Monday April 16, 2018 was Patriots Day in Boston. The weather was abysmal; 37 degrees, pouring rain, headwinds of up to 20 miles per hour. It was the worst weather ever for a Boston Marathon. But the BAA and Bostonians were determined to make it one of the best marathons ever. I arrived in Hopkinton on a school bus like twenty thousand other runners. By the time we got there the field was already standing mud. We squeezed into a large tent along with thousands of others. Inside volunteers were doing what little they could to make runners comfortable. They gave us a sheet of Mylar to sit on and some energy gels. We weren’t out of the rain long before it was time for the 45-minute walk to the starting corrals and the run to downtown Boston.
Question: when is a skid not JUST a skid?
Answer: When it is a cart, a panel, a pod, a plate, a module…
More and more frequently we at Optimation are seeing requests, and opportunities, for modular or skid-based production and manufacturing process projects. These are condensed application sets embodied in a well-controlled and highly-engineered custom configuration.
Topics: Skid Systems
At Optimation we design and fabricate many skid systems. These systems are used by manufacturers for a broad variety of applications. Skids can be built as carts, in frames, in shipping containers or trailers. They can be built as prefab production lines units that can be bolted together to form larger systems. Physical layout can be tailored to the complexity, geography and environmental conditions the skid needs to perform in. Some are mounted indoors in factory conditions, others may ultimately be located in the arctic, or on an offshore oil platform. Applications also vary. Some are used for chemical delivery or small scale chemical processing. Others have been used for hydrogen distribution, high pressure test systems, food processing or testing medical devices. Skid systems have the advantage of being built in a shop in controlled conditions and then installed in remote or challenging locations.
Recently, during a visit with my 4-year-old grandson, I had the opportunity to answer some of his questions, and reflect on the career path that I have chosen. It started with him wanting to know what his Poppa did at work. So, I told him I was an engineer, and I helped sell machines that make things (it’s challenging to give a 4-year-old your sales “elevator” speech and have him understand it).
By the time I was nine or ten I knew I was going to be an engineer. By then everyone in my family, and everyone else, I knew also knew I was going to be an engineer. I have three brothers. They all became engineers. Maybe there is something genetic about becoming an engineer. Or perhaps it is environmental and we are taught from an early age. I am not certain about the cause, but I do know that I have enjoyed the practice of engineering from the time I began my career until now. There is something exciting about cause and effect, about creating things that work, and about applied science in general.
Engineers Week promotes recognition among parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy. The intent is to motivate youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.
Getting employees to follow the rules, even rules that keep them safe, is difficult. For some segments of the population this seems impossible. Everyone knows, for example, that talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, and against the law in most states. But a large percentage of the population continue to talk on a handheld phone while driving anyway. This is even more true of texting and driving. And accidents and deaths continue.
At Optimation we’ve been engaged in many renewable energy projects over the past few decades. Early on much of the focus was the production of ethanol as an alternate fuel. Most of the early production was from corn. Many states, like New York, mandated that commercial gasoline be blended with ten percent ethanol. There were some unintended consequences of these original plants. The large demand for corn, to convert to ethanol, caused disruptions in the food supply. There were also unanticipated maintenance issues for many using ethanol blended gas to power lawn mowers and other small engines.
Have you ever experienced a problem with your automobile, where you hear an unusual noise, or feel a different dynamic (a hesitation or a loss of power), and wonder if your trusty transport is going to leave you stranded at the side of the road?
Topics: web handling
Here’s a good conversation starter: Stop what you are doing and look around you for anything and everything that is a thin film or sheet made of paper, plastic or metal. In my office space I have a calendar (paper), a computer display (film), a crumpled wrapper of a roast beef sandwich (metal foil), sticky notes (paper), office memos (paper), a trash can liner (plastic)…you get the idea. Products like these, manufactured from the noted raw materials (metal, plastic, wood) are all around us, within the touch of our finger tips. They are so commonplace that we don’t give much thought as to how they were made, and what some of the challenges might have been to convert the raw materials into something useful for us.