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Document conversion key element of decontamination procedures.

Digitization of hard-copy documents is a popular method to convert blueprints and topographical maps into a form useful to environmental engineers. According to Rick Potter, president of Avalon Conversion Services (Osage City, Kan.), environmental projects account for between 30 and 40 percent of all the document-conversion work performed by his company. Most of the sites where decontamination projects are underway - locations where the removal of hazardous materials from buildings and property occur - are at least 30 years old.

Blueprints and maps arrive at Avalon's conversion facilities from the contractor performing the decontamination. These documents are put through a Vidar scanner from Vidar (Herndon, Va.) that can handle documents up to 36 inches wide and 105 feet long. The resultant raster file has a resolution of 200 dots per inch, although resolutions up to 400 dpi can be achieved for specialty applications.

In order for a raster image to be used to develop an asbestos-abatement plan, the digitized drawing must be straightened and cleaned up manually. Raster files from aging blueprints often contain speckles and other noise from superfluous marks on the documents like stains and from the conversion process itself. Elements of the plans that have no bearing on the decontamination project, including the legend box and unaffected rooms, are also removed. When the image is satisfactory, it is rescaled so that one foot equals one foot. This is important for achieving the accuracy necessary in decontamination, according to Potter.

One of the reasons for this accuracy in asbestos-abatement projects is the requirement of generating negative air pressure in the areas where asbestos is being actively removed. Negative air pressure is generated using what are essentially vacuums equipped with filters fine enough to screen out asbestos fibers. While areas where asbestos is being removed are isolated from the rest of the building by polyethylene sheets, asbestos fibers carried via air currents can get through the barrier. Negative air pressure prevents these fibers from contaminating other areas. In order to calculate the amount of polyethylene shielding and negative air pressure a given area requires, Potter said a one-to-one scale analysis is the most accurate. An accurate measure of square footage is also useful in determining the cost of the project.

When a drawing has been appropriately cleaned and scaled, Potter proceeds with developing a decontamination plan using CAD software on an IBM 80486 PC that creates vector overlays on top of the raster image. Load-bearing walls are identified and traced along with clean rooms for decontaminating protective clothing and equipment, and pathways for removing the asbestos are identified. Potter said elevator shafts provide ideal means of transferring asbestos out of a building, while removing asbestos from ventilation shafts is a nightmare. Rooms in which wet methods of asbestos removal can be used are identified in the plan, as are dry areas, such as electrical rooms, where water cannot be used.

All aspects of the asbestos-removal plan can be described in different vector layers over the rasterized blueprint. The completed plan can be presented to the client on a series of transparent overlays detailing the job at different stages. Potter said an average job requires about five separate raster/vector drawings. The procedure for soil-decontamination projects is similar, except that topographic maps rather than blueprints are the starting point. The main benefit of computerization, Potter added, is the volume of business he is able to maintain. In the past year, Potter completed 47 decontamination plans. Having to manually redraw submitted blueprints would have sharply cut down on this total, he said.

Software Attempts to Give

Everyone His Say

Researchers at the University of Arizona (Tucson) found that meetings generally are dominated by a handful of aggressive individuals. This leaves other, more timid, participants out of the discussion. The researchers have devised a possible solution.

Software and specially equipped conference rooms have been devised to give less outspoken individuals the freedom to express themselves. The belief is that participants - working at individual PC stations connected by a local area network - will be more eager to participate, since their identity will be unknown to the rest of the group. A byproduct of the computer-supported collaboration is to keep meetings moving forward with full participation. Electronic file retrieval is also available to the participants.

The software, called GroupSystem V, is now being marketed by Ventana Corp., a company founded by the developers of the university's system and also based in Tucson. Ben Martz, vice president of research and development, said two years of field studies at companies like IBM Corp. (Armonk, N.Y.) and Boeing Co. (Seattle) and the U.S. Army, have confirmed the results of the university study.

The client-server architecture allows access to GroupSystem V through IBM-compatible PCs running DOS versions 3.3 or higher. A server, using a 386 or more powerful computer with a minimum of 8 megabytes of storage, is also required. The software allows a number of people to have simultaneous input. They also have access to read input and comment from others, as desired. All input and comments can be made anonymously. Group-System V includes algorithms for evaluating proposals according to defined criteria. Seven different voting techniques are supported. Stored data and graphics, including CAD/CAM drawings, can be retrieved as well. "GroupSystem V assumes you know how to run a meeting," Martz said. "The system reinforces the process of getting that meeting to move forward." Site licensing agreements for GroupSystem V range from $24,900 for a 20-user license to $44,900 for a 100-user license.

Cadkey Issues New Version

Cadkey 5 from Cadkey Inc. (Windsor, Conn.) is the latest release of the company's 3-D design-and-drafting system. The CAD software features improved data-transfer capabilities as well as new modeling and drawing functions. The software also includes new graphics-card drivers from Vibrant Graphics Ltd. (Austin, Tex.), offering antialiasing and user-selectable fonts.

Cadkey 5 incorporates a bidirectional IGES translator for the transfer of Cadkey design information to other CAD systems or to analysis and machining systems. Data can also be transferred through the Cadkey Advanced Design Language (CADL) and through DXF files. CAD models can be sent seamlessly to Cadkey Analysis and Cadkey Cutting Edge programs. External programs written in C can be integrated into Cadkey 5 through the Cadkey Dynamic Extensions programming facility.

A drawing-to-model feature automatically updates relevant documentation whenever 3-D modeling information is changed. A drawing layout facility can accommodate multiple drawings per model. Final drawings can also be sent to permanent archive files. Additional design features, including new dimensioning entities, undo functionality, and improved printing and plotting support have also been added.

Cadkey 5 is shipping on IBM-compatible 386 and 486 PCs. Versions are also available on Sun, Silicon Graphics, Digital, Data General, and Sony platforms. The DOS version costs $3495 and the Unix version costs $3995. Contact Cadkey Inc., 4 Griffin Rd. No., Windsor, CT 06095-1511; (203) 298-8888; fax: (203) 298-6401.

Briefly Noted

* The Stanford Exploration Project at Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.) has acquired a Connection Machine 5 from Thinking Machines Corp. (Cambridge, Mass.) for use in locating oil reserves. The SEP was founded in 1973 by 32 oil companies and oil-exploration service companies. The Connection Machine 5 will process seismic data in a search for potential drill sites.

* Cray Research Inc. (Eagan, Minn.) has developed enhanced central memories for its Cray Y-MP M90 series supercomputers that are the largest ever offered commercially. The largest system, the Cray Y-MP M98, possesses up to 32 gigabytes of central memory capacity. This capacity is cited as necessary to handle high-order problems involving 3-D modeling. Pricing for the enhanced-memory Y-MP M98s starts at $10 million.

* Swanson Analysis Systems Inc. (Houston Pa.) held a technical conference on its Ansys Revision 5.0 finite element analysis system last month in Pittsburgh. According to John Swanson, founder and president, parametric solids models, widely regarded as an important evolution of computer-aided design, cannot be transferred to FEA systems by IGES. Swanson added that integrating parametric modeling techniques into the design and analysis process is a burden that will fall heavily on the user.

* Sun Microsystems Corp. (Mountain View, Calif.) introduced the Sparcstation 10, a new desktop Unix workstation. The Sparcstation 10, which uses a superscalar RISC chip developed by Texas Instruments Inc. (Dallas), has achieved performance rated at 218 mips in a single-processor configuration and 400 mips in a four-processor configuration. On the low end, the single-processor Sparcstation 10 Model 30 is priced at $18,495. At the high end, the four-processor Model 54 is priced at $57,995.

* Apple Computer Inc. (Cupertino, Calif.) unveiled the high-end model of its Macintosh Ouadra line of computers, the Quadra 950. The floorstanding computer has 24-bit color and floating-point processing. The top-of-the-line machine, equipped with 8 megabytes of RAM and a 400-megabyte hard disk costs $10,208.
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Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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