Happy New Year!
Now, get set to:
Build with more performance-per-unit-cost materials
Design faster systems
Make your products more intuitive to use
Work faster using PC-based devices and Windows NT platforms
Develop product designs that answer multiple challenges
These are among the trends engineers will see in 1999, according to interviews by Design News editors with manufacturers, users, and industry analysts across the country. Here's a glimpse of some of what you'll be doing this year and what tools and technology you'll be using.
Materials march onward
Gary Chamberlain, Senior Editor, Materials
Here's a brief look at what should transpire this year in the world of materials to help make the design engineer's job an easier task, starting with plastics:
A new technology could challenge one of the fastest growing segments of the market--metallocenes. Nova Chemicals (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) claims a new breed of single-site catalysts unveiled late last year offer many of the same traits as metallocenes, but can be used as a drop-in technology in the company's Sclairtech PE production process--with minimal capital costs.
In the field of plastic additives, new light stabilizer and antioxidant systems are being developed for improved short- and long-term performance of polyolefins. The development of reduced metal and metal-free heat stabilizers for PVC resin and the positioning of vitamin E in the antioxidant market will address environmental issues.
On the conductive polymers front, ABS and PVC will remain the dominant resins due to their performance, cost, and processing advantages over other resins and materials. Contributory growth factors include the increased sensitivity and power of electronic devices, more stringent regulation of electronic noise, rising raw material costs, and continued electronics product diffusion, especially in higher-end products.
In the polyol arena, Bayer Corp. (Pittsburgh) found a way to make solid polyurethane elastomers impervious to wet or humid environments for such applications as electrical encapsulants, cable splicing, and swimming pool filter end-caps.
Patented Graphite FibnlTM nano-fibers announced by Hyperion Catalysis Int'l. (Cambridge, MA) are said to be free of ESD hotspots, due to the material's uniform dispersion.
Perhaps Mike Brown, general manager, marketing, GE Plastics, best sums up the plastics scene: "Product manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce weight, increase durability, improve appearance, and lower costs," he states. "New engineering thermoplastic technologies offer design engineers the means to differentiate their products via design aesthetics and cost savings that appeal to consumers."
Now for a glimpse at the 1999 metals menagerie:
Steel is battling plastics with a range of design concepts for automotive doors, hoods, decklids, and hatchbacks that could shave more than 50 lb off the weight of an automobile. They are the product of the UltraLight Steel Auto Closures study, a companion to the comprehensive study of auto bodies released last March (DN, 10/5/98, p. 42).
Currently under investigation by the Center for Powder Metallurgy Technology: developing missing data required by gear designers trying to specify high-performance P/M materials; computer modeling of the sintering process; a lubrication study; and single-tooth fatigue testing of P/M gear products.
GM will use aluminum for the cam covers, oil pans, and bed plates for the domestic version of its new L-850 engines. Ford will replace magnesium with less expensive aluminum for its four-wheel-drive transfer cases.
Thixomolding(R), a new technology for the high-speed injection molding of net-shape metal parts, particularly magnesium, achieves a laminar flow of the material inside the mold, reducing or eliminating machining to obtain a wide range of wall thicknesses, while minimizing porosity.
Composites are no castoffs in the coming year. Consider: At last year's SAMPE show, Zsolt Rumy, CEO of the Zoltek Companies, predicted the cost of carbon fiber will plunge from $6.50 per lb today to $5 at the turn of the century.
As for new composites:
A 350F-curing prepreg from 3M's Adhesive Div. enhances resin transfer molding (RTM).
Resin systems for RTM, VARTM, and related processes from Advanced Composite Group have transfer and cure temperatures as low as 95F.
Vacuum-bagging film from Airtech Advanced Materials Group "never becomes brittle, even under low humidity conditions."
"Next generation" heavy tow carbon fiber from Akzo Nobel Fortafil Fibers, is said to be a new performance standard for commercial structural applications.
We also contacted a few of our readers to scope out what products or technologies they foresee making an impact in 1999. Here are some of the replies.
"We are working on a new proprietary process that's a little different from a materials perspective," says Gary Nearpass, project engineer at Parker Hannifin Corp. (Lyons, NY). We are always on the lookout for new materials, particularly plastics, to replace metals. And, since we are in the appliance market, we must continue to find better ways to maintain leak rates (Freon). Our biggest pressures today involve the very competitive global purchasing scene."
"We work with the more exotic metals (stainless steel, aluminum, titanium), and have for years, so it's hard for us to be surprised by any new announcements," says Michael Ross, engineering manager, Acro Tool & Die Co. (Akron, OH), a producer of tread-design tire molds. "We are looking to employ laser equipment for production purposes. We think this will enable us to turn out components quicker when it comes to 250 to 300 parts. The biggest pressure we have today is that everyone wants everything now. If we are lucky, a tire design lasts about one year."
In materials, competition is resulting in new, advanced materials and processes that can only make the design engineer's job easier.
Fasteners expand materials choices
by Christine M. Ferrara, New Products Editor
Post-holiday dieters and product designers both have the same goal: to reduce in size and lose weight. The dieters do it by throwing away all the leftovers. Designers do it by reducing product size and using alternate, lightweight materials, which require different fasteners.
The trend toward weight reduction, coupled with the smaller sizes of products, means that plastics come into play in increasing numbers, particularly in the automotive industry, fastening manufacturers say.
Smaller fasteners are the rule in electronics applications, where board real estate sometimes seems to be shrinking by the day. "It seems like every year, engineers want smaller and smaller fasteners than the year before," says Leon Attarian, manager of marketing and communications for Penn Engineering and Mfg. Corp. (Danboro, PA). Penn's product for right-angle attachments is the PEM(R) R'ANGLE fastener.
Fastening companies say they are unveiling more products for joining non-standard materials. One alternative material, magnesium, is very brittle and often damages fastener threads. Mag-Form(R) fasteners from Camcar Textron (Rockford, IL) feature a thread that forms strong threads through a compressive action. This allows minimal debris generation. "The Mag-Form fasteners were only used by automotive companies, but more and more non-automotive companies are using magnesium in their designs," says the company's Dean Lamb.
"The automotive industry is the trend leader in the use of new materials. They are productivity-oriented, and they are changing designs constantly," Lamb adds.
Another pressure engineers are facing is holding one type of material to another type. "If you don't match the differences in the thermal expansion coefficient," says George Gates, design engineer for Rotometrics (Eureka, MO), "you may have a machine sit somewhere for six months in cold weather. One material contracts faster than the other, and if it heats up, expands faster."
A trend Gates sees is analyzing the stress on fasteners. "We tend to measure the stress on the screws, on the threads, on the fasteners themselves," he says.
Fastener companies say ease of use, time and cost reduction, and the move to automation are major trends in the industry. All this means that fastener companies need to provide a total assembly solution.
Suppliers seek to simplify the assembly process through reengineering of existing products for specific applications and looking at the process as a whole. "Rather than just supplying the fasteners, we are taking it soup to nuts, looking at how things are assembled on the factory floor," says Darren Byrne, electronics specialist from Emhart Fastening Technologies (Shelton, CT).
And fasteners are coming out of hiding, too. Fastening manufacturers say engineers are increasingly specifying aesthetically pleasing fasteners, or so called beauty bolts. "People want fasteners that do more than one thing," says Penn's Attarian. "It's cosmetic versus functional."
CAN buses move mobile market
Charles J. Murray, Senior Technical Editor, Fluid Power
For more than a decade, the industrial automation community has predicted the rise of databuses and databus-compatible components.
As the new millennium approaches, however, manufacturers of hydraulic products have noticed a curious phenomenon: The fastest-growing area of demand for databus-compatible components is not in industrial automation, but rather, in mobile markets. For a variety of reasons, agriculture, construction, forestry, and mining equipment have stepped up use of databuses. That means that steering, brakes, transmissions, and other hydraulic components on those systems are now controlled by bus networks. To address that need, most fluid power component manufacturers are designing valves, pumps, and controllers to put on the bus.
The big reason for the newfound popularity of databuses in mobile markets is control. "It allows us to do things--such as diagnostics--that we could never do before," notes Kevin Klein, research and development manager for Gomaco Corp., Ida Grove, IA. Gomaco was one of the first firms in the construction industry to use CAN (Controller Area Network) buses on its equipment when it added a network controller to a paver in 1993 (DN 11/21/94). The system enabled Gomaco's customers to quickly diagnose field problems that would otherwise cost them thousands of dollars in downtime. "We've been very successful with it," Klein says. "Today, we use it on virtually every machine we ship."
In the near future, mobile machine control is likely to stretch diagnostic capabilities even farther. Increasingly, builders of agricultural equipment are implementing automated systems that tie in with data from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. Ultimately, such systems may one day be operatorless. As a result, they will need databuses to enable various hydraulic valves and actuators around the machines to "talk" to one another.
An automated fertilizing unit, for example, will use the databus to combine GPS, position, and steering system data, so it "knows" when and where to turn. It will also determine how much fertilizer to apply to prescribed areas, and will quickly spot operational problems. "You don't want to drive over a field and then find out that you didn't put any fertilizer down because a valve was stuck," notes Fred Phillips, director of advanced engineering for Vickers. "The databus enables you to spot those problems immediately."
Similarly, manufacturers of mining equipment have also begun to build "tele-remote control" systems. Such units will eliminate the need for miners in dangerous situations. Databuses would form the backbone of those systems.
Experts say that such successes would not have been possible were it not for the mobile market's convergence on a single bus standard. Unlike the industrial market, where there are now more than 30 different standards, mobile has settled on CAN-based buses. "In a practical sense, no manufacturer can support 30 different bus standards," Phillips says. "But because the mobile side has settled on a single standard, it's easier for us to support."
Design engineers now have the tools available to them to begin such designs, Phillips says. Most major hydraulics manufacturers--including Vickers, Parker Hannifin, Danfoss, Bosch Automation Technology, Sauer-Sunstrand, and others--make bus-addressable valves. Some, including Parker Hannifin, offer entire mobile field-bus systems.
In the long run, some experts believe that mobile bus systems could ultimately help OEMs reduce the cost of their products. "Studies have shown that as much as 40% of the cost of most mobile vehicles is related to safety and comfort of the operator," says David Miller, marketing manager of mobile markets for Vickers. "If you take the operator off the machine, you eliminate all that cost."
IT invades motion control
by John Lewis, Northeast Technical Editor, Motion Control
Open architecture predominates and interface standards proliferate in motion control in 1999. According to George Gulalo, president of market-analysis firm Motion Tech Trends (Inglewood, CA), economic driving factors include inventory reduction, shorter development time, greater flexibility, continuous process improvements, and lower costs of ownership. And more engineers look toward emerging PC software, and networking technologies to meet the demands of mass customization and agile-manufacturing systems.
PC-based open-control software (OCS) garners interest from industrial automation users and suppliers as Windows NT becomes the de facto standard platform. To better reflect the broad application of PC-based control, Dedham, MA-based Automation Research Corp.(ARC) has expanded coverage to include NT and CE-based processes, CNC, and general motion control in its latest PC-control report. The entire OCS market is now at another threshold, as Windows CE shows promise to unify embedded control applications on the platform already being used in both control and information products--Windows NT.
Since they share a common Win3.2 API, NT and CE can unify and link a broader spectrum of applications. Industrial application of CE and NT follows Microsoft's positioning of its Windows operating systems as a scalable continuum of information products that integrate easily through standard software technology. Among other vendors using CE, Control Technology is putting it in its web-enabled controller.
The prospect of Ethernet-based networks invading the field level further illustrates the influx of commercial information technology into automation applications. Extending beyond its traditional availability in large PLCs used to communicate to higher levels in the plant hierarchy, Ethernet at the control level is now available on small PLCs. Smaller suppliers such as Grayhill, Opto 22, and PLC Direct were the first to offer Ethernet-based remote I/O, but now even established players like Schneider Automation are targeting this segment with their Momentum I/O line.
Engineers also use Ethernet with ac, variable-speed drives because at the field-network level, Ethernet is a low-cost, convenient, and fast means of connecting remote I/O to PLCs and data-acquisition systems. Primary advantages of Ethernet include its low cost and high speed, but its widespread familiarity is also driving Ethernet in plant automation. Adoption of Internet technology throughout the enterprise pushes acceptance of Ethernet at all levels. Internet technologies such as TCP/IP are commonly implemented over Ethernet, which makes it easier for device and other manufacturers to incorporate web-server technology into network-connected devices.
Of primary importance is the fact that Ethernet could well serve to be a harmonizing force to reduce the number of available standards for field networks. Recent availability of inexpensive Ethernet switches, originally designed to partition corporate networks, deliver determinism (reliable delivery of data) to Ethernet. At a cost of about $60 to $100 per switched port, switching has become a viable and cost-effective method to achieve network determinism. As this concept begins to catch on, the last major barrier to the spread of Ethernet in industrial automation evaporates.
To this effect, the Fieldbus Foundation announced their H2 project to build a version of Foundation Fieldbus based on a fast Ethernet (100Base-T) and TCP/IP Internet protocols. Similar plans exist for ProfiBus, DeviceNet, and ControlNet. Schneider Automation currently offers ModBus+ mapped to Ethernet. ARC forecasts a general convergence of many devicebus and fieldbus protocols to Ethernet with TCP/IP and the Internet suite of protocols as the underlying form.
CAD users migrate to 3D
by Laurie Ann Toupin, Associate Editor, CAD
These are the software trends engineers will see in 1999, according to vendors and users:
Lower price and higher functionality
Emerging "smart models"
Web-centered business systems
Fortunately for users, CAD is going the way of the computer--higher functionality at lower prices. Today, one can buy a 333-Hz computer with 32 Mbytes of memory and a 4.3Gbytes hard drive for under $1,000. For CAD, one can buy a 2D and 3D wireframe, surface, and solid modeler for under $6,000. And the price is dropping. New price scales for 1999 illustrate the breaking up or moduling of bundles so users can choose their weapon, rather than buying an entire arsenal.
Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC, Waltham, MA) started the trend towards the end of 1998 when they announced a repackaging of Pro/ENGINEER, offering Pro/E Foundation for $5,995. Baystate Technologies will be following suit, offering their CADKEY 2D/3D wireframe for $995 to supplement their core solids modeling product, CADKEY 98. This lower pricing comes at a good time as the migration from 2D to 3D continues. Success stories proving that 3D solid-modeling technology offers decreased time-to-market and better product design are filtering down to smaller companies that were in only 2D mode, says Robert Bean, president and CEO of Baystate Technologies (Marlborough, MA).
So what can users expect to get for their money? For starters, ease of use, says Dominic Gallello, vice president, Mechanical CAD group, of Autodesk (San Rafael, CA). "CAD will continue to become significantly more intuitive, similar to a child's game software. My son doesn't read directions or ask to go to a training course. He just goes in and pokes around, learning as he is doing." Users say they want a CAD system that they can use only one a day a month without relearning it every time, continues Gallello. "Ease-of-use and learning will dramatically change the usage patterns of 3D systems."
"Models will offer more than just geometry," says Baystate's Bean. They will feature non-graphical data such as tolerances and product definition." Right now, users must re-enter data such as tolerances before tooling or inspecting parts. The next evolution in CAD will be from solid to product modeling where the solid model will contain information needed for manufacturing, says Bean. Applicon (Ann Arbor, MI) offers such features in its newest release, Bravo 8.0.
Robert Snyder, Solid Edge marketing manager from Unigraphics (Madison, AL), sees the future of CAD as reducing the time it takes for the user to put data into the manufacturing system is represented in the new STREAM technology integrated into Solid Edge 6.0. "We look at the whole system," says Snyder, "making it a better, more intrinsic process from design to production."
"We will see the end of the 'geometry wars,'" or feature-to-feature comparison, says Gary Stoll of Visionary Design Systems Inc., makers of IronCAD (Santa Clara, CA). "Component kernel technology, [such as ACIS from Spatial Technology], is providing robust enough geometry capability so that companies will not do an evaluation based on what kind of surface or fillet a system can create. Finally, companies can evaluate based on the kind of productivity the software brings to the product-development process."
Finite element analysis and mechanical dynamic simulation are becoming so closely integrated with CAD that users often don't have to quit one program to access another. A good example is COSMOS/Edge, a new product from Structural Research Analysis Corp. (Santa Monica, CA) that runs either independently or simultaneously with Solid Edge from Unigraphics, with drag-and-drop analysis.
Also, expect systems to move from geometry to design-centric. "Users are frustrated that there is not an easy way to share design intent within the engineering organization and through to the customer," says Autodesk's Gallello. It is clear that there is a huge benefit to customers if they can easily share their design process know-how.
In addition, vendors will continue to focus on interoperability between systems as well as associativity among all CAD disciplines, whether entry-level, mid-range, or high-end. Baystate Technologies, Solid Works, and Visionary Design Systems Inc., for example, are promoting software that can read CAD data from other vendors so engineers can work with the information as if it were a "native" file in their own software.
However, interoperability remains a sticky issue. About 10 years ago, IGES translated 90 to 95% of the information in a CAD file accurately, said Ken Versprile of DH Brown at the DH Brown Managing Technology Conference last fall. Today, the amount of information translated is much less due to all the proprietary intelligence in CAD files. So although "smarter models" will be more powerful, a problem still emerges when the data passes to another CAD system or to a downstream CAM/CAE application.
As for the high-end CAD packages--well, they aren't just for modeling anymore. Product-data management, enterprise-data management, and the "total enterprise solution" will be common offerings.
Users perspective. That's how vendors see the market. What about users? As both a user and a trainer of Pro/ENGINEER from PTC, William Paul from Raytheon sees ease of use becoming synonymous with intuitive. "Ease of use will drive future technology releases," says Paul. "CAD's functionality is exploding. But it doesn't mean a thing if it takes an engineer months to get up to speed."
In addition, Paul expects the next competitive technology will be a CAD system that aids in conceptual design. "Many of us still use nap-to-sketch--the old sketch-on-a-napkin brainstorming." Companies need conceptual design software, complete with a marking board that feeds right into the CAD system, he says.
Preston Hagman, owner of Express CAD Engineering, a product development engineering firm, says CAD in the future will be one of many tools in the virtual private network--the backbone for the virtual company. Hagman says that companies building web-enabled Windows applications, such as SolidWorks, are creating this foundation. The entire manufacturing process can be done via a home PC and cyberspace. Engineering will become web centric, where designs will be developed, reviewed, and approved electronically.
With CAD vendors on shortened productivity cycles, new releases will continue to amaze and daze throughout the year.
NT takes off
Julie Anne Schofield, Senior Editor
The major computer trend this year will be the continued growth of the NT workstation market, say many industry sources. The drivers behind this trend include:
Breadth of engineering NT applications
Advancements in Intel-class microprocessor performance
Lower prices for higher performance
Familiarity of PCs
Interoperability of NT workstations with a company's other PCs
Scheduled 1999 introduction of Windows NT 5.0, renamed Windows 2000
"Today there might still be some CAD designers for whom NT isn't good enough," says Chandler Hall, executive director for product marketing at Intergraph. "But in a year, NT will be more than good enough for a large group of them. They'll get the performance they want coupled with the familiarity of PCs."
Elaine Mata, Compaq's director of marketing for the workstation division, sees 1999 as a year in which multiple technologies will converge to give Intel-based machines a significant performance boost.
"This increasing overall performance is not just within the processors themselves," says Mata, "but also across other subsystems." She cites the front-side bus increasing to 133 MHz, memory speed and bandwidth increasing with RAMbus technology to 400 MHz (SDRAM runs at 100 MHz), and PCI slots moving from 32 bits and 33 MHz to 64 bits and 66 MHz. "There aren't many years when all these technology boosts have come together at once," she notes.
At Silicon Graphics (SGI), the strategy is to bring a workstation architecture to the PC. "Up until now, vendors have taken standard Intel chip sets and added graphics boards to make a workstation out of what is fundamentally a PC architecture," says Tom Furlong, SGI senior vice president and general manager of the workstation division. He notes SGI will build a very high-performance system architecture and run it with the Intel Pentium and Xeon processors but design-in substantially higher bandwidth for doing 3D graphics and handling large file sizes. SGI will custom design the motherboard chip set.
Other trends Furlong sees are dual- and even quad-microprocessor configurations in NT workstations, and a move toward flat-panel displays for engineers involved in highly visual, complex design. Of course, these engineers may be using Unix instead of NT.
Unix holds on. Steve Clarke, IBM's manager of visual systems marketing for RS/6000, agrees with analysts who say that the UNIX workstation market will be flat to down 4%. However, UNIX won't be going away anytime soon. Companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems continue leapfrogging over each other announcing UNIX workstations with industry-leading performance.
The reason for all this competition: some engineering tasks need the power of UNIX. Explains Clarke: "As models get larger and more data--such as FEA results--are carried along with models, then UNIX has the advantage because of its improved memory management, more advanced file management, and the power of the machine to handle all this data."
UNIX workstation vendors will continue to play to their strengths this year by concentrating on the high end with products powered by such 64-bit microprocessors as IBM's Power3, Sun's UltraSPACR III, HP's PA-8500, and Compaq's Alpha 21264. Intel isn't scheduled to have its 64-bit Merced processor shipping until the second half of 1999.
Electronics designers pile it on
by Rick DeMeis, Associate Editor, Electronics
The need to pack more product into tighter packages is driving many electronics designs today. Hand-held applications, as well as increased performance in existing equipment envelopes, are taxing technology--from thermal management and systems-on-a-chip to the switches and connectors that must tie user device inputs to output results.
While shrinking hand-held devices are obvious, what is less apparent is the related trend of industrial control cabinets packing in more functions, or the related problem of smaller cabinets accommodating the same functions. Arnold Offner, product manager at Phoenix Contact (Harrisburg, PA), adds that reducing cabling and wiring time of control cabinet products is also driving industrial-control cost cutting. "Look for control cabinets to be smaller, assembled faster, and run more efficiently and intelligently," he says.
Other related developments to watch for:
Connector blocks with multiple rows for higher connector counts to accommodate sensor functions on bus systems
More intelligent sensors "out in the field" will require more connections, and terminal blocks, on site for communication as well as power
Larger proportions of terminal block capacity will be used for power distribution functions, such as fuses and jumping, but at lower power levels (running 24Vdc vs. 120Vac)
"Touch-safe" power supplies and smaller relay sizes to go with less power.
Solid signals. Maintaining electronic signal integrity will grow in importance, notes Jim Sykes, director of global technology for AMP (Harrisburg, PA). The reason: compact devices operating at 1-GHz range speeds are just ripe for cross-talk-type effects across connectors with high numbers of contacts in a small volume. "The closer they become, the more potential for action as radar and RF generators, producing cross talk, EMI, and interference with other components," notes Sykes. He feels the trend is accelerating due to the convergence of products with consumer-like functions, such as cell phones for communication, being combined with PC functions. Sykes notes the PC is becoming so prevalent that sales of the PCs are expected to exceed those of televisions worldwide at the turn of the century.
Contact configurations and materials and insulator properties are vital to keep performance up as device sizes go down, but with increased functionality. On the horizon: getting rid of EMI via opto-electronics and fiberoptic connections for even higher frequency devices. Sykes concludes, "We've yet to know the limits of how much information people can handle. Just look at kids playing electronic games! And even the latest 'fast' computer still makes us wait because the processing time is too slow."
In test and measurement electronics, Keithley Instruments' (Cleveland, OH) David Patricy, vice president and general manager of test and measurement, says, based on the company's annual survey of customers' engineering needs, that instrument and sensor performance are no longer the hot issues they were in previous years. "Today engineers are struggling with budget cuts and controls, along with staff cuts that put integration and set-up time at a premium. Instrument companies must respond by making products simpler to use and easier to configure." Good advice for any electonics designer to heed, whether economic conditions are prosporous or lean.
Percentage of readers who work with various materials
Other metals 37%
When asked how many fasteners or access hardware items will need to be ordered in the next 12 months to meet the production needs created by their designs, readers polled said...
13% 501 to 1,000
20% 101 to 500
The most popular application area readers use fastening products or access hardware for is machine tools, say 26% of readers polled.
Source: February 1998 Market Beat Survey, Fastening, Joining, and Assembly
75% of Design News readers surveyed who work in industrial control say that industrial computers are a viable alternative to PLCs for machine control.
What is most important to you in deciding on CAD or FEA systems?
Ease of use 37%
other software 6%
In 1998, 38% of Design News readers responding said their switch and relay budget was under $5,000, while 8% spent more than $100,000.