Saturday, December 8, 2012

North Carolina State Zia Lecture on Panama Canal expansion draws a record 800 attendees

Three leaders behind the remarkable Panama Canal expansion project discussed their roles in one of the 21st century's most challenging engineering ventures before hundreds of engineers at a North Carolina State University lecture event on Sept. 24.
The presentations by Alberto Alemán Zubieta, former CEO of the Panama Canal Authority; Michael Newbery, locks design manager with MWH Global; and Joseph Cazares, deputy program manager and locks construction manager with CH2M Hill, offered a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project.
The expansion adds a new set of locks at the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that will double the canal's capacity, allowing more and larger ships to use the 100-year-old waterway. Construction is expected to finish in 2015.
The event, held at the Raleigh Marriott City Center in downtown Raleigh, NC, was part of the Paul Zia Distinguished Lecture Series in Civil Engineering and Construction, an annual NC State event featuring prominent engineers in the field. The lecture series is presented by the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, the Constructed Facilities Laboratory, and the NC State Engineering Foundation.
Many of those who packed the venue — the 800 people who attended were a record for the event — were NC State engineering alumni.
Alemán was the longtime administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, the autonomous agency that manages the Panama Canal and the expansion project. His 16 years of canal leadership included overseeing the 1999 transfer of control of the canal from the United States to the Panamanian government. He stepped down in early September to return to private practice in project management.
Newbery has worked on the Panama Canal expansion program for 13 years. Since 2009, he has been the design manager for the MWH Global-led design joint venture on the third set of locks project. He has more than 30 years of engineering and design experience, including more than 25 years with MWH Global. His work has included designing, managing and being the principal in charge for major lock and dam projects on four continents.
Cazares is deputy program manager for the Panama Canal expansion program and construction manager for the new locks portion of the contract. He is a licensed engineer with more than 30 years of experience in the design and construction of billion-dollar public facility and infrastructure programs. His experience has included transportation, water-wastewater, and energy projects for both public and private organizations, and he specializes in large-scale program management assignments involving complex schedule, contractual, funding, and project phasing elements.
The Zia Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 2002 to honor the accomplishments of Dr. Paul Zia, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at NC State. Zia is a leading figure in the fields of concrete and structural engineering and served as head of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at NC State for nine years. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
Previous Zia Lectures have featured Leslie Robertson, who led the structural design of the former World Trade Center; David Goodyear, the chief engineer behind the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge; and Bart Riberich and Lee Slade, who helped develop the technology behind some of North America’s most advanced retractable-roof sports stadiums.

Road warriors: NJIT students probe transportation issues

One of the most productive research areas at NJIT is transportation, drawing expertise from such diverse areas as architecture, civil engineering, management, and electrical engineering. A major component of the university’s outreach programs addressing questions of economic development, quality of life, and productivity in the region, transportation research was a major theme at the recent Dana Knox Student Research Showcase. Student researchers included:
Eugene Maina, doctoral student in transportation engineering, investigated the relationship between capacity and safety on freeways in New Jersey. He found that the number of crashes increased with the road capacity, while lower-capacity roads had a lower crash rate indicating that congestion may result in reduced speeds and a lower number of accidents. Associate Professor Janice Daniel is his advisor.
Civil Engineering’s Bridge Scour Team – Joshua Tooker, master’s student, seniors Shu Yi ThamMelissa Salsano, and Piotr Wiszowaty led by Professor John Schuring – presented two projects dealing with the erosion around bridges that can cause damage and even failure. Tham presented the team’s survey of scour design and evaluation methods currently used by transportation agencies. Tooker presented findings that current methods tend to overestimate scour which leads to excessively conservative design. The team’s recommendations include new procedures for scour evaluation and a Decision Matrix Model to allow NJDOT to prioritize existing bridges for remediation and better predict scour for new bridges.
Zhaodong Huang, PhD student in transportation engineering advised by Associate Professor Rongfang Liu, developed a new method for measuring the performance of Automated People Movers (APMs) in airports. He proposes a composite index that incorporates system availability, system safety, customer satisfaction and utilization rate to be used to measure the engineering efficiency  of APM systems in airports.
Sim Liu, doctoral student in transportation engineering, developed a Drainage Information, Analysis and Mapping (DIAM) system to evaluate New Jersey’s aging stormwater drainage infrastructure. Professor Jay Meegoda is his advisor.
Manvi Saran, master’s student in environmental engineer advised by Professor Taha Marhaba, studied ways in which NJDOT could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their highway maintenance and construction projects.
Hifeng Yu, doctoral student in transportation, developed a maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) to deal with winter weather events in New Jersey. His advisor is Professor I. J. Chien.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Entech Engineering donates services to solar thermal project at Reading, PA homeless shelter

Solar Opportunity on the Horizon

By Courtney H. Diener-Stokes
Reading Eagle correspondent

Reading Eagle: Tyler Sizemore
Above, from left, Modesto Fiume, president of Opportunity House; Bob Elwell, HVAC manager for Energy Systems Installation; and Tom Green, lead project engineer, on the roof of Opportunity House, 420 N. Second St. where solar collector panels hopefully will be installed. Elwell and Green are both members of Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association, which has started a campaign to raise money to fund a solar hot water heating system at Opportunity House. Right, a diagram explaining how the proposed solar system would work.

Since its inception in 2005, the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association has sponsored community service projects centered on providing renewable energy solutions to non-profit organizations. This year Opportunity House, 430 N. Second St., was determined to be the ideal recipient.

"We felt that if you look at Reading, it's the poorest city in America," said Bill Hennessy, vice president of MAREA and owner of Berks Solar. "Opportunity House takes care of the poorest of the poor and we thought, 'what can we do to help them out?'"

Opportunity House is a multi-service organization that focuses on improving the lives of children, adults and families with the aim to help them become self-sufficient. Services include emergency shelter, supportive housing, meals, 24-hour-a-day childcare and advocacy for victims of child abuse.

MAREA is a non-profit organization dedicated to informing and educating the public about renewable energy production, energy efficiency and sustainable living.

When MAREA took into consideration the energy demands on Opportunity House to function on a daily basis as well as factoring in the cost involved in various renewable energy solutions, it determined the organization could best benefit from a solar hot water (solar thermal) system.

"What makes solar hot water great for Opportunity House is they have a huge demand for hot water for the shelter, day care" and daily operations, Hennessy said. "The more hot water you use, the more solar will benefit you."

He estimates Opportunity House will save approximately $4,000 annually with the solar thermal system.

"About $6,000 is what their gas bill is right now," he said. "Every dollar they don't spend on heating water they can spend on services for the poor and homeless."

Determining that Opportunity House had solid roof space in addition to ample solar access were more reasons MAREA felt it was the ideal candidate for a solar hot water system.

Modesto Fiume, president of Opportunity House, sees the project as a great opportunity to partner on a shared vision.

"It ties in with our focus as an organization about being sustainable," Fiume said. "It will also help us save some operating costs each month."

He also added it will complete a goal he has been working towards for approximately six years. Since that time Opportunity House has successfully accomplished building a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified technology center for children ages 4 to 13.

Hennessy said the solar thermal system would consist of 18 roof-mounted solar collectors, each 4 feet by 10 feet.

He explained that a pump circulates a propylene glycol and water mixture to the rooftop to the collectors where the sun will heat it and then it returns to a heat exchanger and heats the water in the storage tank. The heat from the that water tank is then transferred to a second heat exchanger and warms the incoming cold water when needed. The tanks will hold at least 2,500 gallons of water.

A backup water tank provides hot water on cloudy days or during the winter months.

"The natural gas backup is making up the difference if water isn't hot enough," Hennessy said.

After considering various hot water systems for the project, it was determined a pressurized glycol system would be most suitable.

MAREA anticipates installation of the system, which is scheduled to happen in the fall, will take two weeks.

The cost of the solar thermal project is estimated to be $110,0000, but thanks to the help of donations in labor and materials the cost currently stands at approximately $50,000.

"We go out in the public to raise funds," said Hennessy, who added no government funding will be used for the project.

MAREA launched their fund drive in May. Fundraising is being coordinated by Pier Ignozzi-Shaffer of Reading.

In addition to their fundraising efforts, MAREA has been successful in securing the donation of services and materials necessary to aid in completion of the project.

Individuals in the renewable energy field have been eager to get on board to offer their skills and resources to design, manage and successfully complete the project, which has led to a solid lineup of local leaders in the field coming on board.

MAREA board member, Tom Green, a professional engineer and certified energy manager, will be lead engineer on the project. Green is also the director of campus energy services at Kutztown University.

Bob Elwell, heating, ventilation and air conditioning manager of Energy Systems & Installation, in Jonestown, Lebanon County, is on board as well.

"The company will be donating its services as contractor for the installation," Hennessy said.

"It's a great project," Elwell said at a recent monthly MAREA meeting. "We want to do our part."

Elwell's son, Bryan, is manager of Hickory Ridge Solar, District Township, which joins the project as a supplier. It distributes UMA Solar products.

"The company will provide the solar collectors and other materials for the project at cost or at a greatly reduced rate," Hennessy said.

In addition, Entech Engineering, 4 S. Fourth St., is donating engineering and drawing services for the permit application.

"These companies are sharing their resources with the community," Hennessy said. "We hope this generosity is contagious and we are looking forward to the contributions necessary to complete the installation."

Contact Courtney Diener-Stokes:

Article courtesy of the Reading Eagle newspaper

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Vincent Franceschi, P.E. joins PSI as executive vice president

Vincent Franceschi, P.E., has joined PSI as an executive vice president overseeing PSI’s offices in western states. He has led engineering services, environmental consulting, and analytical laboratory services companies. His core market sector experience has been strongly related to the electric power, nuclear, oil and gas (pipeline), DOE, and local municipal waste/landfill agencies. Before joining PSI, he was involved in leading Exponent, Evans Analytical Group, ENV America, EMCON, and ABB Impell. Franceschi earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and his MBA from St. Mary’s College. He will be based in PSI’s Oakland operations office.  

Professional Service Industries (PSI) ( is a consulting engineering and testing firm. PSI provides a range of environmental engineering and testing services, including environmental consulting, geotechnical engineering, construction materials testing and engineering, industrial hygiene services, facilities and roof consulting, and specialty engineering and testing services. Headquartered in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, a Chicago suburb, PSI operates from 100 offices in North America with more than 2,000 employees.

GEI Consultants’ Washington, D.C. office announces work on three major projects

GEI Consultants, a geotechnical, environmental, water resources, and ecological science and engineering firm, announces work on three new projects under the leadership of its Washington, D.C. office:
Washington Marriott Marquis Hotel, Washington D.C.
Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and D.C. Slurry Partners
GEI provided environmental, geotechnical, and construction services for the new $520 million, 105,000-square-foot Washington Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, D.C., set to be completed in May 2014. Services provided included environmental site investigation, soil pre-characterization, value engineering of the foundation system, design of deep drilled shafts for the top down construction scheme, and field oversight during foundation construction. For this project, seven below-grade stories were constructed that required the installation of drilled shaft foundations and interior building columns at depths of more than 100 feet below ground. A top-down construction technique was used, a method that builds the permanent structure members of the basement along with the excavation from the top to the bottom. The four-star Washington Marriott Marquis Hotel was designed to earn LEED Silver certification and will be one of the largest hotels in the country to earn this achievement. GEI designed the foundation system to help accelerate the construction schedule while saving costs and fulfilling project requirements.
Washington D.C. Water Clean Rivers Project, Blue Plains Tunnel, Washington D.C.

GEI is providing geotechnical consultation and field services to the consultant construction management team (CCM) for the $330 million Blue Plains Tunnel design-build project in Washington, D.C. The CCM team is managed by EPC consultants and consists of site-specific engineering consultants. D.C. Water is in the process of constructing a 24,000-foot-long soft ground tunnel, the first and largest in a network of tunnels that will capture and convey the combined sewer overflow (CSO) that currently impacts the health of the rivers in Washington, D.C. GEI’s services include geotechnical consultation, instrumentation submittal and design reviews, a variety of construction oversight services, and geotechnical data management services. When the tunneling work begins at the end of this year, GEI will provide oversight of the instrumentation system, which will measure ground movement along the tunnel alignment and at four major shaft sites during construction. The firm also contributed design review and field inspection services during the construction of slurry walls, which ensure that construction upholds the design tolerance for the excavation support.
Wolf Creek Dam Gallery and Plaza Grouting Project, Russell County, KY
GEI has completed work as the technical lead and quality control representative for the Judy Company (TJC) on the $10 million Wolf Creek Dam Gallery and Plaza Grouting rehabilitation project. The Wolf Creek Dam project is the most critical structure in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ national inventory of dams. The project involved installing grout curtains in the gallery and plaza areas of the dam. During the project, GEI also focused on safeguarding the local ecosystem, including the quality of the water feeding into the nearby Wolf Creek Fish Hatchery.
For more information, visit

Century Engineering welcomes Thomas Hicks, P.E. to its Transportation Division

Century Engineering welcomes Thomas Hicks, P.E. as the director of business development for its Transportation Division.  Hicks will service clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and ensures Century’s commitment to providing traffic engineering solutions to guide and assist our government and commercial clients addressing traffic safety, engineering design, planning, and operational issues.

Hicks is a Maryland Registered Civil Engineer with a BSCE from the University of Maryland, and he completed the graduate school program of the Bureau of Highway Traffic at Yale University. Hicks taught traffic engineering for three years at the University of Oklahoma, and he was a guest lecturer and mentor in the Advanced Transportation Operations Program at the Texas Institute of Texas A&M University for five years. He also served as the state traffic engineer for the Maryland State Highway since 1968, and under the old State Roads Commission, he served as assistant chief engineer for traffic safety, later assistant chief engineer, and finally in 1991, his position was elevated to deputy chief engineer.

Century Engineering is a multidisciplinary engineering firm providing a range of engineering, surveying, and construction inspection services to government agencies and various industries throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Century is headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland with offices in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Merrick-McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group designs enhancements aiding in recovery of endangered native fish

At a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony, Merrick-McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group (M-MWDG) was recognized after providing hydraulic engineering expertise for design of the first known combined state-of-the-art fish passage and recreational whitewater facility in the United States. The project is located adjacent to an existing diversion dam on the Gunnison River near Delta, Colorado.

The scope of work includes removal of a vertical drop at the dam and design and installation of hydraulically connected but independent channels to enable both fish passage and boat passage. The fish passage facility design allows native Colorado endangered fish to negotiate the diversion dam, promoting recovery of these species. The boat passage channel provides a high-performance recreational experience for river enthusiasts and boaters.

Owned by the Hartland Irrigation Company, the existing dam was constructed in 1881 as a 6-foot high vertical structure to divert water to their canal. As originally constructed, the vertical dam did not allow upstream and downstream movement of fish and also prevented upstream and downstream navigation by boaters. The irrigation company and the Painted Sky Resource Conservation & Development Council (District) wanted these issues resolved and selected M-MWDG to provide engineering services to accomplish this mission.

The project includes a multi-slot baffled fishway that orients weak swimming fish upstream and is hydraulically efficient in allowing passage of target species in a much shorter and less costly channel. This design also reduces debris accumulation and is a much lower hazard to boaters and river enthusiasts. The fish passage facility extends the upstream range of the Colorado native endangered fish by approximately 15 miles, which re-establishes and maintains the endangered fish population and improves the overall ecosystem health of the river.

M-MWDG served as engineering consultant and provided multi-dimensional computer modeling, hydraulic analysis, alternative evaluation, design engineering, plan preparation, cost estimating, and construction phase support for the project while working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For more information, visit

Ohio University's sustainable energy research center awarded $1.9 million by NSF

The Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (ISEE), a research center at Ohio University's Russ College of Engineering and Technology, was recently awarded a $1.9 million, four-year grant by the National Science Foundation to address alternative energy needs for future development of sustainable buildings. The project, "Sustainable Housing through Holistic Waste Stream Management and Algal Cultivation," aims to develop the fundamental information needed for designing, constructing, optimizing, and scaling up an algae-based power system to support the energy requirements and waste stream management of houses or residential communities.

Ben Stuart, ISEE director, associate professor of civil engineering, and principal investigator of the project, explains that currently, "off-grid" housing is often limited to using solar PV arrays and wind power for meeting electricity demands and solar thermal or ground-source geothermal for heating and cooling. And he adds that much of the current biofuels research is targeted toward transportation. "In contrast, this project seeks to extend biofuels applications to residential housing by using water and solid waste streams and applying carbon and nutrient recycling in the production of feedstocks for fuels, feed, and food. This will promote sustainable, off-grid housing, including holistic management of natural resources with minimal environmental impact."

The project is being supported by the NSF's Sustainable Energy Pathways (SEP) Program, part of a larger NSF initiative on "Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability." The SEP calls for innovative, interdisciplinary basic research in science, engineering, and education by teams of researchers developing systems approaches to sustainable energy based on a comprehensive view of the scientific, technical, environmental, economic, and societal issues.

According to Stuart, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Guy Riefler and Assistant Professor of Economics Ariaster Chimeli will combine lab studies with advanced process modeling software to assess public acceptance and determine economic risks. "Our partners at Georgia Tech, led by Dr. Daniel Castro, will then use this information to develop scenarios for architectural design and construction in single residences, neighborhoods, and extended communities."

Stuart has a long track record in alternative fuels research, including work with ECO2Capture, a local company currently housed at OHIO's Innovation Center developing and demonstrating a polymer membrane system that can significantly increase algal growth for use in the CO2 capture and biofuel markets.

Virginia Tech engineers show how to include solar technologies as smart electric grid evolves

An economically feasible way to store solar energy in existing residential power networks is the subject of an award-winning paper written by two Virginia Tech electrical engineers and presented at an international conference. Reza Arghandeh of Blacksburg, VA, a doctoral candidate in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, won the best student paper award at the 20th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering, held in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineering Power 2012 in Anaheim, CA. His advisor is Robert Broadwater, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who specializes in electric power system analysis and design.

In their paper, they acknowledge that solar energy resources are "intermittent, seasonal, and non-dispatchable." However, the current national climate with its deregulation policies, electricity tariffs, control strategies, and demand management are "significant tools for flexible and resilient operation of power systems with photovoltaic adoption levels," Arghandeh argues. "Selling the household generated electricity into the electric energy market and the storage of electricity in storage systems and demand control systems provide a variety of economic opportunities for customers and utility companies to use more renewable resources," he adds.

Some residential houses are already doing just this -- selling power back to an electrical distribution industry. But Arghandeh and Broadwater's work provides an optimization algorithm for a distributed energy storage (DES) system on a broad scale. The system they developed presents a fleet of batteries connected to distribution transformers. The storage system can then be used for withholding distributed photovoltaic power before it is bid to market, Arghandeh explains. "Withholding distributed photovoltaic power, probably gained from rooftop panels, represents a gaming method to realize higher revenues due to the time varying cost of electricity." Arghandeh is referring to the peak usage of energy systems such as the early evening hours when families return home from school and from work versus the low-usage times that occur in the early morning hours when most households are asleep. "The distributed photovoltaic power adoption can be controlled with the help of real-time electricity price and load profile," he confirmed.

Today's power systems are moving towards a smart grid concept to improve their efficiencies, reliability, economics, and sustainability. Arhhandeh and Broadwater want to make sure that solar technologies are integrated with the existing technologies like energy storage and control systems. Specifically, the distributed energy storage system computation they devised is called a discrete ascent optimal programming approach. It insures convergence of the various power systems after a finite number of computational iterations. A solution determined by using their approach depends upon the day-ahead forecast of load variation, market prices, and photovoltaic generation. The output of their optimization algorithm is a distributed energy storage charging and discharging schedule with maximized operation benefits. Electrical Distribution Design (EDD) of Blacksburg, VA, a software company serving the utility industry, funded this research.

WSP SELLS announces new transportation department manager in Albany, NY

WSP SELLS announces that Brian Doherty, P.E. has joined the firm in its Albany, NY office. Doherty has 38 years of experience in transportation design work, most recently as design manager of the Major Projects Group for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Region 8 in Poughkeepsie, NY. As the Transportation Department manager of the Albany office, Mr. Doherty will lead WSP SELLS’ growth in the region and support the the office by expanding and enhancing the civil, municipal, and transportation teams. Doherty received his Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering from The University of Massachusetts (UMass), Lowell. He is a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in New York and Massachusetts.

Through its combination with GENIVAR, WSP SELLS is a professional services firm working with governments, businesses, architects, and planners providing integrated solutions across many disciplines. The firm provides services to transform the built environment and restore the natural environment, and its expertise ranges from environmental remediation to urban planning, from engineering iconic buildings to designing sustainable transportation networks, and from developing the energy sources of the future to enabling new ways of extracting essential resources. It has 14,500 employees, including engineers, planners, project managers, technicians, environmental experts, and other specialists based in more than 300 offices across 35 countries on every continent.

Top 10 states for manufacturing jobs announced

America's manufacturing industry has been hit hard over the last few years, a result
of the economic recession and an increase in the outsourcing of these types of jobs. However, there are still hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs available throughout the nation, and many top employers are having trouble finding skilled workers to fill those positions.

According to the job site, some of the most popular manufacturing jobs available are for assemblers, engineers, CNC specialists and managers. Certain states are hiring more manufacturing employees than others. Aside from the largest states, those in the Midwest that are historically known as manufacturing hubs are looking to rebuild that reputation.

The top 10 states for manufacturing jobs on include:

1. California - 42,377
2. Texas - 32,386
3. Illinois - 17,290
4. New York - 14,790
5. Ohio - 14,753
6. Pennsylvania - 14,211
7. Michigan - 12,381
8. Florida - 12,167
9. Washington - 11,736
10. Massachusetts - 11,166

California (1.2 million), Texas (810,000), and Ohio (619,000) currently employ the most people in manufacturing. As a nation, we have actually begun adding jobs in this sector
since 2010 after several years of a decline in the manufacturing industry.

Dewberry Partners with George Mason University on climate change demonstration project

Dewberry has become part of a public-private team exploring community adaptation to climate change risks in a new demonstration project funded by Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant. Known as the Community Adaptation to Sea-Level Rise and Inundation (CASI) Research Partnership, the team consists of George Mason University, Dewberry, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. The demonstration project, known as the Future Coast initiative, is being conducted in Anne Arundel County, MD.

The research focuses on how public education, through visualization of impacts and citizens’ deliberation, can enhance long-term community resilience by stimulating consideration of actions and policies to minimize risk. Anne Arundel County, which has from 2,200 to 6,900 acres of shoreline threatened by inundation from sea-level rise, is at the forefront of coastal communities in using LiDAR elevation data to assess sea-level rise vulnerability and inform adaptation decision-making.

The CASI initiative seeks to demonstrate an effective and replicable framework for communicating sea-level rise impact data to individual residents and facilitating public deliberation that will lead to policies to support long-term resilience. Dewberry’s role in the initiative includes producing projected geospatial coverages of inundation for a number of timeframes and scenarios, including calculations of change in the probability of flooding, identifying properties likely to be affected by projected inundation, and identifying risk.

The firm also developed a web toolkit and geospatial data portal that enables residents to use an address locator service and visualize impact data, including the temporal evolution of impacts at their property, with summaries on impacts in the neighborhood and in the county. The site summarizes risks for queried properties and allows individuals and groups to compare their opinions to those of other county residents before and after they conduct their own deliberations. The citizens’ deliberation component includes surveying event participants before and after access to the information and serves as a guide to what information the public finds most valuable.

Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant focuses on the sustainability and viability of coastal communities and marine ecosystems through natural and social science research, outreach, and communications activities. Funding for the CASI project comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), administered through Virginia Sea Grant.

Dewberry provides architecture, engineering, and management and consulting services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 40 locations and 1,800+ professionals nationwide. To learn more, visit

Axion International announces publication of a standard design guide for thermoplastic bridges by Parsons-Brinckerhoff

Axion International Holdings, which uses recycled plastic and plastic composite technologies to produce ECOTRAX rail ties and STRUXURE building products, announced that the international engineering and construction firm Parsons Brinckerhoff has completed a Standard Design Guide of Thermoplastic Bridges for three short-span heavy-load bridge applications using Axion’s Recycled Structural Composite (RSC) products. The guide is intended to help engineers and developers understand the structural details and capabilities of Axion’s RSC as they enter into the design phase of short-span bridges using Axion’s STRUXURE construction systems as alternatives to legacy materials.

The guide is available on the Axion website for registered engineers and designers at to use when they’re initiating projects. Axion’s products have proven successful for bridge applications ranging from light pedestrian traffic to 120-plus-ton railroad locomotives.  Most recently Axion’s RSC was used in the construction of an automotive bridge crossing the York River outside of York, Maine, which opened for traffic in January 2012.

According to Axion Executive Vice President Dave Crane, “This guide is intended to provide the necessary engineering and design features so users can begin planning their projects. The technical document provides guidance based on AASHTO Standard Specifications with an HL93 Live Load that must be modified to meet local construction codes and site requirements.  Elements of the guides include pre-engineered abutment detail, engineering required for bridge decking, an overlay system for the road surface, and information on guardrail specifications. The bridge superstructure can be pre-fabricated and shipped for assembly on site to accelerate bridge construction. Axion has prefabrication capability at our facilities, and we’re currently establishing a nationwide network of distribution partners who service the bridge building industry.” 

Axion and Parsons Brinkerhoff created the Standard Design Guide for Thermoplastic Bridges to provide information on the strength and durability for three lengths of single-span heavy-load structures measuring from 10’-15’, 16’-20’, and 21’-25’ in length. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are almost 80,000 bridges of those lengths considered “functionally obsolete” and more than 70,000 that are “structurally deficient.”

“Parsons Brinckerhoff believes that with the standard design of highway bridges using recycled plastic, Axion can be successful in marketing short-span bridges to the community at large in the United States as well as overseas,” states Vijay Chandra, senior vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff. “We look forward to working with Axion in developing many more state-of-the-art products to enhance the sustainable qualities and the use of green products to improve infrastructure in the United States and overseas.”

Axion’s STRUXURE building materials were created as a sustainable alternative to legacy building materials like wood, steel, and concrete. STRUXURE Construction Systems provide excellent structural performance, offer lower lifecycle costs (including competitive first-time installation costs and lower maintenance costs) and tangible superiority in terms of sustainability. STRUXURE is a more durable, longer lasting, environmentally sound and lighter heavy-load building material, and it is fully recyclable at the end of its lifecycle. Construction costs can be lowered and maintenance costs can be virtually eliminated.  Components can be prefabricated by Axion and shipped to installation sites for quick application.

Headquartered in New Providence, NJ, Axion International Holdings develops, manufactures, and sells rail ties and structural building products made from 100-percent recycled consumer and industrial plastics and plastic composites. It offers its ECOTRAX composite rail ties and STRUXURE composite structural building products such as I-beams, pilings, tongue-and-groove planking, and various sizes of boards for use in engineered design solutions such as rail and tank bridges, pedestrian and recreation bridges, marinas, boardwalks, and bulk heading throughout the world. Axion markets its composite products to the railroad industry, military, and industrial engineering and contracting firms. For additional information, please visit

Parsons Brinckerhoff develops and operates infrastructure around the world with 14,000 employees serving clients and communities in the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia-Pacific regions. The firm offers skills and resources in strategic consulting, planning, engineering, program/construction management, and operations for transportation, power, mining, water/wastewater, and community development projects.  Parsons Brinckerhoff is part of Balfour Beatty, an international infrastructure services business operating in professional services, construction services, support services, and infrastructure investments (

U.S. Navy exercises option for Advantech to continue implementing Camp Pendleton support contract

The U.S. Navy has exercised an option authorizing Advantech to continue implementing a contract providing a dozen hospital construction experts to augment Navy staff as part of the new $451 million naval hospital at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA. Jack Fraser, P.E., Advantech president/CEO, made the announcement.
The stimulus hospital project, the largest the Navy has under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will replace the current hospital, built in 1974. Thousands of engineers, construction workers, architects, and military and civilian contractors have contributed to the project which recently passed the halfway mark. Lessons learned from other projects have also guided current success. 
"The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest team extensively researched lessons learned from over 20 hospital visits, to include the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Maryland), Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (Virginia), Palomar Pomerado Hospital (California), Las Vegas VA (Nevada), and both the UCSD and UCLA hospitals in California. The choice to augment the Navy field team with contracted expertise was a clear step in the right direction to provide flexibility and specific skill sets when needed while providing proficiencies in areas that NAVFAC normally does not possess. The composite organization now provides a blended team of employees familiar with NAVFAC business procedures, Camp Pendleton-specific organizational knowledge, hospital construction and design, medical gas, hospital commissioning, and proficiency in OSHPD certification for California. Although not required to be OSHPD certified, many aspects of the hospital design were required to meet the stringent requirements of the California safety code for seismic design," says Commander Whit Robinson, NAVFAC Southwest Resident Officer in Charge of Construction (ROICC), Replacement Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.
The new facility, expected to open in 2014, will feature open spaces for natural light and includes a central atrium. There will also be a reflection and meditation area that will have a wall inscribed with the names of Medal of Honor recipients. The new hospital is part of a 70-acre site that will also have a central utilities plant, a 1,500-space multi-level parking structure, 1,500 outside surface parking spaces, and associated supporting facilities.
According to Fraser, his staff has been coordinating with the Navy since February; they consist of professional engineers, inspectors, technicians (including medical gas inspectors), and safety professionals. Advantech continues to provide civil/electrical/mechanical/structural engineering services as well as architecture and interior design consultation. The staff augmentation consists of 12 professionals overall to support the ROICC at Camp Pendleton.
NAVFAC is the Systems Command that delivers and maintains facilities, acquires and manages capabilities for the Navy's expeditionary combat forces, provides contingency engineering response, and enables energy security and environmental stewardship.

Advantech GS Enterprises ( is a San Diego-based multidisciplinary Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) company providing engineering, environmental and construction management, construction materials testing, and staff augmentation services to support government requirements. Advantech is certified as a HUBZone Small Business by the Small Business Administration and as a Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) and a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) by the State of California.

Editor's Note: See two articles Progressive Engineer Magazine has published on NAVFAC at

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Company Profile posted: Organovo uses 3D printing technology to create human tissues in a process known as bioprinting


Tissues Made to Order

Applying the 3D printing process used for rapid prototyping in manufacturing to creating human tissues will facilitate organ transplants and help pharmaceutical companies test new drugs, among other benefits.

Psomas - President & CEO
Organovo chairman and CEO Keith Murphy has a chemical engineering background.
By Steve Murray

By 2007, Keith Murphy wanted a change. After working 17 years for large biotech companies, the chemical engineer and MIT graduate sought an entrepreneurial opportunity. "I needed something more fast-paced and that really involved innovation," he says. At the same time, Dr. Gabor Forgacs, a biophysicist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, had developed a new 3D printing technology for biological materials and was looking for a way to commercialize it.

The two met, saw the potential in collaborating, and started Organovo, a San Diego, California company that may represent the future of regenerative medicine. Organovo is using 3D printing to fabricate human tissues, an advance that could lead to faster drug development and eventually to artificial organs that save lives.

Three-dimensional printing has been around since the 1980s as a rapid prototyping and manufacturing tool. These printers work essentially like their inkjet counterparts, with a few important additions. A computer program guides an inkjet printer cartridge to locations on a sheet of paper, where the tip deposits ink. Color printing employs several cartridges, each with a different ink color, and additional computer instructions about which ink to deposit at which location. Inkjet printing generates a single layer of text and images on a flat page and, because the page is two-dimensional, the computer program only needs a two-dimensional model of the output to control the job.

On the other hand, 3D printer cartridges typically contain plastics in place of ink. The material is softened by heating and then deposited onto a flat surface, where it solidifies. However, 3D printers perform this operation again and again, going over the surface repeatedly and leaving additional layers of material until the final object has a vertical, as well as horizontal, shape.
Psomas - President & CEO
Biological printing is an extension of the 3D printing process used to quickly build prototypes in manufacturing.
Courtesy ProtoCAM

Printing more complex objects also employs multiple cartridges, each with a different material. Differences can involve physical properties or just color, but at least one material is used as a temporary scaffolding to support the main structure during fabrication and is removed at the end of the printing operation. These types of printers can build very delicate and intricate objects with interlocking or moveable parts. Because 3D printing generates three-dimensional objects, the controlling program needs a three-dimensional model such as a CAD file to guide the cartridges.

Such 3D printing technologies have several advantages for sustainable manufacturing. The building approach is additive; 3D printing deposits only the material needed for construction. More conventional machining tools such as mills and lathes are subtractive, cutting material away from stock and generating scrap. Printing with controllable cartridges also avoids many of the tooling and setup costs of other manufacturing methods, so the approach is ideally suited for small or complex production runs. Finally, the technology is versatile; the same 3D printing machines can be used to make such things as furniture, structural walls for houses, clothing, toys, and even food products. Some innovative companies are even beginning to explore the use of recycled materials as feedstock for 3D-printed products.

Link to Life Sciences
Medical applications of 3D printing are largely extensions of manufacturing concepts. Computer models are generated with X-ray or MRI scanning of a patient and used to print products tailored to that individual, such as replacement teeth and bridgework. The technology will likely streamline some current medical procedures, and improve their outcome, through fabrication of very complex body structures. Ball-and-socket joints used in hip replacements, for example, can be printed as an integrated assembly, avoiding the need to cut a patient’s bone to match the prosthetic.
Psomas - President & CEO
Company co-founder Gabor Forgacs developed the 3D printing technology for biological materials.

The leap to tissue engineering probably occurred when a researcher noticed that drops from an inkjet cartridge were about the same size as human cells, and this is where the Organovo story picks up again. The new company built its first 3D bioprinter in 2009 with support from Invetech, a Melbourne, Australia-based engineering firm with experience in life science applications. Their NovoGen MMX was the first commercial 3D printer technology proven to fabricate actual tissue from cells and the first to work across tissue types such as muscle, heart, and lung. Time Magazine included the achievement on its list of Best Inventions of 2010.

Although the Organovo process mirrors each of the major steps of other 3D printers, including use of the right “inks” and use of different materials to provide supporting structure, it’s considerably more involved. Cells are first grown in a culture to increase the amount of material stock. They are then harvested, formed into a basic bio-ink, and incubated so they will grow together. Finally, the cells are inserted in a cartridge, loaded into the printer, and deposited under computer control into the desired tissue shapes. Cells then mature in a bioreactor that simulates the environment of the human body. The final product is functionally identical to human tissue. In fact, cardiac tissue developed at the Organovo labs began to beat like a human heart when the growth process was completed.

Organovo scientists are quick to acknowledge the big role nature plays in completing the printing process. As cells mature, they also specialize and migrate to where they would be located on the tissue structure if they had developed in the human body. In other words, the cells complete the development job on their own, much the way cells change and form structures in a growing embryo.

The company recently succeeded in fabricating hollow blood vessels. Obtaining a tissue shape like this requires the same multi-material methods used for other complex 3D printing jobs. Organovo uses a collagen hydrogel as the scaffolding material, and after the cell tissue has grown, this material is removed. In the case of blood vessels, the scaffolding gel is formed into cylinders, and the tissue cells are deposited around it.
Organovo received patents in July for its multilayer vascular tissues and a core technology that produced them. These accomplishments also earned Organovo a spot on the MIT Technology Review’s TR50 list of the most innovative technology companies of 2012.
Psomas - President & CEO
This simplified model of the bioprinting process shows how cells are deposited on a scaffolding material, which is later removed to leave the desired tissue shape.

Tissue engineering is an interdisciplinary effort involving biologists, biophysicists, physicians, and engineers. Organovo is a small company of about 30 employees, including a core group of biomedical engineers who stretch to perform a variety of technical duties. Invetech augmented the bioprinter development team with expertise in automation and system control. The firm tackled one of the biggest challenges to practical 3D bioprinting: precision. Human cells are measured in microns (millionths of a meter), so the cell dispensing tip of the bioprinter cartridge had to be consistently positioned for work at these scales. Invetech engineers solved the problem in only nine months with a computer-controlled, laser-based calibration system that kept the robotic cartridge controllers precisely aligned.

A Boon to Pharmaceutical Companies
Organovo’s near-term goal is to produce tissue platforms that drug companies can use to determine the potential benefits or harm to humans of new drugs in advance of full clinical trials. Drug development is a high-risk, high-payoff enterprise, heavily weighted on the high-risk side. Although drugs are first tested in animals, their responses don’t always match those of humans, and up to 65 percent of the drugs found effective with animals must be abandoned once human clinical testing begins. Identifying and dropping likely failures would save considerable time and money for the pharmaceutical industry and shorten the timelines for successful drug development.

Organovo’s testing platforms can be used to assess drug reactions of human tissue at an early stage, to determine whether full testing is warranted. The company recently signed a partnership arrangement with Pfizer to further evolve this approach. Teaming with Pfizer will enhance drug testing and provide funds to move Organovo closer to their long-term goal: printing replacement organs.
Psomas - President & CEO
A technician at Organovo demonstrates the
NovoGen MMX Bioprinter.
Over 100,000 people in the United States are currently waiting for transplant organs, and18 die every day without one. Insufficient donors and immunological rejection of many transplanted organs conspire to widen the gulf between supply and demand.

Although public information programs have succeeded in expanding the number of willing donors, only one to two percent of the population dies in a way that yields viable transplant organs. Anne Paschke, spokesperson for the United Network for Organ Sharing, notes, “Any technology . . . that ends up reducing the need for donated organs will simply save a lot more lives.” Organovo is working on that solution.
Bioprinting can address the two central issues with organ transplants, namely availability and viability. Even successful organ transplants can be rejected by a patient’s immune system, endangering the patient’s health and losing a donated organ. In contrast, bioprinted organs can be autologous. That is, because replacement organs are grown from a patient’s own cells, the likelihood of tissue rejection drops dramatically. Combining patient-derived source cells with print-on-demand organs could essentially decouple the need for transplants from the size of the donor population. Fabricating entire replacement organs will push the limits of 3D bioprinting, of course, but the company has already faced a critical first hurdle – providing a blood supply to maintain an organ – with its recent vascular tissue printing success.

It’s hard to predict how much money could be saved with a consistent supply of printed organs, but current transplant procedures in the United States cost anywhere between a quarter million dollars to five times that much. The benchmark shouldn’t be difficult to beat.

Organovo is looking to 2015 for human trials with printed tissue products, with actual organ testing some time beyond that. It’s possible, however, that the timeline might be shortened. Manufacturing applications of 3D printing grew exponentially when machines became available to a wide community of companies and entrepreneurs. Keith Murphy believes the same path will be followed in the life sciences. “Ultimately,” says Murphy, “the best way to do that is get a number of bio-printers into the hands of researchers.”
Murphy’s desire for a change, Dr. Gabor Forgacs’ need to commercialize an invention, and the engineering support of Invetech have transformed a manufacturing technology into a significant new capability well on its way to improving the quality of human life. With time, engineering-science collaborations like this should find even more uses of 3D printing in the life sciences.

For more information on Organovo, visit

A licensed engineer and Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Steve Murray flew F-14s in the Navy and then spent a career in a federal lab doing human factors and systems engineering. He has also served as an adjunct and visiting professor at the University of San Diego and now works as a freelance science writer (