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History of the Forest Products Laboratory

Interview #992: Lulling, Robert M. (June, 2009)

View all of First Interview Session (October 15, 2008), disc 1

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00:54:26 - 01:05:56 River, Bryan H.

River, Bryan H.; projects, project leaders, adhesive joints, metal bonding, equipment failure

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00:54:26

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RL

Now we come to one of my favorite and my last project and this was in the '70s. Bryan Rivers was the project leader and the project was to determine the amount of movement in an adhesive joint while a dead load was applied constantly and under different climatic conditions. We were measuring movement in a, actually a metal to metal joint and that movement was minute and in order to measure that we needed a machine that was not available, was not on the market. So we went to Raleigh I believe it was in Rock Island, Illinois---I don't know if that's the right name or not---and they said they could make a machine under Bryan Rivers'---what do I want to say?---conditions I guess mostly, or specifications is the best way to put it---under his specifications that would measure in metric terms, joints that moved in what we would say in thousandths of an inch, very, very minute. And they produced a machine that they said could do that.

It was my job then to set up the method of testing and it meant that I would have to wire the small transducer that was in the testing stage and that wiring then went through the transducer to the machine. We had bugs. All kinds of problems and since that---oh how do I say it?---that area was in downstairs here, it was in a room all by itself, nothing in it but that machine and the set up for testing. The first problem we found out was that we had to control the temperature and the humidity in that room. Of course it took a while to come up with that, but we had to put in a control method in to the electric wall plugs and whatnot and humidifier. We made some tests and didn't get the right answers and of course it was my responsibility to go in and use this machine to make the test and I had to know what to expect. I wasn't too sharp on my metric systems so I had to learn how to do that and it took a little while before I got the confidence myself, and I would have to rely on Bryan to come in and say well am I right here or am I wrong. Well, no he said the machine is not working right, you are right, you're right there is something wrong with that machine. Well of course we were thinking about the room. Holy Moses we found out that at night we would turn the light off of course when we left the room. Well that changed the temperature enough so that machine picked up the difference. You see how--? Well we solved that by leaving the light on all the time. Well then we found out that when the janitor saw the light on, he'd open the door and turn it off [laughs]. Now we had---not only that but he opened the door which we didn't want too. So we had to put a lock on the room and that wasn't too good because fire problems whatnot, the head of personnel wasn't too happy about it, but they could see our problems. That machine was so sensitive and we still were getting erratic readings. Finally we decided well it had to be something wrong with the machine so we called the people that built it and they sent two men here and they took the machine apart, or part of it, and they came up with the idea that the potentiometer that they were using was defective. So they called the place that they purchased their potentiometers from and told them to send them two brand-new potentiometers by air so they'd have it the next morning. We found out these guys were getting paid a hundred dollars a day just to come here and look at that thing, anyhow it was an expensive deal. They came and, or the potentiometers came, and they installed one potentiometer and I tried using the machine and I said I don't know, but that's not the answer. So they went over the darn machine again, a whole day. They said finally, at about five o'clock at night, they came up with the idea that something isn't right, it's got to be that potentiometer. So I said well maybe the potentiometer is defective. Oh no it can't be defective, this new one right out of the box. Next morning they checked it and it wasn't right, the potentiometer was poor.

They put the second one in and that was all right, but after we got the machine working right then the box that was on top of it that controlled the temperature going in to the specimen, that wasn't working right. So we sent it back to the company and they had it for several months and they sent it back to us and they said well they couldn't find anything wrong, they put it in an oven and then they checked the parts to see the temperature was where it was supposed to be in the box and that area was constant. They said it worked fine for them so they sent the box back and we installed it on the machine. Still got erratic results. And we---I then took that box myself and drove down to Rock Island and told them what was happening, or what was not happening.

While I was there why we had conversations with one of the main men there on---he was questioning being this was a prototype machine, whether or not it would be to their advantage to make another one. Was there a demand of any sort out in the industry for this kind of a test machine? So I had quite a discussion with him and I said well there's a lot of labs now that didn't exist at the time that we started doing research along these lines of non-destructive testing and testing with very slight movements and that these, out in industry, they were beginning to make their own labs that would be able to do the tests and maybe they would be interested and the thing to do was to contact some of these companies and tell them what the Lab has got and what they could have. But I said first, I said you better wait until we get this one to work. So they sent the box back and they didn't provide anything either that helped us. I don't know what they did to the box, but it didn't work. There's a fellow by the name of Paul Evans that was the fellow that taught us electronics here at the Lab and he used to work, or he used to be in the submarines during the war and he was in the radio room in the submarine. He knew a lot about vacuum tubes and stuff but transducers were kind of new to him and so he never was too anxious to work with transducers. But he, after talking to him, he said well let me take a look at it. So he looked at it and he came up with an idea. He got one of these little fans that work with a battery, it wasn't hooked up to the electric source that we had in the room. And that little [fan] kept that box a constant temperature, that little fan and battery, kept the box at a constant temperature. That's all it took. And the machine is still down there as far as I know. I retired in '77 and the fellow that replaced me redesigned the room, he and Bryan did, and finished that project pretty much. But I think the stuff is still there as far as I know.

01:05:31

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RL

So that takes care of the work. On that machine I wired the transducers to the machine and then I took the initial measurements and all that. Then I had to operate the machine and was instrumental in saying it wasn't working the way it should. That's as important---and finally got it to work.

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