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Ben Wiens...energy scientist

CONTENTS 2pg 33K 3fig
1. My story as an operative at Ballard Power
2. Winner of 2010 European Invention Award
3. Synergy is the route to greater innovations
4. Major fields of expertise
5. Some successful projects and predictions
6. A sampling of innovation issues I help solve
7. General technical expertise areas
8. Leadership, publications, presentations, patents, awards
9. Technical skills summary
10. Education
11. Experience
12. Contact information


 Fig 1 Ben Wiens giving acceptance speech

Fig 1 Ben Wiens giving acceptance speech in Madrid, Spain 2010

Real life spy operatives like James Bond actually exist. The idea is to train operatives to work independently and more efficiently than is possible inside large bureaucratic army organizations. Claims were that operatives were so efficient they only had 1% of the loss of life compared to the army teamwork approach for the same progress.

If the spy operative is more efficient than the army, couldn't the same be true in the field of innovation? In many cases this is true. Looking at the big picture, most adults are in effect operatives. They don't have anyone giving them a daily, weekly, yearly, or even a life plan of what to do in their lives. And most people are amazingly effective considering what all has to be done to live a fulfilling life. It goes to show that people are inherently born to be leaders of their own smaller circle of tasks.

In my acceptance speech at the European Inventor Awards I suggested the success of that key Ballard fuel cell invention may have been because it initially was done as a secret project. I was specifically hired by one manager as an operative to work independently under the radar to solve certain potential black swan issues that management chose to ignore. My work was difficult as any masked questions I asked were met with anger by most of the team. I worked quickly, combing through 100s of potential designs, making quick sketches, and building about 20 prototypes myself in about 2 months as if a war was to be won.

The approach paid off. The existing design failed in field tests and the most important client Ballard had at the time threatened to pull out unless a totally new design could be shipped in 30 days. This I was told could have had serious financial implications for Ballard at the time. My best design was then presented to management and a team of us worked 80 hours a week. Existing production equipment had to be altered, new production methods had to be worked out. A new working fuel cell stack was shipped with a few hours to spare.

The European Inventor Awards are like the Oscars, but for inventors around the world. In early 2010, myself and Danny Epp, who I had worked with at Ballard Power Systems, were nominated for this award. There are winners in four categories. In 2010Apr28 we flew to Madrid Spain and tied for the award for the top invention in non European countries. We are the only Canadians who have ever won this award. The invention was a much more compact fuel cell stack design which allowed use of a super thin polymer membrane.

 Fig 2 Ben Wiens and Danny Epp

Fig 2 Danny Epp (left) and Ben Wiens (right) reminisce at Ballard Power Systems in 2010

One of the primary reasons some innovations are more successful is because they are based on a greater amount of interdisciplinary expertise. The best seller book “Blue Ocean Strategy” supports this thinking. My knowledge of innovation and experience in many different specialized fields allows me to assist companies to create higher value innovations.

Research/Investigation: Asking the right questions is a skill I’ve acquired by being involved with a variety of projects and not being afraid to ask questions.
Analysis/Reports: I try to leave few stones unturned. Unknowns can often bite you later. I write professional reports using desktop publishing.
Recirculatory ideation: A multi step idea generation process I developed that is far superior to brainstorming.
Realization: Developing complex ideas into real products can often be formidable but my knowledge of theory and practice has shown to be a valuable combination.
Analysis: Intuition can only go so far. My skills in various methods of logical analysis and recirculatory thinking techniques have been proven on many projects.
Mechanical Engineering: I have an extensive background in manufacturing, mechanical design, research, design studies, testing, prototype construction, drawing. My experience is varied and should be useful especially where the work requires some research and a new approach. Use 3D product modeling, rendering, animation. Am familiar with many types of manufacturing equipment. Trained in manufacturing engineering.

 Chart showing projected efficiencies of different future electricity generating powerplants

Fig 3 Chart showing the efficiency advantage of the solid oxide fuel cell vs other powerplants

Energy Science: I’ve worked on projects that required knowledge in physics, chemistry, and biology but my specialty area is energy theory and technologies. Developed novel 1st and 2nd law analysis techniques which are easy to understand. Applied these extensively on projects involving gas turbines, gasifiers, synthetic fuel production, and can apply principles to many other energy processes. My knowledge of energy theory, power technologies, and products allows me to easily see how to reduce energy consumption. Have an extensive knowledge of a variety of powerplant technologies with the most experience in fuel cells and gas turbines. Have extensive experience in developing new energy science based products. Have experience in energy efficient clothing based on mass, heat retention, novel fasteners, dryabililty, looks.
Industrial Design: Some companies do industrial design and engineering separately but I do them in parallel. This results in more valuable integrated products.
Management: I’ve been in management positions and understand what leadership, strategy, planning, government, and financing are all about. I make improvements, lower costs, reduce waste. Am trained in operations management.
Marketing: While I’m very familiar with concepts like test marketing, focus groups, and marketing slogans, my main focus is developing highly valuable ideas.
Economics: I’ve developed many products working backwards from the price point. Every nut, bolt, and decal needs to be accounted for.
Intellectual Property: My specialty is patent analysis but also work with patent drafts, patent weaving, design patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, licensing agreements. Patent weaving is a process of customizing an innovation with a mind to creating the most valuable patent and then weaving claims through known patents. Patent searching involves searching prior patents for ideas or to determine if a new idea is patentable or infringes. I analyze patents that are being written by patent attorneys to determine how optimal they are.
Innovation Methods: Synergy and innovation do not just happen because of a desire, it is the result of various innovation methods, knowledge, experience, and talent.
Training: I can provide training, tutoring, teaching, and speaking mostly in the fields of innovation methods, intellectual property, energy science.

■ On one project I was able to obtain approximately 50 times more patent coverage than the patent attorney thought possible.
■ A diaphragm pump, which previously could only pump thin paint, could pump thick roofing emulsions and abrasive road paint after my redesign which no one thought was possible.
■ Several years ago I suggested to a client that ethanol would become a major fuel in the future. Ethanol has become a major fuel and this company is now in the process of building a pilot plant using a thermo catalytic process.
■ While working for a city bus manufacturer, I designed and illustrated a new style of low floor bus in my spare time. Co-workers considered it somewhat radical at the time but now this is the standard.
■ A snap together plastic construction system I developed was considered too complex to injection mold or even work according to most injection mold designers. The design worked above everyone’s expectations and could be manufactured with a simple mold.
■ A new fuel cell design I was responsible for had a 600% increased power density potential and was used on the first Ballard bus. The design I chose was a carefully calculated gamble which paid off. It was developed and put into production over the course of only a few months.

Ballard Bus

Fig 4 My drawings of the first Ballard bus which used the new stack I had developed

Investigatoritis: Columbo is a TV series, starring Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide detective who wins most of his cases by having the murderers answer strange questions. One of the reasons why many innovations fail is due to people being too afraid to ask enough questions, thinking that asking questions will make themselves sound stupid, negative, or not wanting to get on with “real work”.
Designeritis: Real flying saucers have been in development for almost 80 years in various parts of the world but most proved to be impractical and inefficient. The Canadian Avrocar VZ-9 is a well know example that used the Coanda lift system. My calculations estimate the Avrocar lift system developed a measly 1.6 kg lift per kg mass while turbofans of that time already developed 3.0 kg lift per kg mass. Recently another variation of the Coanda lift system was revived and a very simple model provided about 4.0 kg lift per kg mass. Engineers at Avro had limited themselves to working on one favorite design without doing testing and the flying saucer has been considered a joke ever since. One of the biggest problems in developing new ideas is that people think that their present inspirations are so special.
Intuitionitis: Early Newcomen steam engines were only 0.5% efficient. These early designs were based mostly on people’s intuition. Sadi Carnot believed in conservation through analysis and discovered the theory of heat engine efficiency. The diesel engine was likely the first engine invented on the basis of these theoretical concepts and even the first working prototype was 26% efficient. Many innovations fail to be truly valuable because people focus too much on intuition.
Marketingitis: The Ford Edsel has been called one of the biggest mistakes in automotive history but interestingly it was introduced with the kind of fanfare that has seldom been seen in the auto industry before or since. Focusing sales efforts on marketing and spending too little on developing valuable innovations often backfires.
Positivitis: The principle of the fuel cell was developed by William Grove in 1839. Now, almost 170 years later, fuel cells are still barely penetrating the market. Are fuel cells unworkable? Probably not. The fuel cell industry however has been plagued with too much hype and has made the task seem too easy even within their own ranks. The book “Good to Great” suggests that all successful companies also need to “face the brutal facts”.

Energy sources: Geothermal, solar, hydro, wind, biomass, fossil, nuclear, tidal, wave
Power technologies: Fuel cells, semi fuel cells, batteries, gas turbines, steam turbines, Otto, Diesel, Stirling, Brayton engines, thermoelectric, cogeneration, MHD, transmissions, hybrid drives, wind turbines, pumps, so-lar PV, solar thermal, tidal, wave, geothermal, and hydro powerplants, nuclear fusion, fission
Fuels: fuel synthesis, gasification, garbage, biomass
Consumer products: furniture, clothing, medical, ergonomics, toys, electronic devices, household goods
Transportation: Bicycle, car, truck, train, bus, rapid transit, airplane, submarine, ship, boat, roadways
Buildings: Design, construction methods, green buildings, heat pumps, air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, heat recovery, furnaces, boilers, lighting
Industrial products: sawmill, mining, oil, industrial, farm, manufacturing, water distillation, desalination

Leadership: held several leadership positions
Presentations: training, speaking, workshops (some)
Magazine articles: (4) published
Patents: (4) granted
Internet: have extensive innovation website
Awards: Winner of 2010 European invention award for non European country category.

CAD programs: 2D AutoCAD, 3D Mechanical Desktop/Inventor, 3D Studio for rendering and animation
Scientific programs: MathCAD
Writing: letters, reports, books, manuals
Photography: still, video cameras, copying
Computers: Windows, Windows Mobile
Office programs: Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint
Desktop publishing: Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop
Scientific lab: Skilled in laboratory testing work
Building construction: Skilled in a variety of trades
Mechanical: skilled prototype machinist, welder, fabricator, model maker, painter

British Columbia Institute of Technology 1974-76 Grade=79.2%

■ An accelerated program in mechanical engineering with a total of 2,400 classroom hours and a focus on both academic and lab courses.
■ University degrees typically require 1,800 classroom hours to graduation.
■ Courses: Mathematics, Calculus, Geometry, Statistics, Physics, Thermodynamics, Applied Mechanics, Production Engineering, Machine Shop, Engineering Materials, Strength of Materials, Mechanical Drafting, Engineering Materials, Electrical Equipment, Production Mechanical Design, Tool Design, Fluid Mechanics, Metrology and Quality Control, Manufacturing Processes, Computer Programming, Communications, and Operations Management.

List of some of my past and present clients, employers, grouped by business entities:

Ben Wiens Energy Science Inc. 1989-present

■ Ben Wiens Energy Science Inc. (engines, fuel cells, fuel synthesis, geothermal etc.)
■ Ballard Power (fuel cell stacks, vehicles, submarines, portable power)
■ Kila Energy (variety of energy projects)
■ C&C Technologies (research ultra long range submarine drives)
■ Alidan H2 (high efficiency power plants)
■ Silvatech (hybrid drives)
■ Tekion (formic acid fuel cells)
■ Essential Innovations (semi fuel cells)
■ Aquasol (design of high efficiency desalination technologies)
■ Advanced Fuel Labs (synthetic fuel production)
■ GK Ventures (high heat retention consumer product)
■ Mogas Fuel Systems (natural gas vehicles)
■ Syntec Biofuels (biomass to liquid fuel)
■ PowRTools (detonation powered tools)
■ SinuClear (heated/humidified medical breathing apparatus)
■ Webtech (heat pipe dryers)
■ Classroom Video (advisor and script writing for fuel cell documentary)

Ben Wiens Innovative Technologies Inc. 1974-2001

■ NovaPole (design of lighting pole manufacturing plant equipment)
■ Linkers (snapfit building system)
■ Storkcraft (furniture design)
■ Universal Toolcraft (innovative tools)
■ HERO Industries (engineering manager for diaphragm airless paint spray pumps)
■ Cetec (design, fabrication, testing of sawmill, mining, and tar sand equipment)
■ Lusk Management (design farming machinery, industrial equipment, wood stoves)
■ Zodiak (design of new inflatable rescue boats)
■ Flyer Bus (designed a low floor bus, worked with production engineering)
■ Weiser Lock (design, drawing, prototyping, testing of door locks, door closers, hardware)
■ National Research Council (research of lubrication, vibration, resonance)

Ben Wiens proprietorship 1960-1974

■ Camp Arnes (maintenance manager, rebuild equipment, ranch hand, work with horses)
■ Endako Mines (crusher helper, blast hole drill helper, ore truck driver)
■ Construction helper (help build entire house from foundation to roof including interior details)
■ Landscaper (high school business mowing lawns, tilling gardens, gardening)
■ Farm worker (plowing, disking, cutting hay, windrowing, gardening, taking care of animals)
■ Automotive garage helper (rebuild vehicle engines and small engines, welding, machining)

Contact me by phone, email, or mail listed below. Also see my profile on LinkedIn.

Contact Information

Revised 2020Jul29