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Automation, Robotics & Computer-Controlled Machines Expert Witness

SafeMachines, PLLC - Dr. Richard Hooper

SafeMachines, PLLC - Dr. Richard Hooper

1102 Bowie Road
Austin, Texas 78733

Phone(512) 699-6487

Website www.rhooper.com
E-mail  Send an email

Expert WitnessForensic ExpertSpeaker
SafeMachines, PLLC, founded by Dr. Richard Hooper who has earned advanced degrees and accumulated over thirty years of engineering experience mastering the computer-controlled machines that form the heart of modern factory automation. He will provide you true expert analysis of the complex electrical, mechanical and computer interactions between these machines and their human operators. This testimony will be in clear language that everyone can understand.

Services

SafeMachines, PLLC provides litigation support and engineering consulting services. Expertise in Robotics & Factory Automation, Machine Control Software, Programmable Logic Controllers, Machine Accidents & Machinery Safety, Instrumentation & Control.


Litigation Support Services

SafeMachines, PLLC provides litigation support services as an automation and robotics expert.

Areas of Expertise

Profile

SafeMachines, PLLC: Austin, Texas
President
-Company formed to provide engineering consulting and litigation support services
-Customers include Image Microsystems, Inc.; Prime Designs, Inc. and Linear Technologies
-SafeMachines specializes in motion control, robotics and computer controlled machines.

Consulting Practice

All States

More Information

Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) Expert Witness
Process Control Expert Witness
Relay Ladder Logic Expert Witness
Instrumentation Expert Witness
Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) Expert Witness
Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) Expert Witness

Professional Experience

Summary
• Technical architect of multi-million dollar projects with Fortune 500 companies and Federal agencies including: NASA, Merck, Medtronics, Guidant, Whirlpool, Michelin, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, US Air Force, US Army and US DOE
• Chief Engineer at Textron Systems, Austin Operations
• Former Chief Scientist at the University of Texas Robotics Research Group
• Former Principal Engineer at Eaton Corporation
• Extensive experience and training in software, hardware, automation and instrumentation
• Over thirty years of industrial and research experience in highly technical environments
• Author of over thirty technical publications and government reports
• Author and architect of five copyrighted software systems

Education
PhD – Robotic Systems, The University of Texas at Austin
MSME – Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
BSEE – Instrumentation and Computer Engineering, Rice University

Awards and Professional
NASA Certificate of Merit, Judge R&D Magazine Top 100 Developments, C. Rowe Fellow, Tau Beta Pi, IEEE Division X Professional Activities Chairman, National Instruments Test Leadership Council, Registered Professional Engineer

Employment History
Textron Systems, Electronic Systems, Austin Operations August 2004 – Present
Chief Engineer
• Architect of WaveCore automatic test product line
• Architect of Canard Loader product line

Engineering Department Manager
• Achieved perfect scores on last two AS9100 audits of the engineering department
• Achieved 97% on-time delivery against original contract PO delivery dates
• Developed and formalized parametric estimation techniques for engineering, manufacturing and material handling efforts
• Financial Performance - Break-even in 2010, $600k profit in 2011, $1.3M profit in 2012, and $1.9M profit in 2013. The best financial performance in the company’s history.

Hardware Engineering Manager
• Managed engineering resources to meet cost goals and reduce profit leakage to less than 3% profit degradation in aggregate across all projects
• Managed department to deliver work on schedule for 90% of tasks performed across all projects and proposals with metrics
• Developed department engineers through mentoring, training, and growth-oriented task assignment. Added professional development activities to official yearly review metrics.

Program Technical Lead
• Ultimate responsibility for technical success of projects
• Lead engineer on successful projects for Medtronic, Guidant, Cameron Health, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, QLogic, Merrimac, Raytheon and Coherent

Fusion Technologies; Austin, Texas October 2003 – August 2004
Senior Software Architect
• Technical lead of team starting Austin office for this ten year-old software company
• Set strategies, goals and milestones for office
• Grew office from zero to six customers in first nine months

Trilogy Development Group; Austin, Texas November 1998 – Oct. 2003
Senior Software Architect
• Owner of technical delivery at all Fortune 500 pricing customers
• Inventor and architect of Promotion ManagerTM application
• Created optimization algorithms for pricing and promotion software
• Lead developer for contract and pricing management applications
• Instructor for Pricer ManagerTM training classes
• Delivered customer success at Whirlpool, Michelin, Eaton and Merck
• Optimized query structure for 100X performance improvement at Michelin
• Designed database structure for query optimization of very large (>108 rows) tables

Eaton Semiconductor Equipment Operations; Austin, Texas April 1997 – November 1998
Principal Engineer
• Led team of software, mechanical and electrical engineers as manager of major machine productivity project
• Designed a 3-axis programmable logic controller with electrical isolation, analog electronics, A/D, D/A and digital electronics
• Solved a complex resonance problem that had plagued the primary product line for years
• Robotics lead on 300mm product development

The Robotics Research Group; Austin, Texas January 1994 – April 1997
Deputy Director
• Managed multi-million dollar projects with the Department of Energy and NASA
• Managed 30+ graduate engineers
• Managed 16,000 sq. ft. laboratory with clean room, metrology and two-story high bay
Chief Scientist
• Conducted independent research with more than $1.25 million in research funds
• Developed advanced software for real time optimization, fault-tolerant control, operation in radiation fields, tool performance relationships, man/machine interfaces, servo motion control and PLC-based systems
• Developed hardware and software for a 2-axis programmable logic motion controller
• Developed 5-axis programmable logic motion controller for AC motors
• Taught robotics & automation, instrumentation and technical writing courses
• Guest lecturer at ITESM University in Mexico City, Mexico and The Institute For Robotics in Dortmund, Germany


Licenses

Registered Professional Engineer


Legal Experience & Services

Automated Guided Vehicle – Also known as Automatic Guided Vehicles or AGVs, these robotic vehicles are typically used to move materials and products in factories and warehouses. This workplace accident occurred when a robotic forklift moving heavy rolls of paper in a paper press misplaced the paper roll on its receiving stand. The roll fell from the stand and struck the machine operator. In this case I assisted the attorneys with discovery, provided insight into the technical aspects of the system, analyzed the machine’s control computer, conducted a plant inspection, analyzed the relevant AGV safety standard, wrote two expert reports and testified at deposition.

Automation Networking and Control Software – This patent case involved factory automation and computer integrated manufacturing software products. I was retained by Plaintiff and assisted with evaluating issues of validity, infringement and prior-art products cited by Defendants. I met with Plaintiff's damages experts to help them understand the technology and background of the industry. I also conducted a code inspection and analysis of Defendant’s software source code.
Automobile Manufacturing Assembly Line – This accident occurred when an automobile assembly moved unexpectedly and one of the vehicles struck a worked. As an expert witness in this case, I analyzed the ladder logic line control software, identified the defective rung of ladder logic and was able to show when this defect was introduced into the software. In this case I testified at deposition.

Bindery Line Controller – This case involved a company that had developed a redundant, fault-tolerant safety controller for a bindery line that they claimed was safer than OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Regulation (Control of Hazardous Energy Standard). In this case the United States Secretary of Labor retained me to analyze the controller’s design and evaluate the company’s claim relative to the OSHA Lockout/Tagout standard.
Brick Stacking Robot – This workplace accident occurred when an industrial robot moved unexpectedly and struck the operator who was clearing a row of improperly stacked bricks. I analyzed the safety systems, modifications to the system subsequent to delivery, the design of the system’s controller, compliance with robot safety standards and generally consulted with the attorneys to help them understand the technical aspects of the robotic system. My work included an expert report on the matter.

Computer Controlled Overhead Hoist – This industrial accident occurred when a computer-controlled overhead crane moved unexpectedly while an operator was inside an automated manufacturing cell that was grinding and finishing automobile crank shafts. The automated cell was surrounded by a safety barrier fence, but the safety interlock had been defeated to allow the operator in the cell without triggering a shut-down. As an expert witness in this case, I met with the attorneys, examined photos of the accident scene, provided an assessment of the cell design relative to pertinent safety standards and assessed the design of the safety interlocks.
Computer Controlled Press Brake – This industrial accident involved a 400-ton press brake controlled by a Programmable Logic Controller, or PLC. I analyzed the machine, the ladder-logic software, the programmable logic controller, the machine safe guarding and conducted a plant inspection to assist the attorney in understanding whether the software or the hardware were defective.

Computer Controlled Vending Machine – This patent dispute involved a computer-controlled vending machine. The vending machine employed a robotic mechanism to dispense t product. I was retained by the Defendant and assisted with analysis and issues of validity and infringement. I wrote an expert report in this matter that addressed three patents.
Computer Disk Drive – This patent dispute involved a control algorithm for a computer hard drive. I was retained by the Defendants and assisted them with understanding the technology and algorithms involved in the suit.

Computer Integrated Manufacturing Software – This patent case involved factory automation and computer integrated manufacturing software products. I was retained by Plaintiff and assisted with evaluating issues of validity, infringement and prior-art products cited by Defendants. I also conducted a code inspection and analysis of Defendant’s software source code and wrote a declaration in support of Defendant's Markman brief.

Consumer Automation Device – This patent dispute involved a single-axis motion control mechanism with force-limiting functionality. I was retained by Plaintiffs and supported their efforts with analysis of and experimentation with an infringing mechanism's control circuitry.
Coordinate Measuring Machine – This patent dispute involved a Coordinate Measuring Machine, or CMM. Specifically the patents at suit disclosed touch trigger probes for CMMs where the two-piece probes included a kinematic coupling for precise location. In this case I analyzed the products at suit, the prior art and assisted the attorneys with their invalidity contentions and technical differentiators between their product and the disclosures in the patents. During the course of the case I wrote an expert declaration, testified at deposition and testified in court at a preliminary injunction hearing.

Drilling Rig Top Drive – This patent dispute involved a drilling rig top drive. I was retained by Plaintiff and provided support while they were developing their Markman brief and tutorial. I assisted with issues of validity and infringement and wrote two reports in this matter. I also testified at deposition as an expert witness.

Integrated Motor and Motion Controller – This patent dispute involved an electric motor coupled with an integrated motion controller. I reviewed the pleadings in the case, the patents at suit, the prior art, the products at suit, assisted the attorneys composing the infringement contentions and assisted the attorneys with their response to the invalidity contentions.
Material Handling with Automated Forklifts – This accident occurred when an automated guided forklift malfunctioned and collided with a person in the warehouse. I assisted counsel in understanding the technology behind the malfunction and created a computer program that showed how the accident occurred.

Paint Spraying Robot – This patent dispute involved an industrial paint spraying robot. In this case I examined the products, examined the patents, conducted a plant inspection and assisted the attorneys with aspects of prior art and general robot design.

Plastic Film Winding Machine – This accident occurred when a machine operator was pinned while trying to clear a jam in the machine. In this case I analyzed the ladder logic control code running on the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) controlling the machine. I wrote an expert report in this matter and testified at deposition.

Plastic Film Wrapping Machine – This accident occurred when a machine operator was struck by a robotic arm while the operator was adding ink to a printer installed on the machine. I assisted the attorney in understanding the relevant standards governing the design of robotic systems and also in understanding machine fault tolerance concepts.

Plastic Thermoforming Machine – This accident occurred when a computer controlled plastic vacuum forming machine moved unexpectedly and struck an operating that was clearing the machine of a jam. In this case I analyzed the machine guarding, analyzed the machine warnings, analyzed the machine controller and generally assisted the attorney with discovery.

Power Operated, Automatic Pedestrian Door – This accident occurred when an automatic pedestrian door closed on a person and knocked her to the ground. Though it is not immediately obvious, an automatic door is an example of a robotic system. It has sensors that control its operation, a motor that supplies power and a mechanism that transfers power from the motor to the doors. In this case I inspected the faulty door, wrote a written report, testified at deposition and testified in front of a jury at trial.

Robotic Suturing Device – This patent dispute in the general field of medical robotics specifically involved a robotic surgical suturing instrument. I reviewed the pleadings in the case, the patents at suit, the prior art, the products at suit, assisted the attorneys composing the infringement contentions and assisted the attorneys with their response to the invalidity contentions.

Robotic Surgical Device – This patent dispute in the general field of medical robotics specifically involved a teleoperated surgical robot. I assisted the attorneys with understanding prior art in the field of teleoperation and alerted them to prior art teleoperated robots developed for use in radioactive environments.

Robotic Surgical Training Device – This patent dispute in the general field of medical robotics specifically involved a teleoperated surgical robot. I assisted the attorneys with understanding prior art in the field of teleoperation and alerted them to prior art teleoperated robots developed for use in radioactive environments.

Theater and Stage Automation – Though many people are not aware of it, modern theater often has a huge automation content that could involve hundreds of axes of motion. These are controlled by logic controllers very much like the logic controllers used in manufacturing. This accident occurred when an automation operator inadvertently left a trap door open during a pre-show check. An actor was injured when he fell through the open trap door. In this case I assisted the attorneys in understanding the technology, studied the log files from the time of the accident to identify the missed step in the pre-show check and wrote two expert reports. The second was in support of a successful motion for summary judgment.

Tire Making Machine – This industrial accident occurred when tire making machine sequenced by a programmable logic controller moved unexpectedly and struck a maintenance technician who was clearing the machine of a jam. In this case I provided engineering expert witness services that included analysis of the machine's control software, identification of the defective ladder logic code, a comparison of the machine involved in the accident with a previous-generation machine that was controlled by a drum sequencer rather than a computer and expert witness testimony at deposition.

Wood Manufacturing Process Control – This accident occurred when a thermal process controlled by a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) got out of control and caused an explosion. I assisted the attorneys in understanding the root cause of the accident and how the PLC and its control software were involved.


Awards & Honors

NASA Certificate of Merit,
Judge R&D Magazine Top 100 Developments,
C. Rowe Fellow,
Tau Beta Pi,
IEEE Division X Professional Activities Chairman,
National Instruments Test Leadership Council,
Registered Professional Engineer


Publications

Author of over thirty technical publications.


Education

PhD - Robotics and Automation, The University of Texas at Austin
MSME - BioMedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
BSEE - Instrumentation and Computer Engineering, Rice University





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