Enter your name and a friend's email address in the fields below and click "Submit" to email this Press Release to a friend.
Your message will look like this:
[YOUR NAME HERE] thought you might be interested in this story from the University of Rochester.
MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Rickey, (585) 275-7954, or Richard Benson, (585) 275-4072
January 25, 1994
Stalking the Paper Jam, the Curse of Modern Office Life
There's a little sound that office workers all over the
world know and dread: the tell-tale crinkle of paper jamming,
shearing, and wrinkling as it gets stuck in copiers, fax
machines, or printers.
Richard Benson is out to ease such frustrations of modern
life. Benson, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering
at the University of Rochester, heads the Mechanics of Flexible
Structures Project, where students are examining some of the
mechanisms that can cause such minor annoyances. His students are
frequently called on as trouble shooters to solve problems with
everything from copiers to contact lenses.
"Flexible mechanical structures are everywhere," says
Benson. "Think of the copier. Many people think of it as an
electronic device, or an optical device, or even a chemical
device. But what's the biggest problem in copiers, or for that
matter in fax machines or printers? Paper jams -- a mechanical
problem. Mechanical limitations often set the strictest limits on
how fast or reliably these machines can operate."
Flexible structures include such things as clothing, plastic
wrap and even skin. Benson and his research group of seven
students put their effort toward technologically relevant
flexible structures: paper, contact lenses, magnetic tape and
disks found in computers and VCRs, and, in a project with
Professor Stephen Burns, the shrink-wrap material used in digital
Recently a Texas company turned to graduate student Ken
Stack to clear up the smeared images coming from its thermal
printers. Stack has also designed an IV bag that deflates at a
constant rate, and helped a major copier manufacturer transport
paper through copiers with fewer jams. Two other students are
working on ways to keep contact lenses thin and flexible to allow
the cornea to absorb oxygen, yet rigid enough so they don't just
crumple up in, literally, the blink of an eye.
Much of the group's work falls under the recent term
mechatronics -- mechanics applied to electronic devices -- a term
that describes most office technology and much of our lives.
Imagine a day where the mechatronics of your life are not in
sync. You might wake up to find that the write-up of the Super
Bowl is impossible to read because of a giant wrinkle down the
middle of the newspaper. Unfazed, you play Mozart on your Walkman
as you ride the bus to work, but the tape breaks and unravels,
destroying your peace of mind.
You arrive at work -- grumbling -- only to find that your
computer hard disk crashed, taking weeks of work with it.
Luckily, you have a backup, so you print out that report for the
boss -- who may or may not notice that giant ink smear. You race
to the copier, turn your back for just an instant, only to hear
the sound of an electronic machine gnawing and shredding your
report as your supervisor walks through the door.
To keep flexible structures working smoothly, Benson's group
does extensive mathematical modeling, running computer
simulations and then checking the results with real-life
scenarios at area companies. Simulations are critical in taking
into account the thousands of variations in constructing a
versatile and reliable machine.
The paper jam problem is a good example of the complexity of
a flexible structure problem, says Stack. First, there's the
material itself. "Paper is a terrible engineering material. Each
piece is different. Even in one ream of paper, characteristics
such as bending stiffness, density, or friction can vary by as
much as 50 percent from sheet to sheet."
Benson likens the challenge to what confronts the designers
of agricultural machinery. "An apple picker has to handle apples
of all types of shapes and sizes. A copier has to do the same
thing, but with paper: the paper could be heavy, or tissue-thin,
or even glossy. The paper comes in different sizes, and the
material might not even be paper -- it could be transparencies,
for example. And the machine has to be able to handle thousands
of sheets a day."
Then comes the transport: Paper pathway geometry, size of
trays, types of rollers, reliability, expense, speed of
transport, and a host of other factors can vary widely.
During thousands of computer simulations Stack learned that
rapid acceleration is crucial for avoiding multifeeds, when more
than one sheet is sent into the copier. "It's just like
pulling a tablecloth out from under a set of dishes: The faster,
the better," says Stack, whose work has been incorporated into
several top-of-the-line copiers of a local firm.
"They found that my models matched up well to reality," he
says. "We write specialized software that companies can use as
Benson's group is supported by Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb,
and Hewlett-Packard, and has also worked closely with Xerox and
3-M. "I especially enjoy our integration with the local
industrial community," says Benson. "The first-rate engineers and
scientists at local companies give my students and myself a huge
base of support. We have a close partnership with all of our
sponsors -- often my students spends summers working at the site
of the sponsor, or conduct experiments in their laboratories."
Benson's group includes students Sinan Muftu, John LaFleche,
Ted Diehl, Ming Tian, Guy Olive, Frank Duver and Stack. The group
has included several Kodak engineers who have pursued their
Ph.D.s on a part-time basis, most recently Jim Cain, who monitors
the paper transport activity and plans to pursue doctoral studies
in nonlinear dynamics.
About the University of Rochester
The University of Rochester (www.rochester.edu) is one of the nation's leading private universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives students exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering is complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and the Memorial Art Gallery.