My name is Jerry Brown. I graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1962 with a BSc in physics and math. My ambition from an early age was to become research scientist. However, as is often the case, things happened and my plans changed. After less than a year in graduate school, I became an engineer at Fife Corporation in Oklahoma City.
As an undergraduate, I spent my summers working for Fife. Then, as now, they manufactured web guides - pneumo-hydraulic systems that automatically controlled the lateral position of webs. After a few summers helping in the machine shop, I got an opportunity to become an engineering technician. They had just created an engineering department. Bruce Feiertag had been brought in as Chief engineer. He came from DuPont where he had been a process engineer. John Shelton was Bruce’s first engineering hire. He came from Chrysler where he had done mechanical product development.My job was to assist John. Being associated with these two men turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me. Not only were they outstanding role models for someone who had never planned to be an engineer. They were both committed to basing whatever they did on solid engineering foundations. So, my physics background was welcomed.
When I graduated, Bruce and John were just wrapping up development of a pneumo-hydraulic system (a system whose basic design survives in Fife’s current product line with amazingly few changes). Next on the list for development was an electro-hydraulic system with optical sensors. For that, they needed electrical engineering expertise. I hadn’t been trained as an electronics engineer. But, that was deemed to be ok because I had experience as a radio amateur and they hoped to avoid any serious electronics by following the example of the pneumatic system where they had been able to directly actuate the hydraulic control valve from the pneumatic sensor signal. So, they offered to let me “try my hand” at it as a full-time employee.Compared to the lonely life of an impoverished graduate student, the attraction of a “real” job, solving interesting problems, was irresistible. So in 1962 I became an engineer-in-training.
The initial goal of “no serious electronics” in the electro-hydraulic project turned out to be unrealistic. But, that wasn’t a problem. I just learned what I needed to know as the problems presented themselves until we had an acceptable design. That’s a pattern I’ve repeated throughout my career. In fact, I am irresistibly drawn to projects that require learning something new.
During the twenty-three years I was with Fife, I was able to make a number of contributions to the early development and application of web handling equipment. Among these are:
After becoming an independent web handling consultant in 1997, I became a regular participant in web handling conferences (IWEB) sponsored by the Web Handling Research Center at Oklahoma State University(WHRC) and The Association of International Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL) . I am now a technical advisor to AIMCAL.
Currently, I’m interested in the application of nonlinear elasticity theory to lateral behavior. Using an FEA tool called FlexPDE, I’ve developed methods for precisely and inexpensively modeling webs in situations that are beyond the reach of other techniques – for example, the spreading action of concave and curved-axis rollers.