Using technology can be mankind’s greatest tool

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In ancient times, cave people were amazed by the innovation of fire. This new discovery helped to keep them warm on chilly nights, kept dangerous predators away from their families and let them cook and enjoy hot meals.

Just like this new find long ago, we’ve stumbled upon our own astonishment with technology. What has started with a tiny spark has grown into more than just a flame, but a burning, blazing fire. Technology has helped to connect us with loved ones far away, saved us money, helped us to build businesses and charities and has overall improved our lives. Quite likely, using technology has been mankind’s greatest tool.

We can thank Alan Turing, who in 1936 began to work on the Turing machine that led to the modern computer that we know today. In 2003 it was estimated that there were more than 200 million personal computers in the USA. Today the computer is so commonplace, it is almost taken for granted that people have at least one if not several personal computers in their homes. But not so long ago, in the 1980′s a personal computer was considered something of a bit of a novelty. People use their computers for home businesses, charity work, working from home, school work, community projects, hobbies and more. Using the home computer has led to innovations such as Stephanie Myers’ popular Twilight books about glittery vampires that she wrote while her young children slept. Children doing their homework today could grow up to be scientists, teachers and community leaders who help to make improvements in our tomorrow with thanks to technology.

Mankind can be proud of using technology to create artificial limbs that are more effective, to help veterans and others who are in need of limbs. These artificial legs can actually be controlled by a person’s thoughts, instead of using manual or physical control. It was done at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The nerves in the leg communicate with sensors in the artificial leg’s socket. These sensors then communicate with a computer inside the leg.

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Automation Design in Six Steps

Automation Design in Six Steps

Most manufacturing floors include test stations. These stations contain test equipment that exercises the UUT (unit under test) over the range of specified input parameters, and checks for expected performance. These tests not only validate completed units, they can also identify trends in quality that can in turn uncover problems in product components as well as discrepancies in the manufacturing process.

For startup lines or small-run products, testing is often done manually. The test technician assembles a set of equipment including generators, oscilloscopes, and flow meters, and proceeds through a list of test steps, filling in measured values along the way. As product lines become more mature or small-run products become large-run products, the testing time often becomes a significant portion of the per-unit cost. Automation reduces the unit testing time. Manufacturers often find that they can realize significant increases in profitability by automating their test stations.

1. Layout Diagram

The first step in automation is to create a layout diagram. Engineers can start by making a testing diagram of the current existing setup, and follow by creating a parts and equipment list. Engineers must be careful to identify any equipment that cannot be automated, in other words, does not have a control interface. Most modern equipment does have such an interface. However, any that cannot be automated must be flagged on the diagram, and a replacement ordered. This is a critical initial step, because of long equipment lead times. For critical schedules, the engineer can lease interim equipment.

2. Design the Automation Interface

An essential part of the layout diagram is the interface specification. Reducing connection complexity increases the reliability of the test setup. To reduce the complexity of the connections, a common connection interface is preferable. For example, if the common interface is GPIB, then most of the connection cables will be GPIB cables. This allows the designer to connect the cables in series or parallel, whichever best suits the physical setup of the station.

One critical part of this effort is the automation interface for the UUT. An important part of “design for manufacturability” is the test interface for the product unit. Although the units do not necessarily require a standard testing interface such as GPIB, a standard computer interface such as parallel bus, serial bus, or USB is very handy and flexible. There are many interface chips for each of these interfaces that the design engineer can easily use to connect to the UUT circuitry, particularly if there is a main processor.

A key consideration for the UUT interface is that it should be a simple, reliable connection. In an automated setup, the UUT connection time is often the lion’s share of the testing budget. The interface should be a one-step connection if possible, with hardware that can reliably withstand many reconnections. If possible, setting up a hot-swap interface is the best strategy. This avoids the delays of the power-up time. Surge protectors are a key component for protecting UUT components during a hot swap.

3. Choose the Connection Components

Modern engineers have several excellent alternatives to hardwired connections. The following is a description of each method:

 

  • Hardwire- this makes the most reliable connection. Insulated, double-twist cables are the least susceptible to ambient interference. However, hardwiring the UUT interface can become unreliable after many connections. In addition, complex test setups cause a “cable farm” effect, which can reduce the efficiency of the station. Cables also limit the physical separation possible between the test equipment and the UUT.
  • Ethernet – many modern setups bypass testing interfaces like GPIB in favor of Ethernet interfaces. The connection components are less expensive and more readily available. The interface to a computer is standard. The transmission speeds are high and the cables can be longer. New product setups are definite candidates for Ethernet connections over standard test interfaces.
  • Wireless – wireless connections are an excellent way to avoid a cable farm. They also make changing the equipment very flexible. If the UUT connection can be made wireless, the per-unit testing time can drop dramatically. Engineers can turn almost any interface into a wireless interface with readily available conversion components. A combination of Ethernet and wireless technologies make a truly powerful and flexible automated system.

 

During this process, the engineer should remember that the best automation gains are almost always associated with the UUT. Any change in the design that shortens the UUT handling time will usually bring significant benefits.

 

4. Choose the Controller

Simple test setups can be driven by stand-alone automation controllers. However, the most flexible modern systems are designed with a standard personal computer at the core. This allows quick changes to the test routine, offers the ability to log and save information easily, and often affords the lowest cost. Because most computers are online, computer control also allows test technicians to monitor the stations remotely through the Internet.

5. Choose the Management Software

Some complex, unique test systems, such as those that test telephony components, have specialty test software. For more general setups, designers can take advantage of automation software designed especially for testing. Several of these packages are offered by major test equipment manufacturers, in order to support the use of their hardware products. However, engineers can realize the most powerful and flexible designs by using a standard design software such as C# or Java. To do this, engineers must choose equipment with an interface API (application programming interface) that drives the equipment. Most modern equipment does have an API. If the engineer adopts this strategy, then he or she generally finds it easy to design the API driver for the UUT itself.

Using a general software interface also allows engineers to take advantage of full product management software. This software integrates the performance requirements, the test procedure, and the compliance results to maintain a complete design and manufacturing system for the lifetime of the product.

6. Test the Automation

Before the automation setup can become a standard, it must be validated against the original manual setup. This is often done by designating a set of three or more “golden” UUTs, which have been qualified by the original, manual setup. In the next step, the technician tests the golden units with the new automated setup. Results are validated across the entire cross-section of the test procedure, allowing the automated setup to become the new standard.

By following these steps, engineers can modernize test setups, reduce per unit test times, and increase the operational profitability of their product lines.

Different Technologies of Air Purifiers; and Which Ones May Be Harmful

A large number of us are aware that we need to take steps to improve the air quality in our homes and offices. After all, many studies have been completed showing that the air quality inside is typically much worse than the air quality outside. If you live in an area where smog, traffic emissions, and other outside pollutants are common, this can be a frightening thought. Even for those of us living in areas of the country where the population is scattered and the air is fairly clean, the idea that the air in our homes is filled with pollutants is disturbing.

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Improving Indoor Air Quality

There are a number of different steps we can take to improve the quality of our homes, such as improving the ventilation of fresh air throughout the rooms and reducing the amount of pollutants we track into our homes. In addition to these steps, we can also look for the best air purifier you can afford. These devices can be particularly effective in the homes allergy and asthma sufferers. However, there are some types of air purifiers which may do more harm than good, so make sure that you know exactly which purifier you really want.

The Types of Air Purification Technology

  • HEPA filters
  • UV-C light, UVGI cleaners and PCO cleaners
  • Ionic filtration or electrostatic precipitators
  • Ozone generators

HEPA Filters: How They Work and Related Concerns

To understand how air purifiers with HEPA filter technology work, let’s break down the acronym first of all. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. The filters work when air is forced through them. With a very, very fine mesh, the filters trap pollen, dust mites, pet dander, tobacco smoke, and other particulates which get carried into the home.

Some filters claim to trap particles which are much less than 0.3 microns. Since many of the allergy and asthma-causing particles are much smaller than this, a high-quality HEPA filter is the only filter which can really be effective.

The air purifiers using HEPA filters are often sized for a single room and should be chosen so that the size of the filter is appropriate for the size of the room.

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Using Project Estimation Software For Dynamic Project Planning

Project planning that involves desks cluttered with scrawled notes, dog-eared books, and a sea of unorganized paperwork is likely to produce a project that reflects that general mess. Effective project planning requires a level of focus and organization that mirrors the structure and productivity of the world’s most successful businesses. The good news is that businesses of all types and sizes can easily achieve such dynamic planning by using readily available project estimation software.

What is Project Estimation Software?

Project estimation software gives users the ability to define a business project in extensive detail in order to establish a clear forward path. The software accesses relative project histories and other specific information to form an evidence proven basis for project analysis. Once the upcoming project is defined, the software allows users to create high potential goals for workflow structure, planning, costs, and formulating plans for any potential hiccups in the a project.

What are the Key Benefits that Come With Project Estimation Software Use?

  • Accurate Cost Estimation. Using estimation software helps takes the guesswork out of project planning by giving users access to a variety of cost assessment tools. Estimation software offers a clear idea of both expected and unexpected costs by factoring in how schedule, work rates, and resource use may affect overall expenditures.

Having a good idea of anticipated costs also offers users the ability to more accurately negotiate with suppliers or sub-contractors before the project begins, helping to prevent overspending in the pre-project period.

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Five Things First-Time Mobile App Builders Need to Know

Five Things First-Time Mobile App Builders Need to Know

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With the advent of affordable mobile computing, mobile app development has become a hot topic within many organizations. These downloadable programs are intended to deliver targeted content to people who have expressed an interest in receiving it. You can use a mobile app to share news, grant insider discounts, offer sneak peeks, and generally keep your customers in the know. For some companies, their mobile app is nearly as important as their website.

Creating a mobile app can be a major undertaking that requires more time and money than you might expect. First-time mobile app builders need to keep some particular things in mind. These tips will help you get started creating your first big mobile release.

Before you get started

Before you proceed onward to the tips I have to share with you, you should ask yourself if you really need a mobile app. Not all organizations do. The industry you are part of may not change quickly enough to warrant developing an app that will inform people of the latest news. If your organization consists of only two or three people there simply might not be the resources available to keep an app up to date and interesting; even experienced mobile app builders can be challenged by the need to keep the app’s content updated and compatible with changing technology.

You might find it worthwhile to survey your customer base to discover whether or not they would like to see an app from you. These surveys can also tell you what precisely customers would like from an app. This information will help you deliver a more desirable product or steer you away from an expensive mistake.

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3 Ways to Tell if Your Project Manager is the Problem

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Are you having trouble getting departments to work within deadlines? It can be easy to blame the individual departments. But sometimes the problem can actually lie with your project manager. When this happens, a company owner needs to work to improve or change the situation so departments can continue to work well together. Don’t let a problem project manager derail successful departments that have contributed to your company! Here are 3 ways to tell the problem could lie directly with the project manager:

The communication between departments works better without the project manager. With a good project manager, they orchestrate communication smoothly and easily. But when departments find they can contact each other to get information quicker than by going through the project manager, this is a sign that the departments are not the problem a company is facing. This is a red flag, and actually one of the first signs you may notice that the project manager is a problem. When communication ceases or seems challenging, it is time for a company owner or manager to step in and see what is going on before things continue in this manner.

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