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SwRI's Fire Technology Department adds video streaming capabilities

SwRI's Fire Technology Department has added video services that allow clients to view real-time fire tests over a secure media web site, offering significant cost savings to clients.

"This option can offset travel expenses because clients may now view the test from their own office," said Bill Bendele, a senior engineering technologist in the Fire Technology Department. "It also allows several people to view a test, which can be especially advantageous if staff members work in different offices or even different countries."

This new service provides secure, customized access for viewing live testing and high-definition digital photographs over the Internet from anywhere in the world. Multiple parties may view the tests. The video also is rendered simultaneously to high-quality digital format and saved to a streaming video server then archived to allow for later viewing.

"Archiving the videos provides an additional service to our clients who may wish to view a test at a later date," Bendele said. "The archived video can also be freeze-framed if a client wishes to discuss or study a portion of a test."

The Institute also offers thermal imaging video and multiview video. Thermal imaging video noninvasively measures temperatures continuously during a test. For example, the Institute regularly uses thermal imaging video for telecommunications clients to document Network Equipment-Building Systems (NEBS) fire-spread tests.

Multiview video displays test recordings, filmed from several angles, on either a split-screen or a quad-screen. SwRI has the option to display up to four recordings at a time or to switch to one view at a time, much like changing the channel on a television.

"To better understand burning characteristics, we can also record video of a test from inside a furnace for an up-close, unique view," Bendele said. "The multiview video display can be set up to show data, thermal imaging, the exposed view of the test sample and the unexposed view of the test sample."

Contact Bendele at (210) 522-2824 or

New materials chemistry and microencapsulation facility opens

SwRI has opened a microencapsulation facility to handle higher volume projects and to offer more services to food, pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial clients.

"This new facility enables us to expand our existing capabilities and offer improved service and capabilities to our clients," said Dr. Michael MacNaughton, vice president of SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. "This is an opportunity for us to meet a growing demand for microencapsulation and materials chemistry work."

The Institute has more than 50 years of experience in the microencapsulation of products for the pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, consumer goods and food industries and has pioneered the development of new microencapsulation techniques. This process is used to mask taste, improve preservation, lengthen shelf life and provide nutritional value.

"Our new state of the art facilities enables SwRI to be a 'one-stop-shop' for microencapsulation offering services from R and D through small-scale cGMP production," said Niraj Vasistha, director of SwRI's Microcapsules, Coatings and Polymers Department within the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. "Today, SwRI offers more encapsulation technologies than anyone else in the world."

The new 14,400-square-foot facility enables the Institute to expand its food and pharmaceutical work to handle current Good Manufacturing Practices under the Food and Drug Administration. The facility includes a materials chemistry and synthesis laboratory, materials characterization instrumentation, two polymer processing rooms and support functions in compliance with the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division ISO 9002 system. It also houses a microencapsulation preparatory laboratory, a food laboratory, a food preparation room, a tableting and extrusion room, an FDA-approved spray dryer high bay and two FDA-approved pharmaceutical laboratories.

Contact Niraj Vasisht at (210) 522-6671 or

Sunlight may nudge asteroids toward Earth

A new SwRI study may have solved the longstanding question about how asteroids, some of which eventually collide with the Earth, are able to escape the solar system's main asteroid belt.

The Earth has long resided among swarms of asteroids. Many of these objects are miles across, large enough that an impact with the Earth could present a significant hazard to life. Researchers believe that the starting location for these bodies is the main asteroid belt, a stable reservoir of huge, hurtling boulders located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. An on-going puzzle, however, is how these giant rocks escape the asteroid belt to reach orbits bound for Earth.

A new study led by Dr. William Bottke of SwRI's facility in Boulder, Colo., suggests the process responsible may be much slower and more subtle than first suspected. Bottke is the lead researcher on a U.S.-Czech-French team that has shown that large asteroids are gently nudged, over the course of hundreds of millions or even billions of years, by the absorption and re-emission of sunlight, enough so that the asteroids may eventually fall into orbital zones where the combined gravitational kicks of the planets can force them into the Earth's path.

The team's report, "Dynamical Spreading of Asteroid Families via the Yarkovsky Effect," appears in the Nov. 23, 2001, edition of the journal Science.

Researchers have studied asteroid "families," formations of large and small rocks believed to be the fragments of tremendous collisions between the largest asteroids in the main asteroid belt. The rocks produced by these collisions tend to have similar orbits, making it possible to piece together how the family members have evolved since their formation.

Computer models showing how the asteroid break-ups work are the subject of a paper written by a team led by Patrick Michel of the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur in the same issue of Science. Michel's team found that collision fragments are frequently thrown far from the impact site, but so far that the the orbital distribution of observed asteroid families can't be reproduced.

The biggest mismatches occur among the smaller family members, which are less than 10 miles across. Many small family members also appear to be corralled by narrow chaotic zones known as resonances, where tiny gravitational kicks produced by nearby planets such as Mars, Jupiter or Saturn can push asteroids out of the asteroid belt.

Bottke's team arrived at a solution to explain the unusual orbits of the smaller family members, related to a radiation effect named for Russian engineer I.O. Yarkovsky, who first described it a century ago. Like a sunlit sidewalk on Earth, a body spinning in space would be expected to heat up slowly and reradiate the energy back into space. Because radiation carries some momentum, Yarkovsky theorized that the reradiated energy slowly propels the body like a comet spewing off gas. Bottke's team speculates that this gentle push, if applied to small asteroid family members for hundreds of millions or even billions of years, could move them great distances.

The team uses computer simulations to show that the Yarkovsky Effect can indeed move small family asteroids far enough to place them in their observed orbits. Moreover, asteroids migrating far enough fall into resonances capable of pushing them into Earth-threatening orbits. One such asteroid that probably evolved in this fashion is Eros, the subject of an intensive investigation by the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft over the last several years.

Thus, for the first time, the observed orbital distribution of asteroid families and the presence of ancient asteroids near Earth can be understood using a combination of Michel's model, which describes how families are born, and Bottke's model, which describes how families evolve and spread out over time.

Other authors of this study were David Vokrouhlicky and Miroslav Broz of Charles University, Czech Republic; David Nesvorny of SwRI's Boulder office; and Alessandro Morbidelli of the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, France. NASA and the European Space Agency funded the study.

Contact Bottke at (303) 546-6066 or

Mason co-authors new statistics text

Dr. Robert Mason, a staff analyst in the Automotive Products and Emissions Research Division, is a co-author of the newly published textbook, Multivariate Statistical Process Control with Industrial Applications. Mason's co-author is Dr. John C. Young, a professor of statistics at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La.

The text, published by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), is part of the American Statistical Association-SIAM Series on Statistics and Applied Probability. The new book provides detailed coverage of the practical aspects of multivariate statistical process control, the application of multivariate statistical techniques to improve industrial quality and productivity.

Mason, who came to the Institute in 1975, has applied his expertise in statistical methods to solve data analysis and experimental design problems for a wide range of Institute clients. He has published more than 100 papers in refereed statistical and engineering journals and is also the co-author of four books.

Contact Mason at (210) 522-2671 or

Lean cost savings to A-10 program

Lean Depot Repair (LDR) principles and techniques taught by SwRI staff could result in a savings of more than $5 million a year in the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft modification program at the Ogden Air Logistics Center (ALC) at Hill AFB, Utah.

The cost savings are estimates and could be realized upon full implementation of the improvements described below.

SwRI helps clients optimize repair cycle time, reduce work-in-progress inventory, and eliminate parts shortages by applying Lean principles, which aim to eliminate practices that do not add value to the repair process. The Institute is under contract with the Ogden ALC to implement LDR in the Aircraft (OO-ALC/LA) and Electronics (OO-ALC/LE) Directorates.

The team of SwRI staff and OO-ALC/LA personnel led a Rapid Improvement Event (RIE), in which existing procedures were subjected to a concentrated analysis. That single event resulted in estimated annual savings of more than $650,000, as well as a 10-day reduction in flow days, or days an aircraft is out of service, by helping shop technicians get the tools, supplies, materials, and support services they need to focus directly on the aircraft rather than searching for tools, said Rod Cantu, industrial engineering manager for the SwRI Automation and Data Systems Division. He explained that technicians were supplied with parts, kits, and consumables at the point of use to help reduce search time and improve the flow of materials.

One tool used was Value Stream Mapping and Analysis (VSM/A), where current procedures were charted so that non-value-added activities that cost time and efficiency could be identified and then eliminated or streamlined.

"The significance of VSM/A is incredible," said Kevin Dellalucia, an A-10 program employee at Ogden ALC who participated in the RIE. "The VSM/A helped me and the RIE team visualize the waste in our processes. The methodology helps us focus on developing innovative solutions and process improvements to overcome these bottlenecks."

"Our goal is to take Lean to the next level, to include other organizations at the ALC that impact the value stream," Cantu said, referring to the entire repair process, from aircraft induction to delivery. Combined with earlier RIEs, annual savings to the A-10 program are projected at $5 million per year with key leadership sustaining the new processes, according to Cantu.

Lt. Gen. Charles H. Coolidge Jr., vice commander, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, met with Ogden ALC officials and SwRI representatives on Feb. 1. He said that incorporating Lean principles can help ALCs keep up with existing workloads and added that the Ogden ALC experience is an excellent example of partnering between the government and private industry.

Contact Bill Rafferty at (210) 522-5865 or

Published in the Spring 2002 issue of Technology Today®, published by Southwest Research Institute. For more information, contact Joe Fohn.

Spring 2002 Technology Today
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