This section was written by Associate Editor Jean Thilmany.
Too Hot to Handle
Let's say a fuel derived from biomass produces too much soot when it's burned in a combustion chamber designed for fossil fuels.
How can an engineer find the source of the problem, which originates, after all, in the flame zone of a highly turbulent combustion chamber? That's not exactly an easy place for an engineer to take measurements.
"It's fairly obvious when a combustor is not running well and producing a lot of soot and other pollutants," said Terry Meyer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University in Ames. "But then how do you solve that problem? We could open up the black box and look inside the combustion chamber itself."
Iowa State University professor Terry Meyer has developed a laser system to analyze what happens inside combustion chambers-knowledge useful in reducing pollutants. He's holding a chamber component.
To get a safe look inside that combustion chamber, Meyer is developing laser-based sensors that capture images at thousands or millions of frames per second. Those images record data about what's happening in the flaming mix of fuel. Software analyzes information to help make sense of results.
"The goal is to probe this harsh environment to provide the knowledge required to reduce pollutant emissions and enable the use of alternative fuels," Meyer said.
By selecting lasers of different wavelengths, Meyer's combustion sensors can record where pollutants such as soot, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide are formed. The sensors can also look for unburned fuel and capture data about fuel sprays, fuel-air mixing, and energy release.
Meyer's lab is working on a two-year project to develop advanced laser techniques to help engineers improve the combustion systems that move vehicles, produce power, and heat buildings. The project is also intended to analyze and improve the performance of alternative fuels in modern combustion systems.
Design Into Repair
Rather than creating designs and repair manuals separately, one aircraft maker plans to tie the process together.
The manufacturer, Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque N.M., will soon implement files to automatically create manufacturing and maintenance documents based on the original 3-D CAD files for the Eclipse 500 very light jet. The software, from Right Hemisphere of Pleasanton, Calif., will turn design information for the Eclipse 500 into visual steps with interactive instructions.
Those instructions will then be used by manufacturing and maintenance technicians, said Vern Raburn, Eclipse Aviation's president and chief executive officer. They'll also give technicians on the production line a visual depiction of the job ahead. In that way, Raburn expects the new software to reduce manufacturing and maintenance training time.
Find the Price
Want something made fast? Want to get it quoted even faster?
Quickparts of Atlanta makes custom manufactured plastic and metal parts based on CAD data provided online by customers. The company was recently awarded a patent for a method by which customers can have pricing for a custom manufactured part quoted online and quickly. Aptly enough, the company calls this system QuickQuote.
The system analyzes three-dimensional CAD data and offers online quotes for the custom-manufactured parts. These parts can range from rapid prototypes to production parts.
"Our patented instant online quoting system saves parts designers and buyers time and money by eliminating the waste in dealing with RFQs for their custom parts," said Ronald Hollis, Quickparts' president and chief executive officer.
Engineering students at Ohio State University in Columbus are learning by doing when it comes to auto racing. They're part of the Formula SAE program sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers in Troy, Mich., and by SAE International in Warrendale, Pa.
Fittingly for the school, the team has dubbed itself Formula Buckeye. Team members include OSU undergraduates in mechanical, electrical, and welding engineering plus students majoring in business administration, marketing, art, and technology.
The Formula Buckeye racing team, made up of
undergraduates at Ohio State University, designed
and fabricated a formula-style racing car, then
raced it against 140 other teams.
They design and fabricate a formula-style racing car, then race against 140 teams from around the world. Formula cars are open-cockpit racers with wheels mounted outside the body.
The hands-on part comes into play when designing and building the car. Almost all Formula Buckeye's parts are designed, engineered, fabricated, and assembled by the students.
The team, for instance, uses a 3-axis milling machine retrofit for computer numerical control and offline programming with the computer-aided manufacturing software EdgeCAM from Planit Solutions of Southfield, Mich., said team captain Kevin Elgin. He's an Ohio State senior in mechanical engineering. The CAM software is integrated with the team's CAD package, SolidWorks, from the company of the same name in Concord, Mass.
Last November, 50 music students from the University of York in England played three orchestral pieces at concerts around the area. Nothing strange there, except that the Worldscape Laptop Orchestra performed new music written on and played with Macintosh laptops.
Musicians, each with a laptop, were seated on the floor and surrounded by video screens and atmospheric lighting. Video detection software within the laptops turned students' hand movements as they waved them above their instruments into musical notes to create the finished orchestral piece.
"The computers become musical instruments in this performance," said Ambrose Field, a composer in the university's music department. He directed the performance. "We set out to push the boundaries of human interaction with computers, enabling 50 people to explore musical performance in a way which was previously not possible," he said.
Tying IT Systems
A German automotive supplier plans to get all its information technology systems communicating.
Keiper GmbH & Co. of Kaisers- lautern, Germany, is hard at work integrating many of its IT systems. The company makes a range of seat components for carmakers.
The integrated technology will help Keiper quickly assess production problems and make forecasts about the development and production of its seat components, said Ramon Loos, head of Keiper's industrial engineering process development.
The company is currently tying together its digital manufacturing applications, which comprise product-expertise, manufacturing-engineering, and shop-floor execution applications. Those systems, as well as legacy applications, will be connected via an open-software manufacturing backbone.
The PLM application Tecnomatix from Siemens PLM Software, will serve as this backbone. As such, it'll perform as the digital planning and production application for the entire range of products.
Verbal Mouse Commands
With a computer microphone and some special software, Richard Eldridge guided a computer's cursor across a screen. Like someone warming up his voice to sing, Eldridge said, "aaaaaa" for a couple of seconds as the cursor traveled up, then "eeeeeee" to move the cursor left. The cursor moved for the length of time that Eldridge made the sound. He made a "ch" sound for a mouse click.
He was controlling the cursor using a device that researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle term a vocal joystick, a voice-activated alternative to the computer mouse.
The joystick is eminently helpful to Eldridge, a psychology student at the university, who is mostly paralyzed from the neck down and has little use of his hands for moving the mouse.
Eldridge has used other programs that rely on spoken words, such as "move left," to move a cursor. He prefers the vocal joystick. "It's more efficient," he said.
Jeff Bilmes, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the university, developed the vocal joystick to fill a need for people like Eldridge. Current speech recognition software is an attempt to replace the keyboard, he said, but the mouse has been left behind.
There hasn't been much work done to essentially replace the mouse by using the human voice, Bilmes said.
Standard spoken language can be quite inefficient for continuous control tasks and is often recognized poorly by automatic speech recognition software, he added. The joystick allows users to exploit a large and varied set of vocalizations for both continuous and discrete motion control. Furthermore, users can see how the cursor moves on screen and can make adjustments on the fly.
The vocal joystick essentially takes a snapshot of your voice about a hundred times a second to figure out what the user is saying at the moment, Bilmes said.
Still, Bilmes said the challenge remains to make the vocal joystick start and stop instantly.
"If you're in the middle of drawing, you don't want to see what you're drawing delayed by a couple of seconds," he added.
Jon Malkin, a university graduate student assisting on the project, has been testing the joystick in other applications. For instance, he's using the vocal joystick to control a small robotic arm. The joystick can be helpful here because the robotic arm is more complex than a cursor, which means additional sounds are needed for functions like turning the robotic arm's wrist or opening and closing its claw, he said.
Map of a Spill
Last December, the oil tanker Hebei Spirit, anchored 60 miles south of Seoul, was pierced by a crane-carrying barge. The incident released 10,500 metric tons of crude oil into the sea.
Oilmap, simulation software from Applied Science Associates, predicted the spread of a December oil spill near Korea. Chinese officials relied on the images to help plan their response.
Applied Science Associates Inc., an environmental software company headquartered in Narragansett, R.I., provided its Oilmap computer models and simulations to China's Oil Spill Emergency Response Center to monitor the spill and to predict how the oil would move through the water, said Xiongping Zhang, ASA's Asia project director.
The software modeled the potential impact of the spill on the China coast. For this, analysts used the software's stochastic simulation capabilities, which are based on the environmental data collected over the past 20 years.
Days after the analysts modeled the spill with Oilmap, a satellite image released by the European Space Agency showed the extent of the oil and confirmed the accuracy of the software prediction, which gave officials at China's Maritime Safety Administration confidence in their response plan, Zhang said.
VX Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., which makes CAD and CAM software for consumer products and molds, has upgraded its offering to VX version 13.
Dassault Systèmes of Paris is shipping Simulia SLM, intended to help businesses perform and manage their simulation processes.
The 3DModelSpace for the Pro/Engineer CAD program has been released by Catalog Data Solutions Inc. of San Jose, Calif. The application is a search engine that scans Web pages for applicable 3-D CAD models to download.
Capvidia of Leuven, Belgium, has released FormatWorks 2008 Ultimate data translation products for SolidWorks 2008. The program translates Catia data for the SolidWorks system.
IMSI/Design of Novato, Calif., has released a public beta version of its A/CAD Viewer for the Macintosh and Windows operating systems. It allows users to see Autodesk drawing files whether or not they run the application the file was created in.
Maplesoft of Waterloo, Ontario, has founded a Physical Modeling Consortium, a forum in which organizations can share ideas and advance the development of rapid plant modeling methodology based on symbolic computation.
LightWork Design of Sheffield, England, which makes rendering software for 3-D computer graphics, has upgraded its software to LightWorks 7.8.
A maker of product communication and documentation software, QuadriSpace Corp. of Allen, Texas, is set to release its Document3D product line.
Delcam of Birmingham, England, has added a number of new options specific to deep-draw press tool design to its Delcam Toolmaker CAD software.
BRL-CAD developers, located at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, have upgraded their BRL-CAD solid modeling system to release 7.10.4.
The new product Everest Professional from Altima Software of Cupertino, Calif., is used to manage design data in AutoCAD.