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SME Speaks: Now is the Time to be an SME Member

Mark Tomlinson






SME is almost 78 years old. If you do the math, it means the Society was started during the depths of the Great Depression. I sometimes wonder what the Society's founders were thinking. Were they thinking that, as the country was coming out of its worst economy in history, was it a good time to provide information to companies and manufacturing practitioners? Were they wondering how to be competitive in an environment where just surviving was at the forefront of everyone's mind?

As we start to come out the worst recession since the Depression, it's a good time to ask ourselves what it is that we need to remain viable in such uncertain times. Personally, I believe being an SME member and collaborating with the Society is what many individuals and companies need to be successful. As an SME member, you are able to find and sustain employment, and assist your companies on their journeys to being lean and competitive in global markets. A key component to this success is being able to rely on your fellow SME members who are experiencing the same struggles that you face.

The Society is not immune to the economic struggles; however, we are continuing to focus on the future and how we can continue to fulfill everyone's knowledge needs. One way we accomplish this strategic task is by continuing to look for opportunities to collaborate with other societies and associations. This year we have made great strides in partnering with outside organizations to provide unique opportunities for our members and partners. Some recent examples include: Planet Eureka!'s Innovation Marketplace, the NAM-endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System, and the SME Education Foundation's work with the Academy of Engineering.

Innovation Marketplace—SME joined forces with Planet Eureka! to begin offering SME members and partners an easier way to fast-track their inventions and innovations to market by using the USA National Innovation Marketplace (USA NIMs). It's open to all innovation sellers, buyers, investors, and distributors that are interested in new technology products and solutions. The Innovation Marketplace is a service of the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST/MEP). More information can be found at

NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System—SME has partnered with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and The Manufacturing Institute to support the NAM-endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System. By aligning SME's professional certifications to the system, a solution is created to improve the skills of all manufacturing practitioners. The NAM system includes: for entry-level production workers, the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council's Certified Production Technician (CPT); for metalworking, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills machining and metalforming credentials; and for welding, the American Welding Society's Certified Welder credentials. Other partners involved include: ACT Inc., the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, National Institute for Metalworking Skills, and the American Welding Society. Learn more at

Academy of Engineering—In an effort to attract more underserved groups into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), SME-EF formed a partnership with the Academy of Engineering (AOE), a dynamic partnership between the National Academy Foundation (NAF), the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), and Project Lead The Way (PLTW). The Academy of Engineering is intended to increase the college readiness of a more diverse group of high school students to succeed in postsecondary engineering study and engineering- related careers. Academies of Engineering are located in urban areas with at least 65% underrepresented minority enrollment. Gateway Academies were offered at 21 AOE sites in 2009, and by 2012 it is expected that all 110 AOE sites will offer a Gateway Academy summer program. Visit for additional information.

The above examples are just a few of the many activities the Society is currently engaged in. Our local chapters and technical communities are also involved with many other organizations to support the transfer of knowledge. The best way to find out what is happening is to first become an SME member and/or retain your membership; second, use the resources available on our Web site, including our new Job Support page,; and, most importantly, get engaged both locally and nationally through our chapters and technical communities.

I believe many of you would agree that our founders made the right decision during the Depression—they formed a Society that is still 77 years strong, even in the midst of a turbulent economy. The current economic crisis we are experiencing is widespread and has affected everyone from all walks of life, especially those in the manufacturing sector. While we still have a long way to go, the future outlook does continue to brighten, and the Society is poised and ready to support the recovery effort. However, as everyone in manufacturing knows, we must continue to make things if we truly want to see a recovery with a sustainable future.


Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture


2009 Tech Watch List

Self-Healing Polymers—Paul Braun and Scott White, both professors in the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed protective coatings that heal over their own scratches with no external intervention, protecting the underlying metal (Technology Review, 2008). The self-healing elements, enclosed in microcapsules that rip open when the coating is scratched, are compatible with a wide range of paints and protective coatings. The coatings are currently being marketed by Autonomic Materials (AMI; Champaign, IL).

The self-healing system consists of two kinds of microcapsules: one filled with polymer building blocks, the other with a catalyst. Because the capsules, made of polyurethane, keep the reactive chemicals isolated, they can be mixed into a wide range of coatings. When the coatings are scratched, the microcapsules are torn open. Their contents flow into the crack and form siloxane, a polymer similar to bathroom caulk. Unlike other selfhealing systems, the Illinois coatings do not require elevated temperatures or moisture to mend.

Closeup image of one-half of a self-healing epoxy specimen after it has been fractured into two pieces.The practical aspects of the coatings are that they are made up of cheap, readily available chemicals. The new additives could be used in a wide range of applications in coatings that are cured up to temperatures of about 150°C.

According to Autonomic Materials, the first target markets include industries in which performance is key, such as ships, oil rigs, and pipelines, where metals are exposed to harsh environments, and taking systems offline for frequent repainting is costly.       

Liquid Lens Imaging—New miniature image-capturing technology powered by water, sound, and surface tension could lead to smarter and lighter cameras in everything from cell phones and automobiles to autonomous robots and miniature spy planes (Rensselaer, 2008). Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY) have designed and tested an adaptive liquid lens that captures 250 pictures/sec, and requires considerably less energy to operate than competing technologies. The lens is made up of a pair of water droplets, which vibrate back and forth upon exposure to a high-frequency sound, and in turn change the focus of the lens. By using imaging software to automatically capture in-focus frames and discard any out-of-focus frames, the researchers can create streaming images from lightweight, low-cost, high-fidelity miniature cameras.

Most current methods for manipulating liquid lenses involve changing the size and shape of the area where the liquid contacts a surface, to bring an image into focus. This takes both time and valuable energy. A key feature of this new technique is that the water stays in constant, unchanging contact with the surface, thus requiring less energy to manipulate.

A lens made up of two droplets of water vibrating at a high speed changes shape and, in turn, moves in and out of focus.To do this, the new method couples two droplets of water through a cylindrical hole. When exposed to certain frequencies of sound, the device exploits inertia and water's natural surface tension, and becomes an oscillator, or something akin to a small pendulum. The water droplets resonate back and forth with great speed and a spring-like force. Researchers can control the rate of these oscillations by exposing the droplets to different frequencies.

Cell phone manufacturers, who are constantly seeking new ways to improve the performance of their devices, have expressed interest in this new device.

Next, the sacrificial polymer layer is washed away, and the plastic coating and IC are bonded to a piece of prestrained silicone rubber. Lastly, the strain is relieved, and as the rubber springs back to its initial shape, it applies compressive stresses to the circuit sheet. Those stresses spontaneously lead to a complex pattern of buckling, to create a geometry that allows the circuit to be folded—or stretched—in different directions, to conform to a variety of complex shapes or to accommodate mechanical deformations during use.

Foldable and Stretchable, Silicon Circuits—A new form of stretchable silicon integrated circuit (IC) that can wrap around complex shapes such as spheres, body parts, and aircraft wings, and can operate during stretching, compressing, folding, and other types of extreme mechanical deformations—without a reduction in electrical performance—has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The new designs and fabrication strategies could produce wearable systems for personal health monitoring and therapeutics, or systems that wrap around mechanical parts such as aircraft wings and fuselages to monitor structural properties.

To create their fully stretchable ICs, the researchers begin by applying a sacrificial layer of polymer to a rigid carrier substrate. Atop the sacrificial layer they deposit a very thin plastic coating, which will support the IC. The circuit components are then crafted using conventional techniques for planar device fabrication, along with printing methods for integrating aligned arrays of nanoribbons of single-crystal silicon as the semiconductor.

         Mechanically stretchable, 'wavy' silicon integrated circuit on a rubber substrate.

Next, the sacrifical polymer layer is washed away, and the plastic coating and IC are bonded to a piece of prestrained silicone rubber.  Lastly, the strain is relieved, and as the rubber springs back to its inital shape, it applies compressive stresses to the circuit sheet.  Those stresses spontaneously lead to a complex pattern of buckling, to create a geometry that allows the circuit to be folded--or stretched--in different directions, to conform to a variety of complex shapes or to accommodate mechanical deformations during use. 

Published Date : 10/1/2009

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