PATHWAY TO PacSci EMC
Wrapping up another year of great growth at PacSci EMC.
Gregory J. Scaven | President, PacSci EMC
In 2019, we grew our sales by about 15% – which is pretty impressive as measured against pretty much any standard bench marks. Of course, none of that growth is possible without the dedication and commitment of our wonderful employees as well as the trust our customers place in us to make their missions successful. There are a lot of great things about choosing to work here at PacSci EMC as we go about enabling mission success. Although you may not recognize it from the outside, ask any of our employees if we are a high technology company, and you will likely hear a resounding yes. Our people are pretty humble, but I don’t know of any company that can match our technical accomplishments when it comes to what I’ll simply call ‘pyrotechnic firsts’. Our recent success in releasing 34 OneWeb satellites required the perfect synchronization of 272 networked Smart Initiators over a single electronic bus. This type of first is way more than simply rocket science, and our growth strategy is all about enabling more firsts like this for our customers.
Our company’s growth will continue for the foreseeable future based on the strength of our record backlog. As such, there are great career opportunities for you at either of our sites – in Chandler, AZ and Hollister, CA. If you’re a technical person, you can certainly take on positions of either increasing responsibility or greater technical influence as you master your knowledge about our products and systems. Of course – as we ship more product to more customers – we have ample opportunities for manufacturing and quality related personnel. We also have roles that require significant customer-interface with our Contracts, Proposals, Program Management and Business Development teams. Whatever role may excite you initially as you choose to embark upon a career with us…you also should take the opportunity to explore roles outside your area of expertise to expand your learning and expose yourself to new challenges.
PEOPLE WHO THRIVE WITHIN OUR PACSCI EMC CULTURE ARE PEOPLE WHO:
Are comfortable stepping outside their daily work
Seek out situations to try something new & always asking questions
Are committed, determined and innovative
Willing to take risks & not afraid to fail & learn from it
My own career was very similar. I’ve been working in and around the pyrotechnics industry for 30 years now. I started as an engineer, but spent time in engineering management, program management, business development, operations and of course general management. Working across a variety of different disciplines gave me experiences that helped me learn and gave me deeper appreciation for all the tasks various people need to accomplish in order to help a business be successful. Although not everyone chooses to explore different disciplines within their careers, my own experience has found it can be very rewarding as a part of your personal and professional growth.
As our business grows, it also requires all of our employees to adopt a growth mindset. Carol Dweck has written extensively about this subject, and it’s worth discussing here, as I think it helps to explain our culture at PacSci EMC and within our parent organization at Fortive. We believe that talent can be developed – through hard work, good strategy, and coaching from others – rather than believe that talent is something that is simply innate. Generally speaking, we put a lot more of our collective energy into learning rather than worrying about looking smart.
The best innovators, in fact, generally have a growth mindset as well. Sometimes, people think innovation is simply all about introducing a brand-new product. Yet, we know from Larry Keeley and the Doblin Group that innovation can take on ten different forms. We’ve experimented with these ten types of innovation before at PacSci EMC – and it’s given birth to some new business for our team. One of my favorite examples to tell here is related to our dash 500 space initiator.
We’ve sold thousands of our -500 to many companies since its launch just a few years ago. There was really nothing all that ‘new’ about its performance features. We undertook some engineering work to modify existing designs and test them against some pretty harsh environments to ensure they would survive real-world launch and space conditions. That wasn’t the innovative part, however. We changed the customer experience dramatically with the -500 introduction. Customers used to wait months to years to get initiators from our competition that met the NASA standard. With our -500, we also meet the NASA standard requirements – yet we quote lead times of weeks with a price that is around half of what our competition offers. It’s no wonder we’ve since sold thousands of these reliable little initiators to many of our existing customers as well as new customers who are participating in the commercialization of space.
Customers entrust our employees at PacSci EMC to enable their mission success because of this growth mindset and our ability to be innovative. Here’s another secret: Great innovation requires great listening! Our customers seldom have missions that can be satisfied with one-size-fits-all solutions. As such, they trust our team to listen to what they need – and then trust our recommendations for possible solutions based on our extensive technical experience and expertise. Working together, we learn together – and that’s really how we fuel our growth.
Interesting in learning more about what I’ve written here? Here are some great books to read:
- Mindset: New Psychology of Success By Carol Dwek
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance By Angela Duckworth
- Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs By Larry Keeley
- The Lean Startup: How Todays Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
AMERICAN ENGINEERING IN EDUCATION
AND A FEW HIDDEN GEMS TO CONSIDER
Engineers know finding the right college will boost their chances of getting a job in a field where the average salary–$111,000–is nearly triple the national average of around $47,000. However, as schools get more expensive, your top choice isn’t always the choice you can afford. For example, here are the yearly tuition rates for four of U.S. News & World Report’s top six undergrad engineering schools:
Carnegie Million $47,300
Thankfully, there are dozens of engineering schools that offer excellent engineering programs at a fraction of the cost of the top schools. In this post, you’ll get an up-to-date explanation of the current state of engineering education and three schools that can prepare you for success at PacSci EMC.
THE STATE OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION
According to 2017 data from Data USA, engineering programs continue to grow. In 2017, colleges and universities awarded more than 191,000 engineering degrees, up 5.91% from the previous year.
Of those degrees, more than 138,000 came from public universities. Tuition for in-state engineering degrees at public universities was $8,190 for in-state students and $42,210 for out of state students.
The American Society for Engineering Education lists the following as the top five degrees awarded within engineering:
- Mechanical: 31,936
- Computer science: 19,082
- Electrical: 13,767
- Civil: 12,221
- Chemical: 11,586
In summary, engineering grads continue to grow year on year. Public universities continue to be the most affordable options for engineering students. If you can attend a solid engineering program at a state school in your state of residence, your tuition costs will be considerably lower than any private education or public school in a different state.
FOUR HIDDEN GEMS TO CONSIDER
While the big-name engineering schools mentioned in the introduction are renowned for the quality of their education, not every qualified engineer undergrad can afford to attend them. Research across various popular college ranking sites indicates that there are up-and-coming and well-established schools outside the top five that provide excellent engineering training. Three of the most interesting schools in those lists include:
This California state school’s tuition is below $10,000 per year. It offers its engineering grads one massive benefit: It’s located in Silicon Valley.
As such, the school is among the top 50 in the nation for return on investment. Students can do internships at Silicon Valley companies, graduate and then find themselves a spot at top companies in the Valley.
Among the university’s notable engineering students are Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories, and Charles Ginsburg, the man who invented the VCR.
Our nation’s oldest and largest institution dedicated to the fields of Aeronautical and Astronautical, Aerospace, Security and Intelligence, and Space Engineering. What they excel at is teaching the science, practice, and business of aviation and aerospace. With an enviable record of achievement, ERAU’s curriculum covers modern aircraft operations, engineering, research, manufacturing, marketing and management along with the systems supporting them. Second to none in the flight training community, ERAU has over 40 fixed wing and rotary aircraft for safe professional pilot training.
Ranked #1 in Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical by U.S. News, ERAU holds an 84% first year retention rate and this highly focused university in Prescott, Arizona captures the attention of new engineering students the world over. The university also holds a 97% in-discipline job placement within a year of graduation.
“We are pleased to be recognized as a premier undergraduate engineering college delivering excellent results for our students and alumni,” said Dr. Ron Madler, Dean of the College of Engineering at the Prescott Campus. “Our outstanding alumni, experienced faculty, hands-on focused curriculum and modern facilities stand out amongst our peers.”
The most popular majors at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology include: Mechanical Engineering; Petroleum Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Computer and Information Sciences, General; and Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Ranked #2 by College Factual for the best value nationwide of Engineering colleges and universities. NMT is also named by Newsweek as one of the top small STEM universities in the nation, and regularly ranked as a best value by the Princeton Review and others.
At NMT undergraduates partake in cutting-edge research and studies at an extremely high level, meaning they are well-prepared for professional scientific careers at the level of master’s graduates from other institutions. From astrophysics to petroleum recovery, NMT students are at the center of research innovation.
As a NASA Space Grant College, NMSU’s aerospace engineering students are fortunate to be in the hub of aerospace research with connections to NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, White Sands Missile Range, Spaceport America, NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory, The Boeing Co. and other leaders in this field.
The College of Engineering has been ranked 12th among the 50 Best Value Engineering Schools for 2019 from a total pool of more than 500 eligible engineering schools. NMSU also ranks third highest among 15 peer institutions with engineering colleges of similar size and composition.
“Not only are we highly ranked in value of those engineering colleges… we are in a select group that strives for excellence in research, teaching and service to society,” said Antonio Garcia, Associate Dean of Academics.
UNDERWATER EMERGENCY EGRESS SYSTEMS (UEES)
Our top priority is the safety of the crew and passengers of any aircraft. We ensure an underwater emergency egress from an Apache works quickly, safely, and perfectly.
When Safety and Success Must Be Assured
Reliability is always desired, but it becomes essential when safety and mission success are at stake. System failures can have a direct and negative impact on time, budgets and reputations. They can also cost human lives.
Redundant, backup systems are often used to reduce the probability of failures. But they are not always viable, as certain systems cannot accommodate the additional space and weight of redundant components. In these cases, reliability must be built into the system.
We are experts with systems reliability, safety and quality. As an integral contributor to countless space, defense, aircraft and oil and gas programs, our long history of success is largely built on the reliability and safety of the solutions we create, customize and deliver.
We bring a scientific approach to every project, calculating system reliability through trade studies, mathematical modeling, in-depth analyses and rigorous testing. Our application engineers can identify solution possibilities, weigh them against a number of variables—including mission criticality, space, weight and cost—and calculate reliability scores for each. Many of our materials, devices and solutions deliver 99.999 percent reliability or better.
We can customize or create a solution that meets your reliability, safety, functionality and mission criteria. Every time.
We use a variety of methods to calculate system reliability, including trade studies, mathematical modeling, in-depth analyses and rigorous testing.
A trade study is often the first step, with systematic analysis of the relationships between factors such as mission criticality, space, weight and cost in the context of a particular application. These factors form the elements of the trade study matrix and are weighted based on the system application. The trade study then assigns various potential design solutions a score based on how well they satisfy all the factors.
Our engineers can also conduct in-depth Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA), which takes the investigation assessment down into individual components that make up the subassemblies, assemblies, components and overall system reliability.
THE TRADE STUDY MATRIX
Trade studies are used to evaluate and compare potential concepts or systems for a particular application. The matrix below shows three concepts that will meet the customer’s reliability requirements. To select the best option, the concepts are scored against five key parameters. Each parameter has a weight, or importance, factor that was determined prior to the evaluation. The concepts are quantitatively evaluated by multiplying the weight factor by the score and then summing each parameter. The system with the highest score wins the trade study. In this example, System A is the clear winner.
► Design engineering
► Development and prototyping
► Environmental and functional testing
► Manufacturing and assembly
► Packaging and delivery
Facilities and Resources
► Engineering lab
► Model and machine shop
► Clean rooms
► Certified x-ray and metrology labs
► Test facility
► From Deep Sea to Deep Space
► Oil & Gas
On Staff Expertise
► Application engineers
► Design engineers
► Modeling and analysis specialists
► Test engineers
POWDERS USED AT PacSci EMC
A GOAL THAT WE MEET THROUGH EXHAUSTIVE RESEARCH AND INNOVATION.
OUR GOAL HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO EXPAND ENERGETICS POTENTIAL
Our trio of the three energetic chemicals we use. Each section presents an explanation of each pyrotechnics’ chemical composition, its advantages and precautions for use.
#1 FAST INITIATOR: A1A IGNITER MIX
What It Is
This pyrotechnic is an in-house favorite. It’s a blend of zirconium metal (fuel), red iron oxide (oxidizer) and diatomaceous earth (aka superfloss). We blend these by suspending them in solvent
for safety purposes. The result is a fine dark red powder.
Why We Like It
We’ve found that A1A works well when used as a transfer charge, transferring energy from a bridge composition to an output charge or another transfer charge. There are several reasons why we like A1A as a transfer composition and why we think it deserves your attention:
► Generates very little gas
► Emits hot particles
► Thermally stable
► Long shelf life
We think this has an advantage over ZPP, another one of our pyrotechnic chemicals, because we use iron oxide instead of the oxidizer potassium perchlorate. Other benefits include low sensitivity to moisture and heat.
How You Should Handle It
A1A is friction-, impact- and ESD-sensitive, which requires you to be smart about the way you handle it.
First, understand that this energetic is one of the more electrostatic-sensitive chemicals in our facilities. Therefore, be vigilant and committed to the basics: only handle it with a velostat scoop and always confirm you are grounded.
Second, you’ll want to wear typical personal protective equipment: smock, safety glasses and conductive shoes. If handling more A1A than normal, you may want to add additional safety measures to your PPE.
Finally, do all your work behind a shielded and grounded work station. You don’t have to worry about detonation, but the rapid rate at which A1A burns results in a bright flash and audible crack that could cause burns or serious injury depending on how much chemical you’re working with.
As for cleanup, make sure you blot the powder with a wet paper towel (50% IPA/DI). Do not rub the powder, as it is friction-sensitive.
#2 FAST INITIATOR: BKNO3
What It Is
BKNO3 is a versatile energetic chemical with multiple uses at PacSci EMC. It’s a fuel-oxidizer mixture made up of approximately 24% boron, 71% potassium nitrate and 5% polyester binder. At times, we blend it at PacSci EMC but we also purchase this composition from Pyrotechnic Specialties Inc., a trusted Georgia-based manufacturer.
BKNO3 may be purchased as either granular powder or prepressed pellets.
Why We Like It
BKNO3 is an excellent pyrotechnic because of its stability—it’s not friction- or heat-sensitive and is only somewhat sensitive to static and impact.
Other benefits of this energetic chemical include:
► Burn rate is minimally affected by ambient pressure
► Thermally stable
► Vacuum stable
► Generates gas and hot particles
► Long-lasting shelf life
As such, we use it with our gas generators and as an igniter for rocket motors. However, it can also be used in fuzes and certain propellants. BKNO3 is one of the only MIL-STD-1901A-compliant materials you can use for missile and rocket motor systems. Also, we like to use BKNO3 with laser initiated products.
How You Should Handle It
Whereas A1A is less stable and can create more dangerous situations if something goes wrong, BKNO3 is less of a concern.
In terms of storage, you’ll need to ensure you keep your BKNO3 dry. If it becomes too wet because of humid conditions or other situations, the moisture will oxydize the boron and degrade the chemical’s ability to emit energy.
Wear your PPE when you’re working with this energetic. Though its toxicity levels are low to moderate, you want to make sure you avoid inhaling any dust in the area in which you’re working.
In milligram and gram amounts, BKNO3 doesn’t pose any acute dangers. However, understand that, like A1A, this energetic won’t detonate but it burns rapidly and can produce sparks.
When you’re cleaning up your work area, ensure that you flush it with 50% IPA/DI water and blot up the area with paper towels.
#3 DELAY COMPOSITION: B/BaCrO4 & WBKS
What It Is
This powder duo is actually a pair of delay compositions: B/BaCrO4 and WBKS.
B/BaCrO4 is made up of a boron(fuel) and barium chromate (oxidizer). WBKS uses tungsten as fuel and barium chromate and potassium perchlorate as oxidizers.
Why We Like It
Like BKNO3, these pyrotechnic delay compositions have a wide variety of uses. B/BaCrO4 has a very rapid burn rate while WBKS is typically much slower. Giving us a wide variety of applications for their use. Their burn rate will vary by about 10% based on the ratio of components and the temperature at which they are used, which typically ranges from -65 to 160°F. Additionally, WBKS is used in high temperature applications, particularly oil field exploration where its thermal stability allows use at 350° – 500° F.
How You Should Handle It
In most cases, delay compositions are relatively stable. They possess low friction-, impact- and heat-hazard and have a moderate sensitivity to static hazards.
However, you’ll need to make sure you store these powders in extremely stable environments. Humidity and excessive jostling may cause inhomogeneity which can make the delays burn rate inconsistent. We advise storage of these materials in a desiccator.
The main hazard related to these chemicals is chromium, a toxic chemical that could cause cancer. As such, we recommend wearing your PPE and keeping any work area clean. Binder is added during manufacturing to minimize dusting when working with these compositions. There is a very low chance of accidental detonation or burning; the main concern is breathing in airborne particles.
PROPELLANT WORD PROBLEMS
AUTONOMOUS FLIGHT SAFETY PROBLEMS
PacSci EMC and Space Information Laboratories (SIL) announced a collaboration agreement to offer a complete Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) for a variety of applications. This collaboration provides a complete AFSS package.
PYROTECHNIC SOLUTIONS FOR TODAY’S INNOVATIONS
At PacSci EMC, we pride ourselves on our ability to help customers solve their most pressing problems. Even with our decades of providing production energetic components and systems for missiles, aircraft, space launch vehicles, and oil & gas applications, we have newfound passion for innovative, pyrotechnic solutions to today’s ever more challenging problem sets. Over the past few years, we have been fortunate to have new and existing customers present us with opportunities that tested our levels of innovation, technical expertise, and development process discipline. The three more illustrative examples are below:
Take for example the efforts to commercialize space and the many small launch vehicle companies in the US, and increasingly international, striving to place small satellites in low earth orbit. These companies have strong engineering teams and engaged leadership, but they lacked the experience in working with range safety requirements and personnel. International companies frequently quote the US range safety requirements for their programs making this an even more interesting example. Many of these companies have come to us for our technical expertise in providing flight termination solutions that meet range safety requirements, large and small. Our decades of heritage supporting flight termination requirements for missile, aircraft, and space launch vehicles on these ranges uniquely places us as experts. Our ability to work with these entrepreneurial and driven small launch vehicles companies has provided both organizations opportunities to grow together as we work to support their mission.
As you know innovation takes many forms, and this next example comes from the US military needing an improved destruction method for their application. We leveraged our accelerated product development process and multiple industry partners to develop a one-of-a-kind, low cost destruct charge that was compact and met all our customer’s requirements. This system utilizes an electronic safe & arm device for ignition and high voltage transfer lines to initiate the destruct charge. Without the innovative way to work with industry partners, we would have been trapped in the fallacy that everything needed to be made by PacSci EMC.
As we evaluated the many emerging market drivers, we sought out and won a new application to deploy satellites using our distributed ordnance system called Smart Energetics ArchitectureTM. Our journey led us to an international customer with requirements to manage upwards of 256 ordnance events along with including flexibility above and below this number. In this example, we again collaborated with other companies in the industry to provide a complete solution while leveraging our deep technical expertise. Every development program has a few issues, so there were tests of our resolve in order to deliver the final solution. Through perseverance, the customer received a qualified system and we continue supporting their production requirements.