power supply casting.


Fastener reduces cross threading

Dean Lamb, Mgr. of Mktg. Communications Camcar Textron; Rockford, IL

On the assembly line, cross threading can result in significant down time, poor productivity, scrap, and rework. Cross threading occurs when misalignment between the fastener and nut member due to off-center or off-angle driving causes a wedging action in the hole.

To help alleviate the problem, Camcar Textron has introduced the AcupointTM anti-cross-threading fastener. The Acupoint features a spherical point that enables the fastener to self-align from off-angle and off-center positions. The point design allows quick engagement into the hole, and thread engagement only when the fastener is properly aligned. When compared to other anti-cross-thread designs, the Acupoint has a shorter point length to minimize interference.

During lab testing under controlled conditions, the Acupoint showed a 97% starting rate at an off angle of 30 degrees. A machine screw showed only a 55% starting rate at a 7-degree off angle.

In the off-center position, the Acupoint design showed a good start 100% of the time at 2.40 mm off center, while a machine screw demonstrated a 73% starting rate at 2.40 mm.

The Acupoint fastener comes in M4, M6, and M8 sizes. Other sizes are currently under development.

For details contact Camcar Textron, 516 Eighteenth Ave., Rockford, IL 61104-5181; ph: (800) 544-6117;; FAX: (815) 961-5345


Standoffs thread ultra-thin sheets

New self-clinching threaded standoffs provide permanent threads in ultra-thin aluminum or steel sheets to enable stacking or spacing of pc boards and other components.

The PEM(R) Type TSOTM, TSOSTM, and TSOATM standoffs install in sheets as thin as 0.025 inch (0.63 mm) and deliver high push-out and torque-out resistances, says Michael Rossi, corporate communications supervisor at Penn Engineering.

Installation involves inserting the standoffs into punched or drilled holes and applying a squeezing force. The fasteners become a permanent part of the assembly, while the head remains flush with the mounting sheet.

Type TSOTM (steel), TSOSTM (stainless steel), and TSOATM (aluminum) fasteners come in both standard and metric sizes in varying lengths.

For more information contact Michael J. Rossi, Penn Engineering & Manufacturing, Box 1000, Danboro, PA 18916; ph: (800) 237-4736; FAX: (215) 766-0143; e-mail:; visit

Adhesive withstands oil and contamination

Loctite(R) 243 single-component, removable, anaerobic, threadlocking adhesive stands up to oil and other contaminates. As a result, fasteners require no additional cleaning or preparation before the threadlocker is applied, says manufacturer Loctite Corp. (Rocky Hill, CT).

The adhesive cures without air when applied between close fitting metal parts such as nuts and bolts, while protecting fastener threads from rust and corrosion. Suited for threaded fasteners up to 3/4 inch (20 mm), the threadlocker works on stainless steel, plated finishes, and other substrates. Threaded fasteners treated with the adhesive can be disassembled using simple hand tools.

Loctite 243 is NSF/ANSI 61 certified for use in potable water systems, and can be applied manually or with semi- or fully automatic dispensing equipment. Packaging ranges from a 0.5-ml tube to a 1 liter bottle.

For more information contact Loctite Corp., 1001 Trout Brook Crossing, Rocky Hill, CT 06067; ph: (800) 323-5106 x67; FAX: (860) 571-5465.

How EWI does it

Most fillet-welding applications involve consumable electrode processes that use constant-voltage power supplies. The primary parameters of these processes include wire-feed speed, voltage or arc length, and travel speed. Current becomes a function of the wire-feed speed, type, diameter, and extension from contact tip.

The parameter development methodology in use at EWI yields the voltage as a function of wire-feed-speed curves for each process-consumable combination. Once this relationship is determined, a welding productivity window that relates heat input as a function of deposition rate is developed. The boundaries of the welding productivity window are established by bead shape geometry and weld pool stability criteria. The welding productivity window assesses both productivity and robustness.

News flash

Welding technology replaces aircraft rivets

Wichita, KS-based PACMIG Inc. has developed a new pressurized, air-cooled, metal inert gas (PAC-MIG) welding gun technology that may soon replace heavier rivet fasteners in commercial airframes. In preliminary, third-party fatigue tests, butt joint welds using the MIG technique were then shot-peened. The joints showed twice the fatigue life of comparable three-row, flush-riveted lap joints like those used by Boeing transports, says PACMIG President Joseph Cusick. The patented technology uses compressed air to cool the welding appliance and then vents it to the atmosphere. According to Cusick, PACMIG is lighter, simpler, and more economical to use than comparable rivet systems.

Additional details, contact PACMIG, 311 Laura, Wichita, KS 67211, ph: (316) 269-3040

Forum offers fastening solutions

Looking for a place where fastener manufacturers and distributors can gather with OEM engineers and purchasing agents to exchange information, go back to "school," and solve fastener application problems? The Fastening Design and Application Engineering Expo and Technical Conference is just the ticket, say its sponsors.

Taking place October 23-24, 1997 at the Novi Expo Center in Detroit, MI, the event features educational seminars, hands-on demonstrations, workshops, and discussion groups that will address questions and concerns in fastener application, design, and engineering. Participating companies will feature products for the aerospace, automotive, utilities, appliance, and shipbuilding industries, among others.

For more information on exhibiting or attending, contact FDAE, 5008-34 Pine Creek Dr., Westerville, OH 43081; ph: (614) 895-8348; FAX: (614) 895-3466; see

Engineering looks toward China

Engineering looks toward China

Like modern-day Marco Polos, manufacturers of all stripes are eyeing China as the next land of opportunity. No wonder. For the past 20 years, the country that gave the world gunpowder, printing, and paper has had one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Its population of 1.2 billion potential consumers is growing at a rate of 1.1 percent (13.5 million people) per year. And, its nascent industries are starving for technology.

But, there are still some great walls to scale before companies can fully penetrate the Chinese market. One is concern over Hong Kong's future and what that will reveal about China's long-term commitment to openness.

Other concerns relate to cultural and infrastructure differences that can affect the design of products for China. Among them:

Poorly educated users. Many Chinese have a limited level of education, so products have to be easy to use. Everett, WA-based Fluke Corp., for example, teamed with Motorola and Philips Semiconductor to develop a new family of ASICS for its recently introduced ScopeMeter 123 test tool. "Putting the technology inside makes this product easy to use for the non-technical customer," says Phil Wescot, Fluke's Asian business development manager. The company extended the technology to its products sold outside China as well. Other companies, such as NMB Corp., Chatsworth, CA, and Siemens AG, Erlangen, Germany, send employees in their Chinese factories abroad for training.

The best advice: Use basic, rugged, simple designs and plan on lots of training, says Ed Neiheisel, who leads Vickers' Asian efforts.

  • No maintenance. "The Chinese have little concept of preventive maintenance," says Kim Cannon, a product manager in the insertion mount division of Universal Instruments Corp., a manufacturer of electronic circuit assembly equipment in Binghamton, NY. "They run machinery until it breaks, then try to fix it." That means products have to be especially rugged and reliable, he says.

    Of course, an advantage the Chinese have in this regard is their large population. "There's no problem finding people to fix machinery," says Wilson Tang, point man for software developer SDRC, Milford, OH, in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. "I saw one instance where they assigned a lot of people to dig a drainage ditch. It was cheaper and better for the local economy to use all the people than to bring in a big machine tool."

  • Infrastructure problems. Roads and distribution networks in China are poorly developed at best, and import taxes can be sky high. That means getting parts and products from the port of entry to the end user can turn out to be a long march rather than a great leap forward. One solution: Stock parts on site. Another: Build products in local facilities, as AMETEK does in Shanghai, where it builds small fractional-horsepower motors. Doing so means its customers don't have to pay import duties.

    Of course, not everything sold in China is designed and manufactured elsewhere. Though communism's grip is still vice-like, entrepreneurs are surfacing throughout the country and starting businesses. New manufacturing plants are sprouting up. U. S., European, and Japanese companies are setting up joint ventures with Chinese businesses. Helping them streamline design are several U.S.-based engineering software companies.

SDRC, for example, has been shipping its I-DEAS(R) CAD software to China for eight years. Operating from offices in Shenzhen and Beijing, SDRC claims the largest installed base for solid modeling in the country, and has developed a Chinese-language version of I-DEAS Master Series software.

Microcadam, Los Angeles, has about 100 units of its software in China. Customers include Volkswagen Shanghai, Kimberly Clark, National Guangzhou, Fuji Electric, and Shen Yang Aircraft.

The MacNeal-Schwendler Corp. recently shipped its MSC/SuperModel finite element analysis software to the Beijing Institute of Astronautical Systems Engineering, one of ten major corporations that form the China Aerospace Corp. The Institute will use the software in development of commercial launch vehicles.

"In general, design and analysis criteria are the same in China as everywhere else," says Wai Ho, MSC's point man for Asia business development.

What follows are several examples of how companies are approaching product development for the burgeoning Chinese market.

Smaller is better. The feeders are too high! That's the message engineers Marty Saracino and Kim Cannon, from Universal Instruments Corp., got from Chinese customers on one of their several visits to plants using the company's electronic circuit assembly unit.

"In some cases, they were using stools on the shop floor to load components into our Model 2596 sequencer machine," says Cannon. "The equipment was too high for them, so we lowered the height of the equipment and controls."

While they were at it, Saracino and Cannon got the company to lower the height of controls and feeder assemblies on the separate Model 6241 VCD (Variable Center Distance) Sequencer as well. The 2596 sequences components for printed circuit boards on a reel, which then goes on another machine for insertion. The Model 6241 VCD Sequencer 5 includes the insertion machinery. Now, Universal has standardized on the lower height for controls and feeders on all its machines.

Getting the kind of feedback that resulted in the redesign is essential for successful product development for China, Saracino and Cannon say. That's why they make several trips a year to visit customer sites. "You have to understand their expectations, what they like and don't like, and how they use the equipment," Cannon says.

Among things they've learned is that the concept of preventive maintenance is very weak in China. "They run equipment until it breaks, and then they take out the tools and try to fix it, sometimes even making up their own parts," Cannon says. That prompted the company to intensify efforts to build in reliability and simplicity.

"For example, on one of our radial assembly machines, we cut the parts by about 45 percent," Saracino says. They also cut the required adjustments on the machine by 70 percent. "We did that to help customers avoid trouble, because if there's an adjustment on a machine, they'll turn it."

Engineers use Pareto charts and failure mode effects and criticality analysis to test all components and subassemblies for ruggedness and reliability. "We do a kind of roast on each subassembly, and that drives our efforts to cut parts," Cannon says.

To clear the language barrier, Universal developed a Chinese version of its new Tech Advisor PC software that teaches customers how to operate, maintain, and trouble-shoot its machines. That same software is available in English and Spanish too.

Overall, say Cannon and Saracino, the company is applying what it has learned in China to its entire product development process. "Our experience in Asia is driving design improvements throughout the company," Saracino says. "We figure if we can be successful there, we will be successful anywhere."

Invest in training and the environment. NMB Corp. builds about 10 million precision ball bearings a month at its new facility outside Shanghai. The facility is wholly owned by NMB and not part of a joint venture. Once it opened in August 1996, NMB realized one of its greatest needs was training for local employees.

"Actually, training for our Chinese employees turned out to be easier than training we provide employees at other facilities in Thailand," says Jim Rideout, product manager for bearings. For Thai employees, the company had to send them to Japan, where the company conducted the training in English. "For our Chinese employees, we just sent them to Singapore, where 30-40 percent of the population is Chinese, so we could train in the Chinese language."

The training is important not only for production-line efficiency, but for employee advancement. NMB's policy is to promote locals at all its facilities to management positions, and plans to do that in China as well.

Beyond training, the company decided to invest in the environment around the plant too. "We built around a lake, and though it wasn't required, we decided to participate in the creation of an environmental protection group to ensure we developed a clean factory and also to help clean up existing pollution problems," Rideout says.

That effort mirrored efforts the company has undertaken in other countries as well. NMB has built four separate wastewater treatment plants in Asia that not only provide clean water for washing its bearings as they roll off the assembly lines, but improve the quality of life of local citizens as well, Rideout says.

Regarding design changes required for the Chinese market, there have been few so far, reports Skip Kinford, director, NMB Corp. "Most of the companies we do business with--companies that make cooling fans, or motors for vacuum cleaners, for example--are satellites of other organizations," he says. "They bring their own designs from other countries into China for production."

NMB's advice to others aiming to do business in China: Don't underestimate the need for training, and don't overestimate consumer demand. Though the population is large, Kinford says, demand lags. Still, he encourages companies to be patient. "The market will certainly grow in time," he predicts.

Make it easy to use. Despite the generally lower education level of the population, Chinese service technicians may have a higher skill level than their counterparts in the U.S. "The average technician probably has an engineering degree," says Hans Toorens, Fluke Corp.'s point man for industrial electronic products, including ScopeMeter(R) test tools.

Nevertheless, language differences and other problems require Fluke and its competitors to take special care in designing the interfaces for their products so customers in China can easily use them. Enter Fluke's KOJAC program.

KOJAC is the acronym for Korea, Japan, and China, and it refers to the company's efforts to extend its many ASCII languages so that its meters produce readouts in the local languages of those three Asian countries.

"Everyone understands terms like 'amplitude,' but when messages come in full sentences users can get lost," says Toorens. "It helps that we now put those messages in the local language."

Additionally, for its new Scope-Meter 123, Fluke worked with Motorola and Philips MicroElectronics to create a new family of analog acquisition and trigger chips it could integrate on a 16 x 10 cm circuit board. The company also used a single digital ASIC for acquisition, peak detection, constant signal analysis, trigger control, display control, communication, real-time clock, and processing. Both steps enabled a compact design that weighs only two-and-a-half pounds, important for the Asian market, where users generally have smaller hands.

Another ease-of-use element: Users only have to connect a single test lead to access the product's oscilloscope and multimeter functions.

"Basically, we put the high technology inside to increase the ease of use," Toorens says. Another step: Electrical power is not so prevalent in China as elsewhere, so Fluke included a rechargeable five-hour NiCad battery.

All those design elements are available in the ScopeMeter test tools Fluke sells outside of China too.

Toorens' advice for others designing products for China: Be patient, build trust, and listen to what the customer wants first before developing products for the market.

Build strong employee ties. Many western companies successfully established in mainland China operate from economic development zones designated by the Chinese government. For employees of these manufacturing plants, such zones offer preferential working conditions in the form of wages and benefits. Dormitories that provide clean, comfortable, and safe living conditions are an example of the latter.

Some manufacturers, however, sweeten worker incentives to reduce turnover and build better relationships within the local community. One such company is Pulse. An early benefactor of China's competitive labor rates--Pulse set up shop near Hong Kong in 1984--the company opened a four-story recreation facility for its employees in April of this year. Attractions include a television and karaoke room, table tennis, billiard tables, a library, movie theater, and video games.

Response to the extra-curricular outlets has been so overwhelming, VP of Operations Roger Shahnazarian reports, that Pulse has extended the rec center's hours to include night shift employees. "Unless you are manufacturing in Shanghai or Beijing where there is a lot of resident labor," Shahnazarian says, "you are going to be in the dormitory business--that's just a way of life in China. Many of the workers are young women who come from the provinces at 18 years old and maintain a job until age 22 or 23, when they go back home to get married. That's a typical scenario."

Home sickness and repetitive manual labor make this experience difficult for many. Shahnazarian believes the recreation facility will not only help lower the normal 3 to 5% per month turn-over rate, but bolster quality control.

"The reason we are in China," Shahnazarian explains, "is for the low-cost labor. Assembly of our products--communications and networking components that OEMs build into computers, file servers, telecommunications, power and wireless applications--takes 15 to 20 minutes, on average." Manual labor is necessary, he reports, because the processes required to build the products Pulse designs and manufactures are difficult and expensive to automate.

Pulse believes that improving quality of life outside the plant has contributed towards a more seasoned, happier workforce. As a result, quality control is on the rise. Shahnazarian's advice for other industrial manufacturers interested in establishing facilities in China? Work at building relationships with employees as well as with government and local officials. Such relationships take a long time, he cautions, but pay off in the long run.

'Not made in China'. "Made by Siemens," not "Made in China." That message typifies the challenge foreign manufacturers face in China, contends Gerd Riese, senior director of marketing, Southeast Asia, for the Standards Products Group of Siemens AG.

Products made in China and exported to the rest of Southeast Asia, he says, are generally perceived as being of relatively poor quality, even if they have the Siemens name on it. Siemens, Riese claims, is battling that perception by building a reliable, well-trained workforce--a task he admits is difficult.

"Part of our future strategy is to bring personnel from China to our European facilities for training," he says. The danger, Riese warns, is that once trained, these employees may quit for a higher salary elsewhere, since demand is so high.

Currently, the Standards Products Group runs its seven joint ventures in China with ex-patriots as General Managers. Except for a joint venture in Panyu, where Siemens makes electronic control gears, all operations are targeted for sales within mainland China, as well as for export. Products manufactured at the Panyu plant are for export only.

Distribution within China presents other problems, as Riese explains. "In the past, China implemented a different philosophy of distribution. Large customers would visit a supplier two or four times per year and take the entire product volume. There was no acting sales person."

The Chinese are simply not accustomed to Western sales and marketing concepts, Riese believes. Japan, he says, has adjusted accordingly. Japanese plants in China are generally 100% wholly owned; they tend to manufacture a specific product; and everything is brought back to Japan.

Says Riese: "They don't have problems with quality standards because the Japanese customers don't perceive that the product is made in China--just that it is manufactured by a Toshiba or Hitachi."

Direct digital control boosts steel plant production. With China's continued economic expansion, the demand for construction materials has pressured local steel manufacturers such as Shanghai Ergang NO. 2 Steel for improved production. To increase horsepower on the various roll stands and automate the control systems, NO. 2 Steel contracted Cleveland's Reliance Electric, part of Rockwell Automation Drive Systems, and an established presence in China. T.C. Shen, Control Systems Manager for NO. 2 Steel, points out that "because Reliance has a long-time presence in China, we were confident they could provide local services and support."

The primary challenge, Shen says, was to add extra drives and increase horsepower, yet keep the project within cost and time constraints. Consequently, NO. 2 Steel opted to upgrade existing thyristor power modules on drive sections over 100 hp by implementing Reliance AutoMax DPS units for direct digital control.

"The AutoMax DPS," Shen explains, "allows the high-speed control loops necessary for the system, and solves communication problems with control logic." The result has been dramatic improvement in the laying head and shear applications through improved speed and position control.

Implementing Reliance's SIGMA management system for rod mill control completed the upgrade.

By using refurbished machinery along with new control software, digital drive, and automation systems, the project was delivered in less than three months, from stop to full production, and at a 30% cost savings.

5 'musts' to consider when designing for China

  • Training. Manufacturers report that many of their customers are poorly trained. That means products have to be designed to be easy to use.

  • Preventive maintenance. Design and build your products to be rugged. With little concept or tradition of preventive maintenance, customers will use them until they break, then try to fix the products themselves.

  • Language. Design user interfaces and operating manuals in Chinese.

  • Infrastructure. Roads and distribution systems are poor in China. Ship replacement parts with initial product to make sure they're there when needed.

  • Partnering. Link up with another company that already has a presence in China. It speeds up the approval process for plant construction if you want to build a plant, and for other necessary business permits. But, be wary of partnering with recently privatized Chinese companies. Many companies, like AMETEK, headquartered in Paoli, PA, believe those former government-owned manufacturers are inefficient, have old equipment, and suffer from low productivity. Some, like HydraForce, Lincolnshire, IL, find that using Asian distributors makes sense. HydraForce uses distributors in Hong Kong and Taiwan to sell high-performance hydraulic cartridge valves for injection-molding machines and off-highway equipment sold into China.

Program trains Chinese managers

Twenty-four engineers and other technologically trained Chinese men and women, ranging from 25 to 55 years of age, are presently enrolled in a unique MBA program at the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, Renssalaer, NY. Offered by the Lally School of Management and Technology, the program prepares Chinese scientists and engineers to step into management positions with American companies in China.

"Virtually every company we work with in China reports that they simply can't find well-educated and experienced managers to staff their operations," claims Joseph Morone, dean of the Lally School. "It is prohibitively expensive for American companies to send their managers abroad to manage operations in China," he says, adding that many managers are unwilling to leave family and friends to work in China.

Roger Shahnazarian, a graduate of RPI and VP of Operations at Pulse, San Diego, CA, agrees. "It's very difficult to find skilled managers in China," he says. "They're just not ready." Consequently, Pulse recruits many of their managers and engineers from Hong Kong.

Departments like Human Resources, Financing, or Purchasing, Shahnazarian points out, can be subject to illegal operations such as bribes and kickbacks. Customs problems or tax issues also require experienced personnel with an understanding of the local culture. Conversely, Morone contends that U.S. companies need managers with an understanding of American markets, language, technology and culture.

A joint effort with Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, the Lally School curriculum is the first American MBA program to have official approval of the Chinese government. The students will spend approximately 12 months at Rensselaer, three months as interns with American companies, and four months in additional graduate study at Zhejiang University. Those who receive the new MBA will graduate with full credentials from both universities.

Corporate response has proven favorable. A broad cross-section of companies, such as Motorola, Mobil, Bugle Boy, and Albany International have agreed to sponsor three-month American internships for the Chinese students.

Made in China, marketed elsewhere

Pulse, known in China as a "Wholly-owned foreign entity," sells 70% of the products manufactured at its Chang-an plant into North America. Twenty percent go to Europe, and the remaining 10% are sold in Asia, primarily to Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore.

Typical of the products Pulse produces in China is their new line of low-profile, self-leaded, surface-mount power inductors. Good for DC-DC power conversion in applications requiring minimal component height, the products are optimized for the smallest footprint possible with a maximum height of 0.098 in.

Inductance range measures 1.3 to 122 microH at DC current ratings to 3 amps; Operating temperatures span -30C to 130C with a temperature rise of only 55C at rated current. Other China-made components from Pulse include LAN modules, transformers, and power supply products.

Global competition? Good!

Global competition? Good!

"A global growth market is out there for our industry," says Krubasik.

Design News: What makes you believe industrial production has a promising future?

Krubasik: A major stimulus for growth within the industrial customer sector is the trend toward incorporating information technology and microelectronics in industrial equipment, systems, and plants. We are creating ever more intelligent production methods, and steadily improving man-machine interaction by optimizing interfaces between operators and automation systems. In addition, the classical hardware business is increasingly being complemented with software and industrial services, which are demanded by customers as part of a complete one-source package.

Q: And new global markets?

A: We should realize that three-quarters of the world's future industrial countries are only poised at the threshold of industrialization: Asian countries are rapidly building up their industrial infrastructures after making great progress in expanding their basic energy, telecommunications, and transportation infrastructures; Latin America is speeding up efforts to rejuvenate its aged industrial base and replace it in part with modern plants; while Central and Eastern Europe, even though presently handicapped by lack of sufficient financial resources, will completely renew its industrial base over the medium term.

Q: What are the prospects for European suppliers with regard to these emerging markets?

A: European suppliers will be able to grow in all of these markets. The role of Europe should be to help newly industrializing countries build up their industrial base and renew their industrial infrastructures by offering special know-how and high-tech solutions. As industry spreads throughout the world, European suppliers will obviously need to expand local value-added. This, in turn, will have a positive effect on jobs in our home markets. At Siemens, we have seen that every three jobs created in the growth region of Asia secures an additional job here in Germany.

Q: How can European companies assure they are an attractive partner in building up the industrial base of newly developing countries, yet keep a step ahead of new competitors in their own market?

A: Quite naturally, new competition is emerging in these growth regions. We shouldn't fear this development, but keep ahead of global competition through productivity and innovation. Good examples for German industry leading successfully in the face of emerging foreign competition can be seen in autos and telecommunications.

Q: What are your thoughts regarding productivity?

A: The effects of higher productivity can be quite positive for employment in the long term. Industries and countries with the higher productivity and biggest productivity gains also create the most jobs. It is obvious that a high labor cost country like ours can only survive with top productivity. Our own suppliers also face this fact of life: they must keep in step with our own efforts to boost productivity at Siemens.

Q: What about innovation?

A: The various worlds of industrial technology are gradually merging: Mechanical systems are being replaced by microelectronics; decentralized automation concepts are supplanting previously isolated solutions by providing open controls with open industrial communications systems based on high-performance bus systems; and information/communication systems are changing processes in plants and industrial production. Furthermore, technical services are enjoying a booming market and customers increasingly prefer turnkey solutions. Our innovations are being focused to ensure that all industrial products from Siemens--ranging from switchgear and drives, to automation, instrumentation, and monitoring equipment--are part of an integrated automation system world.

Q: What does this mean for Siemens?

A: Customers enjoy productivity gains of around 50 percent with the unification of engineering interfaces in all production processes, from project management to diagnosis. Here at Siemens, we are creating ever more intelligent production methods, and steadily improving man-machine interaction by optimizing interfaces between operators and automation systems. Prospects for Siemens and our industry in general are excellent.

Engineering News

Engineering News

'Virtual company' hits the road

Paris--Intergraph, SAP, Siemens Automation, Digital Equipment Corp., and Microsoft have gotten together to put on a show. Their series of seminars, entitled Internet-enabled Manufacturing, will be rolling out across Europe this summer, starring live, real-time demonstrations of how the Web can impact the design-to-manufacturing process.

Essentially, these companies demonstrate how their products could work together to "Web-enable" an imaginary company called Write Right. In this case, Digital provides the hardware and networking know-how, Microsoft supplies the Windows operating system and interface, Intergraph provides the CAD/CAM design software and product data management (PDM) system, SAP links the supply chain, and Siemens Automation handles the factory-floor automation software.

The first seminar took place at the Digital/Microsoft Expertise Center in Valbonne, France, and attracted more than 75 industry leaders from companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Philips. Attendees found the live demo--with each of the participating partners playing a role in the sequence of events--particularly impressive.

In the Write Right scenario, one company partner plays a customer brow-sing the Web in search of a pen with an integrated communications paging device. He lands on the Write Right Web site, and sends them an e-mail message to ask if they can customize one of the fountain pens he's seen in their on-line catalog.

The request gets passed along to another partner, who plays the design engineer who has to modify the design of an existing product using Intergraph's Solid Edge 3-D CAD/CAM package. The designer goes out on the Web looking for existing pagers that might have parts he could integrate into a pen design.

He finds a standard pager in the on-line catalog at a telecom supplier's Web site, and decides that the display unit would be appropriate for the Write Right pen. The first step is dragging a copy of the pager from the Web site and dropping it into Solid Edge. There, he clicks on the part he wants, in this case the display unit; copies, resizes, and positions it with a few mouse clicks; and drops it into the pen barrel. Result: the basic design for a pen with an integrated pager.

A third partner plays a manufacturing engineer who accesses the 3-D model of the designer's proposal. He uses software from Siemens Automation to analyze factory-floor issues. Yet another partner uses SAP software to investigate issues like pricing, procurement, and shipping. All these tasks happen in real time as the audience watches the various processes unfold on the computer screens of each role player.

Seeing such a variety of partners interact in real time can be a mind-opener, and seminar organizers say the event may be extended to other regions of the world later in the year. But is it a viable scenario? Lisa Tomlinson, an industry analyst with Daratech, says it is. However, she cautions that at least in this example, the designer is part of a big company and is essentially looking for parts he can use.

Designers from small organizations can offer their ideas, products, geometries, and services on the Web. Today, many designers work alone or in a small office, she notes. It's important for these designers to share ideas with clients who may be much bigger. "For small designers, there's a lot of cheap, easy-to-do, high-impact things you can do on the Web," she says. Those with a bit of computer know-how can set up their own servers. She herself did this using a 386-based PC with all freeware software--all she bought was the phone line.

Another alternative is to find a small consultancy that will set up a server that the design firm can maintain itself. "Depending on your ambitions, there's a whole array of off-the-shelf applications for displaying products or geometries for less than US$3,000," she says. One ex-ample is Dr. DWG from California Software Labs for AutoCAD users.

One small design firm with a major client put its geometry on a Web server for the client to access, and even offered animations on how the parts could be used. This is one way, says Tomlinson, for small companies to be perceived as world-class players. "Wise use of this technology can enable the little guys to leapfrog the big guys," she adds, "by giving them a chance to demonstrate that they can be more mobile, flexible, and reactive." But whether you're offering services or looking for parts, the bottom line is that the Web should let designers focus on what they do best.

For more information on The Internet Enabled Manufacturing Company seminars, look on the Intergraph Web page for your country.

Technology links CAD applications

by Adele Hars, Contributing Editor, France

Hoofddorp, The Netherlands--Users of many Microsoft Windows applications have long enjoyed being able to drag and drop "objects" from one application to another. Parts of Excel spreadsheets drop into Word documents, and paragraphs from a Word document can be pasted into PowerPoint. This capability is in large part due to Microsoft's Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) technology, but has long eluded CAD users because CAD applications were too complicated to fit into the OLE framework.

Intergraph's Jupiter technology overcomes this obstacle by extending OLE to make it suitable for integrating data created in technical applications. OLE for Design & Modeling Applications (OLE for D & M)--one part of Jupiter technology--has been endorsed by Microsoft and many CAD/CAM, CAE and GIS software vendors as the standard means of integrating geometric and geographic data in the Windows environment. OLE for D & M meet the needs of technical applications including: 3-D objects, frameless overlapping of objects, and transparent and translucent objects.

With applications based on Jupiter technology, users can create compound models using data generated in different CAD programs as easily as they can create compound documents using data generated in different business applications, explains Philip Wolffers, manager of marketing and business development for the manufacturing industry at Intergraph's European headquarters.

Landerholm & Lund, Arhus, Denmark, is using Intergraph's Solid Edge 3-D solid modeling system which is based on the Jupiter technology. "Since we have been using Solid Edge our company has clearly become more productive," says John Landerholm, managing director of Landerholm & Lund.

Adroit engineering quiets veteran airliners

Seattle--Fleets of older, noisier aircraft, such as the venerable Boeing 727 trijet, are getting a new lease on life. Due to be retired at the turn of the century because of noise regulations, these aircraft can now meet restrictions thanks to three options.

Replacing the engine is the most obvious, but also the most costly at $9 to $12 million--perhaps hard to justify on a 727 worth $2 to $3 million. The least costly choice at just under $700,000 was recently announced by Raisbeck Engineering. Its noise-abatement system permits FAA-certified procedural changes in 727 operation. The changes include cutting drag and aerodynamic noise by reducing the extensions of high-lift flaps on the leading and trailing edges of the wings during takeoff and landing. This lets the plane use lower levels of thrust, producing less engine noise.

The system allows reduced flap operation without triggering a warning horn. Flap control is restricted by a detent breakout wire, so full deflection and full power are available for emergencies.

But lowered thrust lengthens takeoff runs by 500 to 900 ft and limits takeoff weight to 167,000 lb, compared with the current 727-200 maximum of up to 191,500 lb. The weight reductions cut into fuel load and thus the payload/range envelope as well. Lower drag increases landing speed 5 mph, and extends landing-field distance 450 ft at a maximum landing weight of 154,000 lb.

James Raisbeck, company CEO, points out such performance limitations are moot--the cost of three-person crew and higher fuel consumption have pushed these aircraft into shorter routes or into corporate service with only several hundred yearly flight hours rather than thousands. On such routes, airport infrastructure expenses, not cost per mile, dominate operating cost, making older planes competitive. Raisbeck also cites studies of airline operations: "In 1995, 92% of all 727-200 takeoffs were at 167,000 lb or less and 100% of all landings were below 154,000 lb."

The third alternative is 727 hushkits from Federal Express Aviation Services, Memphis, TN. Costing $1.9 to $2.6 million, these kits modify the engines with acoustic treatments and an internal high- and low-velocity gas mixer to muffle the exhaust jet. "There is no change in performance nor in thrust with power setting," asserts FedEx Marketing Manager Phil Blum.

Photocopier goes 3-D

by Anna Kochan, Contributing Editor, England

Hazu-gun, Japan--Three-dimensional photocopying has almost become a reality. A rapid-prototyping machine from the Japanese company Kira uses proven laser-printing technology to automatically convert a 3-D computer model into a 3-D component using sheets of ordinary paper.

In appearance, the Kira machine resembles a large computer-controlled photocopier. In practice, it uses standard A3-size photocopier-quality paper. As with a photocopier, it takes one sheet at a time and applies toner to a selected area of the paper. This area corresponds to one particular cross-section or layer of the model being built.

Instead of appearing in the outlet tray, the "printed" sheet proceeds to another zone in the machine where it is assembled on top of others to create the solid model.

Here, the sheets are pressed together at a temperature that melts the resin powder of the toner. In this way, the toner acts as an adhesive to hold the sheets of paper together without the addition of any further substances. Once each sheet has been pressed onto the block, a tiny blade cuts around the contour of the "printed" area. It also makes additional cuts so that, once all the sheets have been assembled, the designer can pick out the model from the excess paper surrounding it.

The resulting model has the consistency of wood and can be used as an investment die-casting pattern to generate additional samples in plastic or metal materials.

The new Kira machine is now being marketed in the UK for 100,000 pounds. In Japan, Konica has used it in APS camera development, Mitsubishi Electric has developed palm-top computer designs with it, Toyota has used the machine for automotive design.

Solenoid valve offers proportional control

Scherpenzeel, The Netherlands--As more design engineers incorporate microprocessor-based controllers into their applications, the need for precise control of fluid flow increases. PosiflowTM proportional solenoid valves provide this function. Flow is directly related to electrical input, and can be adjusted from 0% to 100% of the valve's capacity.

Most flow-control valves work on an "all or nothing" basis. They are either fully open or fully closed. "The key to Posiflow's proportional control," claims Terrance Sarkees, marketing engineer for ASCO Valve, "is a uniquely designed core and plug nut." This simple concept, he explains, permits a linear relationship between electromagnetic pullforce and current.

Extensive engineering data now on CD-ROM

by Anna Kochan Contributing Editor, England

London--Engineering data that was previously available only in catalog form is now being issued on CD-ROM. The new medium will save engineers time and money by presenting validated data in a format they can access quickly and use immediately, claims Engineering Sciences Data Unit (ESDU) International PLC, a company that has collated engineering data in the mechanical, aeronautical, structural, and chemical engineering fields for more than 50 years. It is now launching the CD-ROMs.

Fluid mechanics--internal flow (aerospace) is the first data set available on CD-ROM. Although the data already existed in printed format, the data on the CD-ROM have been created from scratch--not by scanning printed copies, stresses ESDU Managing Director John Castle. In this way, he says, it has been possible to provide fully interactive diagrams, graphs, tables, and other display materials. Users need no special training to use the CD-ROM because it employs the Microsoft Access Interface, which provides industry-standard compatibility.

The new CD-ROM contains the first version of a program called ESDUscope, which lets engineers explore the database and interact with "live" versions of data items and computer programs.

The data set also includes equations. Engineers using the CD-ROM can introduce variables such as dimensions, speeds, and temperatures for specific calculations. They can view the text and graphics and can manipulate and alter the on-screen image using standard zoom facilities. A word-processing package allowing cut-and-paste and other editing features is also included.

A search facility helps locate topics of interest by scanning files and reviewing their abstracts before running the full file.

ESDU plans to make its other engineering data topics available on CD-ROM. As with the printed volumes, customers pay an annual subscription for the data.

Zinc alloy offers enhanced performance

Peterborough, Ontario, Canada--A ternary zinc-copper-aluminum alloy lets design engineers use hot-chamber zinc-alloy die casting to produce small components for use at elevated temperatures and in structural applications. Composed primarily of zinc, the ACuZinc(R) alloy contains 5 to 6% copper and 2.8 to 3.3% aluminum.

Fishercast, Division of Fisher Gauge Limited, was the first hot-chamber die-casting company to sign a comprehensive licensing agreement with the alloy's developer, General Motors Corp., for use of the alloy. Co-inventors M.S. Rashid and M. David Hanna of the metallurgy department at General Motors Corporation Research and Development Center, Warren, MI, developed ACuZinc after evaluating more than 40 alloy compositions.

Its copper content gives ACuZinc a tensile strength of 59,000 psi and a yield strength of 49,000 psi (338 MPa)--comparable to that of low-carbon steel. Another formulation, used in cold-chamber casting, contains about 10% copper.

Application Engineer Todd Ulrich of Fishercast says that ACuZinc is harder as well as stronger than traditional Zamak alloys and ZA-8 alloy. Its Brinell hardness of 118 is 36 points harder than Zamak 3, 38 points harder than Al380, and 25 points harder than brass. In high-load applications, conventional zinc alloys relax over time. This ternary zinc alloy, however, provides substantially higher creep resistance than such alloys. Using fillets and radii can further enhance the material's creep resistance, according to Ulrich.

ACuZinc's copper content reportedly gives it wear characteristics comparable to those of bearing bronzes. Fishercast's Ulrich says that in the standard block-on-rotating-ring test, the alloy loses 7.63 mg/hr, while Zamak 3 loses 23.76 mg/hr. Wear behavior of the new alloy is comparable to that of aluminum alloy 356 Al +5% SIC and aluminum alloy 339 Al. Furthermore, the material's friction coefficient is 0.06 against itself (the value for Zamak 3 is 0.24).

Nylon beefs up Boxster manifold

Orbey, France--When the Porsche Boxster's motor reaches high revs, less than one-hundredth of a second is available to fill its 2.5 liters of cylinder capacity--six cylinders in horizontally opposed banks--with the right fuel-air mix. Twin air-intake manifolds made of nylon help beat the clock, even at top engine revolutions.

The two-seater, first shown to the public late last year (see Design News, 3/24/97), is powered by a water-cooled boxer motor with its characteristic low, flat silhouette and widely separated banks of cylinder heads. The aspirated air for the motor passes from a central distribution pipe in two manifolds, each of which supplies three cylinders. For the design, Porsche engineers decided to use two separate, symmetrical manifolds.

Development of the part was a joint project involving car-maker Porsche; France's Le Profil Industries (LPI), developer of the design and molder; and DuPont as the raw material supplier. To save weight as well as costs, the team decided at an early stage on a welded design. The material of choice: Zytel(R) 70G35 HSL, DuPont's heat-stabilized nylon with 35% glass-fiber reinforcement, formulated especially for air-intake manifold applications.

The nylon withstands continuous temperatures up to 130C and shorter excursions up to about 150C. The smooth internal flow surface the material produces in the manifold actually improves performance. One manifold weighs about 1.4 kg, or about half the weight of a comparable aluminum part.

However, in early tests the manifold's surface near the plenum chamber turned out to be a source of unwanted noise with high oscillation amplitude. DuPont engineers found that pulsations of the air stream at certain valve positions triggered the noise. On a lab scale, engineers tested the effect of changes to the stiffness of certain manifold sections to establish the data for an optimized design.

LPI incorporated the results of the lab's work into the final design, modifying the twin manifolds so that the unwanted resonance no longer occurred. As a result, the mid-engine Boxster now runs smoothly and quietly, though still with Porsche's typical sporting "snort."

Seal solves fowl problem

Lancaster, NY--A malfunctioning seal resulted in chickens on several farms not drinking enough water. Because of this, the chickens failed to gain weight--a costly situation for the farmers, as well as for the manufacturer who had guaranteed the feeders.

Hearing of the problem, personnel from Apple Rubber Products Inc. visited the manufacturer's facility. Investigation showed that an O-ring placed around a small rod often would stick and not allow water to pass through. The possibility also existed for the seal to be completely blown off the rod by the high pressure of the system, letting too much water spray through.

In designing a new seal several factors came into play. Water differed dramatically in various areas where the feeders operated. In some cases, the water contained heavy mineral content; in others, it was heavily chlorinated. Moreover, the feeders were regularly cleaned with high-pressure water and solvents. And farmers often administered nutrients and medicines through the water system.

Technicians at Apple Rubber, knowing that seals generally aren't effective force limiters, offered a rubber-bonded-to-metal seal. Here, the metal becomes the force limiter and the seal only has to seal. In other words, the metal bond added the needed stability to the seal, eliminating potential swelling and disfiguring.

The manufacturer chose the suggested solution. Al-though it required some tooling changes to the feeder, the seal combines two parts into one, eliminating an assembly step and associated costs. The result: a better, more functional seal for the same amount of money.

Traction control for your Rolls

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, UK--Designed to give good performance on surfaces where one driven wheel grips more easily than the other, Zytek Automotive's traction-control system uses the Engine Management System (EMS) microprocessor to collect and analyze wheel speed data from the existing ABS control module. Incorporating a viscous limited slip differential eliminates the need for individual control over driven wheels. This approach reportedly provides smoother action than a brake intervention system while yielding excellent vehicle stability.

If the EMS microprocessor detects traction loss, it calculates the extent of action required and selects a strategy to reduce engine power until restoration of traction. By using this processor to directly control flow metering, engineers see to it that gas-flow inertia does not affect response time, as it would in a conventional throttle-control system.

In the Rolls-Royce and Bentley application, the Zytek system adds four components to the vehicles: an on/off switch, connections to the switch, and connections to the ABS control module and driver information panel. Complexity resides in software and system calibration.

The new traction-control system will be an option on the non-intercooled turbo Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, and standard on intercooled turbo vehicles.

Find the motor, they'll sell you the drive

by David J. Bak Senior Technical Editor

Feuerthalen, Switzerland-- Need a 450-kW motor with intelligent drive? No problem, says Daniel Berg, director of sales and marketing for Baldor Motors and Drives. "Find the motor and we'll sell you the drive." Berg can state this with confidence since Baldor's recent acquisition of Optimised Control Ltd. (Bristol, UK), a leading designer of motion-control products.

The acquisition meets the growing demand for complete motion-systems solutions. Optimised Control's product line, claims Berg, gives Baldor the engineering resources to support the transition to integrated drives and controls, and open automation systems.

SmartMove, for example, is a fully integrated machine controller that offers motion, I/O, operator interface, and serial communication in a single CE-compliant panel-mount enclosure. Able to provide up to three axes of closed-loop control, the SmartMove controller is programmed using MINTTM (Machine INTelligence).

Flexible, yet easy to use, the MINT language supports event-driven and scanned I/O tasks, along with communication features for connecting to MMIs, host controllers, and other serial devices.

SmartMove controllers offer standard network connectivity in the form of a Control Area Network (CAN), which provides a 1-Mbps serial link for connection of sensors, I/O expansion, and direct control of digital drives.

John McFarland, President of Baldor Electric Company, explains that "by bringing position-control products and engineering capability in-house, we have the opportunity to develop much stronger relationships with our customers. It makes us the only vendor that can offer complete motion control solutions right through the spectrum." Baldor expects to sell Optimised Control products to customers worldwide.

Crack detection cuts paper-mill downtime

by Charles J. Murray Senior Midwest Editor

Marietta, GA--When a paper roll tears, large paper mills can lose as much as 30 minutes to downtime at costs approaching $1,000 per minute.

To eliminate that problem, engineers from Ryeco Inc. have devised a system that detects tiny cracks in paper rolls moving as fast as 8,000 feet per minute. Using the system, mill operators can detect edge cracks as small as 1/16 inch. As a result, they can fix an edge crack before the tear grows larger, ultimately preventing downtime.

To accomplish that, the Edge Crack Detection System uses a combination of photoelectric sensors, high-speed electric actuators, small air jets, and microprocessor-based control. Three basic systems perform the unit's primary functions: A tracking module uses infrared photoelectric sensors to monitor side-to-side movement of the paper as it passes; an edge-crack detection module with visible-light photoelectric sensors finds defects in the passing paper; and a marker module color codes those defects. Two air jets blow streams of air under the paper to temporarily separate the edge crack so the angled optics can detect it.

Key to the system is its ability to move the edge-crack detection module back and forth in a direction perpendicular to the paper as it passes. The photoelectric sensors in the module, which are positioned within 0.375 to 1.375 inches of the paper's edge, must be kept close enough for accurate detection. "They need to stay as close to the edge of the paper as possible because you can't afford to miss anything when the paper is flying by at 8,000 feet per minute," notes David Lawrence, engineering manager for Ryeco.

The problem in achieving close proximity is that fast-moving paper rolls often wander from side to side. During this drifting, the roll's edge may move as fast as two inches per second.

To properly position the sensors, the system's edge-tracking module monitors side-to-side movement of the paper, then sends position information to the microprocessor. The microprocessor, in turn, sends a signal to an electrically driven actuator, which moves the edge-crack detection module with respect to the moving target. All of this takes place in about 40 msec.

Key to the success of the Edge Crack Detection System is the use of an electric screw drive actuator made by Tol-O-Matic Inc., Hamel, MN. Known as the BCES, the actuator offers two important performance advantages: Its self-lubricating carrier bearing system provides longer cycle life, and an outer dust band in the actuator body encloses the ball nut screw drive, thus protecting it from the environment. The patented actuator design draws on Tol-O-Matic's experience in rodless pneumatic cylinders, which use similar dust bands for protection against dirt and moisture.

The actuator's advances enable it to withstand the equipment washdowns that regularly occur in pa-per mills. Earlier actuators employed oil-impregnated bronze bearings and offered about one-third the life-cycle performance of the new actuator. "With this design, when the paper ma-chine is washed down, it doesn't damage the actuator," Lawrence says.

The higher life-cycle performance of the Tol-O-Matic actuator reduces downtime for the paper mills because it requires less frequent servicing and replacement. That, in turn, allows the Edge Crack Detection System to dramatically reduce downtime by spotting minuscule tears in the paper before operators separate the sheet and allow the paper roll to run free. "With this system, operators don't have to stop for 30 minutes to clean up and re-thread their winding machine," Lawrence says. "And that's critical for most paper mills, because they simply cannot afford the downtime."

Simulation cuts time and costs, delivers European feel

Los Angeles and Raymond, OH--Honda R&D North America, Inc. had one major performance factor in mind when designing the Acura CL: a handling feel similar to that of a BMW. The design team wanted to promote a feeling of high body rigidity and high damping when hitting a bump, for example. And handling was to be linear and natural for everyday driving.

Jim Jamieson, senior engineer at the Ohio center, says the team also wanted to expand its simulation capabilities on this project. Their main goal was to perform simulation prior to prototype development. "This would cut down on the number of prototypes built because the majority of the design problems would be solved during simulation," he says. "It would also reduce development costs and decrease development time, or at the very least, make it easier to meet the design deadline."

The simulation group used its existing software system for structural simulation during the CL's early prototype stages, but it became increasingly difficult as the work became more complex. Among the software's weaknesses were the lack of an in-depth geometry base, no solid modeling capabilities, and an inability to manage large parts assemblies.

Jamieson and his team needed new software that included:

Ease of use so new associates with backgrounds in physics and thermal dynamics could learn the package quickly.

  • An integrated approach to simulation, design, data management, and test.

  • A solid foundation for linking to other simulation tools in the future.

And the program had to be easy to administer. The Ohio R&D center decided on I-DEAS Master SeriesTM software from Structural Dynamics Research Corporation (SDRC), Milford, OH.

One of the first things the CL team did was to create surface geometry to match the wireframe design coming from Dassault Systemes' CATIA software. The I-DEAS translator made direct translation between the two packages possible.

I-DEAS' surface modeling capabilities came in handy in devising a white-body development strategy, a critical simulation task. A two-person team constructed a structural model of the CL white body to have a working simulation prototype. "Without I-DEAS' surface modeling capabilities, we would have had trouble meeting our schedule of 32 months," comments Jamieson.

n the construction of the model, all parts were managed using I-DEAS project libraries capabilities. The simulation team had access to all part components and was able to control all the data. Once the parts were created, each was meshed using the surface-free mesher.

To create an entire finite element (FE) vehicle model, all the FE part models were merged and part meshes attached to create a complete vehicle mesh. With the finer mesh capabilities in I-DEAS, a half-vehicle mesh contained more than 30,000 elements and had an average length of 30 mm, compared to the previous 100 mm.

Other simulation activities included designing a new bulkhead. The CL's early bulkhead designs had large rotations, making this a weak area in the car. "With I-DEAS, we de-signed a more efficient bulkhead that met our objectives as well as those of manufacturing," says Jamieson.

After that, the simulation team went on to more detailed component-level analysis, such as looking at the aluminum road wheel for the 3.0 CL and the front strut bar. "The I-DEAS solver let us look at the full car with very complex loading conditions and in much more detail to ascertain what was driving design, and which features our test engineers were telling us were important," says Jamieson. "We actually made these parts and found the trends we were seeing on the computer matched those found when the CL was test driven," he adds.

Overall, I-DEAS software has made life easier for Honda's simulation engineers, says Jamieson, and with each new set of I-DEAS enhancements, various simulation tasks have become much faster to perform. Static deflection for half-vehicle meshing, for example, has dropped from eight hours to one, while natural frequency analysis has decreased from 16 hours to two.

"Without I-DEAS, we wouldn't have been able to meet our objectives to the level we wanted," says Jamieson. "There's no doubt we would have had a vehicle, but it wouldn't have been as good as we wanted or as it turned out to be."

Circuit breakers replace auto blade fuses

by Roy O'Connor European Bureau Chief

Brighouse, UK--The large amount of electrical equipment installed in emergency vehicles makes enormous demands on the vehicles' electrical systems. With lights, siren, monitoring equipment, Laerdal suction units, incubators, and vehicle heating/air conditioning, the total load on the electrical system in an ambulance can reach 120 amperes. In addition, dependence on the overall system reliability is a critical factor in saving lives.

To improve the vehicle's reliability and reduce downtime in the event of a fault, the Ambulance Division of Universal Vehicles at Brighouse, UK, has been replacing automotive blade fuses with circuit breakers manufactured by E-T-A, Altdorf, Germany, and supplied via the group's UK subsidiary. The main advantage of circuit breakers over fuses is that they can easily be reset once the fault or overload has cleared. On a vehicle responding to an emergency, the time taken to replace fuses can be critical, particularly if the fault recurs a number of times during an emergency call.

A typical circuit-protection configuration on a Lazer ambulance consists of several subsystems. Three E-T-A 413 Series high-performance thermal circuit breakers guard against overload on the battery power cables. Four 1658 Series thermal circuit breakers protect on-board incubator equipment. And a panel of about 30 miniature 1170 circuit breakers protects low-voltage wiring to lights, sirens, fans, and medical equipment. E-T-A engineers developed the 1170 Series specifically for direct replacement of automotive blade fuses, and the devices fit into standard fuse sockets.

To overcome the problems of fire and battery draining, a battery isolator switch with remote cut-off enables the driver to shut off the power supply from the dashboard. This overcomes the problem of under-hood access to any isolator switch in the event of a fire. The driver can also operate the switch to reduce battery drain when the vehicle is to be left standing for a long period of time.

Flexible blanket GaAs/Ge array nears end of tests

Redondo Beach, CA--Engineers at TRW Space & Electronics Group are completing tests on what the company describes as the first operational flexible blanket solar array made from gallium arsenide germanium (GaAs/Ge). Generating 25 to 35% more energy per pound than an array made from conventional silicon cells, the 200x351-inch array consists of 26 panels and 36,480 cells, each measuring 1.60x0.95 inch. With harnesses it weighs approximately 160 lb, some 20 to 25% lighter than a comparable array built using silicon technology.

TRW will deliver the array to Lockheed Martin this summer for integration into NASA's 11,000-lb Earth Observing System AM-1 (EOS AM-1) spacecraft. There are to be three earth-observing satellites--EOS AM-1, EOS PM-1, and EOS Chemistry. Satellite AM-1 will cross the equator at noon at a specific point on the earth. Satellite PM-1 will follow at midnight. The EOS chemistry satellite will observe chemical environments around the globe. Each satellite is the first of two in NASA's longer-term plans.

At the beginning of its life in low earth orbit (LEO), the new array will produce 7.5 kW at 127V. Over time, array output changes in a nonlinear fashion. "It's exponential," explains Mike Herriage, EOS AM solar-array program operations manager at TRW's Space & Electronics Group. "You're losing more power in the first year or two. Then it becomes asymptotic through 5 kW out to something approaching 4,500 or 4,000W, if it survives 7.5 to 10 years in orbit. Our requirement is to have 5,000W at end of life, which is five years in LEO."

Engineers can accommodate future spacecraft needs by expanding the array design to produce as much as 20 kW in a two-wing configuration. "You can easily increase the size of the blanket by 50% in each wing without changing the fundamental frequency significantly," Herriage asserts.

The GaAs/Ge solar cells are bonded to a laminate of carbon fiber and epoxy captured between two sheets of KaptonTM polyimide film. Engineers protect the substrate from the LEO environment (basically atomic oxygen) by sputtering a germanium coating onto it. TRW then bonds the solar-cell stack--a 6-mil-thick cell secured to a 6-mil-thick borosilicate cover glass--to the 0.007-inch-thick laminate. A silicone adhesive secures the cell to its cover, and also bonds the cell to the germanium coating on the substrate.

Two types of hinges allow the array to fold like an accordion. In the photo, "you can see the lines between the dark blocks of solar cells," says Herriage. "Those lines consist of fold hinges and piano hinges. At every third hinge line a graphite rod serves as a hinge pin. Two out of every three are fold hinges. There are openings in the substrate material where we do not apply cells, and we have no graphite in that area. We allow the plastic film to carry the load."

Awarded in 1993, the contract to develop the array included the design phase, developmental phase, qualification, and flight hardware. Current contract value is $38 million. In June 1998, the EOS AM-1 spacecraft will be launched from Vandenberg AFB.

Designer’s corner

Designer’s corner

Embedded-magnet rotor

To improve motor performance and lower manufacturing costs, rotor-embedded flat NdFeB magnets replace surface-mounted curved magnets. The design effectively doubles the magnet's power volume providing flux for higher torque to inertia, and reduced size and weight.

Stainless-steel center shaft, non-magnetic-retainer rings and glass-fiber rods prestress the rotor assembly. The prestressed rotor cage delivers torque allowing center-shaft elimination in small-diameter motors. High mechanical stiffness allows increased current-loop gains.

The design secures magnets even at high speeds, eliminating the need for special rotor banding. Schlenker Enterprises has designed the synchronous ac servo motor in four diameters rated from 1 Nm to 147 Nm.

Schlenker Enterprises Ltd., 5143 Electric Ave., Hillside, IL 60162-1099, Fax: (708) 449-5703.