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Help cut weight in cars, p39 ADDITIVE TECHNOLOGY Moves to the factory floor, p49

JULY 2009 $15.00








contents July 2009 volume 64 no. 07


44 Up in a Down Economy DN’s 2009 salary survey reports compensation results across a variety of demographic factors, as well as data on how engineers and their companies are coping with the economic downturn. BY KAREN AUGUSTON FIELD, Editor-in-Chief F E AT U R E

49 On-Demand Assembly Speeds Production Additive fabrication technologies are making major inroads in component assembly operations. BY DOUG SMOCK, Contributing Editor, Materials and Fastening F E AT U R E

53 Look to Low-Cost 3-D Scanning Inexpensive 3-D scanners are now allowing engineers to go from art to part in a matter of hours. BY CHARLES J. MURRAY, Senior Technical Editor, Electronics THE FIELD REPORT

11 Happy Campers Despite the economy, engineers responding to DN’s annual salary survey say they are satisfied with their careers. BY KAREN AUGUSTON FIELD, Editor-in-Chief MADE BY MONKEYS

12 Cracked Toilet Seat is a Menace in the Loo What caused a wood composite toilet seat to shake and crack beneath the weight of an average-sized man? BY KAREN AUGUSTON FIELD, Editor-in-Chief




14 EV with 300-Mile Range? Battery Experts Weigh in Tesla plans to introduce an allelectric five-seater with a 300-mile range. How is this possible?? BY CHARLES J. MURRAY, Senior Technical Editor, Electronics RANT

64 Robotic Hand Teaches Sign Language and ‘Rocks on’ The Sign Language Emulating Robotic Assistant, designed by students at Colorado State University, teaches the deaf to speak, and rock.


16 Measure Twice, Cut Once

Fresh ideas on integrating mechanical systems, electronics, control systems and software.

Save time and money in the R&D arena by prototyping often before cutting a production tool. BY SCOTT CRUMP, Founder and CEO, Stratasys Inc.




22 The Adventure of the Inexplicable Corrosion Why did corrosion form so quickly during thermal cycling in a precise optical assembly? BY ALBERT EMERY, Contributing Writer

New and Noteworthy Products

Environmental News for Engineers

28 TIPS FROM TITUS Unbelievably Useful Information from a Test Expert

33 NEWS Trends, Developments, Breakthroughs


30 Everybody’s Gotta Have One


Orsak lists his top 10 “can’t live without” technologies. BY GEOFFREY C. ORSAK, Dean of Engineering, Southern Methodist University

Stuff You Need to Know

59 EXPO Best of the Engineering Marketplace


M O T I O N C O N T R O L & A U T O M AT I O N

62 The Case of the Balky Brakes Why was it difficult to stop an American-built forklift after it was fitted with foreign parts? BY MYRON J. BOYAJIAN, Contributing Editor

Explore the new capabilities and technologies available for motion/automation networking and see how this technology is working to provide better control solutions and increase performance of machine control networks.

COVER IMAGE: BRYAN LEISTER DESIGN NEWS® (ISSN 0011-9407), (GST Reg. #123397457, C.P.C. Int’l. Pub Mail #0360120) is published monthly by Reed Business Information, 8878 S. Barrons Blvd., Highlands Ranch, CO 80129-2345, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc., 360 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010. Tad Smith, CEO; Mark Finkelstein, President, Boston Div.; John Poulin, CFO. Periodicals postage paid at Littleton, CO 80126 and at additional mailing offices. Circulation records are maintained at Reed Business Information, 8878 S. Barrons Blvd., Highlands Ranch, CO 80129-2345. Phone: (303) 470-4445. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to DESIGN NEWS,® P.O. Box 7500, Highlands Ranch, CO 80163-7500. DESIGN NEWS® copyright 2008 by Reed Elsevier Inc. Rates for non-qualified subscriptions including all issues: U.S., $125.90 one year, $214.90 two years, Canada, $184.90 one year, $314.90 two years (includes 7% GST, GST #123397457); Mexico, $172.90 one year, $295.90 two years; Foreign surface $227.90 one year, $387.90 two years; Foreign air expedited surcharge add $323.90 one year, $579.90 two years. Except for special issues where price changes are indicated, single copies are available for $10.00 U.S. and $15.00 foreign. Please address all subscription mail to DESIGN NEWS® 8878 S. Barrons Blvd., Highlands Ranch, CO 80129-2345. DESIGN NEWS® is a registered trademark of Reed Elsevier Properties, Inc., used under license. Reed Business Information, a unit of Reed Elsevier Inc., is the publisher of more than 85 specialized business and professional publications as well as CD-ROM and online services. RBI, headquartered in New York, NY, serves the vital information needs of over 5.6 million business managers and professionals around the world. In addition to its publications, RBI also provides publication and industry-based research, economic forecasting, reprints, direct mail services, database marketing plus custom publishing projects in all its served markets. Reprints of articles are available on a custom printing basis at reasonable prices in quantities of 500 or more. For a specific quotation, contact Reprint Management Services; phone 800-290-5460; e-mail: designnews@reprintbuyer. com. (PRINTED IN U.S.A.) Publications Mail Agreement No. 40685520. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: RCS International, Box 697 STN A, Windsor Ontario N9A 6N4. E-mail:

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Gadget Freak®

Check Out Our New Blogs … The Weird and Wonderful World of Wireless

Captain Hybrid Join Senior Technical Editor Chuck Murray as he launches CH DN’s newest online discussion with the latest news in electric vehicles, batteries and hybrid cars. H20 H2 0


Joel Young has lots to say, as he examines the world of wireless — electronics on airplanes, microwave ovens, Wi-Fi and many other topics.

Mechatronics Zone Join the conversation as you follow resident mechatronics expert Jon Titus as he interprets trends, analyzes tools and techniques, and explores cross-discipline skills for electronic, mechanical and system designers.

From the Newswire Updated daily with press releases, product announcements and industry news, this blog augments our popular Trend Watch and Expo sections. Get the most news with no delay.

Calling all backyard inventors — check out our Gadget Freak files for profiles of past and present Gadget Freaks, watch videos and give up your opinion on our Gadget Freak blog.

2009 Salary Survey The Design News’ 2009 Salary Survey is here! How does your annual base salary compare with 2008? How has the number of hours you work each week changed over the past year? What would help engineers get ahead in their profession today? Find out how you stack up against your peers!

Design News’ RSS Feeds Sign up for Design News’ RSS feeds and get headlines delivered right to your desktop as soon as they’re published.

E-mail Newsletters Go to to get the latest technology news and trends delivered right to your e-mail inbox.

Supplements Go to to view our technology-specific supplements.


UPCOMING WEBCAST: ‘DESIGN TOOLS JOIN FORCES TO SAVE TIME AND MONEY’ Coming soon to designnews. com is an online webinar entitled, “Design Tools Join Forces to Save Time and Money.” You will learn how software and hardware tools can work across engineering fields and handle a project from initial specifications, to design, to simulation and testing. Industry experts from companies such as The MathWorks, Maplesoft and National Instruments explain how modern design and simulation tools work together, how you can best use them, and how you can reduce the time and money needed to create complete systems. FREE WEBCAST: THE WORLD IS FLAT — EXCEPT IN DYNAMICS Listen to Kevin C. Craig, Ph.D., Robert C. Greenheck Chair in Engineering Design and professor of Mechanical Engineering at Marquette University, discuss why 3-D dynamics is important in mechatronic system design and how tools like ADAMS make it easier to understand and explain difficult dynamic concepts. http://designnews.hotims. com/23112-506

Online Resource Center


Reference Guide Texas Instruments’ System-Level ESD Protection Guide This System-Level ESD Protection Guide provides an overview of several types of the company’s latest ESD protection devices for high-speed data rates and diode array chips for ease of design. Application and end equipment devices are also listed.

Case Study Limited Access Testing on the i3070 from Agilent Technologies Modern electronic products are at risk of losing electrical test access to in-circuit test (ICT) due to product miniaturization and sophistication. Many of the limited access testing tools used in high-end products are now being applied to consumer products.

White Paper Connecting a Control System to the Internet from B&R Industrial Automation See how the combination of the Internet and embedded PC-based controls open opportunities in the areas of remote maintenance and diagnostics that are mutually beneficial for manufacturers and production machine users.

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Top Occupations in Job Satisfaction: 1. Clergy 2. Physical Therapist 3. Firefighters 4. Education Administrators 5. Painters, Sculptors, Related 6. Teachers 7. Authors 8. Psychologists 9. Special Ed. Teachers 10. Operating Engineers Source: Job Satisfaction in the U.S., NORC/University of Chicago

Download a pdf of the entire results of our 2009 Salary Survey at http://designnews.

annual salary survey, we focus mainly on questions related to compensation for design engineers and the factors that influence it. For highlights from this year’s survey, turn to page 44. You can also download the full report, with more salary data, online at As part of this annual rite at Design News, we also ask a number of career-related questions. One evergreen question asks how satisfied you are with your career choice. This question intrigues me. That’s because I am always amazed that no matter how dreary the employment picture, how non-existent the raises are, or how much corporate downsizing is taking place, that design engineers on the whole seem to be pretty positive about their careers. And despite the wretched economic news, this year is no exception: Half of you, in fact, reported that you are “extremely” or “very” satisfied with your career. Only 14 percent say you are not satisfied. The level of satisfaction that you get from your careers is particularly noteworthy, given that engineering is a challenging curriculum without the expected financial payoff of many other and decidedly easier career paths. What you like about your careers the most is problem solving, technical challenges and the opportunity to be creative. Though you wish there were less company politics getting in your way. Money didn’t even make it into the top five things you like best about your careers. So how does the satisfaction level of design engineers from our study compare with workers in the U.S. as a whole? The 2007 study “Job Satisfaction in the United States” by the University of Chicago reported that 47 percent of the workers surveyed say they

are very satisfied with their jobs. The top three occupations in terms of job satisfaction, according to the survey, are clergy, physical therapists and firefighters (although isn’t that last one part of the job description for an engineer these days?) The bottom three, least-satisfying occupations are what the study report describes as “low-skill, manual or service related” jobs — expediters, butchers and meat cutters, and furniture sales people. I am not sure what an expediter does, but I am pretty sure that falls under the job description for design engineers, too. This study took things one step further — and here’s the interesting part — by correlating job satisfaction with general happiness. The conclusion: job satisfaction and general happiness are positively related. That perhaps should come as no surprise, since most workers invest a significant amount of time in work. And for many of you, I suspect, your work not only pays the bills, it pretty much defines you. Many of the people who report being happiest are involved in scientific and technical occupations, creative work and helping others — which sounds an awful lot like elements of a typical job description for a design engineer. So that’s the good news. Raises; however, could always be better! PS: I’m curious: Do you agree with the results of our survey? Are you satisfied with your career? What do you like the most about it? Drop me an e-mail and we’ll publish your responses in the next Mail section of Design News. Karen Field, Editor-in-Chief

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Warning: This article may contain content that is not safe for work! Some time back my significant other was going about his business in the loo when suddenly he felt a strange and ominous movement directly beneath him. Earthquakes are rare here in the Eastern part of the United States so, understandably perturbed but thankfully not scathed, he investigated further. Much to his surprise, he discovered a radial crack in the wood composite toilet seat he’d just installed. Yes, my husband’s weight is appropriate for his height, which is the first question Research Mechanical Engineer John Hunt delicately raised when I rang him up. A wood composite expert with the Forest Products Lab. of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, he was surprised to hear about the failure. It turns out that the rather lowly toilet seat is actually a highly engineered structure designed to sustain high bending loads while in use. Otherwise we’d fall in. Hunt explained that your typical wood composite toilet seat consists of a high-density composite top and bottom layer and a lower-density core and is designed to support even the heftiest among us. The trickiest part comes in the processing of the material — basically a mixture of epoxy and wood particles — which requires a certain degree of engineering know-how to control the resin content, density gradients, temperature and moisture levels. All of which can impact performance. These parameters must be carefully controlled, and specifications meticulously written to account for the fact that wood composites don’t behave like other materials, namely wood. And one unusual characteristic is that wood composites are hydroexpansive, meaning design engineers need to account for moisture expansion and contraction experienced in everyday operating conditions. As for our pink menace, Hunt speculated that most likely one of the processing parameters got out of whack, leading to its aggressive behavior. “Maybe too much moisture crept into the batch or the glue content was not controlled well enough — that would do it,” he told me. Early composite toilet seats probably failed left and right, which must have been real pain in the, well, you know what. But they don’t now, Hunt says, because over the past 30 years wood composite processing techniques have been moving from an art to a science — meaning engineers are getting very good at controlling the parameters and even engineering the material to achieve the desired performance characteristics. And the best part? We’ve now replaced our pink toilet with a cool black unit. Read dozens of reader comments and post your own response to this blog post at Sign up for the RSS feed for this blog and get the posts delivered directly to your desktop at If you’ve had a run-in with a product that failed to live up to your expectations, we’d love to hear about it! Photos of the offending product with an amusing caption are appropriate fodder, and we will give extra credit for a brief analysis of what went wrong and what could have been done to avoid the problem. E-mail your examples to Karen Field at


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EV with 300-Mile Range? Battery Experts Weigh in T

esla Motors’ plan to build a $50,000 all-electric, five-seat sedan with a 300-mile range suddenly stands in stark contrast to an announcement made by Mitsubishi Motors in May. Mitsubishi, a corporation with a big and talented engineering workforce, said it is rolling out its i-MiEV at the end of July. The new vehicle will travel 100 miles on a charge, weigh 2,376 lb, and reportedly will cost between $47,000 and $48,000. So Mitsubishi is offering a $47,000 EV with a 100-mile range, while Tesla plans a five-seater, $50,000 EV (to be introduced in 2011) with a 300-mile range. It begs the question: How could Tesla’s car offer so much more range for a similar price? Is there a new battery technology on the horizon? Battery experts say the short answer is no; there’s no miracle battery technology on the horizon. The more complicated answer is that, even so, Tesla’s plan might be doable, albeit difficult to achieve. The challenge, of course, is that EV batteries — even the well-known lithium-ion units — are still somewhat low on energy and high on cost. The battery experts we talked to — Donald Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT, and David Swan, founder of DHS Engineering Inc., a well-known energy research and development lab — said the 300-mile range would probably necessitate the use of a big, expensive battery pack. Sadoway offers a simple rule of thumb for electric vehicle range: 1 W-hr/kg of specific energy equals one mile of range in a sedan, assuming the battery comprises about 30 percent of the vehicle’s mass. Given the fact that the best of today’s batteries are peaking at about 150-175 W-hr/kg, then 300 miles appears to be a stretch.

Still, though, there’s hope. One way to reach 300 is to pack more batteries on board. Lose the trunk and squeeze batteries in wherever you can fit them, Sadoway says. “If you’re willing to put 40 percent of the mass of the car into the battery, it brings you closer,” he says. “My hunch is that they have a very spiffy, advanced version of lithium-ion combined with an abnormally high mass fraction of the vehicle in the battery.” A big battery; however, creates a big cost challenge. Swan estimates the 300-mile Tesla will need a 50-60 kWhr battery, which translates to a lot of money. When Design News surveyed a group of five battery experts a year ago, they estimated that a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery would cost between $500 and $1,000 per kilowatt-hour, even assuming economies of scale (the average of their five estimates came to $770/kW-hr). If they’re right, then the cost is, at best, $25,000 for the battery alone. And maybe quite a bit more. So how will Tesla do it? The company told us they’re not yet answering questions about their proposed Model S, so we don’t know their plan. But the battery experts say it’s going to involve innovation on all fronts, from batteries to lightweight, high-strength materials. “It’s doable,” says Swan, who owns three EVs and designed the batteries for the 254-mph White Lightning EV in 1999. “But they’re going to have to stretch everything to get there.” Join DN’s latest discussion on the latest news in electric vehicles, batteries and hybrid cars at http://designnews.hotims. com/23112-516. Sign up for the RSS feed for this blog and get the posts delivered directly to your desktop at http://designnews.hotims. com/23112-517.

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times, I remind myself to “measure twice; cut once,” a lesson my father taught me as a boy. In the R&D arena, that translates to “prototype often” before cutting a production tool. Prototyping offers the confidence that there will be only one tool cut and no rework. For very little financial gain, companies take a big risk by ignoring the wisdom of prototyping early and often. In a tough economy, an early casualty for many companies is the number of prototypes built. Faced with budget cuts, prototyping is incorrectly viewed as an optional expense. I have seen companies take this route, and I have seen them suffer the consequences. Over the years, we have suffered the same fate when we assumed the design was perfected, and another prototype wasn’t needed. No one is immune to the struggle to cut costs and increase productivity. And even though our company manufactures prototyping systems, we too feel the temptation to cut back on prototyping to save a few bucks and a little time. In part, this happens because there is no direct correlation, no cause-and-effect relationship between the prototype and the success of the product. Building prototypes does not guarantee problemfree designs, market demand or profitable sales. Eliminating a prototype does not mean there will be rework and manufacturing problems. The only sure-thing is that the prototype will cost you some time and money. So, the prototyping decision is a gamble. As with an insurance policy, you are betting on the outcome. If a prototype is eliminated and you don’t run into any problems, the gamble pays off. But if a design flaw is discovered when tooling is being cut, a $1,000 prototype savings can turn

into a $10,000 tooling mistake that derails production schedules. I guess the question comes down to “Do you feel lucky?” Before answering this question, reflect on your past design projects. How many prototypes have you made that didn’t reveal the need for any revisions … 10 percent, 5 percent, 1 percent? For most, it is rare that a prototype doesn’t lead to at least one discovery. The truth is that the odds of having a flawless design are against you. In this light, prototyping isn’t an option; it is a necessity. Working Smarter

While a recession demands change in the way we do business, we have to be smart about the alterations we make. If budgets must be cut, it must be done wisely. This means being frugal, not cheap. It means cutting back, not cutting corners. It means being conservative, not timid. And it means being progressive, not stagnant. To be frugal, conservative and progressive — all at the same time — we have to work smarter. We have to use the tools that are available to make the most of our time and money. From my experience, prototyping is one of those tools. In my mind, prototypes are absolutely essential. Yet, being a realist, I know the economic climate will have an impact on when and how often they are used. I know some sacrifices have to be made. But I am convinced the only reason not to prototype is when there is no R&D activity, which is another gamble with very poor odds. Scott Crump is founder and CEO of Stratasys Inc. He is the inventor and patent holder of the additive fabrication process known as FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), which is used for both prototyping and part production.









Control Systems


mechatronics Electromechanics


Mechanical CAD

Electronic Systems




Control Electronics

Digital Control Systems








Mechanical Systems















Is the Term ‘Engineer Programmer’ an Oxymoron? age. And asynchronous operations, A ll engineers use computers, but do all engineers write while uncommon in conventional computer programs? Could they? Do they really need to be able to? The essence of modern engineering design is integration and simultaneous optimization of all the elements in the multidisciplinary engineering system. And computer software, whether it is for modeling and analysis or for realtime application, is an essential element. It is often the most costly element in terms of complexity and development time and can also be a major source of system failures. So if engineers only use programs like Excel, MATLAB or LabVIEW, and then rely on software specialists to write customized analysis programs or real-time application programs, aren’t they failing in their integration and optimization mission? At most universities, freshman engineering students take an introductory computer programming course usually taught by a non-engineer using a programming language like C or Java to solve nonengineering-type problems. Students do little, if any, computer programming over the next two years, usually as a last resort. When it comes time for the senior-year capstone design experience, all the computer programming gets handed off to the computer geek on the team. Where is the integration? Why should we then expect something different when our graduates become practicing engineers? Engineering educators are responsible for this situation and immediate changes are needed! Let’s first differentiate between conventional computer programming and real-time computer programming. Realtime software is at the heart of multidisciplinary engineering systems. It differs from conventional software in that its results must not only be numerically and logically correct, they must also be delivered at the correct time. It must embody the concept of duration, which is not part of conventional software. Real-time software used in most physical system control is also safety-critical. Software malfunction can result in serious injury and/or significant property dam18

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software, are the heart and soul of real-time software. The hardware interrupt, the capability to stop the current execution of a program and service some device or some BY KEVIN CRAIG sensor outside Kevin C. Craig, Ph.D., the program, is Robert C. Greenheck the nitty-gritty Chair in Engineering of real-time Design & Professor of software. Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Fred College of Engineering, Stolfi, a mechatronics professor Marquette University. For more mechatronics at Columbia news, visit www.mechaUniversity and long-time industry practitioner, says working engineers use computer programs like Excel for data analysis. They are also familiar with CAD software for both mechanical design and electronic circuit analysis. However, they fear traditional code — like C and Assembler — which can perform real-time operations. So while they are comfortable doing computer analysis, they turn computer control over to a software expert. In his view, the problem is also generational. Older engineers often do not trust computer analysis and prefer to design by the “seat of their pants.” Younger engineers seem to trust computers too much and do not think about what the computer results are saying. In general, control, as well as real-time programming, is a lost art.The situation is the same at the university. When students are asked to design an original system as part of their capstone design experience, they realize they want a real-time microcomputer or computer to control their system and do not know how to implement it. Need to better manage your multi-disciplinary projects? View the webcast “Design Tools Join Forces to Save Time and Money” at



By Terry Costlow, contributing editor

The entertainment world is being transformed with an array of seemingly unending amusement options. Embedded controls expand accessibility and eliminate remote controls, while digital devices show where problems may be hidden.  THE INSIDE STORY Though wireless links are transforming home entertainment, there’s still a lot of wiring in the average home theater system. Walleye Technologies Inc. is making it easier to hide those wires inside walls without wreaking havoc on hidden wires and pipes. The Walleye Imaging System uses microwaves to peer inside walls, giving installers a picture of what’s inside. The unit, which weighs less than 3 lb, uses millimeter wave imaging to spot hidden obstacles. It utilizes a Renesas Technology Corp. H8SX microcontroller to capture the image data and execute a complex algorithm to create images that are displayed on an LCD.

 WATCH MY HANDS The push to monitor a user’s gestures, instead of forcing people to use joysticks, remote controls or other HMI devices, is gaining momentum. GestureTek recently unveiled The Cube, an interactive plug-and-play projection system that monitors human movement to control equipment. The company is now shipping a unit demonstrated at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where “pilots” moved their arms to direct a flight control simulator instead of using a joystick. Depth-sensing cameras track full-body movement or subtle hand gestures, using a 2.66-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 processor to manage the translations quickly enough to move images in response to user movements.

 LINKING THE WEB TO TV Watching Web-based videos and television shows on your TV used to be problematic, until now. Verismo Networks is linking the Web to the TV with its VuNow, a 3 x 4 x 0.8-inch box that connects to the Web over Wi-Fi and to the TV with an HDMI cable. Standard and HD versions provide a user interface for browsing on TV, providing access to international TV stations, as well as the many websites that store videos. It’s powered by a Texas Instruments’ ARM-based TMS320DM6446 digital media processor.


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The Adventure of the Inexplicable Corrosion

BY ALBERT EMERY, CONTRIBUTING WRITER Have you applied your deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve an engineering mystery that even the fictional Sherlock would find most perplexing? Tell us about it in 600 words and you’ll get your 15 minutes of fame if we publish your case. E-mail Karen Field at:

At The Adventure of the Soggy Snack Varying moisture content in a sweet snack flummox plant personnel. And an engineer learns that sometimes you need to introduce an error to correct a problem. http://designnews.

Sign up for the newsletter for this blog and get every Sherlock adventure delivered directly to your desktop at http://designnews. 22

My company designed a very precise optical assembly that could maintain focus as the ambient temperature fluctuated. The assembly consisted of two stainlesssteel barrels machined from bar stock, both of which contained lenses that were adhesively bonded in place. One barrel fit inside the other, and a spring-loaded mechanism adjusted force — that is, the position of one barrel with respect to the other — as the temperature varied. The fit between the barrels was very tight, and in some areas there was actual contact, so a thin deposit of nickel plating was applied to one of the barrels to provide lubricity and prevent seizing. Also of significance was the fact that the space between the barrels was enclosed so that the air inside was entrapped and stagnant. Every lens assembly was tested by subjecting it to temperature cycling. A few years ago, there was an unusually high failure rate. Failure was evident as binding of the barrels and inability to maintain focus. Close inspection of failed units after disassembly revealed very small corrosion deposits in the gap between the barrels, causing them to bind. It was a mystery as to how corrosion had formed so quickly during thermal cycling. The failures initiated a detailed investigation that included additional testing, laboratory failure analysis, and visits to the hardware manufacturers and the plating shop. A review of production records determined that the high failure rate was limited to one specific lot of the nickel-plated barrel. For this particular lot only, the thickness of the plating had exceeded the engineering drawing tolerances, so the plating was chemically stripped from the barrels and reapplied to the correct thickness. Meanwhile, the failure analysis laboratory cross-sectioned a nickel-plated barrel from a binding optical assembly and photographed it under high magnification. Upon inspecting the photographs, I discovered missing sulfide stringers. The final

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piece was in place to solve the mystery! The stainless-steel alloy used to fabricate the barrels was 416. It was not only relatively inexpensive, but also a freemachining grade. This characteristic was achieved by adding sulfur to the alloy at the steel mill. The sulfur combined with manganese, and the resulting compound formed numerous, thread-like “stringers” that ran parallel to the axis of the stainless-steel bar as it was formed. As the cutting tool contacted a stringer during machining, the brittle stringer broke and facilitated the formation of small chips. When the nickel-plated barrels had been chemically stripped to remove the over-tolerance plating, the aggressive chemical agent also dissolved any exposed sulfide stringers, and then remained entrapped inside the resulting hollow “tunnels.” Subsequent rinsing did not completely remove the stripping agent, and reapplication of nickel plating did not plug the “tunnels.” It was this entrapped chemical agent which caused the corrosion deposits. It existed in the nickel-plated barrels at the time the lens assemblies were built. Once built, the area of stagnant air was created, and corrosive vapors from the chemical agent quickly caused corrosion deposits to form. More than likely, the high temperature extremes during thermal cycling aided the release of corrosive vapors. Because the gap between the barrels was so narrow, a very small corrosion deposit was sufficient to cause the binding. Albert Emery is a materials engineer at Lockheed Martin Corp. During his 28 years at the company, he has supported several military defense programs, including the PATRIOT surface-to-air missile. He has a BS degree in metallurgical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He lives in Orlando, FL with his wife and three children, and enjoys reading, traveling and bicycling. You can reach him via our Sherlock Ohms blog comments at



Environmental news engineers can use


California Hybrid Rolls into Detroit



Come to the Lead-Free Zone blog for answers and updates and to exchange ideas with RoHS expert Rob Spiegel at FreeZoneBlog

Here’s a new hybrid vehicle from a new manufacturer of green cars. Fisker Automotive, an Irvine, CA-based affiliate of Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc., took its first production car — the 2010 Fisker Karma — to the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year. The Karma is a 100-mpg luxury plugin hybrid sports sedan. The car is powered by Quantum’s Q-Drive, which provides 50 emission-free miles on a single charge to its lithium-ion battery pack and up to 403 hp from two electric motors. Fisker claims the Karma is the first luxury plug-in car. The

starting price for the Karma is $87,900. Fisker representatives say they have received more than 1,000 orders for the vehicle.

Sparton Egg Cartons Are Now Biodegradable

Boeing Releases its Green Scorecard

Sparton Stores, a Grand Rapids, MI-based retail chain, has introduced egg cartons that are 100 percent biodegradable. Previously, the chain used Styrofoam cartons that are not biodegradable. The new cartons are produced from recycled paper — old newsprint, corrugated boxes and a variety of other plant fibers. They can be easily recycled along with the waste paper stream. The new carton also provides impact protection in transit and storage not provided by plastic containers. Sparton representatives say the green cartons will require 675,000 lb of pulp fiber annually, keeping it out of landfills, while also keeping the non-biodegradable plastic cartons out of the landfills.

The Boeing Co. in Chicago is going green in its facilities and its products. The company released its 2009 Environment Report, which reveals 2008 reductions in energy and water consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and hazardous waste at its facilities. Boeing also plans to green up its own products. The company detailed its efforts to pioneer progressive technologies and has launched demonstration flights powered in part by sustainable biofuels. Boeing aims to improve the fuel efficiency of each new generation of commercial airplane by at least 15 percent compared to the airplanes they’re replacing. The company is also helping to demonstrate air traffic management concepts such as tailored arrivals that reduce fuel consumption emissions noise by improving the efficiency of air traffic systems.

Sparton’s green egg carton is produced from recycled paper and is 100 percent biodegradable.


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Fisker’s 2010 hybrid Karma is said to be the first luxury plug-in car.

It’s easy to take common household items for granted. Flashlights are a prime example. They’re typically placed at the back of a drawer somewhere, next to the first aid kit. But for many professionals, outdoor enthusiasts, military personnel and police, these devices are mission-critical.

space they tend to have a lot of “light spill” on the sides, and provide limited options for shaping the beam. With knowledge of the lens material’s refractive index and the HBLED’s optical/mechanical data, a lens designer can use refraction and total internal reflection together very effectively, as in Figure 2.

Designing a tactical flashlight requires careful attention to four areas: Selection of one or more HBLED (high-brightness LED) light sources, development of a task-optimized secondary optics system, thermal management and building a high-efficiency power conversion circuit. This month I’ll review some of the fundamental concepts used in HBLED lens design, since these are unchartered waters for most engineers. Light travelling through a medium is slower than light traveling through a vacuum. The relative amount of speed reduction is a physical characteristic of the medium, known as the index of refraction and denoted as n. As examples, the refractive index of acrylic is about 1.49, most glass is around 1.51, and air is slightly greater than 1. When light rays travel from one medium into another medium which has a different refractive index, they bend1. This phenomenon, known as refraction, is illustrated on the left side of Figure 1. The angle of the refracted ray can be determined with Snell’s Law.

Snellʼs Law:

is director of LightSpeed, the solid state lighting and LED business unit of Avnet Electronics Marketing. An ardent advocate of energy efficient LED-based illumination, he has worked closely with LED manufacturers, advanced Figure 2 - Off-the-shelf TIR type lens for HBLEDs

Certain non-flashlight applications require oblong, rectangular or elliptical light patterns, so we see a fair amount of custom lens design activity these days. Experienced optical designers usually create and evaluate lenses with ray tracing and optical cad tools such as ZEMAX, LightTools, TracePro and OSLO.

n1 sin 02 = n2 sin 01

Figure 1 - Refraction and TIR at the interface of two mediums

Something really interesting happens if the incident ray strikes the interface at a large enough angle—the ray of light is reflected back into the medium. This is called total internal reflection (TIR), and the magic point at which TIR begins to occur is referred to as the critical angle. Let’s consider the wish list for our tactical flashlight’s optical system. We want to find the most effective way of gathering the light emanating from the HBLED and projecting it as a collimated beam. We’d also like to make the finished product as small as possible, so a long series of sequential optical elements is not desirable. Parabolic reflectors are a possibility, but in a small 1

Cary Eskow

A medium’s refractive index also varies with wavelength; this is actually the mechanism by which prisms separate white light into colors.

Lenses can capture and concentrate light, but they can also magnify imperfections or irregularities in the HBLED itself. We have a large set of tactical flashlights in our office, for tear-downs and analysis. One unit has a lens system designed so poorly that it projects a highly detailed image of its internal HBLED on walls, even down to the bonding wires—it’s actually a great teaching aid! Also note that the die used in some white HBLEDs are not always covered with a uniform thickness of phosphor, resulting in areas having slight yellow or blue tints. Without a lens, these color variations are barely noticeable. With a lens however, this can produce concentric rings of faint yellow/blue hues when directed at white surfaces. If you own an HBLED flashlight, you can try this test in a darkened room.

analog IC and secondary optics vendors since his first patent using LEDs was issued two decades ago. LightSpeed works with customers through their national team of illuminationfocused engineers called “Illumineers,” experienced in thermal, drive stage and optics design. Prior to LightSpeed, Cary was Avnet’s technical director and managed Avnet’s North American FAE team. To submit questions or ideas, e-mail Cary at

As always, comments and questions are welcomed and can be sent to me at

To learn more about designing an LED-based illumination system, go to:

T I Pfrom S


Unbelievably useful info on data measurement, collection and analysis from the test expert

JON TITUS CONTRIBUTING WRITER Jon Titus, a former designer and chief editor of EDN and Test & Measurement World magazines, remembers when “fast” signals operated at 10 MHz and programs came on paper tape.

In this false-color image of a MEMS accelerometer, the movable plate (orange) between the fixed plates (gray and magenta) reacts to the force caused by acceleration and changes the sensor’s capacitance.



or piezo-resistance effect to measure acceleration. Miniature sensors take advantage of a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) or a heat-transfer integrated circuit to detect acceleration. MEMS accelerometers have cantilever structures that resemble interleaved “combs” of semiconductor materials, as shown in the image below. One set of combs remains fixed, while tiny springs — also fabricated using MEMS technologies — hold the cantilevers in place. A force created during acceleration moves the spring-loaded cantilevers, which change the capacitance of the structure. Circuits detect the varying capacitance and convert it to digital information that represents an acceleration value. The cantilever structure lets these sensors measure both dynamic and static acceleration (Earth’s gravity) along one, two or three orthogonal axes. So they can detect tilt, or the Source: Freescale Semiconductor angular offset from the x, y or z axes. Tilt sensitivity is usually greatest in the plane perpendicular to the Earth’s surface. Manufacturers take advantage of these MEMS sensors in cameras, cell phones, game consoles and laptop PCs. But their small size, low power use, wide acceleration ranges, light weight and on-chip signal processing also make them useful in test and measurement applications. You could build them right into a product. An Analog Devices’ ADXL346 3-axis sensor, for example, can measure up to ±16g

D E S I G N N E W S J U LY 2 0 0 9 [ w w w. d e s i g n n e w s . c o m ]

with a 13-bit resolution and it can detect a tilt as small as 0.25 degree. And MEMS sensors can provide either digital or analog signals for each axis. The digital output means you do not need sensitive off-chip signal-conditioning circuits. A family of dual-axis accelerometers from MEMSIC Inc. uses heat to measure acceleration and tilt. The sensing element comprises a CMOS die with a small heater at the center and four temperature detectors spaced 90 degrees apart and equidistant from the center. The heater creates a small area of warm air above the center of the die in a sealed cavity over the heater and sensors. Each pair of detectors, spaced 180 degrees apart, senses acceleration along one axis. As the sensor experiences acceleration along its x axis, the warm air tends to remain at rest (Newton’s first law), so the temperature at the leading x-axis detector decreases and the temperature of the trailing x-axis detector increases. Frequency response for this type of sensor is usually below 35 Hz (-3 dB), but an external frequency-compensation circuit can extend this range to beyond 160 Hz. The thermal accelerometer has no moving parts and thus no mechanical resonances. For More



1. Analog Devices, Freescale Semiconductor, Kionix and STMicroelectronics manufacture a variety of MEMS accelerometers. Web seminar: “Detecting Five Distinct Motions with MEMS Inertial Sensors:” 2. “Implementing Positioning Algorithms Using Accelerometers,” AN3397, Freescale Semiconductor: 3. Tilt-sensing information: 4. Application notes for thermal accelerometers:


Gotta Have One Geoffrey Orsak’s top 10 “can’t live without” technologies


ho doesn’t love a top 10 list? And with the endless promotions — that was the radio we grew power of a pen, I can have my very own. up loving. Now, from 35,000 kilometers in the sky, I get my pure jazz without a single ad for monGiven that this is a summer issue, consider ster truck races. No more morning zoo — just this a beach blanket game with no real rules. crystal-clear music. Here are my 10 technologies I just couldn’t live 5. AUTOMOBILE PARKING SENSORS: without. Think they are lame? Then let’s hear Now this is technology I can really use. Combined some of yours. with my “backup” camera, I am flight-instru10. CELL PHONE CAMERA: At first these ment-rated to reverse into my very tight garage. were hardly better than a pinhole in a shoebox. Now, phone cameras are so good that my phone is The auto body repair shop lobby must be crying in their coffee over this innovation. my camera. You will never be at a loss at a baseball 4. GPS DYNAMIC MAPPING FOR game or after an unfortunate fenderMY CAR: This is a family’s dream come bender. And with these convenient detrue, preventing countless marital fights vices, we are all paparazzi. 9. NOISE CANCELLING in the front seat over stopping for direcHEADPHONES: What a twist tions. It took sending a man to the moon — technology originally designed to pull this one off, but it was definitely to produce sound now creates “anti” worth the effort. Look for divorce rates to sound. On a recent flight from DFW drop in the coming years. Geoffrey C. Orsak to Orlando, this little baby saved me 3. MAGNETIC STRIPE CARD: from a three-hour debate on health Forget checks, forget cash and forget care reform on aisle 19. Priceless. positive net worth. Now that I get miles on my 8. AIR CONDITIONING: Obvious, yes, but credit card, cash is so, like, 20th Century. Yes, it is summer. AC has meant more to the southern these little plastic bombs nearly brought down the migration of Ameriwestern economy like a rogue financial virus, but cans than the interstate they aren’t going anywhere soon. highway system. Don’t 2. GOOGLE: Do I have to explain this? love your AC? Try Google is my Internet. I haven’t bothered to walk walking in from a hot through a library in years. It is so transformative parking lot into a cool that Google has become both a noun and a verb. I dry home — now that’s challenge other technologies to pull that off. 1. UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL: a beautiful experience. This is pure power, however imaginary, all from As a Dallas resident, the comfort of the couch. As a late night sports adI pay homage to the evaporation cycle daily. dict, I couldn’t live without my remote. I love the remote. I am the remote. With my remote control 7. PILL CAMERA: and TiVo®, the ancient television is instantly Brimming with endless junior high humor, transformed into the true, interactive multimedia device we engineers have always dreamed of. this technology is a minor work of genius. Never “used” one? For anyone facing the alternative of a Geoffrey C. Orsak is dean of the Southern Methodcolonoscopy, all I can say is “smile, you’re on canist University Lyle School of Engineering. He can be did camera!” reached at 6. SATELLITE RADIO: Lame DJs, contests,


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Materials & Fastening


Motion Control


Design Tools



» ELECTRONICS SENSOR DUO SIMPLIFIES TASKS ADI’s newest pair of sensors is 100 times smaller than its counterparts, allowing engineers to easily embed them in harsh industrial environments. Page 38

» MATERIALS A new study on steel use, released by the Automotive Applications Council, predicts a 10 percent growth rate per year in the use of advanced highstrength steels through 2020. Page 39

» MOTION CONTROL ADAPTIVE CONTROL Many innovative new products are incorporating real-time autotuning and sophisticated nameplates on motors to extend the performance of adaptive tuning in servo drives. Page 42

» DESIGN TOOLS SOLID EDGE SHOWCASE Siemens releases a sequel to its Solid Edge software with Synchronous Technology. The newest version includes a built-in FEA tool, among other enhancements. Page 43

Source: Airbus


An Airbus A330-200, like the one above, encountered heavy turbulence and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean four hours into a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on May 31. A E R O S PA C E

Air France Crash Underscores Challenge of Designing Complex Automated Systems An engineer/pilot’s view on what went wrong with Flight 447 By John Loughmiller, contributing editor

On May 31, 2009, four hours into a trip from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330-200, encountered heavy turbulence. Fifteen minutes later, an automated system began sending messages documenting a worsening situation as first one and then another of the redundant electrical systems failed until all four were gone. Among the last messages sent was one advising that the cabin pressurization system had also failed, suggesting an in-flight breakup. The circumstances surrounding this flight underscore the diabolical challenge of designing complex, automated systems for multiple contingencies and then managing the consequences of the design choices made. Since I have a couple hats in my collection, one for when I’m being an engineer and another for when I’m being a pilot, the crash brought these challenges into sharp focus. It also reminded me of 30-plus years of pilot concerns about Fly-By-Wire flight control systems. In a Fly-By-Wire system, electric motors and actuators operate the flight surfaces via wires or fiber-optic strands. Multiple computers provide continual oversight of the process. Designers employ software to prevent what they consider to be dangerous or illogical user inputs from the pilot in an attempt to reduce pilot error and thereby increase safety. Unfortunately there have been accidents — some fatal — because designers didn’t adequately anticipate abnormal flight regimes. D E S I G N N E W S J U LY 2 0 0 9 [ w w w. d e s i g n n e w s . c o m ] 3 3

N EWS In a fully implemented Fly-By-Wire system, there’s no reversion to manual control. Pilots are system managers, making requests of the computers, which then decide whether the requests are reasonable. They control the movement of control surfaces using a set of rules or “laws.” On an Airbus for example, four operational laws govern its operation: Normal, Normal Alternate, Abnormal Alternate and Direct Law. As systems fail, control authority changes, eventually offering the pilot control only of elevator trim, rudder and thrust of the airplane’s engines in the Direct Law mode. With four electrical systems and multiple computers, the odds of ever getting to Direct Law are remote. But Flight 447 lost all of the electrical buses plus cabin pressurization in a thunderstorm, which was something the designers probably listed as an extremely unlikely possibility. Manual reversion

Source: Airbus

AE RO SPAC E , C on t i n u e d

There are still questions surrounding the crash of an Airbus A330-200, like the one shown above, on May 31.

in this case may not have helped, but it certainly could not have hurt. In a dire emergency, a pilot needs access to every flight control on the airplane. After all, if things are really bad, why make them worse by restricting a pilot’s options to

the point that he or she is little more than a passenger? To an aeronautical designer, there’s a tightrope to walk that’s both long and very far above the ground. Involving non-designers in the process isn’t

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N EWS AE RO SPAC E , C on t i n u e d

something that’s normally high on their list of priorities since outsiders (pilots in this case) will frequently want to add features that translate to added cost. Still, most airline pilots I know


who make their living in a Fly-By-Wire airplane don’t object to the software itself. They appreciate the smooth way the computers execute the flight surface movements.

What they hate is the lack of full control of the airplane in an emergency. This desire is at variance with an aircraft designer’s mindset that tries to prevent mistakes by restricting the actions a pilot can take. While these design objectives work well in normal operations, should things go horribly bad, as they did with Flight 447, the design rules may be in conflict with what’s required to extricate oneself from disaster. This is the pilot’s case in a nutshell. John Hansman, a pilot and an Aeronautical Professor at MIT specializing in aircraft design, has studied the differences in the Fly-By-Wire control philosophy and the more traditional approach to aircraft control. In his opinion, Fly-By-Wire gives more decision authority to the aircraft systems and less to the pilot, whereas traditional systems provide dynamic feedback on the operation of the aircraft but leave most of the decisions to the pilot. Hansman feels that by allowing computers to make critical decisions when operating in an abnormal flight regime, designers place a tremendous burden on themselves to anticipate all possible emergency modes and design the system to react appropriately. But what’s appropriate? That’s at the core of the debate. Although there are budget constraints in any design, Hansman has an approach that may help. He tells his students, who may well be the next generation of Boeing or Airbus designers, that to make correct decisions, particularly when designing complex machines like airplanes, it’s critical to involve end users early in the design process. He teaches that both the designer and the end user have a mental model of how something should work. However, the two models are frequently at variance with one another. An example: A designer working on flight dynamic issues notes there are many reports of pilots getting the airplane to assume a steep angle of attack coupled with a decay in air-speed to decay. This set of conditions is precisely what killed New York Yankee catcher Thurmond Munson as he approached an airport in his Cessna Citation business jet. The designer’s solution was to

N EWS AE RO SPAC E , C on t i n u e d

examine the amount of pitch up requested by the pilot, and as it increased, cause the engines to spool up so that the aircraft can’t slow down. This strategy worked fine until a combination of events that had not been modeled during the design phase fooled the system. Although the pilot steadily increased the pitch, the engines didn’t spool up. The pilot should have immediately lowered the nose and manually increased the thrust but, relying on the automation, he didn’t, and the airplane crashed short of the runway. It was a case of pilot and designer error. Another example: A pilot descended below the normal Initial Approach Fix (IAF) altitude because the weather was excellent and he was flying a visual approach. Once past the IAF, he commanded the aircraft to fly the approach. He thought it would simply continue on toward the runway, capturing the glide slope from below instead of from above which is the way it works when you start at the IAF. Instead, the aircraft went into an immediate climb and attempted to reach the altitude required at the IAF even though that point was behind the aircraft by this time. The pilot decoupled the aircraft from the autopilot but placed the airplane back in the approach mode once he’d satisfied himself that the system was working properly. The aircraft once again started climbing, giving the passengers a carnival ride they didn’t expect. The designer in this case never anticipated the pilot would attempt to fly a precision approach from a point other than where the approach is normally begun. We may never know what happened to Flight 447. But the dialogue that will emerge from this event will be invaluable to system designers, as they continue in their quest to design higher degrees of safety into their automated systems.

Contributing Editor John Loughmiller is an Electronics Engineer specializing in Single Channel Per Carrier communications systems and control logic system design for automated communi-

cations devices. He’s also a 4,500 hour commercial pilot, flight instructor and aircraft owner and is a Lead Safety Team Representative for the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Investigators confirm airspeed problem on Air France A330: AF447 accident — icing, pitot tubes and radar in the frame:

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Sensors Simplify Shock, Vibration Monitoring

require wide-bandwidth sensing. The sensor combines the MEMSbased sensing technology with an ADI’s new shock and vibration embedded processor and data capsensors are said to be 100 ture system. A 22-kHz-wide-bandSmaller size lets engineers place sensors closer to source times smaller than conventional brick-level modules. width, high-g accelerometer provides By Charles J. Murray, senior technical editor, electronics engineers with the ability to design A new pair of compact sensors promises to here versus larger modules.” vibration-monitoring capabilities into bring deeply embedded digital shock and Indeed, ADI says the shock sensor, for machinery sub-systems, such as industrial vibration measurement to such applicaexample, measures 12 x 12 mm. Known motors or roller bearings. tions as machinery monitoring, impact as the ADIS16240 impact sensor and the “The small size of this opens up a lot detection and security sensing. ADIS16220 vibration sensor, the two new of design options,” Scannell says. “Until The new sensors, made by Analog Deproducts are based on ADI’s iMEMS® innow, it’s been difficult to mount a large vices Inc., are said to simplify the task of ertial sensor cores. brick sensor close to the source. With this, embedded shock and vibration sensing The impact sensor enables engineers to they can embed the sensor deep in the in harsh industrial environments because monitor shock loads on expensive equipequipment, and get much closer to the they are 100 times smaller than convenment, whether it be medical equipment in source of vibration.” tional brick-level sensor modules. As a retransit or industrial machinery on the factoELECTRONICS sult, they can fit in applications where they ry floor. “At very low power, it continuously For More couldn’t have previously. And they can be monitors for any kind of shock event,” information embedded more deeply than ever before, Scannell says. “And the users can set the Analog Devices’ ADIS16240: ADI engineers say. threshold for the shock event and configure Analog Devices’ ADIS16220: “It’s a lot easier to embed these in exthe capture buffers the way they want.” isting equipment and get them closer to The vibration sensor, meanwhile, gives Analog Devices’ iMEMS®: the point of interest,” says Bob Scannell, designers the capability of automati More about ADI’s vibration sensing: a business development manager for cally capturing subtle vibration shifts in ADI. “The features are really packed in machines and in other applications that


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Advanced Steels Cut Weight in New Automobiles Many of plastics’ biggest ideas never move beyond the concept car phase

The use of advanced high-strength steels in 2009 model year light vehicles increased more than 4 percent compared to 2007, while the average weight per vehicle decreased by 163 lb. “Advanced high-strength steels provide numerous benefits to automakers, including the ability to reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy,” says David Anderson, director of the Automotive Applications Council, which released a study on steel use in May. One of the leaders is the new BMW X6, which uses the new steels for 32 percent of its body structure and other components. Other models with above-average content include the new Chevrolet Traverse, Ford F-150 and Chrysler Town & Country. Plastics have had their eye on increased content in cars for more than 30 years, but steel continues to hold ground because of new technology, recyclability and engineer’s experience with the material. Plastics, magnesium and aluminum are growing on a volume basis, but at smaller rates than some industry mavens had forecast. New technologies may propel use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, but big gains remain years off. The issue is particularly important in view of plans by the Obama administration to create an overall average of 39 mpg for passenger cars and 30 mpg for light trucks. The steel study predicts a 10 percent growth rate per year in the use of advanced high-strength steels through 2020 as automakers strive to meet the new standards. Researchers estimate that approximately 650 lb of mild steel, high-strength steel and iron will have to be replaced with 350 lb of dual-phase, martensitic, boron and other new steels, as well as aluminum, magnesium, polymers and composites to meet the ambitious goal. According to the study, weight reduction will account for at least 25 percent of the necessary improvement in fuel economy, For More

with advances in power train and other technologies — such as drag reduction, low-roll resistance tires and a 42V electrical system — making up the difference.

Source: AISI

By Doug Smock, contributing editor, materials and fastening

New Fords are among the leaders in using advanced highstrength steels.



The Automotive Applications Council’s Study on Steel Use: New Technologies Propel Use of CarbonFiber-Reinforced Plastics: 39







Getting Products Right the First Time with Social Product Development Lean engineering. Cross-functional product development teams. Global design. Time to market. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. What do all of these things have in common? You would probably agree that they are all realities in the world of today’s engineers and product developers. What might surprise you, though, is how well they go together and that they may hold the key to radically improving product development productivity and product profitability. Manufacturers today must run lean product developcomputing can be used for announcements and informal ment processes. To survive in the current global economy, communication between team members. companies must be fast and efficient in engineering. They There are other analogies between social networking certainly can’t afford any waste. One way companies can and social product development, as well. One common reduce non-value-added time and expense in new product element of modern product development is “concurdevelopment is by taking a “right the first time” aprent engineering” or “concurrent development.” These proach. Getting a design right the first time improves time approaches take previously serially scheduled tasks like to market and reduces the burden of rework. But how product engineering and manufacturing engineering and can manufacturers get products right the first time, every overlap them. By putting these tasks in parallel, manufactime? The key is early validation of designs and crossturers have the opportunity to significantly reduce time to functional involvement. What does this have to do with market. They also increase the level of input — and impact social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Second — that downstream functions can have on the design. Life, Twitter or Plaxo? More than you might think. Keeping these cross-functional, extended teams in sync An application like Facebook can provide a good around a concurrent design philosophy requires exactly analogy to how product development teams can use the kind of synchronization social computing delivers. social computing. A product team can keep each other And what about extending beyond the product synchronized on what each member is doing using status development team? Think of all the lost friends you updates. A quick note that an engineer is checking out a have found on Facebook, and the “friends of friends” file and about to redesign a part might prompt a series you have either met or seen glimpses of. Isn’t this a of comments or suggestions from different perspectives great analogy for extending the product team’s reach that could be useful to the to the rest of the business? engineer. A team can gather Wouldn’t it be valuable to input by sharing pictures, or have a colleague of your better yet 3-D virtual images. team member comment on Posting a digital mockup of your work and provide the a part is a visual prompt that missing piece that turns instantly broadcasts what your design into a winner? other designers are working Particularly when you didn’t on, with the added ability to know that this person in comment and add feedback. your extended network exEven the notifications and isted, let alone that they had instant messaging features 20 years of experience solvin a site like Facebook serve Figure 1 Social Product Development in action: Windchill Product- ing engineering challenges as examples of how social just like yours. Point collaboration space in Pro/ENGINEER. 40

DESI GN NEW S JU LY 2 0 0 9 [ www.d e sig n n e m]


Clearly there are significant parallels between social networking and the promise of using social computing in product development. Getting a product right the first time requires input from all disciplines, from Marketing to Quality. Social computing offers the venue for this collaboration, easily spanning organizational boundaries and connecting people around the right content — the product. Social networking also spans geography and time zone boundaries, offering the ability for globally dispersed teams to interact much more like they were sharing the same office. Are we suggesting you use Facebook to manage your product development teams? No, that is not the role Facebook plays. “Facebook-like” capabilities can enable approaches, but social networking sites are simply not designed for this purpose. But the underlying capabilities and concepts — known as “social computing” — hold significant promise. Connecting teams, connecting extended networks, capturing information and enabling collaboration are all natural capabilities for product development teams to exploit to improve their performance. What’s missing, though, is the product development content and context. PTC’s Social Product Development (Figures 1,2) bridges that gap by tying product development reference, conversations, and know-how back to the product being developed. These solutions form a new part of PTC’s triad of solutions (Figures 3) that enable product development teams to collaborate, complementing existing solutions that enable engineers to create world-class designs and corporations to control intellectual property. The good news is that engineers are comfortable working in an online, networked world. This should help lead to rapid, broad incorporation of social computing technologies in their daily product development routines. Particularly with younger engineers, these methods of interaction are intuitive and natural. As these capabilities are brought into existing product development systems, their use will be targeted and efficient because the social nature will be tied to the product and project information being discussed. Social networking on personal sites is fun and entertaining. Social product development is simply good business. Think about all of the information captured on Facebook. The site is filled with images, updates, links and the conversations that go along with them. Imagine if that information was all related to product-development, and was searchable by all team members? Wouldn’t that help keep everybody on the same page? Also, if other teams working on similar projects — either now or in the future






Figure 2 While using Pro/ENGINEER, presence detection allows the design engineer to receive real-time notifications when other contributors make changes. If the designer has any questions, he or she can send an instant message.

— could mine the information captured from the casual interactions, how many dead-ends and roadblocks could they avoid by learning from the past? Social computing, of course, goes beyond what the social networking sites can offer. Social computing includes blogs and wikis that can be used to capture knowledge and educate people. Maybe it would be a stretch to look for relevant product knowledge on MySpace. On the other hand, engineers could use blogs and wikis as ways to document and discuss engineering standards, materials, problem-solving techniques and other topics. These forums would develop into a significant corporate asset, particularly given the aging engineering workforce, capturing this knowledge could prevent companies from reinventing the wheel. Part of the lean approach is “standard methods,” which in turn enables continuous improvement and can contribute heavily to getting designs right the first time. Beyond formally documenting product knowledge, social computing offers the opportunity to create this knowledge as a valuable by-product of collaboration. Discussion threads, e-mails and documents shared via social computing techniques can be captured and tracked. A formal social product development strategy can take that further to associate that information with the referenced products and CAD models to create a permanent record for future reuse and learning. Social computing also offers capabilities like “people search” that allow participants to look for individuals with specific skills. A “friend request” may be valuable, but perhaps an “ask me” option on an expert’s profile is worth even more. Social computing offers the opportunity to profile individuals and make peoples’ skills searchable. A team member struggling with a particular issue may be able to find an experienced expert within the company that can offer advice. Coupling search with instant communications, the product developer could quickly see if the person is available, or if not leave them a message for a later reply. For companies that have ever said “if we only knew what we know,” social product development offers the ability to expose expertise and leverage it as a true corporate asset. Lastly, one of the important aspects of social computing is the development of communities. Communities can DE S IGN NE WS J ULY 2 0 0 9 []









Leveraging Adaptive Control Algorithms Real-time autotuning, electronic nameplates boost performance

By Al Presher, contributing editor

Figure 3 PTC offers social computing solutions that help product development teams collaborate, complementing existing solutions that enable engineering users to create world class designs and corporations to control intellectual property.

provide a forum for discussion of ideas and concepts that have the potential to become compelling products for the participants. Social product development offers product managers the opportunity to leverage communities to test product ideas on a broad scale, or even generating new product ideas. By leveraging a large population of potential customers, product management can get a lot of feedback on an idea in a short period of time. This allows companies to build products that are not only technically right the first time, but also right for the market. By following discussion threads, product developers can also determine what people like and don’t like about the product. This concept could also be applied to suppliers or the market at large to source technical solutions. For example, a company can post a challenge they are facing and solicit solution ideas from suppliers or the market at large. By leveraging the speed and connectivity available through the Internet, companies can access broad populations to find the information they need. The opportunities for manufacturers to leverage social product development today are extensive, and will only develop further over time. Social product development is a new approach that will provide forward-thinking companies with a competitive advantage with their products. As the use of social computing in business matures, new areas of value will certainly be identified and acted on. Those companies that act first will generate a sustainable advantage based on what they learn through early adoption. So the next time you get a “friend request” from a social networking site, think about how valuable having a network of product development friends can be to developing a product “right the first time.” Join The Discussion http://designnews.hotims. com/23112-150 42

DESI GN NEW S JU LY 2 0 0 9 [ www.d e sig n n e m]

Adaptive control algorithms are continuing to advance the state-of-the-art in digital servo drives. In May, Design News reported on “Servo Drives Utilizing Adaptive Control for Advanced Algorithms.” But now we’re finding additional innovative products that are using real-time autotuning and sophisticated electronic nameplates on motors to extend the performance of adaptive tuning in servo drives. The MR-J3 drive from Mitsubishi Electric uses a combination of a 900 Hz frequency response and 18-bit encoder resolution to implement robust, real-time autotuning and simplify eliminating machine vibrations and resonances. One control function called Vibration Suppression Tuning automatically determines vibration suppression parameters and makes it feasible to achieve higher response for low stiffness machines. The amplifier has load model blocks that stimulate a machine structure, and describe the structural relation between the motor and load. The tuning section then estimates the frequency of load vibration from the encoder position signal and calculates the structural parameters and optimized feedback gains. A Robust Disturbance Compensation algorithm is effective for an axis where the load inertia is bigger than the motor inertia, like the roller axis in a printing press. The algorithm monitors the low frequencies on the machine and matches the gains to what is required for the smaller size motors, so all three motors can be effectively synchronized. With new Siemens’ S110 and S120 drives, adaptive tuning algorithms offer improved performance by incorporating

The MR-J3 drive from Mitsubishi, left, uses real-time adaptive tuning to deal with machine vibrations and resonances. Right, Siemens uses electronic nameplate parameters and factory motor measurements to increase the performance of drive algorithms.

“electronic nameplate” parameters along with factory measurements not typically found on a nameplate. “The DRIVE-CLiQ interface between SINAMICS S110 drive and motor not only supplies the motor feedback to the drive (including temperature) but also the electronic nameplate information,” says Craig Nelson, product marketing manager for SINAMICS Drives at Siemens Energy & Automation. Nelson says this alleviates the need to parameterize motor data in the drive, forming a plugand-play servo system. Drive performance is also increased since auto-tuning algorithms have access to factory motor measurements and functions such as the resistance and inductance of the stator and rotor. For More



“Servo Drives Utilizing Adaptive Control for Advanced Algorithms”: http://designnews.hotims. com/23112-581 Mitsubishi Electric’s MR-J3 drive: http://designnews.hotims. com/23112-537 Siemens Energy & Automation’s SINAMICS Drives: http://designnews.hotims. com/23112-538


Siemens Showcases Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 Upgrade extends the history-free, feature-based modeling functionality

By Beth Stackpole, contributing editor, design tools Nearly a year after its introduction, Siemens PLM Software has released a sequel to its Solid Edge software with Synchronous Technology, extending the historyfree, feature-based modeling capability deeper into the product with improved part and assembly modeling in addition to intelligent sheet metal design. Part of Siemens’ Velocity Series of software aimed at SMB companies, Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 also includes a new, built-in finite element analysis (FEA) tool along with enhancements to the embedded Insight design data management platform. Synchronous Technology, a hybrid modeling technique also featured in Siemens’ NX 3-D CAD platform, combines the speed and flexibility of a direct modeling approach with the precise control and automation of traditional parametric or dimension-driven design platforms. This new release illustrates Siemens’ commitment to apply Synchronous Technology to all components in its MCAD series over time. “We’re now in the process of building out and incorporating Synchronous Technology to the point that this is becoming a mature version for parts and assemblies,” says Bruce Boes, vice president for Siemens’ Velocity Series. The application of Synchronous Technology to sheet metal design will have a wide impact on the Solid Edge customer base, Boes says. Nearly 60 percent of Solid Edge users employ sheet metal as part of their product development process, and with Synchronous Technology, they can create models with less pre-planning, make changes more readily and reuse and edit supplier data more effectively, Boes explains. Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology 2 is slated to ship this summer. For More


Solid Edge’s Live Sections are 2-D cross sections and can be cut anywhere in a 3-D part.



Siemens’ Velocity Series: Siemens Gets CAD Modeling in Sync: 3-D Modeling Debate Spurs a New Generation of CAD Tools:



Up in a



ECONOMY Despite a less than stellar year for their compensation, many design engineers remain positive about their careers

Happy Campers

Unhappy Campers

Top five things that make engineers smile

Top five things that make engineers frown

Problem Solving

Company Politics 78%


Technical Challenges

No Room for Advancement 73%


Opportunity to be Creative

No Recognition 70%


Variety of Projects

Stress Level Too High 60%


Relationships with Colleagues 56%


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Workload 48%


want to get rich, don’t go into engineering. Or, if you do go into engineering, at least make sure you start your own company. If you didn’t follow either bit of advice, there are some things to consider that might help to maximize your earnings. Here are some indicators from our latest salary survey on the some of the key factors that can help boost your salary: • Live in New England • Supervise people (and the more, the better) • Get an MBA • Work for the government • Put in more than a 40-hour work week • Get old INFOGRAPHICS_DANIEL GUIDERA

Bringing Home the Bacon

Older and Richer

What is your current base annual salary* for 2009?

Annual mean salary in thousands

$50,000 or less 9% $50,000 - $59,999 9% $60,000 - $69,999 12% $70,000 - $79,000 14% $80,000 - $89,999







Age 18-25

Age 26-34

Age 35-44

Age 45-54

Age 55-64

Age 65+

12% $90,000 - $99,999 11% $100,000 - $109,999 11% $110,000 - $119,999 6% $120,000 - $129,000 6% $130,000 - $149,000 5% $150,000 or more 4%

Average Salary: $89,748 Median Salary: $84,417 Average Bonus: $6,136 * Base salary not including bonus, commissions

But even for workers who’ve been able to stack the deck in their favor to maximize their paycheck, the past year hasn’t been exactly a stellar one for design engineers and their compensation. Not that we had to tell you that. The results of this year’s Design News’ salary survey, which looks at compensation for design engineers across a variety of factors ranging from geography to education, should come as no surprise. They merely confirm the headline news: Companies are looking for ways to streamline their operations and cut costs, and employee compensation has been one of the key line items under attack. To wit, nearly half of you (47%) report you received no raise this year, while 15 percent said you were whacked with a pay decrease that averaged 20.6 percent. For the lucky one-third who eked out a raise, the average was 4.5

Quick Change

percent. One-third told us your bonus was cut, and a similar percent reported that you experienced a reduction in your benefits. That’s a big comedown from the previous year’s salary survey, when three-fourths of you reported an average pay increase of 5 percent. Moreover, only 2 percent reported a decrease in salary or benefits. Lay offs also continued apace during the economic slowdown, with twothirds of respondents reporting that their companies have laid off engineers this past year. Of those companies who had lay offs, the average percent of the engineering department getting pink slips was estimated at 17 percent. It’s Not Just about the Money

The good news is that it’s more than just high salaries that keep engineers motivated. In fact, “salary” ranks a lowly number seven on the list of factors that Size Matters

If your base salary changed over the past 12 months, by how much?

Mean salary, in thousands <100 (Number of People at Company)


Average Salary Decrease: 21% Median Salary Decrease: 10%

$80.9 101-500

12% 5%


Over 10% increase

8-10% increase

5% 5-7% increase

2-4% increase

Less than 2% increase

Average Salary Increase: 4% Median Salary Increase: 3%

Over 5-7% 2-4% 10% 8-10% decrease decrease decrease decrease

$81.5 501-999



$80.1 33%


>1,000 $100.1

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COVER STORY Up in a Down


Following in the Footsteps

Pink Slips

Would you recommend this field to your son, daughter or to a friend?

Has your company laid off engineers this year?

Yes 68%

Yes 72%

Where the Money Is

No 32%

No 28%

Mean salary, not including bonus or commissions Semiconductor $101,102

Average % Reduction: 17%

Defense System $101,049 Energy/Power/Oil & Gas $98,931 Aerospace $98,450 Medical $97,952 Computer/Peripheral $96,313 Instrument/Test Equipment $95,567 Communications System $91,220 Automotive $87,480 Electronic Components $86,777 Consumer Electronic $85,862 Industrial Control $83,380 Machine Tools $82,377 Construction Equipment $81,382 Contract Manufacturing $73,518 Other $78,150

contribute to your job satisfaction. The top three things (in rank order) that engineers say get them revved up about their careers are: problem solving, technical Sign of the Times challenges and the opportunity to be companies have taken as a creative. That’s significant, because these Measures result of the economic downturn three things in many ways define the very No raise in 2009 essence of what it is to be an engineer. 67% “I’m a total geek, I love what I’m doing,” says Gary Noyes, a senior engineer No bonus 39% for Human Space Flight Programs at Oceaneering Space Systems. With an Reduction in benefits package engineering career spanning more than 34% 30 years, Noyes is now a lead hardware Asked to take a pay cut engineer for life critical subsystems and 19% has been involved in projects as cool as Increased time off the development of the space suit used 19% for deep space missions. Laid off Noyes is so jazzed about his career 6% that he says he even wakes up in the middle of the night solving problems. “I’ll probably never retire,” he confesses. Another Gary (last name Moore) just might never retire himself, though he keeps planning on it. In the process Working Hard for the Money of winding down a long and successful Change in hours versus last year engineering career in the medical field, three years ago at the age of 65 he was convinced to take on a new position as head of the engineering department Wo rk at medical device maker Sterilucent. Less Hours Same 15% “The company received a government Number contract to build sterilization devices of Hours Wo rk 61% Mo re Ho urs for field hospitals and we’d been tasked 24% with coming up with a production process that involves moving particles in a vacuum,” explains Moore. It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever been involved with, but it’s been fun.” Average Hours: 60 Median Hours: 46


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Don’t Worry, Be Happy In general, how satisfied are you with your career? Extremely Satisfied 10%

Not Satisfied 14%

Very Satisfied 40%

Somewhat Satisfied 36%

Where the Money Is Annual mean salary in thousands

Though “fun” may not be the first adjective most people think of to describe their work, the satisfaction level among design engineers is almost enviably high. Half of the survey respondents reported that they are “extremely or very satisfied” with their career choice, with only 15 percent reporting that they are not satisfied. Nearly one-third reported that they are “happy where they are,” and are not actively (or even passively) searching for a new opportunity. Moreover — and possibly the best indicator of just how positive design engineers feel about their careers — three-fourths said they would recommend engineering as a career choice to their children and friends. For complete salary survey results, including even more data for you to see how your compensation compares to that of your engineering peers go to

How Does Your Salary This Year Compare to Last Year? Stayed the Same 47% Increased 38%

Decreased 15%

For More


Download a PDF of the Entire Results of Our 2009 Salary Survey at After Downturn, A Brighter Future for Automotive Engineers: Highly Qualified Engineers Are Having Trouble Finding Work:

In Demand: Engineers with a ‘Systems Point of View’ By Liz Taurasi, Executive Editor

Pacific Northwest $85.9 Mountain States $94.6 Midwest $85.6 New England $109.6

South $97.6 Southwest $100.7 Southeast $86.2 Mid-Atlantic $90.9

What’s Hot Design News asked its readers which engineering disciplines they think will Which engineering discipline do you be in the highest demand in the next feel will be in the highest demand in the next six months? six months. The top four in rank order: Software Engineering, Electrical/ElecSoftware Engineering tronics Engineering, Electromechanical 24% Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Electrical/Electronics Engineering But, in fact, it is more likely a combina20% tion of all four disciplines that represents Electromechanical Engineering the most valuable (and marketable) skill 17% set for today’s engineers to possess. According to Kevin Craig, Robert C. Mechanical Engineering Greenheck Chair in Engineering Design 11% and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Controls Engineering College of Engineering at Marquette Uni8% versity, the shift from engineer-specialist to engineer-generalist is already taking place. Manufacturing Engineering 6% “No one wants to hire just a mechanical engineer or just an electrical engineer or just Materials Engineering a software engineer — that’s very mislead5% ing,” Craig says. “What companies want now Other are engineers who have a multidisciplinary 9% skill set and the ability to work with multidisciplinary teams. They have to be able to communicate with and understand something about what other people on the team do.” He goes on to say that the essence of modern engineering design is integration and simultaneous optimization of all the elements in the multidisciplinary engineering system. “In short, the engineers most in demand will have a systems perspective” Craig says.

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Source: EOS

Selective laser sintering creates cost-effective dental restorations.


Speeds Production Digital manufacturing may be the next big thing, and assembly operations provide a strong starting point STORY_ D O U G S M O C K , C O N T R I B U T I N G E D I T O R , M AT E R I A L S A N D FA S T E N I N G



nologies originally developed for rapid prototyping are making strong inroads into the manufacturing arena, especially for assembly applications such as tooling for jigs and fixtures. NASCAR’s Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) uses additive fabrication technology to custom produce scoops that permit efficient air flow into an internal duct for cooling purposes. The ducts were originally developed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and are referred to as NACA ducts. The polypropylene parts are first vacuum formed and then positioned in a custom fixture and trimmed to size with a waterjet cutting machine. The technical team had other options when reviewing processes to make the fixture. “We didn’t even give CNC machining a second thought,” says Mark Bringle, JGR’s technical manager. “It was obvious that FDM (fused deposition modeling) was our

best option. Just one look at the fixture and we knew that it would be too much work and take too much time to get it milled on one of our CNCs.” The day after process selection, JGR made two custom fixtures using the fused deposition modeling technology from Stratasys, Eden Prairie, MN. “After the meeting, we had our designer draw it up, and we popped two out the next morning.” To make two FDM fixtures, the total lead time was less than one day and the cost was only $525. The entire process was completed with only one hour of direct labor. The estimated cost to machine two fixtures was $2,550. Bringle attributed much of the expense to the fixture’s deep pockets. Material is applied in layers directly from a CAD file in the fused deposition modeling and other additive fabrication technologies. In the case of FDM, a plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which controls the flow. The nozzle is heated to melt

the material and can be moved both horizontally and vertically. Several materials are available for FDM with different trade-offs between strength and temperature properties. FDM can be used with ABS, polycarbonate, polycaprolactone, polyphenylsulfone (PPS) and waxes. The material used to make the fixture for the racing duct is ABS. As reported by Design News, the process is also widely used to make jigs and fixtures for vacuum cleaners by Oreck. In another racing-type application, Roaring Forties’ autos uses additive fabrication services from Stratasys’ RedEye On Demand to make tools for a fuel line that are used as a fixture for aligning assemblies and as a “go/no go” gauge. “Being cost-effective we now use a number of jigs during assembly where we used to have none,” says Paul Bottomley, a co-owner of Roaring Forties. “It saves us many man hours during a build but also improves on quality. Located in Australia, Roaring Forties makes replicas of

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the Ford GT40, a high-performance racing car that was built from 1966 to 1969. BMW Bypasses Machining

BMW is also making widespread use of FDM to make jigs and fixtures at its plant in Regensburg, Germany as an alternative to various steel-cutting processes. One example is a convoluted tube that bends around obstructions and allows placement of fixturing magnets exactly where needed in the production of bumper supports. “The tool designs we create often cannot be matched by machined or molded parts,” says BMW engineer Günter Schmid. CAD-driven rapid prototyping technology was invented in 1986 by Charles W. Hull when he developed stereolithography, in which a CAD-driven laser etches patterns in photo-curable polymers. He is still the chief technology officer of 3D Systems, now located in Rock Hill, SC. In 1987 a student at the University of Texas named Carl Deckard was developing a technology called selective laser sintering in which a high-power laser fuses small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powders into a three-dimensional mass. Deckard’s idea was commercialized by DTM, which was purchased by 3D Systems in 2001. A German company, EOS, developed its own selective laser sintering technology and is now a major supplier. Systems were originally developed to make prototypes quickly. Industry experts agree most future growth; however, will come from application of the technology to low volume, complex Photo: Doug Smock

Engineers can design components with embedded fasteners and internal complexity because layers are added incrementally in the additive manufacturing process. 50

This BMW fixture, made via FDM, allows accurate placement of magnets in the production of bumper supports. Source: Stratasys

parts for manufacturing. As a result, the industry now is often referred to as “additive manufacturing” as opposed to “rapid prototyping.” Development of new materials, including high-end engineering thermoplastics, that can be used with some of the systems will surely accelerate the move to digital manufacturing. Bending Channels

Technology announced by 3D Systems and partners at Rapid 2009, held May 12-14 in Schaumburg, IL, also show the tremendous potential of additive manufacturing. Hull worked with Scott Turner, president of Scicon, a service bureau, to develop MQast™, a process that can create intricate, bending channels and very tight tolerances from fully dense aluminum or stainless steel. One use could be tiny fluid-carrying channels in the tips of jaws manufactured for surgical instruments. “This should really open up design,” Turner told Design News. “We don’t want engineers to think about the constraints of a process. We want them to develop the best possible design and then tell us to make it.” Turner and Hull declined to discuss specifics of the development, but said patents would be filed. Developments disclosed by EOS also demonstrate the opportunities for the technology. As many as 500 bridges and crowns can be manufactured from cobalt-chrome in a day in a single build on an EOS direct metal laser sintering system. In fact, EOS expects to ship 20 machines for dental applications in the next 18 months. Dental implants traditionally have been made via casting, a process that allows technicians to produce just 20 dental frames per day. Cost of materials remains a restraint

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for the industry. One resin for a specific process, for example, is cited at $30/lb, more than 10 times a typical engineering thermoplastic. That ensures that at least for the short-term, the technology will only be applied where it provides the most return. In addition, high-end machines can be expensive, well over $500,000. In some processes, surface finish is not Class A. For that reason, assembly applications may be a primary target because glossy surface finishes are not required. Other fastening applications are also possible with additive manufacturing. A demonstration component at the Stratasys booth at Rapid 2009 showed a fastener embedded in a housing fabricated with fused deposition modeling. The fastener can be placed in a component midway through fabrication, taking advantage of the ability to stop and re-start the machine. It’s a concept similar to insert injection molding. With additive fabrication, you not only have the benefit of a metal fastener in a plastic construction, you also have the ability to make an extremely complex design with internal elements, including channels. For More


NASCAR’s Joe Gibbs Racing: Stratasys: Stratasys’ RedEye On Demand: Roaring Forties: 3D Systems: EOS: MQast™:

Look to Low-Cost

3-D Scanning

Source: NextEngine


NextEngine’s desktop scanner brings 3-D scanning costs to less than $3,000.

n a matter of hours, engineers at John Force Racing can build a perfect race helmet liner. They can measure a driver’s head, upload the measurements into a computer-aided manufacturing system and machine a foam liner that fits inside the helmet, conforming to every nook and cranny of the driver’s skull. The process is worth it, they say, because it may one day save the lives of race car drivers. For engineers — especially those laboring in small- to medium-sized companies where design and manufacturing budgets are tight — the prospect of affordably creating such complex and vital products borders on the unbelievable. But thanks to a new breed of three-dimensional scanning technologies, race helmet liners and other products with STORY_CHARLES J. MURRAY, unusual or organic shapes can now go from art to part SENIOR TECHNICAL EDITOR, in a matter of hours, experts ELECTRONICS say. “Right now, scanning is one of the fastest-emerging engineering fields,” says Ed Tackett, director of RapidTech at Saddleback College in California, a National Science Foundation Center for Rapid Technologies. “With the proliferation of microcontrollers, people are finding new and better ways to do scanning.” Indeed, John Force Racing is only one of a growing number of companies taking advantage of such new laser scanning technologies. NextEngine, a maker of low-priced

Inexpensive scanners are enabling engineers to capture organic shapes more easily 3-D scanners, says it worked with manufacturers to create ear molds for hearing aids and orthotics for running shoes. It has also helped to make better prosthetic devices for amputees and improved orthodontic braces for kids. “The idea is to quickly, affordably and accurately capture organic shapes, or highly non-prismatic shapes, which would be very difficult to measure with calipers,” says Dan Gustafson, marketing director for NextEngine. “If you can capture it and take it into CAD, then you can begin to do things with it.” From Art to Part

John Force Racing moved to helmet liners after the death of racer Eric Medlen, who was fatally injured when his head struck a roll bar in a “Funny Car” in 2007. Looking for innovative ways to boost safety, the company began making the foam liners as a means of cushioning the potential blows to the head that can occur when a vehicle crashes or when it violently shakes the driver. Making custom liners affordable; however, was no simple task. To inexpensively capture the shape of a drivers’ head, digitize it and transport its digital data to a machining center is a chore that can range from difficult to financially impossible. Many of today’s commercially available 3-D scanners can cost upwards of $80,000.


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Source: John Force Racing

“To do what we are doing would normally require a $100,000 scanner,” says James Gregg, programmer and designer for John Force Racing. Gregg says; however, that the John Force team has been able to create helmet liners by employing a desktop scanner from NextEngine that cost less than $3,000. NextEngine, which has filed for approximately 25 patents on its technology, uses four lasers that sweep across the object, cross-referencing each other while they gather data. “We do it by using inexpensive components configured in an innovative way,” Gustafson says. “The idea is to make it affordable and keep it in a small package.” John Force’s engineering team adds their own innovative ingredient to NextEngine’s recipe, bolting the cereal-boxsized scanner to a door frame and then scanning the heads of drivers who sit on a chiropractic bed underneath it. Creating good, usable data, Gregg says, takes anywhere from seven to nine “data capture” sessions. “The drivers wear a swim cap with ‘x’s all over it to help us reorient after each scan,” Gregg says. “They put the cap on and we scan the head. We re-orient, then scan again and again.”

John Force Racing digitizes the head measurements of its drivers so that helmet liners will allow only a ȴ-inch gap between the liner and driver.

Trillions of data points gleaned from the scans are stored in “stl,” a file format used in stereolithography CAD files. Those scan results are then exported to an IGES (International Graphics Exchange Specification) format, and finally transferred to a Mastercam file for use by a machining center that creates the curves and contours in the foam liners. John Force Racing uses a Fadal VMC 6030 five-axis machining center to make the 1.25-inch-thick shell out of a 1 x 1 x 1 ft billet of soft, high-tech foam. In all, Gregg says, the process takes about 12 hours. “We’re going to do this on an ongoing basis with all of our race car drivers,” Gregg says. “We’re making sure that every one of them is as safe as possible.” The Do-It-Yourself Trend

NextEngine’s technology is also spreading to other areas of design. Vorum Research Corp., a leading prosthesis software manufacturer, is integrating NextEngine connectivity into its 54

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Getting Started on Low-Cost 3-D Scanning Do-It-Yourselfers, traditional suppliers are moving to low-cost scanners As 3-D scanning gradually moves to the lower end of the cost spectrum, numerous websites are publishing guides to buying and creating your own laser scanner. Some include references to high-end ($50,000+) scanning products, while others show you how to create your own 3-D scanner for under $100. • National Center for Rapid Technologies: • Scanners, Digitizers and Software: • Building a $25 3-D Scanner: • Directions to Create Your Own 3-D Laser Scanner: • NextEngine’s Sub-$3,000 3-D Scanner:

Canfit software. And Delcam, a supplier of advanced CAD/ CAM software, has entered into a partnership with NextEngine that will involve its ArtCAM Pro software. Tackett of Saddleback College purchased 20 of the NextEngine desktop scanners for a class in which students will be taught how to reverse engineer common products using laser scanners. His lab has also used the scanners to do digital archiving of aircraft tooling, to create a digital library of the ancient archeological artifacts, and to make a digital model of an entire motorcycle. To be sure, NextEngine isn’t the only entrant in the area of inexpensive 3-D scanning. Do-it-yourself 3-D scanning technology is developing its own niche on the Internet, with numerous websites explaining how to build your own 3-D laser scanner. A simple Google search of “DIY laser scanning” yields thousands of hits, with multiple YouTube videos demonstrating how do-it-yourselfers can build their own scanners. Moreover, makers of scanning kits are said to be increasingly showing up at trade shows frequented by design engineers. “You can build a 3-D scanner for under $100 if you’re so inclined and if you’re mechanically apt,” Tackett says. “Right now, the kits don’t have the resolution of a NextEngine scanner. But we’re starting to see kits with better lasers and better scanners in them, and we expect that to continue.” In the end, the key to success for such technologies may be the ability to quickly and easily transport digitized scan data into CAD software, such as SolidWorks or Pro/ENGINEER. High-end commercial scanners offer that ability today, and so does NextEngine. To the extent that such abilities move to the lower end of the cost spectrum, experts expect inexpensive 3D scanning to gain popularity in the engineering community. “The faster you can turn a product around and get it out the door, the more you can be globally competitive,” Tackett says. “This kind of equipment helps you do that.” For More


John Force Racing: RapidTech: NextEngine: Fadal VMC 6030:





MARKETSPECIFIC DISTRIBUTIONS MontaVista’s Linux 6 gives device developers the ability to deliver products uniquely tailored to their target markets. It provides an embedded Linux development environment composed of MarketSpecific Distributions and development tools, as well as the support and maintenance required by developers to fully leverage the semiconductor Linux technology. The Market-Specific Distributions are built on a common framework and optimized for respective hardware platforms and their target markets. Linux 6 also includes a MontaVista Zone Content Server and MontaVista Dev Rocket 6.

Embedded Linux Extends Its Reach Microcontroller-compatibility, marketspecificity head list of features BY CHARLES J. MURRAY, SENIOR TECHNICAL EDITOR, ELECTRONICS

By most measures, Linux is the embedded industry’s leading operating system today. A 2007 study done by VDC Research Group revealed that 11.9 percent of developers were already using embedded Linux and another 23.5 percent were planning to employ it on their next project. Since then, its popularity has risen even more. Today, some analysts say its market share is between four and five times bigger than any individual competitor. “In the last three to four years, embedded Linux has become the predominant operating system for embedded devices, especially those that are running 32- and 64-bit microprocessors and need a full-blown OS,” says Joerg Bertholdt, vice president of marketing for MontaVista Software, an embedded Linux supplier. Indeed, embedded Linux has grown so big it is now making its mark in hardware-specific products, real-time applications and in microcontrollers. Up to now, that’s not been the case because microcontrollers typically don’t have memory-management units, which have been needed to run Linux. But a new breed of embedded Linux operating systems are enabling selected microcontrollers to run Linux. “Now users can run a Linux- or POSIX-compatible solution on the microcontroller,” says Kim Rowe, president and founder of RoweBots Research Inc., a maker of tiny Linux real-time operating systems. “It’s one more reason why embedded Linux is becoming the default standard for the embedded world.” Here, we’ve collected new embedded Linux operating systems from MontaVista, RoweBots and Wind River Systems. They should serve as a starting point for embedded product developers looking to move into the world of Linux.

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ROWEBOTS’ TINY RTOS FOR TI’S STELLARIS MCUS RoweBots’ ultra-tiny Unison Version 4 is an embedded Linuxcompatible RTOS that opens Texas Instruments’ Stellaris microcontroller (MCU) families to Linux- and POSIX-compatible development for the first time. The combination of the Unison OS and the Stellaris microcontroller are said to be well-suited to a broad set of applications, including lighting, white goods, home automation, industrial automation, power management and networking. OEM developers can create product applications with standard reusable components supported by Unison, the Stellaris MCU and CodeSourcery tools.

WIND RIVER’S LATEST LINUX PLATFORM Wind River Linux 3.0 pre-integrated, commercial-grade platform is said to be the company’s most feature-rich Linux platform to date. Based on the Linux kernel 2.6.27 and GCC 4.3, the product comes with more than 500 software packages, including packages for multimedia, graphics and human-machine interface technologies. The new release also offers multi-core features, allowing customers to build on modern multicore hardware. The OS also provides profiles for vertical industries, including aerospace, defense, consumer, industrial, networking and medical.

RAPID PROTOTYPING New Materials Spur Growth


One of the big stories at Rapid 2009, held May 12-14 in Schaumburg, IL, was the introduction of improved materials systems for additive manufacturing systems. Goals for the new materials include expansion into direct-digital manufacturing markets, improvement in cost-effectiveness, improvement for functional part testing and gains in system speeds. The global market for additive manufacturing products and services was an estimated $1.183 billion in 2008, according to industry maven Terry Wohlers. The industry is expected to more than double in size by 2015. Respondents to a survey of industry participants conducted by Wohlers say they believe manufacturing will account for 36 percent of their business in five years and more than half in 10 years. “Methods of additive manufacturing are creating new markets for limited-edition and one-of-a-kind products,” says Wohlers. “Additive manufacturing is causing some companies and individuals to rethink the way products are developed and brought to market.” 



EOS Electro Optical Systems is offering three new metal powders and a new plastic system based on polyaryl ether ketone polymer, the first hightemperature polymer available for laser-sintering. EOS PEEK HP3 is described as durable, heat-resistant, biocompatible and sterilizable, making it a candidate for aircraft and medical applications. EOS NickelAlloy IN718 is a nickel superalloy frequently used in high-temperature applications and components subject to high stress levels, while EOS NickelAlloy IN625 is resistant to oxidation and corrosion and extremely strong at high and low temperatures. A third nickel alloy, EOS HX, is a high-temperature, corrosion-resistant Hastalloy able to withstand harsh environments.


Fortus 3D Production Systems’ SR-30 is a new soluble support material for use with ABS-M30 and ABS-M30i thermoplastics. The material provides faster dissolve times for the FDM additive fabrication process. Compared with its predecessor (SR20), the new SR-30 support material delivers a 69 percent reduction in dissolve time in an agitation tank and a 46 percent dissolve time reduction in an ultrasonic tank, on average. “Fortus has a goal to improve throughput in all stages of the additive fabrication process, from loading the STL file to post processing,” says Fortus Product Manager Patrick Robb. The photo, above, shows parts made with Stratasys FDM systems on display at Rapid 2009.


High-performance plastics, cladding shown at Rapid 2009


DSM Somos showed parts using its metal-clad composite technology called MC3. Parts made via the stereolithography process are coated with a copper-nickel composite. Costs are one-third to one-fourth the cost of machined or die-cast parts and have more than six times the impact strength of non-plated stereolithography parts. The technology is most cost-effective for parts with complex designs that are only needed in small volumes. SL parts are prepped for adhesion with a special wash that places ions on the plastic. A thin layer of copper is then applied to allow adhesion of nickel.

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Planetary Design Lowers Costs


New gearhead products use planetary technology to deliver precision, value

 IMPROVED LOAD CAPACITY AND LOWER BACKLASH XTRUE™ True Planetary Gearheads from Thomson are available in 40-, 60-, 80-, 120- and 160-mm frame sizes. They are specifically engineered to move large loads more easily and quietly with True Planetary™ gearing by providing improved load capacity and lower backlash. They deliver precise, 13 arc-min operation, with torque capacity up to 876 Nm and ratio availability of 3:1 through 100:1. A tapped face output enables easy, drop-in replacement for similarly configured European gearheads. The Micron flexible RediMount™ mounting system enables the gearhead to be mounted to any motor in three easy steps by simply aligning, mounting and tightening the unit. All XTRUE™ components are RoHS-compliant (EU Directive 2002/95/EC).


With machine builders focused on lowering costs, gearhead suppliers are maximizing their designs to create value. “With our most recent products, we have been addressing what has become a very price-sensitive market,” says Howard Horn, Micron product line manager, for Thomson Industries Inc. Horn says utilizing a planetary design offers opportunities for cost-reduction for the Thomson Micron brand, a major supplier of higher-end, helical planetary gearboxes. A helical planetary gearbox has a more complex bearing design and higher precision gearing. Materials selection on the housing and other components also make a big impact on the cost of the product. Engineers can expect new products to continue this trend toward lower costs and “middle range” performance, as OEMs focus on reducing machinery component costs by as much as 30 percent. 


The new G30A planetary gearbox for Pittman® DC Motors offers superior torque, shaft loading capabilities and low audible noise characteristics in a small, lightweight and economical package. Standard diameters measure 1.200 inch for round versions and 1.496 inch for square types. Gearbox lengths range from 0.895 to 1.585 inch and gearboxes weigh from 3.9 to 6.6 oz. The gearboxes can achieve reduction ratios to 46656:1 in 4:1, 5:1 and 6:1 multiples. Maximum load capabilities range from 106 oz-inch (0.75 Nm) for one-stage models up to 1,250 oz-inch (8.80 Nm) for versions with four-stages or greater. Sintered steel planet gears promote torque capacity and reduce audible noise. Single-piece carrier plates with integral planet posts and sun gear can be arranged to achieve a desired reduction ratio.

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GEARHEAD OFFERS OPTIONAL OUTPUT FACES Parker’s Electromechanical Automation Div. expanded its line of PV115 gearheads to offer an assortment of output face options, along with high radial load and output torque performance. Output face options have the same output face dimensions as Parker Bayside’s PX Series, Alpha’s LP Series, Neugart’s PLE Series and Stober’s PE Series, as well as standard NEMA output face dimensions. The PV115 also supports larger belt actuators, including Parker’s HPLA120 and HLE150. The design achieves high radial loads by using precision taper roller bearings. With high input speeds and efficiency up to 97 percent, PV gearheads are targeting industrial applications such as belts and pulleys, conveyors and production machinery, automotive production and inspection equipment, medical and life science applications, device manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and packaging.

679 METRIC KNOBS for a cleaner environment



Compiled by Elizabeth M. Taurasi and Jennifer Roy



TDYTRAN INSTRUMENTS’ MINIATURE TRIAXIAL ACCELEROMETER Features hermetic seal, adhesive mount Dytran Instruments’ new miniature triaxial accelerometer is designed for modal analysis testing. The 3273AT series features a robust, laser-welded titanium design, which includes ceramic sensing elements coupled to ultra-lownoise JFET electronics. It includes IEEE 1451.4 TEDS. With a low end frequency response of -10 percent down to 0.31 Hz, the 3273AT series accelerometer offers excellent phase response at low frequencies. It also features an excellent signal-to-noise ratio. The 3273AT series accelerometers is available in sensitivities of 10, 50 and 100 mV/g. Featuring a hermetic seal, adhesive mount and a single four-pin connector, this triaxial IEPE accelerometer weighs only 2.7 gm. Dytran Instruments


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Product range conforms to ATEX An explosive atmosphere may occur in many heavy-duty industries where encoders are used to provide position and speed feedback. To combat that, encoders that conform to ATEX directives should be used to increase safety in potentially explosive atmospheres. Leine & Linde’s product range of encoders in its 300, 500, 600 and 800 series conform to ATEX, specifically for lower Zones (2/22), and are now available in North America for use in these environments. Leine & Linde AB



XCONTROLAIR’S NEW TYPE-330 COMPACT INSTRUMENT AIR FILTER REGULATOR Ideal for petrochemical processing, oil and gas platform applications ControlAir Inc.’s new Type-330 Compact Instrument Air Filter Regulator is designed to provide clean, accurate air pressure to instruments, valves and other automatic control equipment in a lightweight, compact housing. The Type 330 is RoHs-compliant and constructed of durable materials that will provide lasting corrosion resistance in harsh industrial environments. It provides instrument quality air to valves, pneumatic controllers, transmitters, transducers, valve positioners, air cylinders and a wide

Shuttle Valves Low switching pressures, large flow paths, solid construction and the Flexible Seal Seat娃 provide sensitivity sufficient for logic circuitry with the toughness required of rugged service and long, trouble free operation. Rated 3000 PSI in Brass, Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel. Five sizes to 3/4” NPT. For details visit:



FLUID POWER, Continued

range of pneumatic control systems. The Type-330 is ideal for petrochemical processing, oil and gas platform applications, both on and offshore; food; pulp and paper; pharmaceutical processing; pollution control; wastewater treatment and research projects. It is available in ¼-inch NPT porting and output ranges include 0-30, 0-60 and 0-120 psig.

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Can handle virtually any application New CD Couplings® from Zero-Max can be used in heavy-duty dynamometers for transmission output testing, and provide the ideal combination of high dynamic load capacity and high torsional stiffness to ensure reliable system operation. CD Couplings® can be designed to fit in a smaller envelope, enabling the dynamometer to be built with a smaller footprint. CD Couplings® are designed so the working part is made of a composite material and are available in single and double flex models with or without keyways. The single flex models have a torque capacity range from 40 to 1,436 Nm and beyond with speed ratings from 4,400 to 17,000 rpm. Zero-Max Inc.



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XSOUTHCO®’S ST-12C COUNTERBALANCED HINGES Four torque values are available A new line of standard Southco® ST-12C counterbalanced hinges provides consistent, high-torque performance in a compact package, enabling equipment operators to lift and position hinged components with less effort. The ST-12C constant-torque design — specified to stay within ±20 percent of rated torque for 20,000 cycles of operation — provides consistent long-term performance, without the need for maintenance or adjustment. Four torque values (20-, 28-, 36- and 44-inch-lb force) are available to accommodate objects of varying size and weight. Southco® ST-12C hinges are rated for a maximum static radial load of 1,000N (225 lb force) and for a maximum static axial load of 1,200N (270 lb force). Southco

3M™’S SCOTCHMATE™ RECLOSABLE FASTENERS Eliminates the need for screws and metal closures 3M™’s Scotchmate™ reclosable fasteners SJ3546/SJ3547 feature hook-and-loop technology for repeated opening and closing with reliable results. The fasteners are designed with tiny, stiff hooks on one side and pliable loops on the reverse side. They are ideal for attaching cushioning in helmets, luggage and seating, curtains on refrigerated displays, removable signs and

Phone: (516) 328-3662 Fax: (516) 328-3365


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XROCKWELL AUTOMATION EXPANDS SAFETY LIGHT CURTAIN LINE Self-contained, optically synchronized Rockwell Automation expanded its Allen-Bradley Guardmaster GuardShield safety light curtain line with the addition of three cost-effective options. Designed to provide end users with improved functionality, configuration flexibility and installation, the new safety light curtains include the GuardShield Safe 4 with an integrated laser alignment system, the GuardShield Cascadeable Micro 400 and the GuardShield Safe 4 PAC. The GuardShield Safe 4 safety light curtain is equipped with an integrated laser alignment system, allowing for simplified setup and installation. The GuardShield Cascadeable Micro 400 safety light curtain is a Type 4, “three-box” safety light curtain designed for small assembly machines in ambient operating environments where mounting space is limited. The GuardShield Safe 4 PAC light curtain is a self-contained, optically synchronized, “two-box” safety light curtain offering an expanded operating range. Rockwell Automation Inc.

XKEYENCE’S VW-6000 SERIES MOTION ANALYSIS MICROSCOPE Portable, all-in-one design The new KEYENCE VW-6000 Series motion analysis microscope is the world’s first microscope with high-speed, magnified video capture capabilities. High-speed motion recording of up to 24,000 fps enables accurate filming of failures in moving targets which cannot be captured by conventional microscopes. Its space-saving size, portability and all-in-one design make recording simple for R&D on the factory floor or on a production line. The VW-6000 automatically tracks moving objects in recorded footage to quantify speed, acceleration, distance, angle and other measurements. KEYENCE Corp.

• Air Springs • Circular Cable Isolators • Constant Natural Frequency Mounts • Seismic Mounts • Thermal Conductive Silicone Products • Wedge Levelers • Foot Mounts

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graphics for POP and trade show booths, truck tonneau covers, access panels, decorative trim and more. The adhesive bonding system eliminates the need for screws and metal closures in many reclosable applications, and offers reliable performance for indoor and outdoor uses and in high heat and humidity.

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Innovation in Miniature

The Lee Company 2 Pettipaug Road Westbrook, CT 06498

Tel: 800-533-7584 61



Tr u e S t o r i e s

Find new pivot pin location to reduce pedal force from 160 to 125 lb using 11.0 diameter brakes that replaced 14.0 diameter brakes.

Brake Pedal Force

Pedal Force x A x Brake Diameter x α B

= Specified D.B.

α considers master & wheel cylinder areas and brake friction that are equal in both systems. 160 x A x 11.0 x α To Master Cylinder

A B1 B2

= D.B.

B1 125 x A x 11.0 x α

= D.B.

B2 Solve for B2: B2 = 0.71 B1

The Case of the Balky Brakes Incomplete safety tests make it difficult to stop forklift SHORTCUTTING THE TEST CYCLE CAN LEAD TO PERS-

sonal injury, property damage and loss of sales. The Scene of the Crime

A quality forklift built with a unitary frame, domestic hydraulics and an Asian-sourced engine and transaxle was priced below other domestic competitors, and sold well until rising parts costs killed any price advantage. To regain sales, the Asian transaxle was replaced with a lower-cost European unit and the truck was rushed into production with incomplete testing. The Investigation

With two borrowed technicians, we ran brake tests following ANSI/ASME B56.1, Part III, Section 7.16 standards. A pedal force of 160 to 170 lb produced a brake drawbar equal to 25 percent of the loaded forklift’s weight, but the standard required a pedal force of only 150 lb, while our engineers typically used 125 lb as their design target. The killer was a 250 lb inching pedal force, evidently overlooked in tests. But why such high forces? The Smoking Gun

For comparison, the techs pulled the wheels from the test truck and another truck with an Asian axle. I had an “Omigosh” moment as the brakes on the European axle measured three inches smaller in diameter than the Asian unit. I


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concluded that smaller brakes with the same master cylinder and brake pedal ratio, required higher pedal force. Also, the designers replaced the original inching pedal with a 30-year-old design casting and heavy spring. The inching valve needed only modest pedal force, so I reasoned the spring took away force needed to apply the brakes. I shanghaied a designer to make detailed layouts (preCAD days, you know) of the pedals, master cylinder and truck frame. Assured of pedal clearance, I revised brake pedal pivot points to restore proper pedal force. I replaced the Victorian-era casting and its ingot-like spring with the original inching pedal linked to the brakes. Shopping our production lines yielded an electric truck brake cable and a walkie forklift compression spring. I designed a bell crank to access the inching valve. As the designer documented the changes, the techs whomped up and installed the parts. Tests showed the modified brake and inching pedal stopped the truck with authority. The service lads were wide-eyed with approval, and when the engineering manager and product chief engineer returned from vacation they pronounced the changes “a good engineering job.” Mandatory changes were made on all production vehicles and retrofit kits were installed on all trucks in the field. This model truck then regained its favorable sales position. Calamities is picked up regularly in our Sherlock Ohms blog. Go to to comment on this article and read more cases.

Myron J. Boyajian, P.E., (mboyajian@ is president of Engineering Consultants, a consulting service for forensic and design activities. Cases presented here are from his actual files. Illustration: Daniel Guidera



Check Out Gadget Freak Case #143: Tesla Turbine Creates Liquid Electricity No lights? No problem, with this Tesla turbine that turns water into electricity:

For complete schematics and build instructions, go to 䊳

To view the Gadget Freak archives, go to www.

Robotic Hand Teaches Sign Language and ‘Rocks on’ ere’s a robotic hand that teaches sign language, including the international sign for “rock on.” J.D. Ritchey and his fellow mechanical engineering colleagues (Tim Campbell, Nick Haub and Brian Taylor) from Colorado State University created an acrylic hand to assist in teaching sign language. The Sign Language Emulating Robotic Assistant features all the digits of a human hand. Punch in a specific letter and the hand forms the sign language position. The students take sign language a bit further than standard letters. Punch in “rock on” and the hand forms the rock concert sign with the index finger and the pinky showing the classic fan symbol Check out the Robotic Hand in action at for keep on rocking.



Design News and Allied Electronics would like to send you a check for $500 to spend on Allied’s website at or anywhere you please. And don’t forget to supply us with a video file of your gadget in action. E-mail Design News your proposed project (must incorporate electronic components and involve sensing, motion, timing and/or networking elements) to, along with a description of how it works and a parts’ list. If your project is selected, you’ll receive a $500 check from Design News and will be featured in an upcoming issue of the magazine with your invention.

Brian Taylor, left, and John “J.D.” Ritchey, right. ADVERTISEMENT “ROCKIN’ ROBOTICS” Amt

Part Description

Allied Part #








LCD 2 x 16 Character Display



LEDs (White)



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Photo: Kim Cook/Getty Images


Autodesk® Inventor® software creates a single digital model that enables you to design, visualize, and simulate your products. Inventor helps you to reduce product costs and get innovative designs to market faster. Learn how Inventor can take your designs beyond 3D at


Model was designed using Inventor Image is courtesy of Engineering Center LTD, Russia Autodesk, Autodesk Inventor and Inventor are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. All other brand names, product names, or trademarks belong to their respective holders. Autodesk reserves the right to alter product offerings and specifications at any time without notice, and is not responsible for typographical or graphical errors that may appear in this document. © 2009 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved.

Design News July 2009  
Design News July 2009  

Design News July 2009