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Mechanical Engineering. 2004;126(04):24-27. doi:10.1115/1.2004-APR-1.
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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is focusing attention on fuel economy rules for light trucks. Some suggestions for reforms to certain CAFE standards have been published by the National Academy of Sciences in January 2002 in a report that examined the effectiveness of CAFE. The report suggests revising the structure of the light truck standards to reduce incentives to lower vehicle weight, because of the argument that weight increases safety. NHTSA is currently soliciting public comment for its possible CAFE reforms. The agency has not come up with definite targets for reform. It has stated some possibilities, including those in the National Academy of Sciences report, but is open to suggestions at this point. The National Academy of Sciences report analyzed the cost-effectiveness of the application of existing technology on various classes of cars and light trucks. The bottom line of the analysis is that proven technology can cost-effectively improve fuel efficiency, with light trucks showing the biggest opportunity for improvement.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2004;126(04):28-30. doi:10.1115/1.2004-APR-2.
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This article discusses benefits incurred by buyers and suppliers over the Internet. The benefits of using the Internet to pull a wider range of clients are clear for both buyer and supplier. Manufacturers buying parts can choose from a greater number of quotes and compare fees and supplier capabilities much more readily. Suppliers get to plumb a deeper market for customers who may seek their specialization or may be outside the geographical market they normally serve. A sea change has begun for companies of Intellipack’s size that seek suppliers. The online business model works well for manufacturers who find new suppliers on the Internet. The online service MfgQuote lets suppliers that pay to use the service bid on requests for quotes that are submitted by potential buyers. QuickParts in Atlanta, using the company’s QuickQuote software, lets buyers upload three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) data to the site and include their project specifications. Company founders developed the QuickQuote software that allows them to accept 3-D CAD files, analyze them, and quickly make a customized quotation that addresses the quantity and type of parts the vendor specified.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2004;126(04):32-35. doi:10.1115/1.2004-APR-3.
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Volunteers are using low-tech engineering to have a high impact in developing communities. Volunteer teams of civil and environmental engineering students from the University of Colorado at Boulder and their professor installed a water delivery system that used no electricity. Engineers Without Borders (EWB) pairs professionals with volunteer engineering students to design and build an infrastructure project that a developing community has identified as a pressing need to help provide training, and to improve the quality of life for people in developing communities. In Santisuk, Thailand, EWB-USA volunteers installed a multipart filtration system, a covered spring box and new leach fields to clean up the contaminated water supply. Making more progress on the organizational level is the current goal of EWB-USA. The non-profit enterprise is working on getting a baseline organization in place that’s funded, so it can adequately control the quality of its project.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2004;126(04):36-38. doi:10.1115/1.2004-APR-4.
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Wilbur and Orville Wright, both engineer brothers, studied results of Germany’s Otto Lilienthal to improve their airplane flight experiments and calculations. The Wright gliders of 1900 and 1901 used wings like Lilienthal’s, and the brothers relied on his calculations for determining coefficient of lift. When the Wrights compared their results with those of Lilienthal, they found only small disagreements. With the coefficients of lift and drag holding up to their scrutiny, the Wrights turned their attention to the only other possible source of error in the equations, the Smeaton coefficient of air pressure. The Wrights built lift balance after discovering a discrepancy between actual and predicted values for lift and drag. The brothers plotted out the relationship among lift, thrust, weight, and drag. The Wrights figured out that the margins are a tribute to their genius. Perhaps all they proved in 1903 was that flight was possible on a cold and windy day in North Carolina.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2004;126(04):40-41. doi:10.1115/1.2004-APR-5.
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This article describes features of James Webb Space Telescope, which is going to take the place of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011. The Webb telescope is an orbiting infrared observatory, and the project is managed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Webb Space Telescope will use extremely large aperture, low-mass mirrors. Made in segments so they can be folded to fit into a rocket nose cone for flight, they will open and array themselves when they reach their destination. These robust mirrors must be fabricated rapidly and cost-effectively. There are significant manufacturing challenges in the composite backplanes for the primary mirror. These are to be made from boron composites for their stiffness. The analysis and manufacturing challenges in the backplane are the adhesives used to combine all the composite parts and the uniformity to which the composites themselves can be manufactured. The structure of the primary mirror for the Webb Telescope permits small adjustments.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2004;126(04):43. doi:10.1115/1.2004-APR-6.
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This article focuses on the use of radio-frequency (RF) technology in Las Vegas airport. The RF technology is provided by Matrics Inc. of Columbia, Md., which has a five-year contract to supply the airport with 100 million tags. The tags, which hold 96 bits of information, require no separate power source and are activated by a signal from the RF reader in the ultra-high frequency band between 902 and 928 MHz. The Federal Aviation Administration requires that passengers’ names pass through the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System. Those profiled as suspicious by the system are known as ‘selectees.’ At Jacksonville, their bags are tracked by an ultra-high frequency UHF system. According to a case study published by FKI Logistex, the selectees’ bags are separated from the main stream of luggage and sent to a machine set for more intense screening. However, at Las Vegas airport, everybody will be tagged.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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