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Articles from 2007 In September

Resource Center E-Alert: Materials and Fastening Information, Made Easy

September 28, 2007
Design News' Resource Center e-Alert provides design engineers fast and convenient access to the latest information - data sheets, design guides, CAD files, application notes, instruction manuals, reference designs and white papers - on technologies and products available on manufacturer sites.
Featured Vendor
Phillips Plastics Phillips Plastics has set the standard for injection molding services since 1964 with state-of-the-art technology, experienced staff, and collaborative partnerships resulting in unsurpassed quality and cost-savings. View All Resources From Phillips Plastics
Free Literature - Get Microminiature Seal Solutions Now! Vendor:Apple Rubber Products | Type: Product Catalog | Category:Materials/Fastening Color Product Catalog details Apple Rubber Products Inc., a leading designer and manufacturer of seals and sealing devices, offering the industry's broadest range of products - standard and custom. Apple Rubber offers the seal industry's largest inventory of Orings including standard AS 568B sizes, microminiature seals, and oversized seals and O-rings.

Coatings – Medical, Industrial & Aerospace Vendor:Boyd Coatings | Type: Product Catalog | Category:Materials/Fastening Boyd Coatings Research Co. manufactures, applies, and distributes custom-developed, high-performance coatings to meet specific medical device, industrial and aerospace market needs. High-volume and flexible manufacturing capabilities allow the company to produce both large and small quantities quickly and cost-effectively. Boyd is a Licensed Industrial Applicator of Teflon®.

Free Literature - Bud Industries - New 2005 Enclosure Product Catalog Vendor: Bud Industries, Inc. | Type: Product Catalog | Category: Materials/Fastening Bud Industries’ Product catalog features more than 2500 enclosures, cabinets, chassis and racks, and are described in detail in Bud's updated 2005 catalog. Whether it's plastic or metal, standard or custom, Bud Industries quality means that it's always on time...always on spec... always built to last. Same day shipping on 90% of all items. Check out Bud Industries’ product catalog today.
Featured Vendor
Solvay Advanced Polymers Solvay Advanced Polymers Technology. No matter what you're working on, you need a material that performs. After all, the material you specify this year will determine the success of your product next year and beyond. That's where Solvay Advanced Polymers can help. Whether you're looking to reduce weight or lower cost, improve durability or consolidate parts, you'll find Solvay to be an amazing resource of polymers and people with expertise. View All Resources From Solvay Advanced Polymers
Carr Lane product catalog of clamps and components Vendor:Carr Lane | Type: Product Catalog| Category:Materials/Fastening Smarticom enables development teams to stay on track with projects and meet launch dates. Our services solve efficiency problems that plague engineering and cut processes from weeks to hours with SmarTeam Product Lifecycle Management software. SmarTeam eliminates painstaking document searches and retrievals by storing all product info in one product file and instantly updates manufacturing or design changes. Share documents with suppliers and customers through web based solutions. Sign up now for our product demo!

Free capabilities brochure plus laser component samples Vendor:LSA Laser | Type: Product Catalog | Category:Materials/Fastening LSA laser provides a product catalog detailing products for precision welding, assembly, marking and cutting for Medical and Aerospace applications from prototype to production. LSA laser is dedicated to providing the customer with the best value service in the laser industry. LSA laser’s product catalog features many products such as guidewires, stents, catheter subassemblies and porting, pacing leads, tubular devices, drug delivery ports, defibrillation leads, coil termination, surgical instruments, feed-throughs, laserscopic instruments. Check out LSA Laser's laser component samples and ask to receive a copy of LSA Laser’s new product catalog.

Complete OEM Supplier Vendor:Valtra Inc. | Type: Product Catalog | Category:Materials/Fastening Buy direct from the manufacturer for the best cost savings. The catalog features a wide range of high quality, very competitively priced adjustable handles, handwheels, levers, cranks, knobs, leveling pads, tooling balls, and precision locating elements. Full line of tooling components, including eyebolts, t-bolts, and unique threaded fasteners. High volume custom orders welcome.
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Design News Webcast: Control Design in Mechatronic Systems

FREE WEBCAST: Control Design in Mechatronic Systems

This three-part webcast will highlight the following topics:
Part 1 – Control System Design: Stability, Performance, Design Approaches
Always ask the question: Why am I modeling?  Modeling is part of the Engineering System Investigation Process which is the cornerstone of modern engineering practice.  It is a procedure an engineer follows to thoroughly investigate, i.e., understand, predict, and experimentally verify, how a dynamic engineering system or device performs, no matter how simple or complex the system may be.  It is an iterative process, as there is a hierarchy of physical models possible.

Part 2 – Modern PID Control System Design
There are techniques and tools to predict model behavior – analytical and numerical - and they are complementary as they both contribute to gaining insight into the behavior of a dynamic physical system.  The importance of modeling and analysis in the design process has never been more important, as design concepts can no longer be evaluated by the build-and-test approach.

Part 3 – Model-Based Control System Design
An automotive application - the electromagnetic valve actuator - is discussed from a modeling and analysis point of view.
Access other webcasts in this series or additional resources on this topic at the Design News Mechatronics Zone!
Dr. Kevin Craig, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and Mechatronics Industry Expert

Interested in Mechatronics?Register for the Design News
Mechatronics e-newsletter!

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National Instruments

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EPEAT delivers tangible environmental benefits

EPEAT delivers tangible environmental benefits

Six months into the EPEAT program, computers are greener and environmental gains are stacking up. EPEAT was launched last year, partially funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The program evaluates computer desktops, laptops and monitors based on 51 environmental criteria. All EPEAT registered products must meet 23 mandatory environmental criteria, with an additional 28 optional criteria used to determine whether products earn EPEAT bronze, silver or gold recognition. So far, 575 products have been registered from 21 different manufacturers.


EPEAT registered products are already delivering environmental benefits. Here are the details based on EPEAT registered products that were sold during the second half of 2006:


  • 13.7 billion kWh of electricity has been saved, enough to power 1.2 million U.S. homes per year.
  • 24.4 million metric tons of materials saved, equivalent to the weight of 189 million refrigerators.
  • 56.5 million tons of air pollution prevented, including 1.07 million metric tons of global warming gasses (the equivalent of removing 852,000 cars from the road for a year.
  • 118,000 metric tons of water pollution prevented.
  • Reduced toxic material use by 1,070 metric tons, equivalent to the weight of 534,000 bricks, including enough mercury to fill 157,000 household fever thermometers.
  • 41,000 metric tons of hazardous waste avoided, equivalent to the weight of 20.5 million bricks.



Making an Engineering Career Move

Making an Engineering Career Move

Last time, we begin the examination of factors to consider in making a job change from the big picture perspective. How about from the personal perspective?

Remember the line from Alice in Wonderland? “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will lead you there.” The impetus behind any career move should begin with your life plan. What do you want to do with your engineering career? What are your major goals? These questions and the thought, planning and due diligence behind them should guide your day-to-day and month-to-month activities. This is critical to remember, because as an engineer you are accustomed to resolving issues that serve a project, mainly short-term objectives.

Often, as we consider career moves, they too arise out of reactive circumstance. A company is acquired, moved, reorganized and you are left to fend for yourself. A better way to advance your career goals is to be proactive. As a headhunter, I suggest that you always have a resume prepared and updated. This is not simply so that you can be more reactive and prepared, but because there is no clearer way to summarize your career progress than to condense it on a resume.

This is not to say that you should always be looking for a new role, but it is essential that you know where you stand in relation to your life plan. Is management your ultimate goal? Retirement or a second career? Your own consulting firm? Executive management? Where are you on your progressive realization of that goal? Are the roles you perform in your current company taking you toward or away from your endgame? Stephen Covey’s Habit number two, “Begin with the end in mind” is a great start to develop such thinking. It allows you to “chunk your career” creating the building blocks or successive steps that each career role fulfills.

Are you meeting the educational needs to move into the next phase of your career. If you are aiming for the executive suite, balancing an MBA with your B.S. will round out your executive credentials. Likewise, advanced study in your engineering specialty may pave the way to teaching or advanced growth in your area of specialization. Now as you consider your progress, it may be measured against the ultimate ends you wish to achieve.

This is the time to “look passively” for a job. Find a recruiter with whom you can establish a relationship of trust, confidentiality and advocacy. Like you, most recruiters are reacting to urgent client needs. But the essence of working most effectively with a recruiting professional is to make him aware of your career plan and review the opportunities that match your credentials and goals. He can suggest opportunities that arise in line with those aims and review them with you. Often, these are career opportunities that never become search assignments. They are areas of pain or need with a client that can’t proceed with a project or strategy without the “right person in the right seat on the bus.” In contact with managers and company executives, a recruiting specialist can suggest your skill sets and game plan and arrange confidential exploratory interviews to flesh out an ideal partnership.

These are the best ways to conduct a job search. Begin with a plan. Chart your steps. Secure the necessary credentials and education. Find career mentors and advocates. Be proactive not reactive in your career moves. In this way, you can be aware of career opportunities that meet your needs, in the time and direction of your choosing. This is also the best way to negotiate your best compensation and job description…before a position is open and defined. It is created around you and your specific and unique skill sets.

In this scenario, in pursuing the job that meets your needs and aims, matching your credentials, before a requisition is ever created, the only competition is you. Sound good? Why, you’ll be grinning like the Cheshire cat.

iRobot Unveils the Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot and the ConnectR Virtual Visiting Robot

Yesterday iRobot of Burlington, MA announced the launch of two new domestic robots. The Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot and the ConnectR Virtual Visiting Robot. Both were unveiled Thursday afternoon at the DigitalLife Conference in New York.


The Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot

The Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot comes out just in time for Fall. This miniature tank, according to iRobot, borrows some of the same technology behind military bomb-defusing robots to eject rotting foliage from your gutters safely. It can clean a 60 ft section of gutter in just 10 minutes. Simply place the robot in the gutter and remove the detachable handle/remote. The Looj moves in both forward and backward directions and the 3-stage auger spins in both directions. Using the wireless handle/remote, you can control the direction of the robot and the 3-stage auger to ensure it covers the length of your gutters and propels debris away from your home. Clean-up is easy too. Simply remove the handle/remote and hose off dirt and debris.


iRobot’s ConnectR Virtual Visiting Robot

The ConnectR Virtual Visiting Robot keeps you from missing anything important happening at home, even if you aren’t there. By combining the latest in Internet communications and robot technology, ConnectR lets you virtually visit with your family, friends, even pets anytime you want – seeing, hearing and interacting with them in their home as if you were there in person. ConnectR enables these real-time virtual visits over the Internet. The robot is equipped with high-quality audio and a video camera. The robot is located on-site in the home of the “host” party. Using a computer keyboard, mouse or joystick, the remote (“visiting”) party can drive the robot around and interact with those onsite, virtually participating in activities at home and wherever the device is located.


I’m thinking both sound like pretty good Christmas gifts to me!

Emerging Technologies Conference Focuses on Metaverse, Nanoelectronics

During a three-day conference covering a range of technologies and industries, it is hard to determine which session or speaker was the best. With topics ranging from biofuels to the Internet, and representatives from Intel, Google, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota and University of California, Berkeley, there were too many highlights to count. Here are just a few from the Technology ReviewEmerging Technologies Conference.

What’s the Big Idea?

This late-morning keynote panel featured Prith Banerjee, senior vice president of research and director of HP labs, Andrew A. Chien, vice president of research for Intel and Guido Jouret, chief technology officer for the emerging markets technology group at Cisco Systems.
Topics ranged from the state of broadband pipelines to augmented reality to concerns over data security. One especially interesting topic to the academic community was the relationship between companies and academic institutions and whether research is best provided internally at the companies or externally through universities.

“In many cases, we build infrastructure for the research community and put it out there and try to stimulate innovation on those platforms, trying to provide from an industry perspective the kinds of sustained engineering and infrastructure that is sometimes difficult to sustain in a university, so we're trying to do that in partnership with the academic community,” says Chien. “But fundamentally, we think of it as trying to identify and lower the energy barrier between innovation that happens outside of the company and innovation that can happen inside of the company and bring those things together to create opportunities for everyone.”

The determination of the state of broadband is that these wide pipelines of data need to be in place in order to make content delivered over the Internet reach its full potential. “Broadband really is one of the keys to democratizing and opening up access; the ability to innovate in the delivery of services,” says Chien, “and I think that has really been the fuel behind the Internet.”

Second Earth

The focus of this panel was different approaches and functions for building the metaverse as described by John Hanke, director of Google Earth and Google Maps, Gur KimChi, software architect for Microsoft Virtual Earth, Jerry Paffendorf, cofounder of Wello Horld, and John Lester, Boston operations director of Linden labs, creators of Second Life.
The metaverse is an immersive digital environment where individuals are represented by avatars. According to Lester, “people + tools + shared spaces = metaverse.” Second Life is the convergence of video games and reality. A user can walk through digitally fabricated worlds and interact in real time with other users through their avatars. Users create their own environment using the tools provided to them.

Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth, on the other hand, are indexed digital representations of the real planet. Both take actual environments and aerial views of the earth and allow users to index their experiences and knowledge of a certain real-world place. According to Hanke, Google has coverage of more than 1/3 of the earth’s surface at a sub-meter level, meaning that through Google Earth a user can see detail greater than a meter on 1/3 of the planet. Microsoft’s Virtual Earth is similar to Google Earth in that it indexes the real world, but the primary goal of the project is to allow businesses to cache information about their product or service in order to provide users with that information regarding their spatially oriented searches. This technology is web-based and requires no download to access. This type of Internet experience is, according to KimChi, part of the GeoWeb.

Paffendorf’s interests lie between the real and the totally fabricated. He has done artistic projects connecting Internet platforms such as Second Life and Flickr together and is formerly of the Electric Sheep Company and the Metaverse Roadmap. His goal with Wello Horld is turning the Internet into a place itself. Not much information is currently available about Wello Horld as it is still in the early stages of development.

Tomorrow’s Chip
This panel was about current developments in chip technology, including nanoelectronics and semiconductors. Panelists included Marc Baldo, associate professor of electrical engineering at MIT and Mario Paniccia, director of the photonics technology lab at Intel.

Baldo discussed the theoretical and energy limitations on developing semiconductors at the nano level, but also projected possibilities for their development. Electrons act differently with semiconductors at the nano level than they do at the micro level. “Essentially, the electron goes straight through without even seeing a semiconductor; we call that ballistic transport, it’s like firing a bullet out of a gun,” said Baldo.

Since electrons travel freely at the nano level, there is little that can be done to restrain their transference. “It might seem a little crazy but it’s encouraging a return to mechanical switches,” said Baldo, “because the point of a mechanical switch is that when it’s off, it’s about as good an off position as it can be, because there’s a vacuum or an air gap between the contacts.”

Intel on the other hand is pursuing methods for optical transfer of data for its microprocessors, which, according to Paniccia, could provide in the not-so-distant future a terabit of processing power on a chip the size of a fingernail. “The goal is can we develop optical technology or optical communications based on the same processes that we use to build our silicon microprocessors,” he said.

The TR35

The TR35 is a group of 35 engineers and innovators who by the age of 35 have stood out for their contributions to science and technology. They were each presented throughout the conference and were given an opportunity to give a 90-sec elevator pitch about their work. Among the 35, there were two who won the conference's Humanitarian of the Year and the Innovator of the Year awards. The Humanitarian of the Year is Tapan Parikh, awarded for his work on CAM: Mobile Applications for the Rural Developing World. Using cell phones and barcode technology, Parikh was able to assist merchants in managing their finances. The Innovator of the Year is David Berry, principal of Flagship Ventures, who was awarded for his work in developing renewable petroleum grown from microbes.

National Manufacturing Week: Coverage from the Show Floor, Day 3

September 27, 2007
National Manufacturing Week Day 3:
Boeing’s Tom Cogan Talks About 787 First Flight, Electronic Spoilers, Test Pilots and Anhedral vs. Dihedral DN had the pleasure last night of awarding in person our 2007 Engineer of the Year award to Boeing 787 Chief Project Engineer Tom Cogan. Editor-in-Chief John Dodge recalls Tom Cogan's insights from the evening. Full Story
2007 Golden Mousetrap Best Product Winners
Choosing the winners of this year's Golden Mousetrap Awards from a record number of entries in six categories was no easy task. Here's an in-depth look at the winners.
Read More
More Day 3 Coverage:
Laser Calibration System Blends Accuracy, Speed
The XL-80 interferometer from Renishaw Inc. is lighter and more portable than its predecessors, making it simpler for quality control and maintenance technicians to calibrate manufacturing and laboratory equipment. Full Story
Encoder Eliminates Need for Redundancy
At National Manufacturing Week in Chicago, IL, Heidenhain Corp. showed off a new bi-directional rotary encoder that could enable some machine builders to eliminate back-up encoders, and therefore reduce the overall number of the devices by as much as 50 percent in some cases. Full Story
Olympus' Lightweight Videoscope has Large Memory
Aiming at hard-to-reach applications that require high precision, Olympus is highlighting its Iplex FX videoscope, which trims weight to 16 lbs including battery. Full Story
Microsoft Makes Manufacturing Push
Microsoft Corp. upped its ante in the manufacturing sector this week, demonstrating Microsoft's Dynamics AX solution at National Manufacturing Week. Full Story

Boeing’s Tom Cogan Talks About 787 First Flight, Electronic Spoilers, Test Pilots and Anhedral vs. Dihedral
Laser Calibration System Blends Accuracy, Speed
Encoder Eliminates Need for Redundancy
Olympus' Lightweight Videoscope has Large Memory
Microsoft Makes Manufacturing Push
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Boeing’s Tom Cogan Talks About 787 First Flight, Electronic Spoilers, Test Pilots and Anhedral vs. Dihedral

Design News had the pleasure last night of awarding in person our 2007 Engineer of the Year award to Chief Project Engineer Tom Cogan. Tom is the real deal – polished, articulate, smart, people-oriented and passionate about airplanes. With youthful good looks belying his 52 years and a bit Boy Scout-ish, he gives his total attention to whomever he is speaking with and is gracious to a fault. We thoroughly enjoyed presenting him with the award in our booth at National Manufacturing Week and celebrating him at dinner afterward. Our heartiest congratulations go to Tom Cogan, Design News' 2007 Engineer of the Year. 

He said a few interesting things, which seem a little more poignant now that I am recalling them flying home on a Boeing 757, an aircraft for which he also served as chief project engineer.

-- We asked him if Boeing will stick to its mid-November to mid-December timetable for the already twice-delayed first flight for the . He gave his pat answer that it would fly when it’s safe and ready. My read was that he sounded a bit doubtful without saying so, but we’ll have to wait and see. For sure, we’ll be there when it does.

-- All test pilots at Boeing are degreed engineers. The will only have two people on board during first flight — the two pilots along with scads of equipment relaying data back to a control room where Cogan will be during the first flight. Sensors will be positioned throughout the plane to test the structure. First flight will be between six and seven hours assuming nothing forces the plane to land before that. Production plane test pilots are not required to be engineers.

-- All twin-engine aircraft Boeing makes can fly on one engine. I thought this was a well-perpetuated myth, but Tom says it’s absolutely true, not that I want it proven to me. Planes are also designed to withstand 50 percent more than the maximum abuse engineers and pilots know about. I always thought it was 30 percent, but my information might be dated. “The planes can withstand more abuse than the people [inside],” he said in response to a question about how much turbulence planes can withstand. The person asking happened to land in Tokyo on a 747 during a typhoon.

-- The 787 has electrically-signalled spoilers so if all the hydraulics fail, the aircraft can still be controlled and safely landed by the pilot. This tough lesson was learned from a terrible 1979 crash in Chicago when an engine separated from a DC-10 and severed all three hydraulic systems. Chances of a total hydraulic failure are about one in a billion, Cogan said, and controlling an aircraft should that happen is do-able, but “not easy.” Usually, spoilers are hydraulically actuated.

-- The centerpiece for each of our four dinner tables was a 787 model and apparently we had installed the tail wings at an anhedral angle, which should have been dihedral. Tom immediately recognized this and made the fix.

DARPA Seeks Titanium Alternatives

Supply and cost constraints may slow down use of  titanium as an engineering material outside of aircraft even though interest is skyrocketing in the high-strength, lightweight metal. One issue is that more than half of world production capacity is located in Russia or China. Another is that projected use of titanium is projected to grow dramatically.  The Boeing Dreamliner, for example, is 15 percent titanium. Slower-than-expected output of titanium fasteners threaten to slow the first flight of the Dreamliner.

Three strategies are being used to mitigate worsening supply problems.

  • Major users such as Boeing and Rolls Royce are entering long-term supply arrangements.

  • The U.S. Department of Defense is spending more than $20 million to support research projects aimed at increasing domestic supplies of titanium and reducing the price to less than $4 a pound. Some grades of titanium sell as much as ten times higher than that now.

  • Some engineers are investigating potential substitutes, such as Carpenter Technology’s Custom 465, a martensitic alloy capable of ultimate tensile strength in excess of 250 ksi in the overaged condition. The material may find wider use as a replacement for titanium in aircraft landing gear.

One of the promising research projects funded by the U.S. Department of Defense is an effort to develop an inexpensive and energy-efficient new process for making titanium metal powder. Using forming processes, the powder can be used to create strong, lightweight items ranging from armor plating to components for the aerospace, transportation and chemical processing industries.

Exploring the concept is a consortium that includes DuPont, which will supply the titanium dioxide as raw material, and Tucson, AZ-based MER Corp., which, will provide the core technology.”DuPont is the world's largest producer of titanium dioxide pigment, and we see tremendous opportunities to develop new titanium-related technologies to help us expand beyond our historical core business," said Richard Olson, vice president and general manager, DuPont Titanium Technologies. "But beyond the business significance, it's gratifying to know that projects like this can contribute to our nation's security and improve energy performance."

It is hoped the process will use less than half of the energy to convert titanium ore to titanium metal compared to the current 50-year-old process.  In addition, the new process makes titanium metal powder that can be directly formed into desired shapes. It also allows manufacturers to make parts faster, with less machining and significantly less scrap.

The existing commercial process for producing titanium requires minerals to be extracted from beach sands through a weight separation process. The sand is then processed with chemicals such as chlorine and carbon to produce titanium sponge. The sponge is subsequently melted into ingots. The DuPont/MER process, as well as others being studied, reduces the number of steps.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) wants to reduce the price of titanium in its billet from to less than $4 a pound. Right now, titanium costs more than four times as much as basic steel.

Other strategies are also being pursued to reduce dependence on titanium. For example, Carpenter Technology of Reading, PA, hopes new grades of specialty metals such as grade Custom 465, can be used to replace titanium in aircraft landing gears.

Microsoft Makes Manufacturing Push

Microsoft Corp. upped its ante in the manufacturing sector this week, demonstrating Microsoft's Dynamics AX solution at National Manufacturing Week.

Inside a trailer on the show floor here, the software giant showed how its AX software streamlines operations on the on the shop floor by giving users insight into the assembly of products.

“When a manufacturer makes a machine on an assembly line, they can see what stage it’s in during the build process,” noted Bunny Court of Attent Systems, a partner of Microsoft. “So if a customer calls in and says, “I won’t need the machine for another three months,’ they can stop production. But if a customer says they want it sooner, they can speed up.”

Microsoft competes in the manufacturing software space with SAP, Oracle and others.