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   Issue 015
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Munro & Associates, UBM TechInsights and EE Times to Share Advanced Analysis of Key Chevrolet Volt Components at Design West’s Embedded Systems Conference


    Key components of the Chevrolet Volt will get an advanced analysis when Al Steier, Design Prophet, Munro & Associates, Inc., John Scott-Thomas, senior engineer, UBM TechInsights and Brian Fuller, editorial director, EE Times, share their teardown insights of the battery pack, charging and infotainment systems during three separate sessions at Design West’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center (Design West Theater) in California. Steier recently led a team of Munro engineers through a three day teardown of the Volt, where they catalogued all of the vehicle’s parts and weights utilizing Munro & Associates Design Profit software. In their first presentation titled “Drive for Innovation Teardown: Chevrolet Volt Battery Pack” – taking place on 

    Tuesday, March 27 at 12:30 p.m. – Steier, Scott-Thomas and Fuller will describe the 380V battery’s properties, its design and safety systems, as well as its six boards and front battery pack control module used to control the battery and the massive energy it stores and releases.

    On Wednesday, March 28 at 12:30 p.m., in their second presentation titled “Drive for Innovation Teardown: Chevrolet Volt Charging System,” they will discuss the vehicle’s sophisticated charging system used to pull energy from the grid into the vehicle’s main battery to run a variety of subsystems – a “step-change” in automotive electronics design. The audience will have an opportunity to see the modules and intricately designed circuit boards that make up the charging system’s inverter, AC-DC converter, DC-DC converter and charge cable. 

    Finally, on Thursday, March 29 at 11 a.m., Steier, Scott-Thomas and Fuller will present “Drive for Innovation Teardown: Chevrolet Volt Infotainment” – on the vehicle’s state-of-the-art interface that includes two displays and capacitive-touch control buttons for entertainment, climate control and navigation. They will walk the audience through the half-dozen boards that control communication, radio, navigation, body positions and the flat panel displays, including the driver and navigation / entertainment displays. “The importance of benchmarking is critical to adding intelligence to the process and quantifying the real value of component features,” Steier said. “Our qualified team – including engineers, certified ergonomists, and manufacturing and material experts – and their efforts, like those performed on the Chevrolet Volt, go well beyond traditional benchmarking procedures to include detailed analytical design audits with quantitative results. We are pleased to be sharing some of our insights on the Volt teardown with ESC attendees.” 

    ESC is the global electronics industry’s leading event. With product demonstrations, visionary speeches, and hundreds of technical training classes and accreditation opportunities, ESC is a venue for the design engineering community to learn, collaborate and recognize excellence. Munro & Associates’ benchmarking services utilize the Design Profit software tool, which incorporates Lean Design, part costing and Cost of Quality methods and tools to offer production intelligence and quantify the value of product features through data collection, reverse engineering, competitive and side-by-side analyses. The company’s 27,600 square foot world class Benchmarking Information Center (BIC) is dedicated to product evaluation and redesign. The BIC is a turnkey facility complete with the necessary tools, technology and engineers to perform any size or type benchmarking study. The facility is available to manufacturers in any industry that are looking to take advantage of the benefits of benchmarking. Munro also has a customer specific 80,000 square foot facility dedicated to automotive architectural studies. 

    Founded in 1988, Munro & Associates Inc. is a world class consulting engineering firm based in Troy, Mich. with offices in Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia. The firm specializes in upfront, predictive methods to increase profitability by improving quality, reliability and value, while reducing total lifecycle costs. The Munro team delivers in-depth knowledge in product design, manufacturing, quality and technologies from a broad selection of industries. 

Munro’s diverse customer list includes: Abbott Laboratories; ATK; Bentley; BMW Mini, Boeing; Cardinal Health; Caterpillar; Chrysler; Department of Defense, Fiat, General Dynamics; Ingersoll Rand, Lockheed Martin; Medtronic, Inc.; NASA, Nikon; Raytheon; Rolls Royce; Rubbermaid; TACOM LCMC; Tata Motors and more. 

For more information, visit 

To schedule an interview with Steier, please contact Adriana Van Duyn at 248-269-1122 or


Fed Dev Injecting new funding into Canadian Manufacturing Grant Programs

The Conservative federal government is injecting $190-million until March 31, 2014 for Investing in Business Innovation in southern Ontario. FedDev Ontario is focused on helping early-stage and small to medium businesses that are recognized as having the potential for high growth and a net long-term economic benefit for southern Ontario 

Most of Fed Dev Funds go to such grant programs as:

The Nation Research Council (NRC) IRAP (Industrial Research Assistance Program) National Research Council Canadal  grant which is aimed at helping small to medium companies develop new technology and products that have the potential to materially increase the firm's sales or employment.  IRAP offers up to $100,000 of matching funds (50/50) for furthering innovative programs and products.


The Nation Research Council also has another program entitled DTAPP (Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program) Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP) which is aimed at companies furthering or adopting best practices programs such as Design Profit and Munro MAP3.  Although it does not pay for the capital investment in software, it will pay for training in new software and customization costs of adopting these new technologies for companies to become competitive in the market place.The Ives Landry Foundation AIME Global grant AIME Global initiativehas been refunded by Fed Dev and funds small to medium companies in training of both employees in innovative new technologies and skills and as well as helping train companies that will support the adaptation of new technology, new processes or procedures or a change within the company to support innovation.


Beyond this, Canada has a healthy ongoing tax program that helps companies of any size, in any sector, to receive tax credits to conduct research and development (R&D) in Canada called the SR&ED tax credit program.  The SR&ED program is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program and is up to 50% - the highest tax credit program of its type in the world.


Lean Design Canada and Munro & Associates have been involved with grant programs in Canada since 2008/2009 and have had many success stories come of it.  Here is what some of our customers have said: 

A realized 30% reduction in build hours in that mold section. (Small and Medium size molds Active Burgess).

The return on investment was realized after just one mold.


“Awesome.  That’s the only word that comes to my mind is Awesome. Thank you for your help.  We (Active Burgess) received much more than we anticipated.  Because of your hard work and commitment, we will definitely have you come back!”


Mike Bragagnolo,

President Active Burgess

Hi Tracy,

I just wanted to give you some feedback on the LEAN training we participated in. We have not fully implemented it yet but we are well on our way. We are thrilled with the results we have seen so far. This is truly an excellent tool to reduce waste and therefore be more competitive. One of the things I appreciate about it most is the way it involves different people in the organization rather than just management, it is very effective in implementing this program.

You are welcome to stop by anytime if you’re in the area. I’m sure you will see a difference if you walk through our shop.

Thanks for your help in this.



Abe Klassen


Master Conveyors

“Munro Associates is a real gem!  We were introduced to a new way of thinking for our guys and we are going to implement these ideas on all our new molds.”


Jeanine Lassaline Burgland,

Manager, Quality

 Aar Kel Canada


“We are anxious to work with your company again. Great improvements came out of everything so far we have worked together on, we can only assume the trend will continue.”


Brian Gignac

Program Manager / Estimator

Laval Tool and Mold

Platinum Tool Testimonial

“The Lean Design training was eye opening.  Myself and the other designers were skeptical at first that this could help us because there are a lot of features required by the customer’s standards in their molds that we can’t change.  We didn’t know what to expect. But when the training began it was overwhelming at first.  We were really thrown into the deep end.  It forced us to think about how we did things including looking at every single component and operation.  We are basically designing a better mold now.  We believe now that as we master these new skills, that the process will become faster and easier and save our boss money.”


Derek Chartrand


Platinum Tool

For More information on Canadian grants and government programs please contact:


Alistair Munro

Business Development Manager

Lean Design Canada

Phone:  416 848 1104

Fax:        416 619 0676

Are Polymer Solar Panels Commercially Viable?


We get a lot of interest from different start up or R&D houses about how to bring new technologies into the market place and Munro & Associates is well known among its clients for bringing innovative technologies and ideas into new designs, but there is a fine line between interesting and profitable/commercially saleable. For instance, UCLA announced a 10.6 percent efficient (a new world record for polymer cells as recognized by NREL) from their new tandem organic polymer solar cells after adding a new infrared-absorbing polymer layer from Sumitomo 
Chemical to the research group's already 8.6 percent efficient cells. The idea is that the new solar cells are a combined layer approach, stacking together to cover sensitivity to different absorption bands thereby capturing a wider spectrum than single-junction solar cells and thereby harvesting more energy. The trick however, is not to just add two solar cells together, you need to couple with compatible materials – in this case a specific low-band-gap–conjugated polymer for the solar cell structure. "Envision a double-decker bus. The bus can carry a certain number of passengers on one deck, but if you were to add a second deck, you could hold many more people for the same amount of space. That's what we've done here with the tandem polymer solar cell.” said Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA Engineering and principal investigator on the research. "Everything is done by a very low-cost wet-coating process," and “the process is compatible with current manufacturing,"


Professor Yang Yang is confident that 15% efficiency will be reached in the next few years. UCLA is not the only kicker at this cat, a €14.2 million European research project under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Program (FP7) is also working to develop more efficient, flexible, plastic solar panels.

There are just 2 problems:

“These things are unstable in air and water," says Keith Emery, who manages NREL's cell and module performance characterization group. It appears that although a breakthrough, the cells still fall short of something that can withstand the elements. This is probably not something that could survive on a double decker bus at the moment. 

The next problem, comes in the form of competitiveness in the market place, competing with market changers such as Solar Junction who boasts 43.5% efficiency (a commercial world record set last April) and Semprius which now has a 33.9% efficient CPV cell both using multi-junction solar cell architecture. Not to mention, there is the ever decreasing cost to set up these more established higher efficiency technologies vs. higher set up, lower life span of organic polymer technologies. When you calculate the cost of purchasing, set up and maintenance of a commercial giant like Solar Junction at 43.5% efficiency vs. that of an organic polymer cell at 10% efficiency, you would have to pay the customer to buy polymer cells to be profitable. “It's one thing to make them harvest energy and conduct electricity, but it's another thing to make them stable and then another to figure out how to package them into a commercial-scale alternative,” says Keith. 

New technology is always alluring and R&D is always an important expense of innovation, but companies and individuals always need to be wary of decisions that “make sense” versus ones that make “cents”. 

Written By Alistair Munro 

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