Author archives: Fred Beckhusen

Automated System Marginer

Automated System Marginer

The Automated System Marginer was developed for Compaq Computer Corporation.    Four new stations recently went on line in their personal computer manufacturing and reliability analysis laboratories.  

Microsoft Windows is the operating system and user interface.   The multi-tasking ability of Windows and ease of use were key reasons for the choice.

The Automated System Marginer exercises all combinations of AC and DC power supplies and clock cycles over a wide range of temperatures.   Up to 127 different tests can be run in sequence.  

The tester communicates with the device under test using the universal RS-232 interface, so the tester can test virtually any IBM compatible computer system.  It  reports all test voltages and sequences the  test results to the operator and to a real-time disk log.   These tests can take days to execute, so it was important that the operator understand where in the test sequence the tester was at any given time.

The operator can control the +5, -5, +12, -12, and Power Okay signals manually or automatically.  Hi/Lo limits and test steps can be set.   The AC line voltage can be set to any frequency or voltage for international test capability.   The clock frequency, voltage levels and rise and fall times can be set.    All settings can be saved to disk.

 

Multi-Graphics System

NEED

There is a growing market for graphics systems of all kinds and complexities.  A major company in the U.S. pay-TV market had a system to provide video services for hotels and hospitals, which is controlled via a PC compatible computer at the hotel front desk.  However, the system graphics were inadequate and the system could not compete effectively within the international marketplace.

Since the company’s engineering staff had limited resources, they needed someone to take the lead in a complete re-design of the graphics system, including both the custom Color Graphics Adapters used for text and graphics generation and the central location software which controlled the screens.

 

SOLUTION

MTSI engineers did a comprehensive study of the entire system, and followed up with the re-design that the company needed.  When the company began to look to the European market, MTSI was called upon to improve the overall quality of the graphics being generated.   In response to the needs of the client’s European customers, engineers specified and designed next generation equipment with high resolution graphics and a color palette of 262,144 colors. 

The graphics system was changed to allow for conversion to USA RS-170, British PAL-I, Continental Europe PAL-G and French SECAM signals (since the system is intended for TV screens, not monitors), and re-writing the communications software that interacted with the graphics controller. In addition, in order to standardize and expand the system, a PC compatible bus was used as the backplane for the graphics adapter cards instead of the custom backplane previously in use. 

The Dual Video Graphics Module (Dual-VGA) was designed to allow for the installation of up to 32 Video Graphics Adapter monitors or television sets to be installed in a single computer.  Communications are handled by a LAN card and an intelligent serial card thereby allowing for a larger number of monitors.

Computerized, Automatic Test Equipment

Casablanca Fan Company’s production line needed high speed, automatic test equipment for their innovative fan control module.     The test system we delivered consists of  a microprocessor controlled  bed-of-nails fixture and a custom hardware platform.      With technical support from MTSI, within four months the production rate was over 1,000 units per month. .

The operator inserts the fan module into the test head, and lowers the lid.   A magnetic switch detects the closure of the test head, energizing a latch and a test start sequence.    The test is completely automatic, with failure codes and reports logged to a printer.    The computer control is a custom microprocessor-based system developed by MTSI for use in dedicated testers.

 

Due to the high volume production rate, five additional testers were quickly manufactured and delivered by MTSI.   

The test equipment requirements were complicated by the 110 volt operation of the fan module.  All tests had to be run at line voltage, requiring  hazardous line voltages to be isolated from the operator.  The resulting test takes only a few seconds to completely check the board and 4-bit computer. 

Bowling Pin Fall Tracker System

NEED

Existing bowling alley pin fall detectors used moving mirrors and light beams to detect the pin fall data. The beams had to be adjusted to detect different types of bowling pins such as candle pins, duck pins, etc. Accuracy was not as high as with new technology, which measured the actual pin dimensions and locations.

Since a single beam was used, even in newer Charge Coupled Device (CCD) systems, the existing pin fall detectors could not measure pin dimensions. In addition, there was no easy way to check accuracy and repeatability against known standards.

SOLUTION

Mitsi developed a custom CCD camera and processor card to measure the heights of pins and to check for proper pin locations.

A liquid crystal display (LCD) calibration system was designed and produced. This system allowed the service technician to see actual pin fall data. An easy to use menu driven setup program prompted the operator to make all adjustments.

A data logging computer was also designed. The video pin fall detector data was compared to the mechanical switches and differences logged. Mitsi engineers could rapidly play back thousands of games and compare the video output with the mechanical switches.

RESULTS

Over 20,000 pin falls were compared with the switches, with results exceeding requirements. Certification was then applied for and received from the American Bowling Congress. The CCD camera and pin fall detector are now in high volume production.

Bowling Ball Tracker System US Patent 4,893,182

NEED

Brunswick Bowling & Billiards Corporation was developing a new concept in bowling systems called Bowler Vision.   A part of this new system concept was to be a computerized color display of the trajectory, velocity, and position of the bowling ball during the game.   All of the past attempts using lasers, ultrasonic, sonar, and infra-red beams had failed to meet the accuracy, precision, and cost goals of the system.

SOLUTION

MTSI developed in Phase I a 4-bit, black & white proof of concept system.   This design showed that orange colored bowling balls would become a detection problem, as they trended to blend into the wood background.  Lighting and reflections had to be carefully controlled.

A new color system was then developed using the results from Phase I.    The system used 6-bit resolution when tracking the moving objects. 

Software algorithms were designed to detect the orange balls, and switch to a different tracking mechanism when they were located.  Automatic calibration routines were developed to periodically adjust the system to the current lane lighting.

RESULTS

MTSI produced hundreds of bowling ball tracker systems while Brunswick set up production lines and test facilities.  A key portion of the new Bowler Vision system is a reality.