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Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?

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dthayden
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
dthayden   9/18/2012 2:03:22 PM
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One example I developed that comes to mind was a solution to minimize transmitter interference between vehicle mounted radar units. Some scenarios could have multiple vehicles operating in close proximity and the transmitter from one unit could be beaming directly at the receiver in another unit, overwhelming any meager signal received from its own reflected transmitter. Conventional design called for a tight tolerance timebase to run the microprocessor controlled unit whose transmitter was a harmonic of the timebase and whose synchronous subsampling receiver directly converted the gigahertz received signal to kilohertz audio for further detection processing. The production design used a varactor controlled crystal timbase with a microcontroller driven D/A to continuously and 'semi-randomly' bias the varactor at one of several voltages, causes subtle changes in the timebase, and therefore the transmitter frequency and synchronous receiver clocking. My 'radical' idea was to use a wide tolerance timebase to drive the timing of the unit, and further, one with horrible temperature sensitivity. A resonator was chosen with specs which statistically lowered the chance of interference between any two radars from something like 1 in 8 to 1 in 5000. Further, the active interference avoidance scheme was changed from one of constant dithering to one of listening during a period where a units transmitter was turned off, and reacting to interference if present. The reaction involved minute heating of the resonator by surface mount resistors located in close proximity to the resonator on the printed circuit board, causing a 'semi-random' slight drift in the operating frequency of the resonator and therefore the radar transmitter and synchronous receiver. The cost to produce the unit dropped, precious printed circuit board area was gained, and confirmed in testing, the new circuit design outperformed the original circuit design tremendously.

zeeglen
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
zeeglen   1/5/2012 10:13:39 PM
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Been there too - always keep a pad and pencil handy, bathroom tissue is too flimsy to write on.

SPLatMan
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
SPLatMan   1/5/2012 9:57:08 PM
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All my best ideas come in the shower or on a very nearby seat.

SPLatMan
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
SPLatMan   1/5/2012 9:54:46 PM
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I simply quit. Took 'em 12 months and assistance from a local uni to get back to the point where I left. :-)

SPLatMan
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
SPLatMan   1/5/2012 9:53:27 PM
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Been there, only my name isn't even on the patent, just that of the vacuous twit who used to suck up to the company owner.

Tiger Joe
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
Tiger Joe   1/5/2012 7:44:34 PM
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Don't forget, the 60s was an innovative time at NASA. it was famous for out-of-the-box thinking like that. I'd like to see similar thinking and culture in today's NASA. Sadly we are using human transport technology that has changed very little since the 60s. Even the private companies that are taking over this business are using same-old same-old techniques. The greatest achievements in the past 20 years have been observational based. I think it's a truly remarkable feat we have discovered earth-sized planets in habitable zones light years away. It's only a matter of time to discover the extent they hold water like our own. And not a single man was sent in space beyond LEO to accomplish this.

Streetrodder
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
Streetrodder   2/2/2011 8:23:27 PM
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One of my first challenges in clinical engineering (the specialty that deals with making everything play well in the hospital) was figuring out what to do about a weird low frequency noise in the Cat scanner instrument room. The room was right next to the patient waiting area, not conducive to soothing nervous patients. The room was basically a computer room with a raised floor. In the room was a motor-generator unit; it kept power to the CT during a transition from standard to emergency power. This is where my amateur audiophile skills came to work - I figured out that the space between the raised floor and the regular floor were acting as a resonant chamber. The vibration from the M-G unit triggered the resonance, like a finger on a wine glass. The trick was to fix the problem without shutting down the CT room and redesigning the space. The solution....dampening. I grabbed some 1 inch thick thick foam rubber (industrial floor mats) and we slipped a couple into the open space between the MG unit's legs. The first one reduced the sound immensely, the second eliminated it.

WKetel
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
WKetel   1/12/2011 9:01:21 PM
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I have come up with alternative mechanisms to solve production time and safety problems on a few occasions. One time it involved splitting the load/unload process into separate tasks done by separate mechanisms at the same time, so as one part was moved out of the test fixture the next was moved in. That worked very well, the problem had been that the handling mechanism could not move any faster. So I cut the load/unload time in half. Another occasion had a machine to clamp and rotate a brake drum for inspection. The original design had many pinch points, so I came up with a system to lower the drum onto the rotation mechanism with no pinch points. Not only was it safer, but faster and cheaper as well. All this from an EE controls engineer. It was fun.

sharps_eng
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
sharps_eng   1/6/2011 10:20:13 PM
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When I was at Neve in Cambridge (audio mixing desks) my senior colleague Steve Barraclough would always make a breakthrough on an intractable problem by picking up the broom and saying 'Time for a clear-up!' We would take 10-20mins getting the work area spick and span (those desks were 12ft long), maybe fix any worn test leads etc. Suddenly we were fresh and good to go, AND we had a great working environment. Nowadays the best thing is to get away from the computer screen, I suspect everything you do on a PC goes through the same small set of neurons that handle the interface, no matter what is on the screen, so you get specific fatigue without realising it. Do you even know where the broom is?

zeeglen
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re: Has a radical idea ever been the solution to your intractable problem?
zeeglen   1/6/2011 6:41:54 PM
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Right Tombo, this is much worse. And if you protest you might find yourself looking for a new job...

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