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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 54, No. 11        May 31, 2002
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

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Sandia, Lockheed Martin honored Building a better helicopter Labs team develops next-generation barcode



Sandia and Lockheed Martin honored with Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation's Award of Excellence

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By Bill Murphy

It began, as befits an occasion with connections to the Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation, with a prayer: "You who are the Crafter of the Cosmos, Weaver of the helix, Igniter of stars, we whom you shaped from star dust seek your presence."

So prayed the Rev. Bill Dorman in an invocation at the beginning of a special evening on May 18 in which the Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation presented Sandia/Lockheed Martin with its prestigious Award of Excellence.

Dorman, Director of Pastoral Services for Presbyterian Hospital, continued, "This night we acknowledge those who have committed their individual and collective gifts of intellect and creativity to benefit and serve society at large, and to protect our nation and the international community from the ravages of war and terrorism. . . . Bless us this night with the nourishment of food and friendship, even as we pray that all people may likewise be blessed to sit at tables safely, securely, and thankfully."

At the gala Albuquerque Convention Center event, a who's who of several hundred community leaders turned out to help the Foundation honor Sandia with the award, which has been presented 25 times since 1969. The audience included more than 100 Sandians as special invited guests of the Foundation. Among featured speakers were National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Gen. John Gordon, US Sen. Pete Domenici, and NBC News special foreign correspondent Dr. Bob Arnot.

The Award for Excellence was developed as a way for the Foundation to acknowledge an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to the community, the state, and the nation for the benefit of mankind. Previous recipients have included distinguished New Mexico leaders such as Clinton P. Anderson, Wilson Hurley, and Pete Domenici.

In welcoming remarks, Presbyterian Healthcare Services President and CEO Jim Hinton said, "Tonight as individuals and as a community, we have the opportunity to personally say thank you to the men and women of Sandia National Laboratories. For you are heroes to New Mexico, heroes to America and heroes to all in this world who crave peace.

"Sandia is simply one of the most influential organizations in the world. You are dedicated to helping our nation secure peace and freedom through technology. You exemplify 'excellence' of scientific achievement in defense systems, energy security and environmental integrity and many other areas."

The 'Sandia grunt' gets a laugh

Hinton drew some chuckles of recognition when he talked about the "Sandia grunt." As a child, he recalled, he would sometimes ask his uncle, a Sandia researcher, what he did at work. The response, Hinton said, was usually a grunt, a mumble, a cough, or a discreet clearing of the throat.

"He could never really tell us much about what he did every day," Hinton said. "But I knew it was important. All of us in the family knew it was important. This situation in my family isn't unique. Almost everyone in Albuquerque knows someone who works at Sandia. And while none of us really knows exactly what you do on the job -- and you aren't that much fun at cocktail parties as a result -- we certainly know very well about your work away from the Lab. You work side by side with us improving the quality of life for Albuquerque and New Mexico.

Sen. Pete Domenici, the most recent previous recipient of the Foundation's award of Excellence (in 1993), spoke with obvious pride of authorship of the circumstances that led to the creation of NNSA as a semi-autonomous agency within DOE.

He praised NNSA administrator Gordon and his leadership in shaping "an entirely new way" of managing the nation's nuclear weapons complex. Domenici said one of his proudest responsibilities during his 30-year US Senate career has been to represent and champion New Mexico's national laboratories. He said one of his most important current "causes" is to advocate a key role for Sandia and Los Alamos in applying their technical and scientific expertise to the challenges of homeland security and the war on terrorism.

Gen. Gordon called Sandia "one of the truly great scientific and technical laboratories in the world," adding, "I am proud that it is being recognized for giving so much to humankind not only on a technical level, but on a community level, as well."

'I can always count on Sandia'

He continued, "I know from my direct experiences the kinds of contributions Sandians make at every level toward the security, prosperity, and well- being of the immediate and greater community. One of the things I have learned during my time at NNSA is I always can count on Sandia to do what is right for our nation. This became even more evident during Sandia's response to the many challenges that arose following the September 11 attacks. When President Bush and Governor Ridge needed solutions to some difficult technical challenges, Sandia was ready to put its vast intellectual capability to work to address these national needs." He noted that Sandia-developed technologies continue to play a vital role both domestically and in combat theaters in the war on terrorism.

In addition to praising Sandia's technical contributions, Gordon cited Sandia and Lockheed Martin's many contributions to the community, specifically citing examples such as Make a Difference Day, Strengthening Quality in Schools, and the National Atomic Museum's Summer Science camp, offered in conjunction with the Hispanic Cultural Center and the Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

A culture such as Sandia's

"I thank the many Sandia employees who are so dedicated to solving technological challenges for improving our world and who volunteer to support so many wonderful local programs," said Gordon. "I also thank Lockheed Martin for its generosity to the community."

Gordon offered warm words of respect and admiration for Paul Robinson and the leadership he has provided, not only at Sandia, but in the community and the nation.

"A culture such as Sandia's does not happen by accident," Gordon said. "When you see an organization performing at this level, you know there is strong leadership involved. At Sandia, Paul Robinson has set the standard for his management team with his own involvement, ranging from leading national boards and advisory groups, to driving nails at a project in Martineztown or painting a Habitat for Humanity house.

"Personally and professionally," Gordon said, "Paul leads by example. He has set a very high standard for Sandia, and . . . his [colleagues at the Labs] have risen to the challenge at every level."

In his remarks accepting the award on behalf of all Sandians, Paul thanked the foundation and the community, which has provided such a wonderful home for the Labs. He said the opportunity to devote one's life to working in science and technology for the benefit of the nation and the world is profoundly satisfying.

Paul noted that ever since becoming president of Sandia, he has kept a framed quotation from Albert Einstein plainly visible on the wall near his desk. He refers to it often as a touchstone. The words are:

"Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest for all technical endeavors . . . in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations."

Those words, Paul said, embody the spirit that Sandia tries to bring to all of its efforts.

Lockheed Martin proud of Sandia link

John Freeh, President of Systems Management for Lockheed Martin, echoed Paul's sentiments in thanking the Foundation for the award. He noted how proud Lockheed Martin is to be associated with Sandia and how much they appreciate the overwhelmingly positive relationship they enjoy with the Albuquerque community.

After the formal presentation by Foundation officers of the Award of Excellence, featured speaker Dr. Bob Arnot offered his perspective on the war on terrorism as seen from his position as a special correspondent for NBC news. Arnot, a Middle East expert (a degree in Islamic Studies at Dartmouth, class of 1972) sent a chill through the audience with accounts of interviews with radical Islamic fundamentalists (perhaps two percent of Muslims worldwide, he emphasized) who say their primary goal in life is to work for the obliteration of the US.

Holding up a MicroHound hand-held chem/bio sniffer developed at Sandia, he praised the Labs' technological contributions to the war on terrorism. He noted specifically that Sandia-quality radar imagery has been a vital tool for American soldiers in the field

And as it began, so it ended, with a prayer from Rev. Dorman:

"You whose name is beyond all names, you who collect as well as disperse, send us forth from this place with a renewed commitment to liberty, justice, and freedom for all -- those in this city, this state, this land, and our sisters and brothers around the globe with whose destinies our own is interwoven." - - Bill Murphy

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Just in time for copter's revival, manufacturer seeks Labs' help to evaluate simpler, better rotor system

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By John German

In Afghanistan the US military relied on helicopters to insert troops into dangerous terrain, rain fire on adversaries, and rescue soldiers in peril.

As a war-fighting tool, the chopper is hotter than ever. And at least one major US manufacturer's new birds feature technology tested and improved at Sandia.

Labs researchers at the FAA Airworthiness Assurance Center (AANC) near the Albuquerque Sunport have been working with Bell Helicopter since 1997 to evaluate rotor hubs made from composite materials rather than traditional aluminum and steel.

The new, stronger composites -- essentially many layers of fiberglass stacked together and hardened with epoxy resins -- are resistant to failures caused by the growth of cracks as the materials age. More important, they allow for simpler rotor hub designs that require no hinges, gears, or bearings.

Bell is using data gathered by the AANC to refine its new "bearingless rotor" design -- now available on Bell military helicopters, including the Marines' Super Cobra attack helicopter, the Army's Kiowa Warrior gunship, and the multi-service Huey transport, as well as several commercial choppers -- and to substantiate flight certification and maintenance procedures for the new designs.

Bell's four-bladed bearingless system "provides unprecedented agility, substantially increased speed, a smoother ride, a more stable weapons platform, and excellent reliability. It will also reduce crew fatigue and enhance combat mission effectiveness," according to a company web site.

The AANC also is working with several other US helicopter manufacturers and operators to advance the use of composites and associated nondestructive inspection (NDI) procedures industry-wide.

Rotors take a licking

"Vibration causes helicopter components, particularly the rotor parts, to wear out faster than in fixed-winged aircraft," says project leader Dennis Roach (6252). "A stronger material and a simpler design provide both engineering and economic advantages."

Bell had been working on its bearingless rotor hub for several years when company officials approached Sandia in 1997, says Dennis. The company sought the AANC's longtime experience with NDI technologies and in evaluating composite materials for aviation applications.

"They wanted help optimizing their blade designs and evaluating the composite material's performance over millions of fatigue cycles," he says. "They also needed an inspection schedule for in-service helicopters to catch defects before they reach critical size."

Simpler rotor hub designs

Traditional helicopter rotors are supported by an orchestration of hinges, gears, and bearings that keeps the blades at their optimum angles during airborne maneuvers. Replacing these contraptions with two long composite planks, stacked perpendicularly at their centers and affixed directly to the rotor hub (to form an X), required that each plank's thickness be tapered to achieve the needed droop at various rotation speeds.

For the project the AANC developed a custom "biaxial test facility" to evaluate blade samples with various center thicknesses and taper profiles, subjecting them to millions of cycles of bending and twisting under high-g centrifugal forces to simulate the punishing vibration environment a helicopter's rotor endures during flight.

In particular, says Dennis, Bell wanted Sandia to fatigue the composites to accelerate the formation of twixt-layer cracks, called delaminations.

Sandia also developed a complementary ultrasonic technique to inspect the hub samples during the fatigue tests to determine how fast the defects grow, how quickly they become critical, and which designs and resin systems create the most rugged rotor hubs.

Safe inspection intervals

As a result of the project, Bell ranked the performances of various complete resin systems, optimized rotor hub designs, and determined safe inspection intervals for its composite rotor hubs.

The company also incorporated the AANC data into a new "damage-tolerance analysis" (DTA) methodology that can accurately predict the onset and growth of flaws in the composite materials.

DTA is an approach to rotorcraft maintenance -- an alternative to the traditional "safe-life" maintenance practice (where parts are replaced conservatively before cracks are expected to appear) -- that forecasts flaw initiation and growth in structures so that safe inspection intervals can be established to detect and eliminate flaws.

If adopted widely, says Dennis, the DTA approach would significantly reduce the cost of helicopter maintenance, extend helicopter life, and retain if not improve current levels of safety.

Industry to reap benefits

Widespread adoption of DTA, however, requires the widespread use of NDI techniques. The AANC's rotorcraft program is working to develop and introduce NDI technologies that support DTA-based maintenance to the larger rotorcraft industry.

"We want to help bring both the big service providers and the small outfits up to speed on the advanced NDI technologies that are now available," says Dennis.

The data and methodologies produced as part of Sandia's damage-tolerance analyses and inspection of composite rotor hubs will be made available to US rotorcraft manufacturers, as well as third-party companies and maintenance depots that inspect in-service helicopters.

The AANC is working directly with a team of helicopter manufacturers -- including Sikorsky, Boeing, and Bell -- as well as large operators, including several companies and the US Navy.

"Increasing niche applications, growing international markets, and the emergence of improved rotorcraft technology are expected to increase the number of helicopters over the next decade," says Dennis. "As this happens, new materials and the optimization of maintenance practices will become more attractive than ever for the rotorcraft industry.

"The main goal of our work is to provide the US rotorcraft industry with information that advances the cause of safety in US aviation," he says. - - John German

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Sandia team takes barcode to a new dimension

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By Nancy Garcia

When a research team tackled inventing a new barcode approach for tags or security seals (under a Laboratory Directed Research and Development project initiated by Materials Chemistry Dept. 8722 Manager Bill Even), the group invented a novel way to distribute information in shades of gray.

The mottled design is as easy to scan as the ubiquitous Uniform Price Code's row of lines and can be nearly as affordable in its simplest versions. Its added advantages include substantial robustness and economical security features. The code is readable even if 70 percent is missing or obscured; it contains embedded correction parameters and so doesn't require registration fiducials; it can encrypt and limit access to various levels of information; and it can be reset during inventory, as well as potentially track elapsed time, temperature, or environmental conditions.

In fact, the code, which resembles the marbled cover of a composition notebook, doesn't actually have to be seen as a distinct barcode. It can be colored and hidden in a logo, designed to expire after a period of time, or used as a seal to indicate suspicion of tampering.

"There are a large variety of alternatives that we would like people to get out there and run with," says Bill, who began this patent-pending research three years ago.

Unlike the UPC's unique 1-dimensional sequence of bars and spaces that is read as dark and light intervals, this 2-dimensional pattern repeats like a speckled wallpaper print.

"Each bit of data is encoded pseudo-randomly across the entire barcode," says team member Eric Cummings (8358). "All of the encoded bits are then overlaid to form a grayscale, or analog, barcode image. Because each bit of data is spread redundantly across the barcode, you can recover all of the data even when some or most of the barcode is missing -- providing you know the key to the pseudo-random code."

They call the invention, which is available for further development and commercialization, a "spread-spectrum" barcode.

Even if ripped or written over, the pattern still reveals its embedded information when scanned by a regular CCD camera. On the other hand, the average person can't decode the encrypted data, or counterfeit a copy. Higher-end versions that are not just run off a desktop printer can include self-assembled, luminescent particle "fingerprints," temperature-sensitive gels or inks reset by changing temperature, and chemically sensitive inks to indicate spoilage, among other possibilities.

With guidance from Ivan Waddoups (5845), Bill and the group noticed a void in commercially available options between tags that might cost less than a dime and highly secure seals requiring thousands of dollars' investment. This project targeted that gap with an affordable alternative that can be scaled to either provide economically robust information in a tag and/or confer security as a seal.

Applications, then, could range from basic retailing, warehousing, manufacturing, and industrial or mine safety to secure mail routing, private labeling, and ID badges. At the most secure end with a "rewritable" surface gel for authentication, federal agencies might appreciate the ability to automatically measure damage or tampering to protect currency or goods such as pharmaceuticals, precious resources, or nuclear material.

The distributed-fiducial, scan-correlation concept allows applications in aerospace, nondestructive evaluation, and optical targeting, by enabling global, rapid distortion detection and precision alignment and calibration. Additional team members include Paul Dentinger and Blake Simmons (both 8722), Tony Lajeunesse (8243), Cullen Lee (5907), Bill Cordwell (5931), and former postdoc Jennifer Irvin. -- Nancy Garcia

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Last modified: June 4, 2002


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