GIA Tracker

A 5-minute read.

Advanced Engineering

Cutout, showing sectional view of the two rollers that handled highly sensitive cables.

Yes, we’ll take some inside engineering pics to showcase some amazing work, but first it’s good to know some backstory. Because a project of this scale comes with people – and baggage.

While the GIA is designed to ascertain ‘threat material’ inside baggage, it has no idea the personal baggage that lies outside it’s domain – in the human realm.

As both a developer and manager of people, I have come to better appreciate the need to evaluate the character(s) around me. It’s not all 0 and 1’s. Neither are people all good or all bad. But being blind to your surroundings is all bad – nothing good will come of it you.

A Beautiful Design

As stated on Clear Path Technologies website:
“Our GIA TrackerTM xrc is a man-portable Atometer designed primarily for the remote detection and identification of terrorist homemade bombs, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).”

Clear Path Technologies set out to find someone capable to envision, create and build a device that would encapsulate the bench-top invention of Dr. Maglich.

I am the sole inventor of what became known as the GIA – the physical, deploy-able device of the Atometer – not the physics, that was Dr. Maglich.

The Clear Path Technologies website defines my design as such:

The GIA TrackerTM xrc consists of a three-piece, modular design and incorporates a detachable tower which allows for remote computer controlled motorized movement (vertical and transverse) of the sensor head. It features various deployment options and is capable of one and two-person ready-state deployment. Due to its small footprint and vertical stacked design, it can be transported through narrow pathways and doorways, and navigate the tight spaces of passenger and baggage areas in multiple environments (planes, trains, buses, stadium and other venues).

And:

The advanced engineering of the GIA TrackerTM xrc allows the detector to be setup quickly and perform interrogations in non-rectilinear conditions, as well as be remotely operated by way of its motorized tower at various heights up to 8 feet. This makes it particularly attractive to transit operators which have to contend with unattended baggage left in overhead areas and do not wish to move or manipulate a suspect package or bag.

These design outcomes were driven by two opposing forces:

  1. The SEPTA police (South Eastern Public Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest transportation authority) specific requirements for access, maneuverability of deployment.
  2. The requirements of Bogdan Maglich’s invention which contained a neutron generator, germanium crystal detector held in a cryostatic state, the circuitry and electronics that needed to be shielded in order for it to work and the safe distance that operators need to maintain in order to be safe.

Deaths: Engineering Exposure

With the Death of Dr. Maglich in 2017 and the death of Clear Path Technologies approximately 2-3 years after I left the company (~ 2012) having fulfilled my expectations, I am revealing some of the state-of-art skills and manufacturing that were accomplished.

The failure of Clear Path Technologies was due to long-time personal vendettas and power struggles among wealthy families going back over 100 years.

First, Credit Where Credit Is Due

Bogdan Maglich was the inventor of the physics upon which the GIA was designed. An eccentric personality that was not immune to controversy, he was the one who pushed and pulled the strings of the financially powerful in order to bring his vision to life.

Solidworks: 3D CAD

You can take 3D files, strip them down to remove all ‘knowledge’ to protect your work. Then have them ‘rendered’ (material & light) with a program like Blender. The Solidworks program itself tries to get into this world and I personally don’t like their results. Here’s a quality marketing video done right. It also gives perspective on the design and engineering.
Video: hls streamed content in 10sec intervals for mobile.

Large SW files in assemblies are rarely displayed as one complete assembly due to the processing power it entails. As in manufacturing, breaking things down into component parts works best. Here is one sub-assembly shown in two configurations. One with the air-powered piston handlebars retracted – ready for scanning. And one with them up – ready for deployment.


The same sub-assembly after being graphically rendered to look real:

3D Rendered Image of a Solidworks sub-assembly

And the real one:

Real, final sub-assembly getting a nitrogen reload.

Remember to get other people to take a picture of you! Lest you be like a mother and always taking pictures of everyone and everything else.

And remember to work late when you need too! This was a breakdown on the other side of the country where yours truly came, ripped it apart and put it back together – in time.

I forgot how many circuit boards we had.

It was at least 10.

It needed a lot of power.

So we gave it a lot of power; this is half of it. These are the same high-output batteries used to power vehicles.

Not just the linear actuators required encoding, so too was the cable spool which was one type of safety device to protect the operator by causing them to be a safe distance from the radiation.

The 9-piece plastic molds were a $30,000 expense. I designed them in Solidworks and the first run was perfect.

Summary:

Heading into this project I had a very high level of confidence. See the on-the-car tire project that was described by Snap-On’s World-Wide Sales Mgr as the ‘greatest invention in the tire industry in over 60 years.”

That enabled me to NOT listen to the advice of the linear actuator’s technical department which advised me not to use their products like you see depicted in the image above. They later agreed that my stress tests were calculated correctly and the GIA system operated within their standards.

It takes a lot of practical experience to build something like this. This machine came on the heels of years building simple stuff. Prototype work was done with cost savings / rework in mind and future production designs built upon that structure to further lighten weight.

In my view, a key requirement for success is to befriend those you work and sub-contract with; like machinists, welders, software coders and the like. You can glean a lot of information and experience from people if they like you.

Today, I like to employ a strategy of talking freely, one-on-one with people and in the boardrooms because nothing stymies creativity and learning like arrogant, know-it-all behavior. Driving people into silence in order to not be caught sounding ill-informed is detrimental to both the people involved and the company where they work.

In order to instantiate a culture of open communication you need an experienced leader who brings levity and competency to the table. When we gather at the company table we are there to focus our efforts and to make money in a team effort.