Friday, May 20, 2016

Good Vibes in Small Vibes

Awhile back we wrote about a new prototype of "bladeless" wind turbine that draws energy from its minimal vibrations made in the wind. This oscillating force posed interesting benefits in cost-efficiency, but ultimately the design, invented by Daniel Yenaz and explored by Vortex Bladeless, runs into practical limitations with scale and area. Now another team, this one from Ohio State University is delving into the same forces, but with an interesting twist.

OSU Assistant Professor Ryan Harne
led the experiment.
Ryan Harne, an assistant professor at the school, has led the research behind new "treelike" devices built to harness small amounts of energy from the vibrational energy of established city surroundings. This means not only in traditional areas of natural wind, but from the minimal swaying motion that buildings in every city affected by wind make, as well.

Harne's purpose for this research was to find ways of getting minimal energy to power sensors that monitor a structure's integrity, but without those devices needing to be plugged into traditional energy sources. As Harne explains in the Journal of Sound and Vibration:
“Buildings sway ever so slightly in the wind, bridges oscillate when we drive on them and car suspensions absorb bumps in the road,” he said. “In fact, there’s a massive amount of kinetic energyassociated with those motions that is otherwise lost. We want to recover and recycle some of that energy.”
This approach to oscillation differs somewhat in Vortex's approach, as it makes the somewhat brilliant move of harvesting kinetic energy off structures already built into surrounding infrastructure. This eliminates the need to construct costly devices built solely to generate oscillating force, as well as battery and transmitters that would normally be needed to power the sensors in the first place.

Harne and his team, whose initial experiments made use of internal resonance to produce such promising results, hope to continue developing the technology in the near future.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


We recently sponsored a contest among college and university students challenging them to design a working device that would be held together entirely by Rotor Clip retaining rings (non-threaded fasteners). 

We called it the "Ring-A-Majig" contest and it was  held in affiliation with ATMAE, the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering. Four degreed engineers from Rotor Clip judged the entries and selected five finalists. Each presented their ideas via a Webex presentation to the judges, who then selected the first, second and third place winners. 
Rotor Clip “Ring-A-Majig” contest winner (third place)--“Line Beam Engine” 
submitted by the team from East Carolina University, College of Engineering 
and Technology.This design is an educational model of how a line beam engine functions kinematically transferring rotational movement to linear movement.
 It is held together completely by retaining rings.

The winners and their designs were as follows: First Place, East Carolina University—M1A2Abrams Tank Tin Toy (Team members , James Powell, Joshua Adams, Josh Katsikis, Owais Siddiqui); Second Place, East Carolina University—Robot Torsen Differential (Team members, Andrew DiMeglio, Joshua Stevens, Connor Jones); Third Place--East Carolina University—Line Beam Engine (Team members, Jonathan Camden, Lawson Hawkins, Brian Pridgen.  (Professor Ranjeet Agarawala served as advisor for all there ECU teams).

The winning team members will each receive a cash prize for their efforts. 

The presentations afforded us the opportunity to see the students communicate their ideas in a clear and concise way. They explained their designs and how each would work (the devices had to display motion or movement, manual or powered like a ticking clock or a working toy). They also described the retaining rings they selected and why each particular type was chosen (taking up end play, reducing vibration, etc). In the end all five provided excellent technical rationales for the designs they chose. 

This is at the core of Rotor Clip's affiliation with ATMAE; namely, to support education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through programs that expose students to “real world” situations and encourage them to pursue careers in manufacturing.

Based on our experience with the "Ring-A-Majig" contest, I am happy to report that the future of U.S. manufacturing and the technical skills to make it successful are in capable hands!

 Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Imagine connecting your car, home systems and appliances to your devices in such a way that you could do some amazing things with the information you collect.

Such “smart” devices are nothing new, but these units are about to get a lot smarter, thanks to an innovation known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT delivers accurate data in real time so that you can act on it to gain a desired outcome when it is most needed. For example, there are devices that monitor your eating, sleeping and exercising habits and suggest how to improve each based on the data it collects and analyzes from your daily schedule. Another device can be programmed to notify relatives if your car is involved in an accident.

IoT Connects people to things via the Internet

 An appliance maker is even experimenting with a way for you to observe a roast as it is cooking in your oven when you’re not at home, so that you can remotely fine tune temperature and time.

This era of “Big Data” is also changing the face of manufacturing. New improvements in software and data storage make it possible to timely collect and analyze enormous quantities of data. Companies can accurately predict when a part for a certain machine needs to be replaced before it fails based on an analysis of long term historical data.

 As a recent Industry Week article notes, IoT has the capability of tracking every aspect of a business from the all the machines on a factory floor to inventory and suppliers: 

“When fully leveraged,” the article notes, “ IoT can mean better inventory management, pulled production instead of pushed production, accurate activity-based costing, automatic adjusted logistics that adapt to changes in the manufacturing layer and productivity increases.”

A GE white paper on the topic notes the impact of IoT implementation:

 “We can be collectively objective, rather than individually subjective. We can do so in areas where we formerly acted based on intuition and assumption rather than by data and analysis.”

If this seems like another passing fad to you, consider GE and its commitment to IoT. CEO Jeffrey Immelt made a bold investment in recent years to position GE as the leading software provider for the Industrial Internet. The company set up a software operation in San Ramon, California, in 2012 and developed its own operating system for the Industrial Internet called, “Predix.”

Job seekers initially found it difficult to take GE’s ads for software developers seriously (think of the GE TV ad where a coder named Owen tells his skeptical friends he has been hired by GE to write “…a new language for machines so planes, trains and even hospitals can work better”).

Soon they got the message and GE’s services have helped manufacturing companies improve operations. For example, GE’s aviation customers are using Predix applications to monitor wear and tear on their jet engines and fine tune maintenance schedules. It’s also giving wind turbines the capability of automatically changing the direction of their blades to catch more wind.

GE’s ultimate goal is to become a top 10 software company by 2020 by helping manufacturing companies utilize advanced data collection and analyses afforded by IoT and the connectivity of the internet.

And that ultimately means better, more reliable products for all of us.

Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.  

Friday, February 5, 2016

Chile Approves Ambitious Hydroelectric Project in The Desert

About the last place one could choose as a setting for an unprecedented hydroelectricity undertaking would be a desert.

And out of all the deserts in the world, the 50,000 mile Atacama- one of the driest places on the planet- would most likely be the very last one to be considered. Nevertheless, Chilean developers and local business representatives have received a crucial approval from regional environmental agencies to move ahead with a gargantuan project that would generate 300 megawatts of electricity. This was after the project was rejected, to much local fanfare, by the country's government last year. While the design of the plant could prove to be an exceptional blueprint for other countries to use, its purpose is controversial and may prove to illustrate the complicated layers of navigating a new era of energy.

The project, proposed by Chilean energy company Valhalla, depends on the discovery of two massive depressions located 13,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains to the east. Ocean water pumped from 1200 miles away will be stored in these natural reservoirs the size of 22,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The giant capacity means that water can drop from these heights 24 hours a day, powering a total of five hydroelectric plants that are being planned for construction. Even better, the searing sun that beats down on the Atacama desert will also fuel solar cells installed to power the bringing the water up the mountains, making the entire process carbon-neutral with zero emissions.

As much of an engineering feat as it is for green enthusiasts, however, the proposal still faces widespread disapproval from local Chileans. The reasons may have less to do with the technology and more to do with who directly benefits from it. The industries that operate in the provinces slated to receive the hydroelectricity are all mining companies harvesting copper and other metals from the ground. Activists argue that although the companies will be operating on clean energy, their objectives of stripping the land will still have devastating effects on the Patagonia environment. And while developers have, naturally, assured that the trade-offs (no hydroelectricity will mean a doubling down on coal-fired plants) are worth it, there are no details yet about whether the water moved out of the ocean is to be desalinated. If not, it will be crucial to ensure the salt in the water does not permeate into the surrounding wilderness of Patagonia. It's also worth noting the project is currently underfunded, and the solar aspect of the project has not yet been approved by the government.

Despite the risks, if it works, Valhalla's design could serve as a template for cities all over the world currently having to rely on less and less snowfall from their surrounding mountain ranges.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, January 29, 2016

NASA to Fund "Sideways" Flying

2016 has already been generous to NASA, with congressional approval of a 10 percent increase in its overall budget. While this infusion of $1.6 billion could be used for many ideas both existing and new, many experts are hoping the agency spends a portion of it on a concept that could eventually revolutionize air travel as we know it: the bidirectional plane.
Rendering of Futuristic Bidirectional Plane
Although the concept has been around forever, 2012 marks the year when actual capital began fueling the idea for real-world use. Ge-Cheng Zha, an aerospace engineer at the University of Miami, introduced a flying wing design back then that resembled a ninja star, and would turn 90 degrees after reaching optimal altitude. Having used its broad wings to achieve the right amount of lift needed for take-off, the smaller wings enable the plane to achieve supersonic speeds that would cut a trip from New York to Tokyo down to four hours from 15.

Zha's proposal received over $100,000 in grant research money from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. A successful demonstration of feasibility in various tests such as wind tunnel performance and mathematic models will open up an additional $500,000. With NASA's additional budget funding, one can only hope even more money is devoted to this specific concept.

A bidirectional plane not only solves the eternal aeronautic quandary of achieving speed without sacrificing stability, but it will revolutionize both military and private air travel, cutting distance time exponentially.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, January 22, 2016

US Army Invests In Vehicles Powered By Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Despite a decade of interest, vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are nowhere near available on a mass scale to the commercial automotive industry. There are multiple reasons for this, ranging from a lack of hydrogen fuel infrastructure to high costs per vehicle. But proponents of the technology may have finally found a market that can not only be a sustainable buyer, but may prove to the rest of the world how superior hydrogen fueled cars could be.

Chevy Colorado selected by military to test effectiveness 
of hydrogen fuel cells
The US military will begin field test runs of GM's hydrogen fuel line truck: the Chevrolet Colorado,  for scouting and reconnaissance divisions. Through the US Army's Tank Automotive Research and Engineering Center, (TARDEC) the Chevy truck will be used in a variety of situations that call for its advantages. Hydrogen fueled vehicles are dead silent, do not need daily refueling, and make water as a by-product (which could be handy in a number of ways in many desert combat scenarios)Hydrogen vehicles also have a high low-end torque power, enabling them to carry more of a heavy load.

As TARDEC Director Paul Rogers stated, "The potential capabilities hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can bring to the war fighter are extraordinary, and our engineers and scientists are excited about the opportunity to exercise the limits of this demonstrator."

With already over 3 million miles run by this previous summer, the Army, who collaborated with NASA in developing the technology years ago, clearly believes in hydrogen fuel cells as a reliable alternative to fossil fuel engines. While this should naturally be considered a sign that commercialization is not far behind, the lack of freeing up substantial government or private subsidies for building hydrogen fuel storage infrastructures all over the nation has proven to be a considerable obstacle. This could be for a variety of reasons, some of them as legitimate as a real worry over the dangers of individual vehicles powered by hydrogen on public roads, some of them as unfortunate as the technology not having a personality such as Elon Musk to devote resources and media appearances touting its benefits.

Yet, the US military's continual fidelity prove hydrogen fuel cells are not fading into obscurity anytime soon. And in a time where there is growing consensus that the status quo of fuel resources must change, the climate for vehicles like the Chevy Colorado to garner appeal is real.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mexico City's Pod Proposal

Los Angeles and New York get a lot of national grief over their respectively nightmarish traffic experiences. Indeed both could use improvements in how to address issues of congestion and bottle-necking. Despite all the bad press lower Manhattan and the 405 get, however, neither towns can begin to compare with the insanity that is being a commuter in Mexico City.

Number two in TomTom's traffic index behind Istanbul, Mexico City's residents are trapped in traffic between and home and work that makes their trips 55 percent longer than average. This is not merely a problem centering around the automobile, as 61 percent of residents take public transportation already, and only 16 percent drive individual vehicles. Clearly, the sheer number of population means no one transportation method can fix this, and even a combined network needs to consider alternatives that think outside traditional infrastructure models.

The city's transportation department- Seciti- seems to have arrived upon a consensus on one possibility: gondolas. Lightweight, considerably cheaper to install and maintain than more subway systems, gondolas would actually directly serve the majority populace that does not drive while also providing a rather enjoyable commuter experience. Each pod would hold two people, and move on tracks over traffic routes, hovering over already existing gridlock. Even more innovative, passengers can program a direct path to a destination platform. This may pose certain issues of bunching (one would think tourist-heavy stops would demand more individual pod queues than others), but a carefully analyzed map could create "exhaust valve" routes to bypass any potential crowding risks, just like added lines on existing metro systems.

Seciti's recent proposal was unveiled at a press conference, complete with an animated video (above) showing how the concept will be applied. Although funding still needs to be sought after from both private and public sources, the ecological, locally-manufactured project could serve as a template for the growing global city of the 21st century.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.