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


Honeywell Aero Division Inc.

Bill worked as a design technician at Honeywell Aero Division while pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Minnesota. Upon graduation, 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. The bearings frequently failed, so Bill designed a spin motor with hydrodynamic gas bearings. He constructed a prototype model which operated successfully for 465 hours in an open, unsealed case.

Bill transferred to Gyro Design where he had responsibility for several critical parts of a new gyro concept called Electrically Supported Gyro (ESG). The rotor, a three-inch beryllium sphere, was machined hollow, to create 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 with 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 thefringes 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 the 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 the daytime location of Earth's spin axis with arcsecond accuracy.


Volna Engineering Company

Bill founded Volna Engineering Company following his resignation from Honeywell.  With clients in the United States Air Force, Navy, and several high tech industries, Volna Engineering earned a respected reputation as a "can do" company that solved a wide range of difficult design problems, including the following:

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.  The tester was required to provide X-Y-Z positioning for the detector, stimulate the detector with a chopped infrared signal from a black-body source, and perform sub-nanovolt measurements in a light and temperature-controlled environment free of electromagnetic interference.

3. Roll/tumble test stations used for final calibration of Honeywell Ring Laser inertial navigation systems. These stations were accurate to one arcsecond and maintained that accuracy during continuous 24/7 usage for many years.

4. A solar-powered desalination still used to demonstrate the feasibility of solar power to produce drinking water from brackish desert sources. One 8 x 12-foot unit produced 18 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 BTUs of 750 °F heat (approximately 2 Kw) per hour and required only 12 watts of drive power.

6. An electric oven that evenly heats 2 x 5 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, which was machined using a specially built device to produce a parabolic curve with the desired focal length 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 arcseconds with one arcsecond repeatability. A significant feature of this actuator was its magnetic transparency -- 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 testing the performance of a magnetic gradiometer made by Sperry for detection of submerged submarines.

11. An all-season,  environmentally controlled, astronomical observatory that seats two persons. Bill’s unique, asymmetrical design provided a heated enclosure for the observer to be “down wind” of the telescope optical system. With this design approach, an observer could comfortably collect seeing data without bias from heat rising in front of the telescope optics. 

Because of Bill’s design, the National Science Foundation requested plans for his heated observatory. They needed evidence of “seeing steadiness” in preparation for building a large observatory at the South Pole. Bill countered their request by offering loan of his observatory for this use. NSF accepted the offer and Bill spent six weeks at the South Pole directing setup.

Consulting Services

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

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 where 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 on “exact constraint”. 

See  for several pictures.