AMI's Newsletter
 March 2012

This month in the AMI newsletter we have an article about the benefits of simulation by Matt Campbell, our finite element analyst. Matt is responsible for overseeing all finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics assignments, providing input to engineering and product design projects and assisting with design reviews.


We also have an article about how we assisted Nitride Solutions with our LabVIEW services to help automate and simplify its process operations in the creation of aluminum nitride substrates.   

In the spirit of March Madness, we have included an interesting story about one of our customer's, Bob Fisher. Bob recently set 14 Guinness World Records for free-throw shooting and has been invited to attend the Final Four.


Give me a call at 785-532-7044 or e-mail if you have any questions or projects you would like to discuss. You can also connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.


AMI...Engineering Success.



Taylor Jones

Chief Engineer

Feature Article

Benefits of Simulation


Matt Campbell

Matt Campbell

Finite Element Analyst


Have you ever entered a situation where you were not sure how it would end up? Sure you have, all of us have. In the end, did you wish you knew more before you began? Would more information have saved you time, money, effort, frustration and maybe even prevent failure?


This situation arises often in engineering. A major aspect of many engineering tasks is solving problems. We have many tools to solve these problems, simulation is one of them. With simulation we have the ability to know more while consuming fewer resources.


In general, when someone refers to simulation in the realm of mechanical engineering they usually are referring to Finite Element Analyses (FEA) and/or Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).


Although there are many other simulation tools, FEA and CFD are the primary tools used today. They both are mathematical based methods to model certain physical phenomena. FEA covers the solid realm and CFD covers the fluid realm.


When an engineer is assigned the task of designing a new product a series of criteria is developed which must be met for a successful product. Determining if the design will meet the criteria, or rather, which design meets the criteria best, is a difficult task. In the past this process included many prototypes and physical tests. This mentality was design-build-test-learn-change-redesign and redesign until a successful design is achieved. This process is somewhat effective, but it is far from efficient. First, think of the time and cost it takes to produce prototypes, now think of the time and cost of testing those prototypes and then multiply by the number of designs it takes to get to an acceptable design. The time and costs add up quick. With simulation, the time and costs can be greatly reduced. Designs can be changed in minutes and computer simulations can be conducted in hours. Additionally, the quality and quantity of information is greatly enhanced by conducting a simulation, assuming the simulation is done correctly. With simulation, more design iterations can be evaluated and more information is available about those designs. This results in high performing optimized designs that can be reached with less time and cost.


To better describe how simulation can be useful two examples are presented below, one for FEA and one for CFD.


FEA Example - Design of a Hitch

An important design requirement for a hitch is the same as it is for most structural designs: can it carry the load and is it stiff enough?Beyond this there are many other requirements such as: manufacturability, cost and weight that are also important in the design of a hitch. FEA can be used to predict how the hitch will react when loaded.


A first run of FEA may indicate the initial design is not stiff enough and it is too highly stressed to pass the dynamic load requirements. This produces a baseline to help establish design criteria (e.g. allowable stresses and displacements). Several design iterations can be developed to reduce the stresses and displacements of the hitch. Structural simulation (FEA) can be conducted on the design iterations until the best, acceptable design is determined. This then justifies testing the selected design.


Although testing is needed to verify the results, the amount of testing required can be greatly reduced. Also, with the use of FEA, there is information available that enables the development of an optimized design that otherwise may not be identified through testing alone. For example, you may not be able to precisely locate where the hitch is weak or how it is deflecting.


Using this process the lightest, most cost effective design can be selected while eliminating unnecessary physical testing and hopefully reducing the time to develop the hitch.


CFD Example - Optimizing Flow Through a Fluidized Bed Chemical Reactor

The design of a fluidized bed chemical reactor is heavily dependent on aspects of the flow of the fluid through the system. In this example, assume the reactor was not performing at the desired efficiency. Also, conclude that the problem arises from how the fluid is flowing through the reactor; a few unsuccessful prototypes were made to fix the problem.


CFD can be used to: (1.) Predict what is causing the problem (2.) Analyze the various design changes that help predict how to solve the problem and (3.) Identify the most promising solution to the problem.


For example, a baseline of the existing reactor design can show that highly uneven flow is a major deficiency of the reactor. The next step would be to use CFD to evaluate new designs to help minimize and/or eliminate the uneven flow. Using what is learned from simulation and studying the flow behavior of the various designs we would be able to produce a solution to the uneven flow pattern. The most critical aspect of using CFD as a tool in this example is it allows you to see how the fluid is acting in a virtual environment. This can then be used to identify the most promising solutions to improve flow behavior. It is very difficult to accurately predict how fluid behaves, but CFD allows us to do just that.


So now you ask "how can we use this in our process?" Well, it is relatively simple, although it requires a few important aspects:

  • Acquire the necessary resources (software, computing power and technical knowledge).
  • The ability and desire to spend more time and money up-front.
  • Patience. Everyone is always ready to cut steel and build prototypes!
  • Use the results to guide decisions. Trust the results, but be careful! Remember to use intuition, rule-of-thumb and sound engineering judgment.

Simulation fits into most existing design processes well. First, simulation should replace the build it-test it-break it design process. Next, a design that is shown as acceptable through simulation should be built and tested to verify the results. Finally, simulation should continue as the design is "tweaked". This enables the engineer/designer to have a full, in-depth understanding of how the design is behaving and allow for the best design possible. This process is still a cycle and requires iteration. Engineering is not to a point where simulation can completely replace testing. Often simulations need to be modified to provide more accurate solutions.


Simulation allows for us to quit designing in the dark. When simulation is implemented into the design process we are able to know more, quicker. This saves us time, money and frustration, and it leads us to better designs.

AMI Logo

Wichita Company and AMI Team Up for Project to Make Better Electronic Products

Consumers stand to benefit from a project by Wichita company Nitride Solutions Inc. and Kansas State University's Advanced Manufacturing Institute.


Nitride Solutions turned to the institute for help in automating and simplifying its process operations in the creation of aluminum nitride substrates, materials that serve as a foundation on which electronic devices are manufactured.


Nitride Solutions develops and commercializes a low-cost, high volume manufacturing process to produce single-crystal nitride substrates that are more affordable and better quality than those currently available in the market. The substrates produced by the company will improve performance and efficiency of existing LED, laser and electronic products, while also making deep ultraviolet devices possible. Future uses for the substrates include consumer and industrial lighting, power systems in hybrid vehicles, coloring on flat-screen TVs and water purifiers.


John Bloomfield, Advanced Manufacturing Institute associate engineer and certified LabVIEW developer, helped Nitride Solutions save time and improve automation with its substrate process control. LabVIEW provides a graphical programming environment that enables engineers to develop measurement, test and control systems.


"The certification means that the programs I write adhere to the best practices endorsed by National Instruments in areas of functionality, style, documentation and speed of development," Bloomfield said. "Nitride Solutions is utilizing a custom application to help them develop and execute the appropriate substrate recipes by commanding and monitoring process variables such as temperature, pressure and flow from a computer."


In addition to Nitride Solutions' connection to Kansas State University through the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, several key employees and advisers hail from the university.


"AMI has been a tremendous asset to us during the development of this software package," said Jeremy Jones, CEO of Nitride Solutions. "Even though we are an early-stage company, we made a critical decision to develop our manufacturing processes to be scalable, and AMI's LabVIEW services is a key piece of that scalability. We were also glad that we could leverage K-State resources in this project."


For more information about Nitride Solutions visit


In the News

One of AMI's customers, Bob Fisher from Centralia, Kan., has been in the spotlight recenty on ESPN, Inside Edition and the New York Times, as well as several other mediums. 


Fisher has set 14 Guinness World Records for free-throw shooting. He has made 33 baskets in 30 seconds, 50 in one minute, 92 in two minutes, 448 in 10 minutes and 2,371 in an hour.


Fisher came to AMI in 2007 for help developing a shooting device he had made and AMI assisted him with an instructional shooting video.


"AMI has been invaluable in providing information and expertise in promoting the video," said Fisher. "The video provided me credibility. I would not be experiencing the success I have now without AMI's help."


Fisher has coached youth and high school basketball for more than 20 years and he can shoot a basketball five different ways with both his right and left hand. He says, "Being able to shoot a variety of ways creates a better learning environment for students and makes shooting a more enjoyable experience."  


"Introducing a better way to teach shooting is what I am most proud of and I derive enjoyment from watching kids learn."  


For more information about Fisher and his video visit    


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