It's when products have an impact that's felt beyond the top and bottom lines that engineers can go home with a really warm feeling in their hearts.
Take the team at a company located in California's Central Valley, CCV Engineering & Manufacturing.CCV makes winches, vehicle systems and specialized cameras for industrial, mining and agricultural applications. (Hey, why does the well water smell funny? Let's take a look). Routine stuff until a bunch of miners get trapped a half-mile underground in Chile.
CCV's parent company, Wisconsin-based Aries Industries, had camera systems that were a little too big to fit into the bore hole the Chileans drilled at San Jose de Copiapo. So they looked to CCV, which had been negotiating a camera deal with the Chilean mining, to step in.
The mining disaster ratcheted up the urgency, and within a day CCV had assembled the 1.375-inch diameter camera, cabling and other components. Cost: $20,000. That camera captured the first, haunting images (above) of the trapped miners, and when it was pulled from the bore hole, contained a hand-scrawled note from the miners that they were all alive.
If the CCV team is proud, so too are components
vendors on board, including Cypress Semiconductor. Cypress' CY8C26443
8-bit PSOC microcontroller was designed into the system (click on the photo to see a close-up view). Its function:
to facilitate communications between a controller and the camera.
According to Yungky Tan of Aries CCV, this controller consists of video demodulator, video display, power supply and desktop controller.
The desktop controller allows the operator to rotate and switch camera (it's a dual view camera, down hole and side view), change light intensity, camera function operations (focus, iris, etc).
On the camera end, it is power supply, video modulator, LED regulators, motor driver, camera interface, sensors interface (pressure, temperature, humidity) and demodulation of communication protocol.
This particular camera (WC1750) is a slim version of the company's older BT9600.
"We have been manufacturing these camera for quite sometime," he told me. "I incorporated the PSoC to replace the much larger protocol demodulator board due to space constraint."
Necessity, as always, is the mother of invention. Nice job, folks.
I agree, this story is amazing because at the end of the day life-saving technologies are priceless. From medical devices to practical on-the-fly solutions like this one, I am amazed at how accurate and multi-functional technology has become. I agree with the contributors below that we should have technologies to help prevent disasters and to create ones in case we need to rescue others. For example, the recent earthquakes and floods worldwide mean that rescue workers would've needed devices like the one discussed.
I agree; like when business gurus cite Microsoft as an example of how to build a company when everyone inside and nearby knows MS was the most fabulous combination of luck and happenstance. The real trick is not fouling up when one of those freak opportunities presents itself. In Chile's case, the mine collapse stabilised, the equipment was available, and worked, those in charge organized a perfect rescue, and the camera fully entitled to some good PR.
(Sadly, in NZ, the situation was different, may they rest in peace.)
I agree that it is unfortunate that you needed a disaster to have this amazing camera built...but frankly how else such a development could had been envisioned? how could you build a business case for a new product that relies on some unpredictable events? assume a certain frequency of mining disasters??? Kris
It often takes a disaster to shake up an industry - now come the hard yards keeping up the momentum when the media has forgotten it. There isn't much in the news today. I also fear for activists seeking industrial safety reform in Chile; would they be at more or less risk from unscrupulous mine bosses than their predecessors in the US or Europe? Time to check if you have shares in a mining conglomerate, maybe write to the board?
That's a great story and it's great that CCV was able to produce a 1.375-inch diameter camera so quickly that helped rescue the trapped miners. This really is a case of going beyond the call of duty for a good cause.