4927 St. Croix Ave.  Golden Valley, Minnesota  55422

If you have questions, call - (763) 521-0217

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Forensic and Technical Engineering Investigations for Production,

  Investor, Legal, Adjuster, and Insurance Offices

Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate/function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. The consequences of failure are dealt by the law of product liability. The subject is applied most commonly in civil law cases, although may be of use in criminal law cases. Generally the purpose of a forensic engineering investigation is to locate cause or causes of failure with a view to improve performance or life of a component, or to assist a court in determining the facts of an accident. It can also involve investigation of intellectual property claims, especially patents.  (Wikipedia)

An experienced forensic engineer can be expected to answer three questions - - -

                1. What happened?

                2. Why did it happen?

                3. How could it have been prevented?

These answers can be expected in the form of a well-written report and, if called upon, a well prepared verbal presentation.

Our specific expertise is the design, development, and production, of products and equipment to be used by people.  An interesting perspective gained from the variety of our experience with this people-equipment interface, is how knowledge in one area can be applied to, and bring insight into other areas.  The fundamental principles of physics do not change, regardless of the objects to which they are applied.  This variety of experience has allowed us to quickly come up to speed on projects.  It gives an added advantage in that we tend to look at mechanical/electrical situations from a broad perspective, yet retain the appropriate depth.  This is especially characteristic of forensic engineers with heavy experience in the actual design and production of equipment.  Mr. Berner is credited inventor for 24 U.S. patents, plus some related foreign patents.

Pro bono assistance - Suppose you believe you have been treated unfairly by the court and would appeal a decision but for lack of funds. If upon review, we agree, we may be willing to help out on a no fee basis.

If you have specific questions, please contact John M. Berner, P.E. at Applications Research, Inc. (763) 521-0217.

If you need more information on any of these projects, please click it.




















































ACCUMULATION CONVEYOR SYSTEM   (Computer simulation) Review and redesign of installation where manufacturer of the system was unable to offer an explanation for the system's non-function. Review included analysis, thorough identification of the problem,  and recommendation for correction of inoperable conveyor system. (Peavey, Con-Agra)

AIRCRAFT REFUELING VEHICLE FIRE   Investigation for report to insurance company.  Conclusions and recommendations regarding fatal fire in manufacturer’s test facility for aircraft refueling vehicles. Involved very thorough review and reconstruction of the accident.  We provided absolutely conclusive proof that the cause as failure of a 4" poppet valve subjected to hydraulic shock. (Brown Minneapolis Tank).

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT RECONSTRUCTION   Past (and continuing) projects in accident reconstruction analysis involving automotive and fire mishaps. Formal reports. (Perhaps 10-12 different situations)

AUTOMATIC PALLETIZING EQUIPMENT  Review of design and structural configuration of the complete line of palletizing equipment for soft drink cans.  The main industrial design effort was conducted by Mario Fernandez. The object was a redesign to streamline the general appearance of the line, yet avoid any compromising of the structural integrity of the equipment.  Fernandez also developed a suggestion for a new logo and incorporated it into the renderings of the equipment.  This effort also involved review of OSHA issues relating to this equipment. (Simplimatic)

AUTOMOBILE SUSPENSION ANALYSIS   Analysis of automobile suspension proving standard configuration of a particular U.S. passenger car that did not meet its own specification for load capacity. Clearly identified problem(s).  Demonstrated spring design under standard load specification allowed rear axles to bottom out as vehicle still sat in driveway.

AUTOMOTIVE HEATER   Thermodynamic (heat transfer) investigation and analysis of the effect of restrictions in water flow to various automotive heaters for various input water and air conditions. Formal report.  This was conducted for the potential manufacturer.

BATTERY CHARGER   Battery charger investigation and recommendation for potential investment and/or purchase of line. Formal report, UL review.  This was conducted for the potential purchaser and manufacturer of the line.

BUBBLE SWITCH DESIGN PARAMETERS  This project consisted constructing mathematical models of a number of typical bubble switch configurations.  One of our conclusions was that the sharp edge where the bubble met the flat surface was causing very high (destructive) stresses in the PC laminate material at that point.  Also, we were able to determine that the the problem was worse or most aggravated for the thicker materials.  This was conducted for the manufacturer. 

CD PRINTING MECHANISM DESIGN AND/OR REVIEW  Paper analysis of system for fabrication of compact disk printing system. Developed concept(s) for cost reduction and streamlining of system and reduction of number of parts.  A variety of options were looked at.  Overall effort resulted in about 30% cost reduction of the basic system.  We believe other, more radical changes will amount to even greater cost reductions with an overall increase in performance.  This was conducted for the manufacturer.

CHEESE PROCESSING FACILITY  Review of cheese processing plant equipment for problems with equipment.  This effort involved a quite detailed look at the various items provided for production.  Undue wear patterns caused foreign (metal) particles to be introduced into the finished product.  Result was the product had to be rejected with significant financial loss to the processor. (Land O' Lakes)

EARTHQUAKE SIMULATION SRMD   (Seismic Response Modification Device)  Review of the safety hazards and potential failure modes for a large ($14 million) earthquake simulation installation. Analysis involved review of the hydraulic accumulation system, power distribution system, and servo control system. (University of California, San Diego and MTS). 

AUGUST '99, UCSD AND CALTRANS  California Department of Transportation officially opened the new Caltrans Seismic Response Modification Device (SRMD)Test Facility at the San Diego campus. The facility is the first in the world of its kind and scale, and is designed to test new technologies to retrofit the state’s longest span bridges.

Equipped to provide a realistic three-dimensional earthquake simulation, the facility’s testing table is 16 ft. long by 12 ft. wide, and can move horizontally in all directions, lift and lower, rotate, and shake at velocities of up to 70 inches per second.  Long-span bridges including the western approach to the Oakland Bay Bridge, the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, and the Benicia Martinez Bridge are among those targeted to be retrofitted for earthquake safety through the Caltrans Toll Bridge Retrofit Program.

ENTERAL DELIVERY SYSTEM  Research effort to come up with various optional methods to pump medicinal or nutritional fluids into patient during various hospitalization situations.  Involved review of existing systems, brainstorming of optinal systems, and presentation of best option(s) to client (Sandoz Nutrition).

ETHYLENE OXIDE STERILIZER   UL approval preliminary investigation for ethylene oxide gas sterilizer for use in hospitals. Included review, summary report, travel to Chicago (Northbrook) to review with U.L. (3M Co.)

FAIRWAY AERATOR SIMULATION  Simulation of golf course fairway aerator system.  This was a device that operated in such manner as to punch holes in the soil as it moved down the fairway.  The process involved a tremendous load on the transmission and gears that drove the individual spikes.  The output included all the gear loads, bearing loads, some of the other component stress loads, and a graphical representation of the system as it cycled.  Effort included a quite thorough analysis and report.

FAIRWAY MOWING VEHICLE COMPUTER SIMULATION   (Computer simulation) Simulation of golf course fairway mower system to analyze the problem(s) associated with a phenomenon referred to as "bobbing".  Bobbing is a situation where a reel mower attached to vehicle begins to vibrate vertically at a resonant frequency which is determined, probably, by the constants (weight, vehicle speed, tire pressure, cg's, connections, etc.) of the system and the equivalent spring constant of the interface between the hardware and the ground - - i.e. the grass/dirt turf pack.  By way of this simulation, we were able to evaluate the relative importance of dampening in the horizontal, vertical, and rotational directions and the connecting point of the vehicle to the mower(s).  An interesting idea, first conceived by us and demonstrated with the computer model, was the simulation of the apparent vehicle/mower pivot connection acting as if it was situated below the surface of the ground.  We referred to this concept as a "virtual" pivot connection since it could not be achieved unless one devised a (very simple) linkage to create the pivot point. The computer model was constructed in such manner as to allow changing of almost all variables as vehicle moved along the ground up to and including drive wheel diameters.  These were variables which could not possibly be continuously modified on an operating piece of hardware.  Computer model and associated graphic was later converted to a MS Windows-based front end.

FORK LIFT ACCIDENT (A)  Conducted investigation of fork lift accident fatality.  This involved used of a fork truck to support an operating conveyor in a raw vegetable storage facility in southern Minnesota.  Involved a thorough review of involved mechanisms, their functions at the time of the accident.

FORK LIFT ACCIDENT (B)  Review of the situation whereby the operator of a lift truck was discovered (deceased) in place on the tractor with the engine running, in a large suburban grocery distribution center.  In addition, the fatality was clearly due to head injury.  Investigation involved review of OSHA requirements, environmental situation, fork truck configuration, measurement a re-layout of the accident site and the position of that fork truck, as discovered at the accident scene.  Client was insurance carrier.

FREIGHT DAMAGE ANALYSIS BY TRUCK-TRAILER ACCIDENT   Review of damage to approximately $800,000 worth of very sophisticated vibration simulation and control equipment resulting from truck accident. Provided oversite review of repair activities for insurance company and owners, Lloyd's of London and the Chinese (Mainland) Government.  (Crawford Companies)

GOLF CAR TRANSMISSION ANALYSIS   (Computer simulation) Review and analysis of golf car transmission wherein the vehicle speed tended to enter a cycling "surge" mode when the accelerator was actuated too rapidly.   Developed  engine-clutch-traction relationships and clearly identified variables that affected the natural frequency of the system.  This led to development of a recommendation and method for elimination of the problem.  Additional effort involved full stress analysis, including fatigue loading, of all components of the transmission (Polaris)

HANGAR DOOR ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATION   Analysis of loads for all positions for a vertically lifting door for an aircraft hangar. Report included full analysis of lifting system power requirement and a general critique of system for function and safety.

HIGH SPEED CLUTCH/BRAKE   Analysis and design recommendations for high-speed clutch/brake system. Most thorough analysis of clutch/brake interaction to that point.  Formal report.   Presently working on article for national magazine concerning clutch-brake systems.

INCLINED ELEVATOR ACCIDENT ANALYSIS   Review of accident with inclined elevator on bank of St. Croix River, involving three adults who sustained serious injury.  Also involved German shepherd dog who jumped free but limped around for about two weeks.  Involved reconstruction and recommendations for prevention of future mishaps. Formal report, photographs provided. (Client - American Family Insurance)

INK MIXING EQUIPMENT  Review, evaluation, and certification of multiple pieces of ink mixing equipment just prior to its preparation for shipment to India.  Client was manufacturer/distributor.

MOBILE ASPHALT PLANT FIRE   Review and reconstruction of situation leading to fire. Included site visit, photographing of site, interviews with various individuals and recommendations to prevent future mishaps. Costs to rebuild were reviewed for fairness and consistency with the reconstruction work performed. (St. Paul Companies).

MOLASSES MIXING TANK(s) Complete review and analysis of molasses mixing tanks.  This included thorough stress analysis of the main structure and the 12 foot diameter circular perforated plates and welds.  We took into account the cyclical (fatigue) nature of the loads as the tanks were regularly filled and emptied approximately 10 times daily (Arrow Tank).

MOTOR FAILURE IN FAN-COIL COOLING UNITS  This was an investigation of the very early failure of motors in a series of fan coil systems.  This involved complete teardown and review of the various components of the system.  Our final report and certification involved description of our investigation plus clear identification of the cause of the problem.  (City of St. Paul).

MOTORCYCLE ENGINE  Review of components and loads for motorcycle engine.  This included stress loads for crankshaft and recommendations for production.  Client was potential manufacturer.

OIL PURIFICATION TRANSPORT UNIT  Complete review from operator safety standpoint, of a mobile oil purification transport system design.  This include review of all electronic controls and potential burn hazards, heat flow through unit, and final recommendations.  (Porous Media Corporation)

OLYMPIC SIZED SWIMMING POOL   Swimming pool panel stress analysis. Involved analysis of various hydraulic load situations comparing aluminum with fiberglass from both a strength and cost standpoint.  Included fatigue analysis of design.  Investigation also involved very interesting review of the natural frequency of the water mass in various size containers varying all the way from bath tubs to Olympic sized pools.    Recommendations for redesign were eventually incorporated. (Toro-Gametime Division)

PALLETIZING EQUIPMENT   Review, analysis, and redesign recommendations for a high volume soft drink can palletizing machine.  Work include re-specification of components in such manner as to improve visual characteristics of equipment without compromising the actual structure.  Use of proper components allowed actual slimming of the unit(s) while strengthening some of the critical components.  Graphiics were developed around 3D computer models of the machines.

PASSIVE MOTION EXERCISE DEVICE COMPUTER SIMULATION  (Computer simulation) This was a follow up, by a few months, on work we had completed as part of our design of the original machine.  Review of linkages and creation of a graphical computer simulation of the motion of the device.  Computer program was created that not only read back the loads on all the pivot points, but the linkage loads and the bearing lives at the expected loads and speeds.  In addition it was set up so as to allow the client to enter the applied loads and the speeds involved in the various situations.  While we had completed a number of these calculations earlier, the program allowed the client to easily change all the inputs and retrieve answers, by screen or printout, for the loads and lives on all linkages and bearings in the system. (EMPI)

PONTOON HANDRAIL INVESTIGATION  Based upon our experience with handrail design, we were selected to evaluate a number of different configurations for handrails of pontoon boats.  The object of this was to minimize the potential for damage to hands and fingers of the passengers - especially young ones.  This was accompanied by a complete report.

PROJECT INVESTMENT ANALYSIS   This was a computerized system for inclusion of all the company's engineering projects into an overall combined return on investment analysis.  This was done because specific engineers recognized that, due to erroneous tax treatment, all new product programs were being unfairly compared to alternative investments.  In addition, the cost assigned to various programs were regularly subjected to whimsical (fast and loose) estimates based more upon USWAG figures than on factual data.  This helped to put engineering cost estimates on a more legitimate, professional, footing (Toro).

ROOF LOUVER INSPECTION - CERTIFICATION  Effort involved comparison of existing louver system with the standard for that particular building product and to certify its compliance.  Report was presented.  Client was the manufacturer

SAW - RADIAL ARM   A carpenter severed part of his hand while using a radial arm saw on a job site. Although the saw was set to cut window headers, the carpenter claimed the saw lurched rapidly toward him as he reached for the handle.  Post-accident site investigation was not possible. We were retained because one of our strengths is the design and test of consumer grade power equipment.  Careful examination revealed that a foreseeable distortion in the plastic motor housing unit would allow the saw to come out of its locked vertical position.  The manufacturer later incorporated the type of restraining device recommended by us.  Perhaps, the manufacturer should have spent time with us before this happened, rather than after. 

SAW SWITCH DESIGN  Review of accident involving circular saw switch wherein we clearly identified the failure mode as one whereby the "off" contact was designed too close to the "on" contact.  This led directly to the saw's switch not cutting power to the unit when it was switched to the "off" position.

SNOW EQUIPMENT - VARIOUS DESIGN ANALYSIS EFFORTS   Five or six various clutch, gear, or structural analysis efforts to assist Toro engineering people with snow equipment projects.  Mr. Berner, of this office, was a major contributor to Toro's present snow equipment design.  This included the original two-stage snow throwers, plus, origination of Toro's "Power Curve" concept - the "star" feature of its present single stage snow thrower lines.

STAIRWAY SAFETY STUDY AND FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT   As part of the government sponsored development of a concept for assisting the individuals to more safely climb up or down stairs, a study was conducted, involving the negotiation of stairways for the elderly and handicapped,   The device essentially amounts to a walker which is affixed to one side of a stairwell and makes it possible to secure one's position all the way up and all the way down a stairway so as to avoid the head-over-heel fall.  This is presently installed in about 50 - 55 homes around the Twin Cities metropolitan area.   As result of work on this study, plus other efforts, we have gained considerable expertise in assistance technology related to safely moving people.

TISSUE EXPANDER INVESTIGATION  Complete review of tissue expander characteristics for insurance company prior to authorization for payment of claim.  This included leak testing of samples provided, observation of pump-infusion system, and review of fabrication manual for the expanders.  Object was to identify where an obvious cut occurred in the tissue expander surface.  (St. Paul Companies).

TOY GUN MISHAP   Review of situation whereby toy gun stuck in eye of a four year-old child by a five year-old child resulted in destruction of the lens and iris. Demonstrated by medical photography techniques that the incision in the surface of the eye exactly matched the configuration of the tip of the flash suppressor of the (quite accurate) scale model of a 1967 version M-16 U.S. Army rifle. Effort involved quite thorough investigation of the toy and the actual weapon upon which it was based. Result based upon demonstration that all other toy guns had blunted or rounded tips, plus observation of small children using toy guns.

TRACK MAINTENANCE VEHICLE FIRE INVESTIGATION   Investigation for insurance carrier of fire involving $550,000 track maintenance vehicle and about $350,000 repair expense. Questions were raised concerning costs associated with level of effort required for completion of system.  Identified about $150,000 of unreasonable, expenditure.  Accounting office that missed this was not happy with us.  However, the insurance adjuster was quite pleased.  (Insurance consortium)

TRANSIT STORE SEAT-DESK MECHANISM  This project involved investigation of, and redesign of a desk chair mechanism such as to allow a physically handicapped individual to function in a manner that accommodated her limitations.  This involved a balance system to make it easy to lift or lower the work surface of the work station along with all the normally required equipment (approx 100 lbs).  Work was performed as a sub-project to overall project for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

TRANSMISSION ANALYSES   3 speed geared transmission analysis - gears, bearings, shafts. Complete AGMA analysis for both stress and durability.  This was a three dimensional analysis, in that the gear and bearing forces were analyzed in the X, Y, and Z directions, combined to determine resultants, and applied to the appropriate gears, shafts, and bearings.  This is generally considered a fairly difficult analysis and beyond the capability (and interest) of most engineers.  Formal report. (Have performed this for Toro on multiple occasions).

TRANSMISSION INFINITELY VARIABLE  This investigation involved the complete teardown and review of each component of the mechanism of the standard Zero-Max infinitely variable speed control.  This included stress analysis, fatigue considerations, and recommendations. (Zero-Max Industries) 

UTILITY VEHICLE TRANSMISSION ANALYSIS   3 speed geared transmission analysis - gears, bearings, shafts. Complete AGMA analysis for both stress and durability. 3 dimensional load analysis for all shafts and bearings in all three speeds for expected input torques. Formal report.

WATER SOFTENER AUTOMATIC VALVE   Analysis of high volume home water softener system. Field failure data was analyzed, compared with lab test data, and summarized. Summary included thorough review of components and recommendations for future design and test procedures.  Involved thorough Weibull distribution statistical analysis. (Ecodyne)

WHEELCHAIR WHEEL FABRICATION SYSTEM   Analysis of wheel chair wheel fabrication system for cost improvement and optimization of labor.  Effort included analysis of tooling costs and design changes into a return of investment analysis. (Theradyne)

WIND TURBINE   Preliminary studies, design, and drawings and prototype construction for roof-mounted wind turbine (augmented horizontal Darius).  This effort was an investigation of the possibility of using either man made (buildings etc.) or natural structures such as low hills, tree lines etc. to augment the flow of air into a wind energy device.  The results of this effort look quite promising, especially in the northern climates if the power is used to directly operate heating devices.  This is because infiltration type heat loss in a structure is closely related to wind speed.   Conversely, so is heat gain if provided by the wind energy device  The match-up makes for interesting possibilities in northern climates and/or seashore locations.

WINDOW FRAME REDESIGN   Redesign and recommendation for a window frame system for apartment building windows which would reduce the problem of young children pushing out the screen and falling through.   Redesign based on absorption of running child's kinetic energy.  We were able to identify and test at least four separate systems for accomplishing this goal. (Attorney)

YARD LIGHT CONCEPT   Sole originators of concept for joining cord to light for a yard light manufacturer which allowed production of lights without infringing upon pre-existing patent(s).  Project was conducted on an emergency basis for a small electrical component manufacturer by the name of L & L.  Its manufacturing chief assigned us to this effort to overcome a patent infringement injunction. Successful follow-up by others company led to company's (L & L) purchase by Toro. The product line developed around this concept eventually became the nucleus of Toro's Home Products Division.


4927 St. Croix Avenue, Golden Valley, MN  55422

If you have questions call  (763) 521-0217

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