This section was written by Associate Editor Jean Thilmany.
HOW GREEN THE CAPITOL?
Energy efficiency is on everyone’s mind. That’s why a new device that demonstrates the energy-efficiency of the Iowa State Capitol buildings is proving a draw for visitors.
Quality Automation Graphics of Ankeny, Iowa, recently designed a touchscreen graphical interface that depicts for visitors the Iowa Capitol buildings’ energy efficiencies.
At the touch of a button, the Eye on Energy kiosk, displays real-time energy-consumption data for all 14 buildings on the capitol complex in Des Moines. The touch screen allows users to view the building’s green features, which include the sustainability practices, as well as utility monitoring and educational information. It also allows visitors to digitally tour the capitol complex, said Dan McCarty, QA Graphics president.
“We’re hoping that visitors who use the display will get a good sense of the cost-savings associated with energy-saving practices,” he said.
The solution makes reporting the metrics of the Capitol Building’s automation system easier to read and understand, McCarty said.
An interactive touchscreen device that depicts the energy-
efficiency of the Iowa State Capitol buildings, above, is now
available in the main Capitol building, below. Credit State
Historical Society of Iowa.
The computer behind the kiosk acquires data from the building’s automation system and reports it using a preconfigured gateway device. The data is directly connected to a browser and is used with touch screen hardware.
The capitol plan used for the display was developed with the help of 3-D models that replicate the complex, he added.
Quality Automation Graphics created the system by linking a graphical user interface it designed to the building’s automation system. Information from that system is reported using a preconfigured gateway device, McCarty said. Because data from the automation system is directly connected to a browser, the graphical user interface becomes interactive when used with touch-screen hardware.
“All together, the solutions make reporting the metrics of the Capitol Building’s automation system easier to read and understand,” he said.
ONE COOL COMPUTER
A computer can’t afford to get hot under the collar. So keeping a computer cool is a major design consideration.
Azonix Corp. of Billerica, Mass., makes computers and displays for use in harsh environments. Its newest Terra computer—for the transportation industry—operates in environments that heat up to 140 °F.
But design for this type of tough computer makes for a thermal management challenge. Engineers needed to design the computer so that its surface temperature never reaches more than 90 °F, which is always a challenge when the surrounding temperature is blazing hot and the computer’s internal components dissipate about 60 watts of power, said James Young, an Azonix design engineer.
Also, the Terra’s inner workings need to be sealed from the elements to prevent contamination and to keep them safe from the external environment.
The preliminary Terra design had been worked out by a group of engineers who joined Azonix as part of an acquisition. But the design still needed to be perfected. Because many of Azonix’s products relied on conduction and natural convection for cooling, the company’s real engineering expertise lay in those realms, Young said. The computer company didn’t employ thermal engineers capable of designing for the Terra’s high-heat environment.
“Our thermal analysis workload is too low to keep a dedicated resource on staff,” he said. “In the past, our choice would have been to either build up to a dozen thermal prototypes to evaluate various design alternatives or hire a consultant to simulate the design at a cost of perhaps $5,000.”
For the Terra project the company instead chose to install computational fluid dynamics software that enables design engineers without a fluid analysis background to perform thermal simulation, Young said.
Azonix Corp.'s new Terra computer high-heat environments, above,
presented a thermal design challenge, which engineers solved
with the solved with the help of thermal simulation software, below.
In the past few years, a new generation of CFD software for use by engineers rather than specialists has come on the market, he said. These software packages make use of the 3-D CAD data that engineers work with every day. Engineers can automatically grid the flow space and manage flow parameters. They do not need to master the computational part of CFD and instead can focus on the fluid dynamics of the product, Young said.
For its CFD needs, Azonix selected FloEFD from the Mentor Graphics Mechanical Analysis Division, formerly known as Flomerics, of Marlborough, Mass. The package is integrated with Azonix’s two CAD packages: SolidWorks and Pro/Engineer. To use the CFD software, engineers only need to know the CAD system on which the part was created and to understand the physics of the product, Young said.
“We used this software to optimize the design from a thermal standpoint by evaluating many different iterations in a short period of time,” he said.
To optimize the Terra model, Young opened its CAD model in the company’s new CFD program then defined the heat dissipation sources, material properties, and the ambient temperature outside the enclosure at the product’s design limit of 140 °F. He next defined the goals, then ran a thermal simulation.
In about five hours, the software had returned the simulation.
The software had analyzed the CAD model, automatically identified fluid and solid regions, and defined and gridded the entire model without a user’s interaction and without the need to add extra objects to the CAD model, Young said.
As Young expected, the results showed that temperatures on the surfaces of key components exceeded the limit.
“The high temperature presents a difficult challenge for modern electronics equipment and our expectation was that the design would require substantial work in order to meet the allowable internal temperature requirements,” Young said. “As a result, we address thermal management early in the design process prior to building a prototype.”
Young increased the cross-section of the heat spreader and tested copper instead of aluminum. He updated the model and ran the simulation several times to evaluate the effects of the design changes and to optimize the conduction path. The changes substantially reduced the surface temperatures on the dissipating components, but still not enough to meet the thermal requirements.
Then he optimized the heat sink within the CAD model by improving the conduction path from the heat dissipating components to the external heat sink and by changing the heat spreader from aluminum to copper.
“The changes to the heat sink reduced the surface temperatures below the maximum allowable levels,” Young said. “The result was that we were able to complete the thermal design prior to building the first prototype.”
When the prototype was built and tested, the measurements were within 5 percent of simulation predictions. Only one prototype needed to be built for this project, thanks to the simulations, Young added.
“In the past, when we used the build-and-test method, we often required six prototypes to achieve acceptable surface temperatures, and even then we were not able to achieve temperatures as low as we obtained on the Terra with thermal simulation,” Young said.
Everybody needs people skills, we’re told. Our abilities to communicate with people and understand them on an emotional level are sometimes called soft skills. They usually determine the difference between success and failure when engineers manage other engineers. What’s more, having good people skills can’t hurt in presenting a new idea to management, or even in negotiating a raise.
People learn those skills from life. Professionals hone them by training, often in role-playing situations with others, and that can be an expensive education because of all the people involved. But what if someone could sharpen people skills by using a computer?
The idea may sound funny at first, but a university in England has worked out a way to do it in the training of pharmacists. Because they deal with people who are taking medication—that is, people who may be upset, or may be in need of critical information—pharmacists certainly need good people skills in addition to their technical and medical knowledge. But because they’re only human, pharmacists need to be taught some of those soft skills.
Teaching the soft skills can put a burden on a university’s resources, said Stephen Chapman, head of the school of pharmacy at Keele University in Staffordshire, England.
“Training students to carry out one-to-one interviews is very resource-intensive, as you need to get people to role-play the part of a patient or doctor,” Chapman said. “It’s also difficult to standardize the process so that the students all get the same experience.”
To help, the school created the virtual patient; a computer program through which students interact with computer-generated avatars that mimic how real-life patients might act.
The students speak with the patient via voice recognition technology or by typing questions into the computer. The patient either responds verbally or uses a range of gestures to indicate conditions such as pain, stress, or anxiety. At the end of the session the virtual patient gives feedback to the real-life trainees about their performance, Chapman said.
“Using the virtual patient allows us to explore a full patient consultation and to let the student learn from mistakes in a safe environment that would not be possible in real life,” he said.
“The patient can be programmed to be allergic to penicillin and can suffer anaphylactic shock if the student forgets to check,” Chapman added. “It really hard-wires the learning into the brain in a way that is not possible with textbooks alone.”
The program also points out cases where a patient’s ethnicity, age, or gender are relevant to treatment. It also helps students communicate clearly with their patients, said Rajiv Pandya, a third-year pharmacy student at the university.
“It forces you to speak in a way that the patient can understand,” he said. “A great deal of thought has obviously been put into how virtual patients react and into the amount of information that patients are willing to reveal to a pharmacist.”
The university has also developed a virtual doctor to help to train pharmaceutical sales representatives, Chapman said.
A diesel engine maker has found that product lifecycle management software does more than help engineers collaborate on product design.
Weichai Power, a large diesel engine manufacturer in Weifang City, China, recently deployed PLM software to improve departmental collaboration and quality control, and to increase productivity.
The company is using Windchill from PTC.
Through use of the system, Weichai is able to share historical data, CAD models, test specifications, and bill-of-materials data on one platform, said Xu Xinyu, chief information officer. The PLM system has also helped achieve 98 percent BOM data accuracy, which led to a reduction of errors during the design and manufacturing process, thereby bringing its power trains to market faster, he added.
WORDS WITH CAD
There is an advantage in being able to write while you design, according to Felder KG, a manufacturer of woodworking machines and tools in Hall, Austria. The company uses documentation software linked to its CAD system to create and edit assembly documents, generate exploded drawings of CAD assemblies, and develop bills of materials.
The family-owned business produces tools for a range of do-it-yourself enthusiasts, small woodworking companies, large carpentries, and industrial enterprises, said Robert Tratter, engineering and development manager at Felder KG.
The documentation software, 3DVIA Composer, is from SolidWorks of Concord, Mass., and is tied to Felder’s SolidWorks CAD system. The paired systems allow design engineers to create and edit assembly documentation directly within SolidWorks, Tratter said.
“The tight compatibility gives us both direct and precise data transfers and accelerated design workflows,” Tratter said.
Sycode of Panaji, India, has released twenty file import and export plug-ins for the CAD application Bricscad from the company of the same name in Merrimack, N.H. /// Sheffield, England-based Machine-
Works Ltd., which makes computer-numerically controlled simulation and verification software, has released version six of its MachineWorks application. The update includes a new high-performance graphics engine. /// Blue Ridge Numerics Inc. of Charlottesville, Va., has kicked off a CFdesign implementation program in North America aimed at helping companies drive engineering innovation in a tough economic climate. The implementation program includes two phases: solution development and technology transfer. /// Delcam of Birmingham, England, has launched NC-Checker, a new program to undertake in-process verification of the performance of a wide range of commonly used machine tools. /// NYacad Inc. of New York has released version 9.6 of SolidStructural, its AutoCAD-based 3-D steel modeling system. /// A provider of on-demand software that helps small and mid-size manufacturers manage their product records, Arena Solutions of Foster City, Calif., is now shipping its Arena Winter 2009 release. The solution connects systems like CAD, product lifecycle management, and enterprise resource management to simplify how product information is shared across organizations, according to the developer. /// The CAD company think3 of Milan, Italy, has launched MoldDesign, a CAD solution developed for making molds, with specific functions for plastic injection molds. /// SolidCAM of Hartford Conn., which makes a CAM system that runs SolidWorks CAD software, has upgraded its electrode design and manufacturing solution, which is integrated in SolidWorks. /// ITI TranscenData of Milford, Ohio, has released CADIQ 6.0, the latest edition of its 3-D CAD model validation and product data quality product. /// A maker of PLM software, Geometric Ltd. of Mumbai, India, is shipping 3DPaintBrush version 1.2, which is a visualization and rendering tool.