DAVE’S BUSINESS JOURNAL
Last Updated: 12/11/15 08:30 AM
|This feature is a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a consulting engineer. It chronicles the activities and
process to "keep the IN-BOX" full. In the Business Journal, Dave records progress on current consulting
projects; describes work on new inventions; and discusses plans for additions to his websites.
July to Present 2002
I was looking for information on solar energy the other day and found that most of the information
is scattered all over the Internet. The frustration I was having when searching reminded me of the feelings I had when I was looking for electronic schematics. That
frustration led to the creation of the “Discover Circuits” site. I decided to launch a new website called “Discover Solar Energy”. It will act as a launching pad for
people looking for specific information on solar energy. The site will function in much the same way as the Discover Circuits website. It will have hundreds of specific categories
under which the user will find hot links to specific URLs on that particular topic. It may take a few years, but my goal is to make this site as popular at the Discover Circuits site.
I should then be able to justify selling banner ads. My wife already made a nice front-page logo for the new site. With the automatic association with my other three sites, I hope that
the site traffic will quickly build. I do believe that interest in solar energy will increase in the coming years.
The traffic to the Discover Circuits site is continuing to build. Our peak so far has been
about 15,000 hits on one day. We now have over 6,000 schematics in the collection. I feel that we have only scratched the surface and I’m confident that we should be able to mine
the Internet for more circuits. I think we are on track for being able to boast by the end of the year that the site has over 10,000 circuits. My wife and I are now researching
banner ads, that could be sold on both the Discover Circuits and the Imagineering Magazine websites. I don’t want to clutter up the sites too much but we need to somehow recoup the time
we invested in these sites.
It has been a slow month. My wife and I spent many hours completing some badly needed
landscaping in our back yard. The smoke from the Colorado forest fires and the hot days kept our efforts restricted to the early morning hours and the late evening.
I finished the project for the New Jersey company. I built a prototype, generated a detailed material list, a detailed schematic and got some quotes for
making the completed units for them. They have not yet decided if they are going to make the circuit themselves or have someone else make it. Based on my quotes, it is clear that fewer
and fewer companies want to build only a thousand or less of some electronic circuit.
I got a call from another potential client in New Jersey. He wants me to help his company with
some motor control problems. He said he found my name from a Google search using the key words: electronics, consulting and engineers. I was amazed to discover that when I
duplicated his search on Google, my name came up 3rd, 4th and 5th on a list of 98,000. It looks like the search engines are finding me.
I got a call from a possible client in London. He has an interesting product idea for cell phones. It would be an interesting project that would
force me to be very creative in the areas of electro-optics. I hope he has the money for such an effort. It will not be a cheap project.
March to April, 2002
My wife Jan and I continue to add more circuit schematics to the Discover Circuits site. This
site is now overtaking the Imagineering site in traffic. I’d like to have about 10,000 circuit schematics listed by the end of the year. I want the Discover Circuits site to
become the one place that everyone goes to when looking for circuits. With about 1,500 circuits, it already is the largest collection of schematics on the entire Internet.
I started working on another small project to document a laser system used in a firearm training
system. Since most of the text was poorly translated from Hebrew, it has been a real challenge trying to figure out some of the material. The design can sure use some changes.
One my associates here in Colorado emailed me and said he tried one of my electric field disturbance
monitor circuits. He said he found it to be very sensitive. He is interested in low power motion sensors for the military. The circuit could be used to detect human
movement inside a wood structure, by placing it on one of the outside walls.
I shipped the optical fiber indicator box to Florida. They liked it. It is not certain
they will want me to design the production version of the prototype or not. Time will tell.
I picked up a small consulting job from a company in Florida. They want me to design an active
fiber optic indicator. The device will let a service technician know if an optical fiber has infrared light coming from it and which of the major wavelengths used are present. This
should keep me busy for about a week or two. The challenge will be to find some cheap InGaAs photo diodes. Unlike standard silicon parts, these are somewhat new
semiconductors and only a few companies worldwide make them. Once a source is found, the rest of the project should progress quickly.
|My wife Jan and I worked hard at adding more material to the Discover Circuits and the Imagineeringezine websites.
In addition to adding more circuit schematics we added some useful links. We were pleased to see that many other websites have their own collection of links that included our sites.
|I’ve been thinking about ways I could take advantage of the increased traffic to the websites. I hate to clutter
up the site with a lot of banner ads but such ads would offset the monthly out of pocket expenses the sites demand. I’d love to develop a relationship with integrated circuit houses like
National Semiconductor or Linear Technology, to develop some nice application notes for some of their parts. Perhaps I could increase my return on the invested time by also publishing
some of the circuits in magazines like Electronic Design and EDN. It has been years since I had a circuit published.
|I posted some questions on five different Google newsgroups. There is no faster way to boost traffic to
the websites than spreading my URL around in some newsgroups. The response to the questions was not terrific but I did see a spike in the traffic to the sites. The responses I got
for asking if a molecular sieve could work on Mars for generating breathable air were interesting. It seems that others also had the same idea. I was referred to some research done
to also extract water from the thin atmosphere of Mars using a micro-sieve. It looks like with less than 100 watts of electrical power, one could generate about one liter of water per
day. I think with some carefully designed energy recovery schemes the efficiency might be boosted to several liters of water per day, while drawing only 100 watts. That doesn’t
sound like much but if such a device were to be placed on Mars a couple of years ahead of a human mission, it could generate and store lots of water for humans to drink and it could also be
processed into rocket fuel for the return trip.
|I experimented with a laser module from Radio Shack. Although cheaper laser pointers can be found, Radio Shack
is a convenient place to shop for most people. These visible red lasers are powered by 3 volts and produce a nice tight spot of visible red light. The light is a little on
the weak side, only about 1 milliwatt, so it is not a bright as some nicer 3mw laser pointers I have seen. But, for many applications, it will do the job. Experiments indicate that
the light can be turned on and off with 100 microsecond pulses. This is fast enough for many applications that require a low pulse rate. I started designing some circuits using
this laser. A long-range through-beam security alarm system could be designed with a range of perhaps 1000 feet. The alarm would be turned on when the beam was broken. I like
the idea of using a retro-reflective technique, so all the electronics is at one end. Only a corner cube is needed at the other end. Three 12” x 12” glass mirror tiles would work
great as a long range corner cube reflector. I built one of these years ago and was able to see it from miles away.
|An email question from a kid, asking about his science project triggered a thought. Just how easy is it to use
a piezoelectric device to sense water flowing in a metal pipe? I quickly attached a piezoelectric device to an old cable clamp and mounted it to a water pipe near my workbench. I
then connected it to my oscilloscope. I asked my wife to flush a few toilets and run some faucets, while I monitored the scope. I had no problem seeing the rushing water.
But, when she banged on the pipe two floors up from my basement lab, the signal was very strong. I seem to remember someone suggesting using water pipes as a way to connect users to the
Internet. Wow, maybe one could use water pipes as a conduit for computer data. I’ll have to find some high frequency piezoelectric wafers and see what can be done. It is at
least worth a few more new circuit schematics to post on the websites. Perhaps a magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) technique could also work. Such a transducer could pump a lot of
acoustic energy into the water column.
|February 2002 to March 2002,
After reviewing the Imagineering website
statistics, I was thrilled to learn that the visitor traffic is now over 1000 per day. It has been some time since I made any changes to the site. To maintain a steady flow of
visitors, I decided to add more material and clean up some of the pages. I added 24 more circuit schematics and my wife and I cleaned up many of the graphs on the Optical Through the Air
Communications Handbook. I need to post three new chapters to the book. I have plenty of circuits that could be included to chapters on laser transmitters, laser receivers and
maybe I could add a chapter that included some miscellaneous electro-optic circuits. I also need to launch a new section on energy. I started collecting information on energy
storage methods. I really like the idea of using super capacitors to store electrical energy, instead of fuel cells or storage batteries. If the energy density of super capacitors
can be improved, they would be a more practical method to store electricity. I started planning some simple circuits that could demonstrate a system using photovoltaic solar cells and
super capacitors. Perhaps an array of super bright yellow LEDs could be wired as a warning light, turned on only at night, drawing power from some super caps, that would be charged by
the sun during the day. Without any batteries, the system should operate for about 10 years.
Started to experiment with some long-range control circuits, using xenon flash lamp light sources.
These may be cheaper solutions to simple on and off controls instead of RF methods. The range could be extended to miles. I outlined some experiments I’d like to perform to see if
I could easily modulate the current through the lamp, thus producing data bursts. Even a small lamp could launch about 1000 watts of useable light, rich in infrared wavelengths.
My wife and I started looking for a new house. We would love to find a large home in the west-central part of Denver. I, of course, have dreams about
turning part of the home into a showcase for new technologies. I can imagine a neat high-speed communications system using optical fibers. As an example, a roof mounted color TV could
allow us to see what the weather was like and give us a nice shot of a Colorado sunset.
|October 2001 – February 2002,
Worked almost full time on a consulting project in Boulder, Colorado. The project was to demonstrate ways to transfer electrical power to a pressure,
temperature and ID circuit, mounted inside a passenger car tire. The sponsors for the work were Goodyear and Siemens. This turned out to be a lot more difficult of a task.
Power needed to be sent to the tag inside the tire continuously. Data needed to be received from the tire tag, without any interruptions, regardless of tire position and speed.
Preliminary prototypes were built and tested. The next task is to transfer the discrete prototype circuits into a custom integrated circuit, which can survive the harsh tire environment.
|October 2001 – November 2001,
Submitted a proposal to a Littleton Colorado company. I would design a firearm training system to be used by law enforcement agencies. The
system would use custom modulated lasers and laser light detectors in conjunction with a CCD camera. The system would help train law officers when and when not to fire their
weapons. Video images are projected onto a screen. The light from the laser equipped weapons are fired at the screen. An accuracy of about one centimeter will be needed.
Boy was I glued to the TV like millions of other Americans. Watching the terrorist events unfold was spell bounding. I started imagining what new
technologies would be needed for a war economy.
Added a capacitance proximity switch section to the
Reviewed the list of new products and service ideas, trying to figure out other ways to supplement the consulting income.
|March 2001 – June 2001,
I worked nearly full time on a consulting project in Boulder, Colorado. The project was to design a lithium ion battery charger for an implanted hearing
aid. To avoid any direct connection to the implanted device, a magnetic induction technique was used to supply the power needed to charge the hearing aid battery. Two coils, one
inside and one outside the skull were used to send and receive power.
Also designed an inductive coupled communications device for the hearing aid. The key fob style box looked like an automotive keyless entry device.
The device was used to send control commands to the hearing aid. The complete system is now in clinical trials.
|November 2000 to February 2001,
Worked as an employee for a company in Boulder, Colorado. They made small uninterruptable power supplies for computers. The UPS was unique in
that the whole system, including batteries, slipped into a standard 3 ½ inch drive bay. The Company went out of business and laid I was off in February 2001.