Mechanic's Corner - Apr 11
“PLASMA FOR THE 2014 MUSTANG”
By Mike Godwin
Today we toss the term “Plasma” about as if it was just an everyday occurrence. The advent and use of the Plasma screen TV, set in many homes and Sports Bars, no doubt contributes to this common use of a complex word.
Actually discovered and identified by an English physicist, Sir J.J. Thomson, in 1897. He observed and identified this state of matter in a discharge tube, which is more correctly called, a Crookes tube. The Crookes tube is the invention of a fellow British physicist. Seems when first observed in the lab, Sir Thomson simply referred to his discovery, “Radiant Matter”. Other physicists of the time, also tagged the name, “Fourth State” on the new discovery. This name is easy to understand, as it did show that a fourth state of matter did exist. Sir Thomson later named his own discovery “Plasma”, as it reminded him so much of the Plasma found in blood.
From those early days of being only observed in labs under very special conditions, Plasma has had a rather uneventful, even boring, place in history. The first introduction to the automotive world was in 1929 to 1931, when a couple of less-than-honorable Snake Oil salesmen tried to promote Plasma as a new energy source to power cars. That attempt barely makes it into the history books.
But in 2008, Ford hired a very bright lady by the name of April Speck, as a safety and environmental specialist. One of her qualifications, was a PHD in physics. She also had a string of accomplishments in fields related to industrial safety and performance improvements to her credit. A wise choice indeed, as Ford was struggling to keep OSHA reportable work injuries to a minimum.
Shortly after April started with Ford in Dearborn, she noticed that there had been a spike in hand injuries at the Windsor engine plant. She also noted that nearly all of the reports came from the Engine Development Group. Curious as to why one small group would be responsible for over 56 % of the entire Ford Corporation’s reportable injuries, she set out to investigate and correct the problem.
Gaining access to the Windsor Engine Plant was a snap. Getting authorization to enter the Engine Development area, proved to be a challenge. Even with backing from the senior levels of Ford management, entry into the space remained closed to April. After nearly three weeks, a VP in Dearborn simply issued the order to either let April in, or he would dismiss the director, effective with the first refusal to allow her access.
Once inside, April knew that she was in for a long, hard, uphill battle to find the causes of so many hand injuries amongst such a small closed-lip group of people. Her first indicator that it would not be an easy solution, was given in her introduction to the supervisor that had fought so hard to keep her out. As the plant manager introduced Hans Otto Led to April Speck, he asked her in accented English if she was fired bacon or broiled. April knew from her childhood that Hans was making reference to her last name, which translated from German to the word bacon in English. In perfect German she replied, “Neither, but you may call me April or Ms. April”. Her reply in his native tongue took him back a step. Hans was a native of Hamburg, and very proud of his German roots, and this intruder into his space might also be German, and just as strong headed. Soon the two were conversing in fluent German, with neither missing a beat. Hans relaxed a little after April explained that she was born in Boston to immigrant parents, and that German was spoken in the home because her grandmother never learned English.
As Hans lowered his defensive guard a little, he discovered that April was really a quite pleasant and attractive person. He might even have to work on developing an after-hours relationship with this new coworker, he thought to himself.
The two began to understand that each had their own task and that the success of both, was the best solution for Ford as a company. As Hans had signed each and every accident report, he had a good idea about what the employee was doing at the time of the accident. The two of them spent nearly a week pouring over the reports and sorting them into groups, then sorting them again into different groups. Finally, they went into the Engine Development dyno room, as that is where nearly all the injuries stemmed from. Hans had finally shared with April that his assignment was to get over 1,000 HP from the recently introduced 5.0 Liter Modular motor. He was throwing every mechanical engineering trick in the book at the little small block engine, but the horse power increases just were not satisfactory. His latest attempt was the use of trace elements in the fuel to track the flame in each cylinder. In this attempt to track the flame, several members of the team had placed their hands in the vicinity of the rotating valve train, and had fingers and skin pinched. Many of those pinches did however require stitches to close the resulting wound.
From a safety standpoint April knew that immediate corrective action had to be taken. If not, the work force would continue to take unnecessary risk and the reportable OSHA injuries would continue, or worse, even escalate to higher levels. April was aware that throwing a pile of Safety Regulations and posting signs stating, “Don’t Do This” or “Don’t Do That”, would never solve the problem. In fact, radical change in the name of Safety would not accomplish anything except animosity towards her by the work force. She had to find a workable solution that involved the entire team, especially Hans, so that he would not feel that his authority had been challenged. “Men!”, April thought to herself. They have such delicate egos. But she was starting to like this Hans character.
Her solution was both simple and effective. She asked Hans to help her develop a questionnaire that each employee would complete and return to Hans. From that input, she would develop a series of questions to ask the people. She would do this one-on-one, so that the person being interviewed would not feel pressured or afraid of retaliation for their comments. Hans embraced this idea, and suggested that he could serve as her first victim, but only if she would conduct the interview over dinner. April accepted this offer and viewed it as part of the solution that she so desperately needed to hit upon.
The dinner with Hans was, simply put, delightful in April’s mind, and most informative. The interviews with the twenty-two employees also went exceptionally well and were most revealing. What April was most surprised at, was the level of dedication the employees had to the project, and to Hans. The interviews revealed that they would follow him anywhere and give one hundred percent effort to succeed. She also discovered that this same devotion was the root cause of the high accident rate. These people were all true professionals and would go to any length to find the answer. A pinched hand, or a few cuts, were just part of the process to every one of them.
At the conclusion of the interviews, April told Hans that she had found the root cause of the injuries, and that she had a possible solution to the 1000 HP problem that he was faced with. Her only requirement was that Hans accept an invitation to dinner from her, so that they could discuss her ideas and solutions. Hans readily accepted the offer, and actually was grateful that she had asked.
At dinner, April explained what she had learned about the safety issues from her interviews. The solutions were going to be rather straight-forward, but would involve the employees. April proposed that the Windsor Plant Safety office host a seminar and allow all the employees in the plant to offer up safety suggestions. From that information, new procedures and safety-related processes could be introduced without offending the work force. Hans was all for this, as with less time spent documenting or explaining the high injury rate, the entire team could spend more time on the horse power problem.
Over coffee after the meal, April asked Hans if the team had considered the use of Plasma to increase horse power. As she suspected, they had not. As her doctorial thesis was on Plasma, she had a thorough knowledge of what it was capable of. She explained that the concept of aiming the flame within the cylinder wall, and getting more of the fuel to combust, was a great idea that only needed an injection of Plasma to accomplish the desired effect. Seems Plasma can be used to direct flame, or even shape flam,e into any desired shape. All of the requirements to accomplish this shaping of flame, are already present in the cylinder. There is fuel, a closed cylinder, flame in the form of a spark, and most to the Plasma pressure. Once the injector is refined, it can force flame travel to specific shapes, then collapse under the increase of pressure from the ignition, and the entire fuel source is consumed. April could tell that Hans understood the concept, but would need a couple of more dinners to grasp the success that was right at his fingertips.
The two worked diligently for the next two weeks, and dined together on numerous occasions. Then with the Safety problems resolved, it was time for her to return to Dearborn and look for another problem area. She had been back in her office for nearly two months, when there was a knock on her office door. She looked up to see the largest bouquet of flowers that one person could carry, positioned in her doorway. She rose to help the delivery person, when his familiar voice in perfect German announced that the flowers were for the most beautiful and talented woman in the world.
It was none other than Hans, and he had come to Dearborn with two agendas. First was to announce that he had solved the dilemma of how to get over 1,000 HP out of a small block engine. Use Plasma injection! ,He had found a way to apply the laws of physics to his little wonder motor. Next on the list, and the most important reason for the trip, was to ask the genius behind the solution to the engine problem for her hand in marriage. April was stunned, but she did accept, and the two former adversaries were joined in matrimony at a landmark church in Boston.
So when the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of the Mustang hits the streets and you lay a little right foot pedal action to all that Horse Power remember to say Thank You to Mrs. April Ned for all of her dedication.
Note from the Writer—The punch line you ask? Well in German the word “Ned” or “Neds” means, “to act foolish or foolishly”. And with the new bride’s first name being “April”, we get to the April Fools part.