Bill Volna, BSME, Mechanical Design Consultant, 3d CAD, Principles of Exact Constraint


Honeywell Aero Division Inc

 Bill was employed by Honeywell Aero Division in 1950. He worked as a design technician while pursuing a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Minnesota. Upon graduation in 1955, he became a design engineer in the Component Design and Electronic Packaging Department.

Before the advent of Honeywell’s ring laser gyro, existing gyro designs used precision ball bearings to support the spinning rotor. Bearing failure was a constant failure mode. Bill designed a spin motor with hydro dynamic gas bearings. A prototype model was constructed. It operated successfully for 465 hours in an open, unsealed case.

In 1958, Bill was transferred to Gyro Design where he had responsibility for several critical parts of a new gyro concept called the Electrically Supported Gyro (ESG). The rotor, a three inch beryllium sphere, was machined hollow, to provide a preferred spin axis. Bill devised a quartz test plate to measure the sphericity of the rotor. The test plate had a carefully ground and polished spherical cavity of the same radius as the beryllium sphere.When held against the beryllium sphere under a monochromatic light source, light and dark bands (fringes) were visible to the unaided eye. The shape of the fringes appeared similar to contour lines on a weather map. When the quartz test plate was moved over the surface of the sphere, variations of the fringe patterns revealed one micro inch features.

Bill designed optical sensors for the ESG which were used to track the spin axis of the spherical rotor as it rotated at 36,000 rpm. When completed, the ESG was shipped to a lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where it was tested on a Scoresby ships motion machine. This test determined expected gyro drift rate when installed on a nuclear powered submarine. Using principles of exact constraint, Bill designed and supervised the installation of a North reference pier at the lab. Position readings of the star Polaris were taken at night with a Wild T-3 theodolite equipped with a collimation feature. In collimation mode, these readings were transferred to a quartz mirror on Bill’s stable pier inside the laboratory. That system successfully provided daytime location of the earth’s spin axis with arc second accuracy.


Volna Engineering Company

Bill Volna is the owner of Volna Engineering Company located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which he started in 1969 following his resignation from Honeywell. He earned a respected reputation with clients in the United States Air Force, Navy, and several high tech industries as a “can do” company, solving a wide range of difficult design problems to include:

1. Static accuracy (cockpit simulators) for Honeywell/Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. These test stations were used for Honeywell Helmet Sight development.

2. Infrared semiconductor evaluation station for Honeywell, located in Lexington, Ma.

3. Roll/tumble test stations used for final calibration of Honeywell Ring Laser inertial navigation systems. These tables were one arc second accurate on delivery in 1977 and were reported by Honeywell Metrology Department to maintain that accuracy during use 24/7 for 30 years.

4. A solar powered desalination still. This still was used to demonstrate the feasibility of solar power to produce drinking water from brackish desert sources. One 8x12 foot unit could produce eighteen gallons of distilled water during a sunny day in October.

5. A patented solar powered, two axis, solar tracker. With sunlight, the prototype produced six thousand BTU’s of 750 °F heat (approximately 2 Kw) per hour and required only 12 watts drive power.

6. An electric oven to evenly heat 2x5 ft. pieces of double strength window glass to 800°F. At that temperature, the force of gravity caused the glass to sag to a carefully prepared graphite surface. The graphite surface was machined using a specially built device to produce a desired focal length parabolic curve in the glass as it cooled. A large, in-house, high vacuum chamber was used to aluminize the glass for use in the solar tracker.

7. An autocollimator test set for field calibration of helmet sight systems on F14 fighter aircraft. Forty of these were delivered to the US Navy carrier fleet.

8. A position actuator for incremental movement of a roll, pitch, and azimuth assembly on an aircraft helmet sight. This device had an absolute angular position accuracy of 10 arc seconds with one arc second repeatability. A significant feature was magnetic transparency of this actuator; it was totally non-metallic. The design was another example of “exact constraint” principles.

9. A high/low temperature controlled Fluorine bath for Honeywell radar altimeter calibration.

10. A three axis, totally non-magnetic, gas bearing test stand for performance testing a magnetic gradiometer made by Sperry for detection of submerged submarines.

11. An all season, environmentally controlled, astronomical observatory that seats two people. It received two out of three awards presented at an August 1989 annual gathering of 3000 amateur astronomers in Springfield, Vermont. Prizes were considered for design, craftsmanship, and “seeing performance”; unfortunately, seeing was ruled out due to rain. Guest speaker Dr. Clyde Tombaugh sat in Bill’s observatory. He said he wished he had it when he discovered the planet Pluto.  A six page article described, in detail, Bill’s unusual observatory in the June 1991 edition of Sky & Telescopemagazine.The National Science Foundation viewed the article and was intrigued by Bill’s design which allowed observing in a heated enclosure. NSF wanted “seeing data” regarding air steadiness in consideration of building a large infrared telescope at the South Pole. Professional observatories are unheated because if heated, warm air currents rise through the open dome in front of the telescope optics, resulting in image degradation. Bill’s unique, asymmetric, design provided a heated enclosure for the observer to  be “downwind” of the telescope optical system. With the telescope outside, in -100° F South Polar air, an observer inside could comfortably take  “seeing“ data without bias from heat rising in front of the telescope optics. NSF requested plans for a similar unit. Subsequently, Bill offered free use of his telescope during a South Pole winter, with the understanding that he would complete the installation.

12.  Bill worked as a consultant to Micro Component Technology Inc. in St. Paul, MN for two years. MCT designed and sold semiconductor chip testing machines world wide. He led the design of a Small Outline Integrated Circuit (SOIC) hot-cold chip testing machine. This machine could test the internal integrity of 120 circuits in a chip at the rate of 1 chip per second. Chip test temperatures were between -40 °F and 120.  An output shuttle would sort and deliver tested  chips to eight different quality slots in an output tray. Shuttle to slot jamming over this temperature range was a constant problem.  Bill was granted a patent for a successful design that eliminated temperature coefficient issues between the shuttle and slot.

13.  In 1984 Bill was invited by Dr. Choh H. Li (Honeywell Director of Basic Research, retired) to visit the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan. He spent two weeks as a consultant in a classroom setting with young engineers. Each day involved intense critique of military weapon design problems with heavy emphasis of “exact constraint” that came from years of experience.

See  for several pictures.