Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

May 2012    |    Volume: 44    |    Number: 5

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Front Line

News, trends & tactics in the May 2012 issue of Industrial Engineer

It’s right at the museum

Jefferson statue for the Smithsonian shows power of additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing has been used to make dental implants, industrial prototypes, models of cancer tumors, aircraft parts and much more.This replica statue of Thomas Jefferson was produced with 3-D printing. (Photo courtesy of The Smithsonian) 

Add classic sculpture to that list.

The Smithsonian teamed up with a digital manufacturing company, RedEye On Demand, to create a 3-D printed, museum quality historical replica of Thomas Jefferson. The life-size statue is central to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” The exhibition continues until Oct. 14. Once the Smithsonian exhibition ends, the statue may be used for educational purposes at Monticello.

The Smithsonian took 3-D laser scans of a statue at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home near Charlottesville, Va. RedEye On Demand received that information as a digital model and produced the statue in four parts. The company used production-grade thermoplastics for strength and durability. To cut down on weight and reduce cost, RedEye used a sparse-fill technique, much like a honeycomb, for the statue’s interior. Workers bonded the pieces together, and then the statue was “bronzed” with an application of primer, paint and wax. The build time was about 400 hours, or nearly two and a half weeks. It takes several months to produce a traditional bronze statue.

That speed and efficiency leads most analysts to believe that it’s a matter of when, not if, additive manufacturing replaces much of traditional manufacturing, said Richard Garrity, vice president of RedEye on Demand.

“This is a disruptive technology and has a chance to really change the game for design and manufacturing and production folks,” Garrity said. “It frees them up in terms of the way they can design things for manufacturing. They’re not limited by some of the constraints they have today.

“But really what’s going to impede that timetable is more about the systems themselves. How quickly can the systems be improved so they’re much faster than they are today,” he said. “And then also the materials: Can the materials continue to get more robust, more diverse and have the certifications and things behind them to be trusted by companies where they’re comfortable ordering thousands upon thousands upon thousands of additive manufactured parts that can [go] into products that they’re then selling.”

Hobbyists are starting to buy low-cost 3-D printers and do-it-yourself kits. Those aren’t the best for output quality and potential, Garrity said, but they show how 3-D printing is becoming more mainstream.

Companies such as RedEye will keep concentrating more on the manufacturing end of things, Garrity said.

For instance, RedEye can produce parts that are certified to go into commercial aircraft, he said. This helps in the drive to make the next generation of aircraft and automobiles lighter for improved fuel economy. Companies are producing prosthetic limbs and hearing aids. RedEye’s lobby in Minneapolis features a 3-D printed guitar, lamp, car bumper and missile prototype. Garrity said that the prototype missile is not launch capable, but such missiles could be produced.

Garrity said 20 percent of RedEye’s current business consists of parts that go into other companies’ products. But the company expects that percentage to grow much higher.

Going for a different gas

Mizzou hydrogen car team aims to improve eco-marathon efforts
The University of Missouri Mizzou Hydrogen Car Team is completing a two-year journey as its car competes in the 2012 Shell Eco-Marathon in Houston.

The Mizzou Hydrogen Car Team wants its TigerGen III to achieve a gasoline equivalent of more than 500 mpg.The team designed the car last year and built it this year, team president Victoria Hezel wrote in The Missourian, the university’s student newspaper. TigerGen III will compete in the urban concept category of the race. Cars in this category are similar to vehicles on the road, equipped with four wheels, headlights, blinkers and even windshield wipers, according to Hezel, a senior majoring in industrial engineering.

TigerGen III improved on all aspects of TigerGen II, the team’s entrant into the 2010 and 2011 Shell Eco-Marathons. TigerGen III has a larger frame to accommodate taller people, more efficient fuel cells and a swing arm suspension in the back. The larger door makes it easier to get in and out of the car in less than 10 seconds. The team added a windshield wiper and has a goal of achieving a gasoline equivalent of more than 500 mpg.

Last year, the team won the best team spirit award, and the TigerGen II completed all six of the six-mile races, achieving a gasoline equivalent of 476 mpg. The team ironed out major glitches that kept the car from completing a full race in 2010, the first time the team competed.

“The great thing about our team is that we get hands-on experience that we don’t otherwise get in the classroom,” Hezel wrote. “Coupled with that, this project forces us to learn from our mistakes and experiences.”

This year’s Shell Eco-Marathon is March 29 until April 1.

Work helps heal the mind

Therapy for employment issues gets patients on the job sooner
Here’s good news for employer and employee: Therapy that dealt with job-related problems sent patients back to work sooner, helping to improve their mental health significantly over one year without any negative side effects.

“Being out of work has a direct effect on people’s well-being,” said the study’s lead author, Suzanne Lagerveld of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. “Those who are unable to participate in work lose a valuable source of social support and interpersonal contacts. They might lose part of their income and consequently tend to develop even more psychological symptoms. We’ve demonstrated that employees on sick leave with mental disorders can benefit from interventions that enable them to return to work.”

QUOTE, UNQUOTE: Fear and flight

“[Monterrey, Mexico] is a good place to live and to study. I like it. There was more security [before], but, I don’t know. I think now it’s evolving.”
— Javier Guzman, a 25-year-old industrial engineer quoted March 15 in a Los Angeles Times article about gang violence in the Monterrey area. Despite a good job, Guzman plans to return to his home state of Oaxaca soon.

Focusing on getting back to work is not a standard part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is based on the idea that people’s thoughts, rather than external factors such as people, situations or events, cause feelings and behaviors. But the study group that integrated return-to-work strategies went back to their jobs an average of 65 days earlier than those who received standard therapy, and they started a partial return to work 12 days earlier.

Based solely on wages paid during sick time, employers saved an estimated 20 percent, or $5,275 per employee, according to the study. This did not include additional costs of productivity loss and hiring replacements.

Psychotherapists in the work-focused group addressed work issues early, using work and the workplace as mechanisms or context to improve the client’s mental health. They explained how work can offer structure and self-esteem, characteristics that help recovery. Clients also drafted a plan for returning to work.

Study participants suffered from psychological problems such as anxiety, adjustment disorder and minor depression.

The article, “Work-Focused Treatment of Common Mental Disorders and Return to Work,” was published online in APA’s Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Directly depositing metal

IE professor to help run new center at Penn State
An industrial engineering professor at Penn State will co-direct the university’s Center for Innovative Metal Processing through Direct Digital Deposition, according to the university.

Timothy Simpson, a mechanical and industrial engineering professor, along with the center’s head and assistant director Richard Martukanitz and research associate Shawn Kelly, will be in charge of the center, which will receive $3.8 million over four years from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The center will have an educational and training component run by faculty members from the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Going off the grid

Louisiana University wants to leave commercial electricity behind
Here’s a challenge for your facilities planning staff and industrial engineering departments: Take your campus off the commercial electrical grid.

Southeastern Louisiana University aims to have that accomplished within a decade, said Byron Patterson, the university’s physical plant director.

PRIME NUMBER: Much ado about waste

Up to 15 percent of construction time is wasted as workers wait for parts, for engineering diagrams to be interpreted and for other trades to finish up, said Shaheel Hooda, chief executive of Element Industrial Solutions, based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Source: The Financial Post

“We believe we have to think aggressively, or it won’t happen at all,” he said. “Any strides taken toward this overarching goal are steps in the right direction.”

Tactics include solar power to generate electricity and heat water, in-house biodiesel generation to power off-road vehicles and landscaping equipment, replacement of aging equipment with more energy efficient models and conservation through a tightly controlled energy management system. The improvements have a strong academic component, officials said, since students can learn about the systems firsthand via research and practice.

The energy control system covers about 85 percent of the university’s buildings. That allows Dawson Kinchen, supervisor of controls, to view heating, ventilation and air conditioning performance simultaneously in most campus buildings.

“Under the old pneumatic system, you could have up to a 5 percent swing in temperature,” Kinchen said. “We cleaned up the controls for digital commands, and this allows us to control the temperature in a building to within one-half of a degree.”

In 2009 to 2010, that operation alone saved more than $1.2 million in electrical costs. Patterson said that is the basic benchmark the plant seeks to exceed each year.

Green trucking

Algorithm helps figure out environmentally best transport routes
An industrial engineering graduate from the Public University of Navarre has devised an algorithm that generates environmentally efficient road vehicle routes.Sergio Úbeda Munárriz said his model isn’t new, but it adapted current methods to include environmental variables and calculate routes that generate lower levels of emissions.

Mikel Azpiroz 

UNCOMMON IE: Bandleader

THE TASK AT HAND: Mikel Azpiroz is the Hammond Organ player for Elkano Browning Cream, a jazz band that tours in Spain, Portugal and India. The organ is the band’s dominant sound. Azpiroz listened to it for years in the works of Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Hank Jones, Chick Corea and others. “[The Hammond Organ’s] rich tone had such a strong character and personality that it became an instrument with full rights, and that’s how it’s been used in every style of music, especially blues, jazz, soul and rock,” Azpiroz said.

In addition to his IE degree, he has a master’s degree in digital arts, which he called a bridge between audio engineering and music creation. He started learning music at age 6 and studied classical piano at the San Sebastian Music Conservatory in the Basque country of northern Spain. The trio also includes a drummer from Paris and a guitarist from the United States, although a U.K. guitarist filled in on the band’s third album, “Bohemia.”

EVER THE IE: Although Azpiroz went directly into music from school, he uses his industrial engineering skills all the time with the band and with his freelance work of music production. “I am continually managing recording processes, tours, record releases, managing totally different parameters that are all necessary for making projects happen,” Azpiroz said.

The technical side of the degree has helped as well. “The basis of sound is vibrations that create waves, and transforms of Fourier are applied to heat transfer as well as sound, for example. But what I most appreciate from those university years is the perseverance that I acquired for solving adverse and tough situations.”

“We turn the objective around,” Munárriz said. “Before, we devised the shortest or most economic routes, while now it is the cleanest or least contaminant.”

The function estimates fuel consumption and emissions factors for various vehicles depending on the characteristics of the distribution process. It accounts for the load transported and the sequences of delivery.

Traditionally, models for estimating CO2 emissions have not been used to generate and design routes to transport goods. Estimating CO2 emissions for each vehicle is highly complex and dependent on factors such as vehicle characteristics, fuel used, route conditions, driving style and weather conditions.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: For change, repeat and repeat

Reinvention a 'silent killer' for sustainable growth
For Six Sigma practitioners, master black belt status is the ultimate. But many end their formal process improvement education as a green belt. These employees provide valuable service to their organizations, executing projects that lower operating costs, increase productivity and improve customer service. But as the distance in time from their classroom training and initial project grows, their skills and effectiveness could diminish, particularly if the organization has no black belts.

That audience is Tracy L. Owens’ target in Six Sigma Green Belt, Round 2. The master black belt knows that green belts may get less attention and less active coaching. Furthermore, in this what-have-you-done-for-me-yesterday world, business managers often press their Six Sigma teams for rapid results. So the book’s chapters reinforce your previous green belt learning to guide you through completing good projects in a 90-day time frame.

Owens covers the five basic DMAIC topics – define, measure, analyze, improve and control – along with process management and lean thinking. He also includes a supplementary CD-ROM that features different matrices, control charts, diagrams, hypothesis tests and other goodies.

Six Sigma Green Belt, Round 2: Making Your Next Project Better Than the Last One is published by ASQ Quality Press ($50).

Six Sigma Green Belt, Round 2 

Raising normal geeks

Dad gives tips for a well-balanced upbringing
Frank Catalano, a tech analyst and writer with GeekWire, knows a lot about geekdom.

In an interview with Linda Thomas of Seattle radio station 97.3 KIRO-FM, Catalano admitted that he was the kid with tape on his glasses who got beaten up. Only later did he and the other geeks wind up in highly paid professions.

Therefore, he wanted to raise a normal child.

“When you’re in a geek household, you are surrounded with the accouterments of the nerd lifestyle – science fiction reruns on TV, books everywhere on technology, with the mindset of questioning and wanting to get under the hood of stuff, doing your own programming or building your own technology. Even if a geek tries to raise a nongeek child, it’s a losing battle,” he told the newscaster.

So he detailed to Thomas his seven steps for raising a well-balanced geek child:

  1. Let your child fail.
  2. Expose your child to fine art.
  3. Expose your child to “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” or “Dr. Who” for extra credit.
  4. Let them see you reading for pleasure.
  5. Encourage them to tinker, hack and excessively explore.
  6. Volunteer in their elementary school.
  7. Encourage personal face time with humans, not computers.

The most important of the seven is to spend time with your child, especially in the classroom to find out how he or she interacts and learns.

“You really don’t understand the pressures on the students and the teachers unless you’re there,” he said.

Catalano must know what he’s talking about. His son is a 25-year-old industrial engineer at Boeing in Everett, Wash.