Letter from the president
Thank you for once again joining us. This year is one of great significance for both myself and the company. Twenty years ago I had a dream of starting an engineering company that would facilitate the evolution of aerospace and aviation technology. Now, on the twentieth anniversary of M4 Engineering, I am delighted to say that the plan is coming together! However, this was not a one-person effort. I would not be sitting here today without the fantastic team at M4, our amazing customers, and all those who have supported us along the way. Looking back on the last twenty years and all the amazing projects we have been a part of, I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend every day in such a great company. Thank you to everyone who has been part of this wild ride. I cannot wait to see all that is accomplished over the next twenty years.
Company Culture: M4 Origin Story
It all began in 2001, when M4 President Dr. Myles Baker decided to leave his position at Boeing to pursue his long term goal of starting his own aerospace business. Having grown increasingly unsatisfied with the environment of large companies, Myles was eager to pack up his things and start his entrepreneurial journey. The company had humble beginnings, to say the least. The first office was located in the spare room of his home and payroll consisted of one person, himself (or zero people, if there were no contracts won). Myles knew he wanted to do multidisciplinary analysis and optimization for unusual aerospace vehicles (specifically hypersonics, in those days), but there was one large issue: he didn’t have a name for the company, and he was running out of time to come up with one. After brainstorming for months and getting nowhere, Myles decided to go with “M4 Engineering”, with each M representing the name of each member of the Baker family at that time (Myles, his wife Maureen, and two children Mitchell and Manderlee).
The first proposal M4 won was on optimizing structures of solid rocket motors for the Army in Huntsville, Alabama. Reflecting back on this win, Myles said, “Because we started with this idea of multidisciplinary analysis and optimization in our very first contract, we quickly put together a capability for structures, aerodynamics, propulsion, thermal protection, trajectory optimization, and lots of other disciplines. Having this wide range of abilities created flexibility for things we could do and opened a gateway for more unconventional projects.”
Despite this, beginning a startup was no easy feat. “There were times when it was definitely financially challenging and we weren’t sure if we would make the next payroll,” Myles said, “And that made the cubicle at the giant company seem a lot more cozy and inviting.” But twenty years later, Myles is more than happy he chose to dive into the deep end and begin this journey, as he would not have the amazing memories and fantastic team that he does now. Looking forward twenty years, Myles hopes M4 will grow in size and capabilities so we can continue to help great customers do great things.
Just a few months after our ribbon cutting ceremony, M4 is proud to announce the expansion of our Testing and Prototyping Center! This 50% growth is a big step for M4, as it increased the number of tests we can run in parallel and added additional CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Machining capabilities. To see what testing, prototyping, and manufacturing M4 can do for you, click this link or contact Brent Scheneman.
M4 Renews Partnership with MSU
M4 Engineering has renewed its partnership with Mississippi State University’s Dr. Rani Sullivan to continue developing advanced lightweight structures for space vehicle transportation. The partnership is working to create innovative structures that address difficulties encountered by equipment operating space’s extreme environment, and is funded by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Dr. Rani Sullivan is a professor in aerospace engineering under the Bagley College of Engineering and is published in the field of lightweight composite structures.
Recently Won Proposal: Stitched Composites Revolutionize Cryotanks for Launch Vehicles
The NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33/VentureStar was an uncrewed, vertical liftoff, suborbital spaceplane program cancelled in 2001. The X-33 was to be a half-scale prototype for a vehicle expected to launch payloads into space at a reduced cost. One of the key things the X-33 was trying to demonstrate is that a vehicle with a nice aerodynamic shape could carry enough hydrogen and oxygen to get to orbit. This is a problem because tanks naturally want to be round (cylinders or spheres), and nobody had shown that the unusually-shaped tanks needed to fit inside the aeroshell could work. Investors had hoped the full-scale version, VentureStar, would later replace the Space Shuttle. However, the engineers were facing difficulties designing tanks that would hold the required amount of liquid hydrogen, fit the shape of the spaceplane, and meet the weight requirements. After cycling through many designs NASA and Lockheed Martin shut down the program.
20 years later, M4 has a new approach that may make lightweight composite cryotanks that conform to the vehicle’s shape (not cylindrical or spherical) more feasible. This won’t be the single innovation that allows single-stage-to-orbit flight, but it’s an important step.
The innovation proposed by M4 Engineering is a novel tank-and-aeroshell arrangement that exploits the latest composite manufacturing practices to advance LH2 tank technology beyond what was possible during the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33/VentureStar program. By using advanced stitched-composite design and manufacturing methods, a more efficient airframe design becomes possible that fundamentally addresses the manufacturing flaws, scale-up challenges, and permeability issues that has plagued earlier programs. Stitching provides some key advantages for the non-cylindrical tank, and makes integration into the airframe much easier, while meeting the stringent structural weight fractions required for single-stage-to-orbit vehicles.
The current program will allow key design details to be worked out, and a subscale manufacturing demonstration will allow validation of the improvements.
The X-33 failed LH2 tank
M4 Phase I Concept Enveloped Max/Min Principal Strain on the LH2 Tank and Frames
Client Spotlight: Eviation
Since this year commemorates our 20th anniversary, we wanted to acknowledge some of the interesting companies and projects that helped us get here. Over the years M4 has worked on most types of air vehicles from Hypersonic transport to UAVs, through traditional commercial aircraft and Urban Air Mobility vehicles. In recent years, the increased electrification of aerospace has led to ongoing challenges in coming up with ways of creating vehicles with sufficient electric propulsion energy and battery capacity to address a myriad of different missions and applications.
One of these missions is in commercializing electric aircraft. In this article, we wanted to briefly mention some of the work we have been doing with Eviation Aircraft who is creating the world’s first all-electric commuter aircraft, built to make air travel an affordable, sustainable alternative for everyone’s regional transport. M4 has been tasked with designing and fabricating the nacelle for their new all-electric plane called Alice.
Eviation’s Alice all-electric commuter plane
For the unacquainted, a nacelle is located on the exterior of the airplane and acts as a housing element for a plane’s engine, fuel, or other equipment. For the Alice aircraft, the nacelle houses the motor, wiring, and other components.
Eviation was co-founded by Omer Bar-Yohay, Omri Regev, and Aviv Tzidon in 2015. Earlier this year, we spoke with Mr. Bar-Yohay, Eviation’s CEO, where he described a boom in electric air travel. One of Eviation’s major goals is to have the Alice be sustainable and affordable with lower operating cost and ticket price for future customers. In fact, Eviation’s stated vision is to “change the way people travel regionally through affordable, sustainable aviation.” Bar-Yohay specifically cited a global need to create a cleaner environment while also making flying regionally a cheaper alternative for consumers. In addition to helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the environment, a zero-emission electric plane also provides a better user experience and a smoother and quieter ride for passengers.
Eviation hopes the Alice will be used daily for short domestic travel around the world. With a range of over 540 nautical miles, it is well suited to act as a commuter jet or used for other short flights .The current design is capable of holding up to nine passengers and two pilots per flight.
Since there isn’t another plane like it, M4 has to come up with new ways to safely house the engine while still keeping the nacelle’s weight as light as possible to help meet Alice’s aggressive weight requirements.
The Alice’s first full-scale prototype was introduced to the world at the International Paris Air Show in June 2019. During the show, Eviation also announced that Cape Air, a regional airline located in Hyannis, Massachusetts, will be their first customer. If the schedule stays on course, Eviation plans on producing their first Alice planes by 2022.
We look forward to continuing to help them make that happen.
Open Positions: M4 Wants You!
Aerospace Design Engineer
Uses creativity and the discipline of engineering that applies principles of physics and material science specifically towards the design of a mechanical structure. The designer will design components and/or systems based on a set of requirements and constraints, and oversee the project from concept to production.
Manufacturing and Test Technician
A manufacturing and test technician is needed to support M4’s growing manufacturing and test capability. This individual will have primary responsibility for supporting a wide range of aerospace programs. Responsibilities may vary from executing test procedures, designing and fabricating test fixtures, composite part manufacturing, and general shop equipment maintenance.
Sales and Marketing Intern
M4 is seeking a smart, energetic and outgoing Sales and Marketing intern to gain valuable, practical experience in Sales & Marketing while working in a highly technical software development and engineering environment. Click the button below to learn more about this position.
Product Spotlight: Vesys
Modern E/E systems are characterized by a huge growth in complexity and depend on integrated electrical, electronic and software systems for innovation, while demanding robust verification & traceability. To effectively manage these interconnected challenges, the E/E systems development solution from Siemens DISW encompasses E/E systems architecture, electrical systems, communication networks and embedded software. It supports integrated end-to-end model-based design, manufacturing and service domains to transform quality and reduce costs. Strategic integrations with Siemens’ model-based systems engineering (MBSE), MCAD, product lifecycle management (PLM), simulation and manufacturing solutions help enable a comprehensive digital twin of the whole product. These integrations deliver requirements management, multi-domain functional modelling, software simulation, application lifecycle management and manufacturing plant simulation.
In today’s Product Spotlight we will discuss VeSys, which part of the Siemens DISW complete suite of software tools with advanced automation across a flow extending from electrical/electronic architecture definition, through detailed electrical design and wire harness manufacturing, to documentation & diagnostics.
The VeSys suite of software tools provides electrical schematic capture and wire harness design capabilities rolled into one highly-integrated package. Its capabilities and price point position it perfectly for small and medium sized businesses looking to improve their electrical and wire harness design capabilities. Electrical engineers and mechanical engineers working together on a design will find that VeSys allows them to collaborate more closely than before, with the ability to transfer wire harness data to and from several popular CAD packages. At a high-level, VeSys provides:
- Rapid, right-first-time, error-free electrical and harness design with numerous validation features including built-in simulation for continuity, voltage-drop, current, and various error conditions.
- Purpose-built graphical schematic capture and graphical wire harness design interfaces that are able to capture the complex relationships between components within a design.
- Automated creation of production-ready drawings, BOMs, costings, NC files, and manufacturing reports.
- Integration with several 3D CAD systems – you can model in 3D and then engineer the electrical detail with VeSys.
- An intuitive and easy-to-use interface with video tutorials, “how-to” documents, and online training courses, plus live training and assistance from M4 Engineering.
VeSys is split logically between electrical design and harness design as follows:
VeSys Design provides a graphical environment for creating wiring diagrams. Built-in intelligence automates many design tasks and simulation helps designers check and validate their designs as they are created. VeSys automatically generates reports for wires, connectors, and devices used in the design.
VeSys Harness provides a graphical environment for creating harness and formboard drawings. A powerful automated parts selector automatically configures and selects terminals, seals, and wires for each connector, including allowances for add-ons and knock-offs. Reporting capabilities can be used to generate the documentation required for manufacturing directly from the design drawing without error-prone intermediate steps.
Altogether, VeSys provides a combination of efficiency, correctness, and capabilities that might be a great fit for your engineering team. Please reach out for more information. We would love to discuss your needs and recommend a software product to meet those needs.
Webinar: High Fidelity CFD Simulation of Cough Droplet Propagation in Aircraft Cabin
In As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the need for passenger air travel is still widely prevalent. The airline industry must now incorporate new safety measures to reduce the spread of this epidemic, such as requiring masks on all passengers and thoroughly disinfecting the cabin. But is this enough?
In this webinar, Siemens and Airbus will talk about the role of high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation in understanding the transport of particles/droplets from a human cough in aircraft cabin.
The team will discuss the complexity encountered in modeling the transport of cough droplets as well as the impact and effectiveness of face masks in reducing droplet transmission from a cough in aircraft environment. Simulations were done using Simcenter STAR-CCM+, a multiphysics CFD simulation tool from Siemens Digital Industries Software, which was used to support the methodologies developed in this preliminary study.
View the webinar to learn more about the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne pathogens in aircraft cabins.
Contact us for more information on STAR-CCM+ or CFD analysis.
In our previous newsletters, you’ve already met some of our engineers, but today we wanted to introduce you to Michelle who helps keep things running at M4.
Michelle Darlington is M4’s office manager who does everything from organizing M4’s government & commercial contracts to contacting customers to handling paychecks. With such a wide variety of duties, Michelle rarely has the same workday twice. She constantly stays on top of the nitty-gritty administrative work while also making sure that the office stays in tip-top shape.
Michelle started working at M4 in 2008. Before M4, she worked for a couple of local TV stations and a bank. Funnily enough, it was Michelle’s husband, Phillip, who discovered M4 through a mutual friend who referred her to Dr. Myles Baker (M4 President). Dr. Baker had been looking for someone to handle the growing mountain of administrative work that had been piling up. It started as a part-time gig, but since Michelle & Dr. Baker were both satisfied with the collaboration, Michelle officially became a critical part of the M4 team.
“Every day can be different,” Michelle said with a laugh. Over the years, Michelle has had to “wear different hats at M4,” as she likes to say. At first, she primarily worked as a sort of personal assistant for Dr. Baker. As M4 continued to grow, Michelle’s job expanded as well. Now, she mostly works in accounting, reports to various departments at M4, and generally helps keep the non-engineering part of the company running.
Michelle thinks one of the best parts of the job is her fellow co-workers at M4. In fact, the biggest change during the pandemic for Michelle has been missing the office atmosphere and catching up with her co-workers in the break room. Michelle spoke fondly of the “camaraderie” at M4 and appreciates the respectful work environment.
“At M4, I appreciate being trusted to do my work,” Michelle said, “I don’t feel out of place.” Thinking about the horror stories of her previous jobs, Michelle thinks M4 has been a much more positive experience, overall.
“There’s more humanity and sensitivity in this office … than there can be in a lot of other places where you really feel like just a cog,” Michelle explained, “I think there’s a little bit better connection and communication.”
When she’s not in the office, Michelle and her husband love to watch movies, ride their bikes, and go for runs along the streets of Long Beach. Though Michelle & Phillip normally take a weekly trip to the movie theater on Fridays, during the pandemic, they’ve been catching up with the latest in streaming. Right now, they’re in the middle of watching The Crown and The Mandalorian. Staying at home during the pandemic, Michelle has also picked up the crocheting needles and has taken the time to bake & cook. Michelle and her husband live in Long Beach with their two cats: a ten-year-old Aussie cat named Kiko and their “old lady” Bengal cat named Belle. Michelle explained they aren’t quite sure how old Belle is since she was adopted, but they surmise she’s either seventeen or nineteen.
We want to send a huge thank you to Michelle, who constantly keeps the office running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Thank you, Michelle! M4 appreciates all of your hard work!
Learn about snap-through buckling analysis – why is it hard and how can we analyze this behavior in Simcenter 3D? Take advantage of the Arc-Length method in Simcenter Nastran to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem.
Not all loading conditions are created equal. In this blog you will learn when and how to use Siemens Simcenter 3D to analyze complex loading conditions that are outside of the range for hand calculations. Simcenter 3D can be used to solve these types of problems to calculate stress, reduce weight and improve design as your project requires.
Testing usually requires measuring quantitative data, most commonly acquired by precise and accurate sensors. Additionally, a single test may require multiple types of measurements which would require multiple types of sensors. LabVIEW’s intuitive graphical format enables development of complex, multi-sensor data acquisition for custom-tailored tests.
M4 Community and Academic Outreach:
Rock for Vets
Every year on Veterans’ Day, The Rock Club – Music is the Remedy organizes a “Rock for Vets” campaign to fundraise money for their organization. Though Rock for Vets is usually held in person, The Rock Club made their event a virtual fundraiser concert. Luckily, they were able to hold it on Veterans Day this year and M4 was one of their sponsors.
M4 CEO & President Dr. Myles Baker had the idea to sponsor Rock the Vets in hopes to show his support for the U.S. veterans. “Veterans are the backbone of this country, they have devoted their lives to protecting our freedom,” Dr. Baker said. “And because M4 often works with the U.S. Armed Forces, we feel a strong connection with those who’ve served so we wanted to pair with Rock for Vets to show our support.”
This Veterans’ Day, the Long Beach charity held a two-hour virtual concert, where veterans, volunteers, and Rock for Vets team members played music for the fundraiser. They also showcased messages from community leaders, celebrities, and musicians. Hosted by Helene Weinberg, the virtual concert included special guests like actor Danny Trejo, Oingo Boingo’s John Avila, War’s Sal Rodriguez, and Zak Brown Band’s Daniel de los Reyes. You can watch a shortened version of the fundraiser on YouTube.
The Rock Club’s executive director Frank McIlquham & the charity’s administrator Katherine McIlquham personally thanked M4 for sponsoring the successful event. The letter says, “Thank you so much for your support and sponsorship for Rock for Vets Virtual Concert on Veterans’ Day. We greatly appreciate it.”
Founded by Frank McIlquham, The Rock Club – Music is the Remedy is a nonprofit charity organization located in Long Beach. Their goal is to provide music education & mentoring for veterans to improve their mental health and interpersonal skills after finishing their service. They’ve helped over 250 veterans over the years since their inception ten years ago. They provide a variety of services for veterans of all ages & abilities, including choral programs and an inmate music program.
The Rock Club’s goal is to help veterans better themselves and their relationships through the power of music. Creating a positive environment for veterans, The Rock Club gives veterans the space to make music and form bonds with fellow veterans. Over the course of the pandemic, The Rock Club had to be creative to keep their charity work running. So, they created a series called “Quarantine Singing Circle,” where team members from The Rock Club play music for viewers to sing along to. Right now, they’re in the midst of singing Christmas carols for the holiday season.
If you’d like to donate to The Rock Club, you can visit their website musicistheremedy.org where you can find out more information about the local charity.
Just for Fun: Who's that Baby?
To go along with the Back to the Beginning theme of this newsletter, we have created this special edition of Just for Fun to showcase the beginnings of those at M4. Did you realize how adorable our employees are? Try and guess one or more of the babies and send us a response for a chance to win a prize!