Prosthetics, planes, & automation

Departments - Editor’s Letter

Medical procedures, motion drives, and advanced materials… so much for getting out of the office.

August 26, 2019

Elizabeth Engler Modic

My daughter suggested we take a mother-daughter trip to Florida before she headed back to college. I was instantly on board, even knowing Florida in August was going to be sweltering, a hurricane could happen, and news reports of necrotizing fasciitis were (and still are) making headlines.

I was going to get away from work, thinking only of sand, sun, and Mickey Mouse. Well think again.

We flew on an Airbus A320 during Frontier Airline’s Green Week, a celebration of its fuel-efficient fleet that saved 102 million gallons of fuel in 2018. The A320s are nearly 50% quieter than previous generation aircraft, thanks to composite and aluminum alloy use, while wing sharklets have annually saved 700 tons of CO2 per aircraft since 2013. Smaller, redesigned tray tables; ultra-lightweight seats; and removal of in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment delivers additional efficiencies.

Next up was a trip to Disney, where automation technology is everywhere. Disney resorts and theme parks operate 24/7, 365 days a year and boast 99.9% uptime. While it’s not a lights-out manufacturing facility, Disney’s use of automation ensures guests and cast members are safe and their experiences seamless. One example is Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain that saves energy by using Siemens Sinamics G120 safety regenerative drives that take energy used by the roller coaster and put it back into the electrical infrastructure. (In late 2010, Siemens and Disney ended a 12-year marketing alliance in the technology sector for entertainment.)


Before the end of vacation we included a stop at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, an animal hospital specializing in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick or injured marine animals. While you can watch veterinary technicians tending to their latest rescue animal in the Surgical Suite (a modern exam/operating room), we wanted to see “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2” star Winter, the bottlenose dolphin rescued in Dec. 2005. She lost her tail fluke and part of her peduncle so she’s fitted with a flexible thermoplastic prosthetic tail. As local prosthetists worked to ensure it fit without creating hot spots, a new gel material was developed, WintersGel Prosthetic Liners. It keeps Winters’ prosthetic tail suctioned to her body – similar to how a surgical glove grips a hand – and is now used as liners for human prosthetics.

Medical procedures, motion drives, and advanced materials… so much for getting out of the office.

Elizabeth Engler Modic, Editor