Ed Kernick | Questioning Boundaries, Contact Lens MFG, & UV Disinfection

 In Being an Engineer Podcast

Ed Kernick

Ed Kernick started his career as an air conditioning technician. He then decided to go back to school where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering.  An interesting story he shared on this episode is when he cut his teeth doing stress analysis on Pro/ENGINEER Mechanica. He also tells us how he developed his skills as a design engineer. These days, and for the past 20 years, Ed has been an engineer with Johnson & Johnson where he helps the company develop and manufacture contact lenses.


engineer, lens, people, bugs, problem, design, big, lenses, day, work, engineering, mechanical engineer, contact lens, challenges, project, parts, vending machine, customer, requirements, years
Aaron Moncur, Ed Kernick

Aaron Moncur 00:13
Welcome to the being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Ed Kernick, who works at Johnson and Johnson’s vision division, where he’s been a mechanical engineer for the past 20 years in manufacturing, r&d, and currently customer experience engineering. Before j&j, Ed worked as a stress analyst for a defense contractor, Ed, welcome to the being an engineer podcast.

Ed Kernick 00:39
Thanks for having me on.

Aaron Moncur 00:41
You’re very welcome. Okay. How did you decide that you wanted to become an engineer?

Ed Kernick 00:48
So it’s a long story. I’ll try to keep it short. But um, so interesting. So my dad was a mechanical engineer. So most people say, Oh, you followed your dad’s footsteps. Well, really wasn’t that simple. So basically, I started off as a in high school, I was cruising along and I started taking air conditioning classes to my mom says, You’re not going to goof off for the summer, get a job or go to vocational school. So I went got an air conditioning degree. So when I graduated, I just finished up and got my air conditioning certification. So I was an air conditioning mechanic. And I did that for about a year and my mom’s like, he got to go to college now. And I said, okay, okay, so I just went up to the college, I didn’t have any goals. So I just registered. And I became a drafting. So I became a draftsman for a while. And then I worked, got a job at its defense contractor. And it was a neat place called EJ Malartic. And we did a lot of they did stuff for like putting vision systems in aircraft and stuff like that for CIA and stuff like that. So I worked up and I was actually in Fort Walton Beach, Florida time, and I went up to the subcontract me place called summit aviation, Delaware. So I worked up there doing all the design drafting for the aircraft. Well, I came back to that contract expired, I came back to Fort Walton Beach. And then I got a job at a place called metric systems, which is now Drs. And so I was a draftsman there for a while. And, and I saw I worked with all mechanical engineers. So that’s pretty fun. So I was doing a lot of CAD stuff. And so I said, I’m gonna go back to school, I want to do controls, and Jamie. So I went back to school. And while I was working full time, and I started doing computer systems engineering, and what I didn’t realize and computer systems, I love coding, but there’s a lot of documentation. And I’m not a good documentation guy. And I’m going to get to that in a little bit. But anyway, so I ended up a savannah, I’m writing these programs, and I’m writing, you know, every line of code, I justify why I’m doing it. So I changed my major to mechanical engineering. And at that point, because I’ve been doing so much design work had been doing design work for probably three, probably three years at that point, and maybe four years, so I changed my major. And this was working all the time. And I finally went back to college full time. So it’s gonna like a junior college, got all my credits, went to school full time and got my mechanical engineering degree. So just sort of happened on to it after trying a couple other things, you know,

Aaron Moncur 03:18
nice, okay, as a kid, were you into like building Legos. And I don’t know taking apart bicycles or working on cars or anything like that, or did that that aptitude. That interest really developed a little bit later, as you got into being a draftsman and working with other mechanical engineers?

Ed Kernick 03:37
I was always, yeah. Legos and Lincoln Logs. And when I was 16, I’d be taking the parked cars or putting in stairs. I always was hands on kind of guy. So I enjoy that stuff.

Aaron Moncur 03:48
I love Lincoln Logs. I haven’t thought about them for years. I used to build Lincoln logs to that was they don’t have those these days. I don’t know. Yeah.

Ed Kernick 03:59
So in a funny little thing here, I’m just gonna mention this because my mom said this to me the other day, she goes, aren’t you glad I made you go to college and get out of here? And I said, Well, no, she’s What do you mean? No, I said, because if I stay near your shop, probably at 20 trucks right now and be like, worth a couple of million, you know, not just kidding, but she’s like, even got a point.

Aaron Moncur 04:22
My dad is the one who suggested I become an engineer. And I don’t know if it was the same for you. But I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it. Other than my dad thinks this is a good idea. So it’s probably a good idea.

Ed Kernick 04:36
Yeah. Yeah. Sort of happened to me. I’ll mom’s like, you go to college. I’m like, Well, what’s wrong with this air conditioning business? She goes, you’ll you’ll, you’ll think about it later in life. You’ll be glad so so I did. I took her advice and did it. Yeah. So it was a it was a good career path. And, you know, I look at another example My daughter was going to go to skip med school and she said she got all pumped up. But she was having she couldn’t pass organic chemistry. So now she’s in computer engineering. And I said, that’s a good choice. Because I’d read in, when you graduate from computer engineering school, you could be banking, I don’t know, at 100k a year. And, or you can be in med school for 10 years and not be at top of your class, you can’t pass organic chemistry. And that’s 10 years of lost income. Yeah, that’s a million dollars right there. So engineering, I think, is a much better path. If unless you have a passion to be a doctor, or you’re gonna go in there and just ace, but a has a lot less school. And I think a better return on investment if you if that’s what you enjoy doing.

Aaron Moncur 05:35
Yeah, people don’t think about that all the time, the loss of income, right? That you realize by going to school, and I’m not saying school is not a good investment for a lot of people it is. But I worry sometimes that people feel like school is the default. Like, I just I have to do this because that’s what everyone does. And I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. I think it is a good path for a lot of people but like you said, you go to school for four years, heaven forbid you go for six and get a master’s or even longer, right that’s that’s a lot of lost income, especially if you’re going to come out the other end making 7080 90,000 a year, that’s a lot of lost income.

Ed Kernick 06:13
He really didn’t you know, I think and I tell my kids this, you got to follow your passion. Now. If your passions saving sea turtles or, or playing music, that’s great. But that may be better, or playing sports, and maybe a backup plan. Because it may be a you can always do that. But if you become a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer or something, you’ll make good money. There you go safe to see turtles, you know, in France, somewhere over the summer. So you want to get it you want to follow your passion, but one that has income, but trade schools are good. I mean, obviously, the trade schools, I mean, look at the guys that come fix the air conditioners or your plumbers, I mean, these guys, if you own the company, they’re doing very well. So you know I for years of college is great, but you got to have a passion for it. If you if you can’t do math or or if you if you struggle and you hate it, then maybe an engineer wouldn’t be a good job. If it’s something that you despise doing. You know, I know, I know a lot of engineers or people when I was going to school, you probably do too, that dropped out when business school or something like that.

Aaron Moncur 07:08
Yeah, I think trade schools are fantastic. And I mean, big companies these days like Google, right have, in the past couple of years publicly stated that we’re no longer requiring four year degrees for some of these technical positions. Not that it hurts to have it but you can you can get a high paying technical job by going to a trade school and just learning like these coding boot camps that are out there now without spending four years going to school. Anyway, I’m getting off on on my diatribe here. Let’s get back to let’s get back to engineering on that same

Ed Kernick 07:41
Sunday, real quick that I did here. I just heard the other day that the federal government started to they aren’t hiring, basically, on resumes of education, you’re basically starting to hire on experience, which is pretty interesting.

Aaron Moncur 07:51
I love that, right. That’s what matters. I mean, I get a resume from someone and I see, you know, for years, so and so engineering school, I don’t really care about the piece of paper. Let me see what you’ve done. You know, show me a little portfolio. Show me some projects you’ve worked on. Show me what you can do not what you know, this this piece of paper said he spent the last four years doing? Yeah, I agree. Anyway, all right. So prior to Johnson and Johnson, which we’ll get into, but you worked for a defense contractor as a design engineer and stressed out analyst. Can you tell us about some of the jobs that you worked on there?

Ed Kernick 08:27
Yeah, so like a 30 actually started off as a as a draftsman and then I went, got my engineering degree came back. And so I did quite a few sets. One of the pretty cool one was a advanced targeting for looking forward. A FLIR for looking infrared unit for the F 18. We want to contract subcontract on that for three Raytheon actually fair trial shock controls through Raytheon to put the cooling system and so I did the electronic packaging. So this is a I did a whole I was sort of like the engineer did a lot of the stuff. So this one was electronic packaging. So I had to create a electronic package that could go through all the Air Force requirements, which would be like salt spray, rapid decompression, thermal in all the criteria and I was having a hard sell but on top of that, they want to commercial off the shelf parts. So now you’re asking for all these military applications, it’s gonna sit on a runway, and it’s a piece of electronics and these runways are you know, that heat baked off early probably 100 something degrees, it’s gotta stay cool. So I had to do all the thermal analysis, structural shock and vibe all that so that’s a lot of fun. At the end of the day, I was having problems with some of the shock and vibe from the you know, aircraft landing we had to these power spectral density diagrams for the for the for the circuit car, so and then they want to like replacement units and things like that. So in I had to do, like a sense assault and all these things, but so the end of day on the way I got rabbits this I actually potted the inside was little enclosure, probably about 10 inches by six inches by two inches deep. And it control all the cooling systems in this pod. So what we ended up doing is I just potted it with a potting compound. And it got rid of most of those requirements, because then I didn’t have any rapid decompression because it was sealed unit. And I don’t have to worry about saw, I didn’t have to worry about any air voids compressing. And so that got rid of most of that, but I still had to do the thermal analysis and things like that. So that was a big one.

Aaron Moncur 10:33
Did the potting potting help at all with the thermal requirements?

Ed Kernick 10:38
Yes, I did add some like, like electro engineers as to why you putting a aluminum T across our circuit board I said, Well, I’m gonna dump it. And it’s gonna make the rigid circuit board a little more rigid, and it’ll actually dump some of the heat out. So that was one of them. We also did a couple more I can tell you one was a thyristor controller. And it was a big box and a navy ships apparently Navy ships, even when it’s really cold out, they’ll run nice, the air conditioner just for humidifying out the sea. So this was big controller for that. So I had the shock and vibe in that. And when they, when they do the shift the vibration is and the thermal. And then what we ended up doing is we had the soccer ball. So apparently the way they do the shock, and there they stick it on a on a barge and they blow it up. So I had to do all the analysis for that. And so it was fun project two, and how do

Aaron Moncur 11:36
you do the analysis for something blowing up. So I,

Ed Kernick 11:40
they gave me a power spectral density platform, and I put it in ANSYS, actually, at time was pro engineer mecanica. And he put that in and he can and you can replicate it. And actually it did fail one of the big transformers a screw broke out, we had to fix it, but anything else work. And I was gonna say about that. Oh, the one lesson learned there. I said, you know, I don’t care about the stiffness, I’m really worried about this backbone. So all these other components, I’m gonna make like infinitely stiff, because I don’t really want to analyze them out carefully, then I just care about the structural backbone. I couldn’t get the model saw for two or three weeks. And I realized what I did is I created this modular elasticity for these other components. Very, very, very high, I probably added two extra 02. And my mate, I can never converge. And I think what happened I was getting these singularities. So I ended up going back. And it took me a couple weeks to figure it out. And they made this modulus pod more in line, and it solved right off the bat. So lesson learned, you know, don’t create these big huge variation and modulus elasticity.

Aaron Moncur 12:45
Right? What’s that? For all the FTA solvers out there?

Ed Kernick 12:50
Yeah, we also did air cargo. So we take like aircraft, and we put like, cargo systems. And so say it’s an old, most middle class aircraft, but maybe it’s 747. We would design all these cargo systems to hold in the a lot of the equipment. So maybe a commercial aircraft they converted over. And and then we would do all the constraints and the tie downs and all that stuff. So that was pretty neat job.

Aaron Moncur 13:20
That’s very cool. When when you were going to school did was this the kind of thing that you expected that you would be doing or were there any surprises as you formally moved into a role as an engineer that you just didn’t anticipate?

Ed Kernick 13:34
At that time, it was a pretty easy transition because I was a draftsman there before. So I was doing a lot of this stuff, a draftsman designer, all that science stuff already. I just, I do remember I was a draftsman and someone said, Hey, can you design this big eight frame structure? And I put all the ideas backward. My boss goes, what do you do? And he did this all wrong. I never knew because I was a draft, I didn’t know how to do, you know, set up the the moment of inertia of the beam or anything like that? Yeah. So there was a big there was a learning. I went from, you know, learn how to use CAD to actually applying CAD with principles of engineering. Yeah, that’s great. So that wasn’t a big surprise. Then later on, I get to the medical device company. And i Whoa, big surprise, with all the documentation and things like that.

Aaron Moncur 14:16
I was gonna ask you about an old engineer that I worked with great guy would always say that documentation is the output of engineering, and especially at a regulated industry, like medical devices, I’m sure that you have to deal with your fair share of that these days.

Ed Kernick 14:31
Yes, yes. And I think one of the questions you’re gonna ask me I got a nice complain about documentation, but I guess we’ll get

Aaron Moncur 14:39
Okay. All right. Well, moving on to Johnson and Johnson in their their vision department. I didn’t even realize that there was specifically like a vision division of the company but that’s that’s where you are working. You helped develop a high speed manufacturing line there. That seems like a huge under are taking, right? I mean, you’re putting together a line in in a factory somewhere. What all was involved in installing a system like that? How long did it take? What were some of the challenges you ran into?

Ed Kernick 15:13
Yeah, so it was a big one I moved, there was a big paradigm shift from going from, you know, making for looking infrared or putting GPS and bombs and things like that was a big change to this high speed manufacturing environment. So we had to do, you know, a lot of the stuff is, you know, we got to make a lot of contact lenses inexpensive, and a lot with high quality. So some of these machines will make 200,000 300,000 lens leveling, not 250,000, lenses, a shift, so maybe 501 machine could make 500,000 That’s the day we make, we probably make 13 million lens a day, we make about 5 billion a year. I don’t know whose numbers. So. So, back to what exactly was that question again? So I can make sure I answered it correctly. So yeah, I

Aaron Moncur 15:58
was just wondering what all is involved in installing, you know, a major production line like that, what are some of the challenges that you ran into?

Ed Kernick 16:07
Yeah, so there’s always, you know, making contact lenses fairly complicated, because he got a lot of quality, it’s, it’s, it’s basically it’s a monomer, a liquid resin that’s cured. And it’s got to be comfortable and optically clear. And, and, and also have the right prescription. So when you cure something, it shrinks, and it gets a visual acuity issues, things like that. So these are, your equipment needs to make sure it doesn’t modify any of that we got to an obviously being a medical device, it’s got to be it’s got to be validated. And then you have to go through all the validation procedures, and a lot of challenges. And there’s always deadlines, and then budgets that you have to meet just like any project. So there’s a lot of challenges. Some of the more specific challenges may just be, you know, very, very tight tolerances. And some of these things when you’re dealing with these small, small contact lens and precision, one examples, we cast Moeller lenses. So with the many here and then you have to remove the mold the back, well, you gotta be very careful. You don’t want to turn these lenses using contact lenses, right? Sure, very, very thin. So you don’t want to tear the lens, it’s either D laminated. So that’s a very critical process, you need very high precision parts. Very nice, slow servo following a server profile, they can D laminate this part without tearing, you know, because you may if you lose 1% of your product, you’re making 30 million lands a day. That’s quite a big, big loss over a year. Yeah. So

Aaron Moncur 17:39
what kind of what kind of tolerances do you need to adhere to making contact lenses?

Ed Kernick 17:45
Well, you know, on the machine design portion, you know, we’re looking at, you know, plus or minus c to me, I’ve seen 1000s or millimeters we could say, point one millimeters typical, typical tolerance for us, but, uh, you know, we’ll start doing these little pieces of equipment we get down to, you know, you know, see what the point oh, 1 million would that be? No point oh, two, five, that’d be about 1000. So we can get down in the 1000s. Couple of 1000s. But now we talk about molding the mold. So the contact lens, and now we’re talking about the microphones, you know, we got because yeah, you got it. I mean, well, the lens itself, 300 microns thick, and we got multifocal lenses that have different powers as you look so very precision and and that goes for more to the lens making and then you have the metrology that goes along with it. Because you when you make it you have to be able to measure it, right. Oh,

Aaron Moncur 18:37
yeah. How do you how do you measure something like that? So we use

Ed Kernick 18:42
a lot of optical huh, yeah, yeah, well, we measurables with some optical measurement systems and then we well we measure the our inserts the Brassens we we injection molded the plaza, here’s what we make linspace we start with a everything’s everything goes on in these machines as raw material. So we’ll put pellets in the machines and then we injection mold these pellets and we create a front curve and a backer basically it’s a cup and we’re making a little peanut butter sandwich right so the bottom of the cup, we put this liquid monomer in there and then the top of the cup we close the back that’s the back portion that’s the part that touches your eye and that would be the base curve and the front curves part with the prescription. So every we change these moles out and change prescriptions. Then we got a photo and thermal cure. And once we do that we have to be laminate and then we have to wash any excess processing aids out of it and hydration and then we injection mold the lens back Could you put it in there, heat seal it, sterilize it and put it in a secondary carbon package and send it out the door. So yeah, so we inspect that stuff. That’s what’s gonna get out we inspect the actual inserts using some of these a interferometers and then we also inspect the plastic does it the plastic cures due after its injection molded, so we got inspect that. And then now we have 100% inspection also at the contact lens after cures with a traditional vision system. So we inspect everything that goes through. So we got a couple of big process inspections as we go through the system.

Aaron Moncur 20:14
And all that happens fast enough to crank out 13 million lenses a day. That’s incredible. Yes. I, for me, I don’t love going to like theme parks like Disneyland or things like that. But the the analog of going to a theme park for me would be to go to a high volume manufacturing facility like you’re describing, and seeing all these machines working, you know, and pumping out the product 13 million lenses a day that would be just fascinating to watch.

Ed Kernick 20:46
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a lot of fun. Well, when you first get there, then when you’re working on it every day is not.

Aaron Moncur 20:53
And it’s just work, right? Yeah. And I have given

Ed Kernick 20:55
people tours that some people are not engineers think it’s pretty cool. But then they go or distribution facility. And that’s probably more like an Amazon and the people that are not really engineers think the distributions go because you see these big boxes moving around, pick the line all that that’s really neat, too. But for a design engineer, there’s there’s more interested in the machine and all the tolerances and all the moving parts and air cylinders, servers and robots, each machine may have five or six robots, and we have 85 manufacturing machines or some odd manufacturing machines. And each machine may have five, six robots on there, you know, your vision systems everywhere. So lot lot of vision systems to

Aaron Moncur 21:33
Okay, yeah, well, this is probably a good chance to take a little pause and share with our listeners that the being an engineer podcast is powered by pipeline design and engineering, where we don’t do anything related to oil. But we do work with medical device engineering teams who need turnkey custom test fixtures or automated equipment to assemble, inspect, characterize or perform verification or validation testing on their devices. And you can find us at test fixture design.com. We’re speaking with Ed Kernick, today, a mechanical engineer and the vision group at Johnson and Johnson. So something else that you had told me about Ed was these vending machines for I guess, probably just dispensing contact lenses. Now, when you said a vending machine is that like, you know, like, I’d go up and get a soda and a bag of chips at you know, the grocery store in that kind of form factor.

Ed Kernick 22:32
Similar to that. So the that is a problem with with using a traditional vending machine is, you know, we have a contact lens. We are an intraocular lens, or even the implant or any of these things, there’s multiple SKUs. So if you go to a vending machine to buy a Coke, you may have a selection of 50 parts that are 30, deep, where some of the stuff we’re working on is I may have 1000 parts 1500 parts, and they can all be different in any random location. We just scan them as they go in. And the avenues of the rat are using a pick the light as they come out. So you can see the doctor says I want this contact lens, and the machine lights up. And he just pulls that lens out and re inventories and then the we sent a new product. So it’s very easy. So right now is he currently is going to Shell fast, look around and see what’s there. And if they don’t have good inventory, you know that the customer may be waiting and depends that the patient may be waiting to get an eye and lens on the eye. And the doctors up, I don’t have that I want you to go to your competitor. So now we have a method where the doctor knows exactly where his inventory is, and we know where it’s at, too. So we can replenish his inventory. You know, within a day or two.

Aaron Moncur 23:51
So it’s really an inventory management system. Yes. Got it. Okay. And

Ed Kernick 23:57
this is sort of this customer experience group that that we’re in here. So it’s throughout the you know, any anything we can enhance our customers, which the patients and the doctors or customers.

Aaron Moncur 24:06
Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about that this customer enhancement, engineering, right, what what all is involved in that? What are some of the projects that you’ve worked on in that group?

Ed Kernick 24:17
And that group? Well, we work on anything, too. We we look at our customer complaints, and that’s one we also go out to doctors offices and figure out what are the any problems that they’re having? And how can we help and then we do a Pareto of is the biggest impact that will help our customers whether it be the doctor or the end user, the patient and is an easy fix, you know? So again, we look at things and we weigh them, and then we’ll we’ll purchase things like one was the vending machine. That’s a help to the doctor’s help sir inventory. We got tons of inventory out there and we can sort of get better track of it. But other things could be if we have a missing land send a package or if we have a any any kind of quality thing where we try to stay ahead of all of our quality to keep the top notch quality. So we’re always anything if customer complaints, we try to dig into it and figure out what the root causes and go after it. And we use copy in a lot of these, these Six Sigma, Black Belt and things like that, or red X technology are these. One split the generic Technologies, a lot of these troubleshooting methods, the find out the root cause of these things and fix them.

Aaron Moncur 25:34
It sounds like you get to enjoy quite a bit of customer interaction in that role. Do you? Do you enjoy going out to speak with the customers? Or would you rather be at your desk working at your computer in a cubicle by yourself?

Ed Kernick 25:51
I like speaking with customers, because he you sometimes when you hear I mean, typically engineers like at least in right now your marketing or your sales reps will come back. And they’ll say something to someone or, or we’ll get a customer complaint. And they’ll go through the customer complaint thing. And then we do a Pareto and we just looked at this complaint. And it’s like, it’s like a Twitter, right? It’s like 20 lines of text or you know, 256 characters a very small amount of information. When you actually talk to these people, you they may these complaints may be totally different than they may be using different vocabulary, right? So if you go talk to the doctors like, yeah, and I’ll say this is one of our number of complaints. And they’re like, Well, yeah, yeah, but it’s really, I’ve noticed if you do this, like there was one complaint where we, one of our lenses, we’re having a, you know, a handful people were saying we’re having a visual acuity, it turns out, you’re talking to doctors as well, if you just set the box in different position that actually fixes so we came back, we did a project to make sure that lands, always retains that position throughout. So a lot of we get a lot of learnings from talking to the customers, you know, because a lot of them may have already solved their problem and on a personal level, and then we’ll just take that back and actually incorporate into manufacturing.

Aaron Moncur 27:08
I think engineers get a bad rap in that area, right people think of engineers is we just want to sit in a cubicles in our desk and put away in our computer and not talk to anyone. Well, I had been guilty of that sometimes. But most of the engineers I know, they really enjoy getting out and talking to the customer and understanding what’s going on. And they don’t want to just be isolated, you know, in their little

Ed Kernick 27:29
cubicle. So you get first hand knowledge that way, instead of having sort of, you can get a quantity of data, maybe through a lot of these pieces, customer recording, things, you know, the customer complaints, but to get the quality data, maybe it’s good to go talk to the customer to find out really what’s going on and say and we’ve done for what will actually get our customer sales reps are not going to the customer complaint, people who create other people’s phone numbers, sometimes it will call back and maybe have meetings with them and try to figure out some of some of their problems.

Aaron Moncur 28:00
Yeah, yeah, no substitute for that. Let’s see, let’s talk about this UV lens disinfection case that you worked on. Especially, we’re recording this during the whole COVID pandemic time. And I’ve seen quite a few UV disinfection phone cases pop up here and there. I’ve never used one, but I think I have a general understanding of how they work. But yours, what we’re used for or are used for disinfecting, I guess contact lenses? Or are the cases that you helped develop for contact lenses? Are they basically the same as these cases that disinfect phones with UV light? And maybe talk a little bit about the physics behind that? How is it that UV light will disinfect or you know, kill the bugs that are on the surface or whatever isn’t the case?

Ed Kernick 28:49
Well, so and I’m a mechanical engineer, but I spent two years on this project was actually my idea. And so now I got two years of biology under my belt this I’m definitely not a biologist, but I do understand how it kills the bugs. So that to get through. Actually, you can see now Yeah, so the what happened we were doing a lance a, like a bionic lens that can zoom in and I think Google is working on things like that. So we’re working on something similar, and we needed a way to charge it so my boss would create a case they can charge these lenses so I said Well Matt, why don’t you put UV light in there and disinfect the lens and the marketing group said we love it so go ahead and so we kicked off a whole new project on that. So but there’s a lot of challenges. So and there’s a lot of engineering came in. So for example, the when you we had to go through with many many mechanical designs and because UV light first of all, UV light is great for killing bugs, it takes the their DNA and actually or RNA, either one, and it takes it makes it where it can’t replicate. It did the same but the same it has the same thing happens to plastic so Contact Lenses plastic so it takes the field patio furniture out your dashboard. No, the cars in UV light will just break these, these bonds. So we That’s why you find find the balance between we can’t if you put enough UV light to kill all the bugs, but you know and viruses are easy to kill Coronavirus would be very easy to kill because the virus but the you start getting the bacteria a little bit longer then you get the spores and the yeast much longer to kill, because they’re inked, the spores are encapsulated. So takes. So the challenge is now you got a piece of plastic contact lands on a plastic case. And then you got to kill the spores, because there’s FDA requirement on certain bugs you have to kill.

Aaron Moncur 30:44
What’s the lens? Right? Yeah, so

Ed Kernick 30:47
that was the whole trick. So two years, a different designs, here’s where it gets tricky. So to make sure you’re just you get to design, it looks good. And you do some a ray tracing and make sure the lights going where you want it. And all that. And it turns out, now you have to grow up a million little bugs that you want to kill spores, Canada, yeast cells, all this. And then you grow those, and then it takes maybe a week to grow those and then you have to, you kill them. And then you got to see how many colony forming units you see how many grow back. So it’s a two week process. So if you’re trying to go through 100 designs a week or so and it’s process takes sequentially, so they, the microbots and myself came away. And we actually submitted for a patent and we wrote a paper, we got to work on it. And what we ended up doing is we would kill down bugs, we do this once and at the same time, we would put food coloring in in a vial it’s in this is inside of the contact lens case. Have you ever seen a contact lens case? Yeah, little Yeah, so we put the bugs in one and we put two coloring in the other? Well, the food coloring color degrades with UV light too. So we can measure the color. So we put the color in before and we put the color and after we looked how many bugs died. And we looked at the degradation in color. And then so now we created this little chart, this will scale. So then I go through 100 designs, I just looked at the color and I can see how many potential bugs I want to kill

Aaron Moncur 32:12
with each Oh, that speeds up the process. Incredibly,

Ed Kernick 32:15
yes. And I was using like a little UV sticker that would change color. The problem is I need volumetric. He can’t just be area. So the the bugs are in a volume that the bacteria or spores or virus is that is floating around in this context, not solution. So you need to do the volume. And so that’s what we do. So that was a neat event chain. And we wrote a paper it was in microbiology methods of microbiology and doesn’t eat meat solutions.

Aaron Moncur 32:43
Pretty cool. So you had this volume of bugs that you wanted to kill. And then in the other area of the case, you have this food coloring, you zap it with UV light. And and you look at the degradation of the food coloring. And then that allows you to correlate degradation of food coloring with how many bugs die. So in that in future trials, you didn’t need to grow the bugs. Is that is that? Yes.

Ed Kernick 33:08
So then we can go through 20 design iterations. Yeah, because we can 3d print half these things and all that. And then we can optimize, okay, this had the best for the least amount of time turned to let you know, because it’s a dose that kills the bugs also dose because plastic dose would be is it energy relative apples energy, watts times power times times energy. So the time creates a dose, so the one the shortest time to have the most effective kill rate? Yeah.

Aaron Moncur 33:37
And that’s a huge deal, right? I mean, development is limited by testing. And if your test cycle takes two weeks, like you said, that’s going to draw out the development cycle greatly. So at what point did you sit down and think, you know, this is taking too long, we got to figure out a different solution to growing these bugs are testing

Ed Kernick 33:57
and all my boss kept saying, and man, he’s been on this project for like a year, what’s taken as long as I get takes forever so. And I realized, well, developing the test method was huge, it probably took a couple months that we first did these traditional things. And then we developed this test method, rather than we were starting a really high throughput, we call a high throughput screen. Now we can screen out all these designs, you know, in parallel, you know, we can have 10 designs on a table and run them and 3d print half the stuff and know within days, you know that which one’s best. And then we get down to the final two or three candidates. And then we started with bugs again, you know, it’s just to verify. Yeah, right,

Aaron Moncur 34:37
right. Oh, that’s brilliant. Are you typically working on just one project at a time? Or is your time spread out across, you know, three or four different projects at any three or four

Ed Kernick 34:48
typically? Okay, so right now, probably, probably 90% on one project and another 40% on another. Engineer day, right? Right, right. Yeah, hours a week, hour and 40 hours. it’ll be 60 hours.

Aaron Moncur 35:03
Let’s see. Okay, I’ve got one more question for you about some of your your direct experience at j&j, you worked on an electroactive contact lens that I didn’t even understand exactly what that means and electroactive contact lens. Can you share a little bit about what that is and what your role on the project was? Yeah, so

Ed Kernick 35:23
I was the lead engineer originally on that project. It was the lead mechanical engineer, we had process engineers, chemical engineers. So that is a lens that you would put in your eye. And we never got fully to work. But in theory, it would, you could, it could read sense of muscle that’s called the ciliary muscle around the eye that used to focus. So for people everybody gets presbyopia in our life at some point, if you live so presbyopia is a huge market. And the Opia presbyopia is when your your lens quits working and you can’t focus yet you can’t focus in near. So as you see all the way to where

Aaron Moncur 36:06
I turned 40 last year, and all of a sudden, I have trouble seeing things close to me.

Ed Kernick 36:11
Yes, and it just gets worse and worse. So people gotta get readers. So you can use a we have monofocal multifocal lenses, he can work wherever you get some people do the he could do monofocal You put one lens in and out. We’re not what I’m doing right now, what I’m saying, I don’t have the other one. So, but this device goal was a couple goals. But one was you could wear it, and it could set your muscle and it could zoom in and out. So we never got that far. But we had it were we working with fog, where you can actually click the fob and zoom in, click a fob and zoom out.

Aaron Moncur 36:44
No way. All

Ed Kernick 36:46
plans? Yeah, yes, it’s real challenge. We had custom chips made we were using that a a electroactive technology where it’s a it’s a saline. And if you energize the st. Lena, it’ll change your meniscus. So that’s the zoom in. And they have these lenses. I think Edmonds optics, but we’re developing around because the ones that ended up it’s a pretty big. So this one, we are making little microscopic one that fit in Iraq. So we’re gonna go, wow. And then we were also working like a biosensors and all these electronics in your eyes. It was a fun project, you know? But budgets got tight. And that project got shelved for a while. So yeah,

Aaron Moncur 37:23
that’s one of those, like, next generation, you know, space age type projects, you don’t hear about those very often. So thank you for sharing about that. That’s very cool. What, what are some of the challenges that you run into on a daily basis? Or not even necessarily on a daily basis, but what are some of the main challenges that you face

Ed Kernick 37:44
challenges or budget and schedules typically, and then those are these the, the non fun challenges, the fun or not fun times, also the engineering challenges, right to make things work? Right now working on a vision system and machine learning. And when you making, you know, billions of lenses a year, you want to you don’t want to throw away many, so I want to get this very accurate vision system for detecting things, detecting defects, but I also want to have one that doesn’t throw any product. So really, to get these things for these these false rejects down to like, on the zero is very, very challenging. But uh, yeah, typical in any industry job that’s you get paid for is finding those easy problem, they would need engineer so.

Aaron Moncur 38:32
Right, right. I’m going to ask the question in a slightly different way. If you had a magic wand and could wave this wand and change one or two things about how you work or the environment, what what would that be?

Ed Kernick 38:47
If I could change the environment, you know, I probably like most engineers, I don’t if if I had someone to do all the paperwork.

Aaron Moncur 38:59
I saw that one coming. Yeah. Yeah.

Ed Kernick 39:04
Actually, that was the I know in one of your questions you wrote down, you know, things that would a major successes and failures and lessons learned. Yeah. Documentation was one of the lessons learned.

Aaron Moncur 39:18
How so like, did you learn to enjoy it? Or how was the lesson I

Ed Kernick 39:22
didn’t learn to design it I learned that the work is not done to the paperwork. It’s not done, I guess was the saying around it. But the I thought it for a while. And it probably hurt my career for a short period of time that I just want to do fun stuff on design and make drawings and make parts and the once I started being writing technical reports, and documenting things better. I started you know, I was more well rounded, and it’s the stuff I hated to do. But as I did that stuff better my career advanced along with it. because you’re more well rounded, you know, even though it’s not the fun stuff, it is. It’s unnecessary stuff.

Aaron Moncur 40:07
What would Ed, what would engineer Ed, today, say to engineer Ed 25 years ago that you wish you had known back then? Oh,

Ed Kernick 40:19
well, you know, documentation would be one. You know, if I, back then if I realized, you know, one of my managers actually on the r&d said, Man, if you, you look good look in the mirror, find out what’s holding you back, you know, your great, great engineer, but there’s, there’s some things that everybody could work on something. And that’s something I avoided and avoided. But once I got that, it really, I think, open doors as just more well rounded person. So I think if I would have started that earlier, that would be that would have been beneficial to my career. Another thing is, you know, making data based decisions earlier on to taking some of these blackbelt statistics class have really been beneficial to my career, because I can use the data, present data and make very database decisions, you know, I think is in present there, because a lot of people go on with the motions, and it’s really nice to have the data. And you can really make better decisions with obviously,

Aaron Moncur 41:24
what what class was that that you took, what was it like a Six Sigma thing or something else,

Ed Kernick 41:28
Six Sigma. There’s a Shannon Shane in red X, which is a lot of people like that a lot. But I used the the Six Sigma fairly often in my career. And I use that a lot with scientific methods and writing reports. Because it’s really define your problem. Make sure you got a good measurement system. So you can measure where the problems that and make Triq made an improvement analyze the data in the investment process. So that’s a sort of live my, my life using that now. Every time I approach a new project, or write a report, same format, you know,

Aaron Moncur 42:03
yeah, now love it. All right. Well, add we’re wrapping up here. Before we end. Is there anything else that that you’d like to share? Anything that maybe I just haven’t touched on? Or anything comes to mind for you? No, no, I

Ed Kernick 42:17
appreciate you. Let me come on a ramble about myself.

Aaron Moncur 42:20
I love it. I love I love hearing engineers ramble. I just think engineers are really interesting people. And it’s always fun to hear about how other people do things and how other other people solve problems. Well, before I let you go,

Ed Kernick 42:34
I’ll go ahead and say,

Aaron Moncur 42:36
how can people get a hold of you if they want to reach out?

Ed Kernick 42:42
Okay. EKernick@gmail.com. You could get a hold of me just go ahead and shoot me an email. But maybe the subject mentioned this and mentioned something because you know, obviously if it gets a lot of spam, so yeah, just make it do something to catch my eye.

Aaron Moncur 42:58
You being an engineer podcast question there. Yeah,

Ed Kernick 43:01
yeah. And I think you’re one of the questions. I thought it also you just said, oh, there was something I guess the few have said been useful to me. I think I was just gonna mention before we go is just obviously, yeah, please think out. You know, I wrote these down. Because I think, you know, looking back at my career just goes back to your previous question. You know, I things that have made me and I’m not saying I’m super successful, but things that have been imagining fellow Johnson and Johnson. So I think that things that have made me successful if, you know, always think outside the box, and and have intellectual curiosity, right, when you have passion for your job, and find out why things work and why things are. So when you have these conversations with people about problems, you understand a lot about it, you know, and then I think the last thing would be always challenge the status quo, but you don’t have if we’ve always done something this way. And I got five guys on your machine where he’s done something this way, well, I can do it this way. And I can save this much money, you know, build a business case, have the day that’s challenged status quo, just don’t do a brace in your hands. But I think that’s very important to make to have progress is to always really want to innovate, and do better. And when someone says, Well, we’ve done it that way. And it’s fine. Say, Well, I got data to show there’s a better way to do.

Aaron Moncur 44:15
So. I love that. That, to me sounds a lot like continually asking why, you know why? Why, why and you get to a kind of a root cause. You also mentioned the importance of creative thinking or thinking outside of the box. I wonder, do you have any tactics or tools that you can share? Like, if I’m a young engineer, I’ve probably heard that I should be creative or think outside the box. But how do I do that before I have a lot of experience? Do you have any any thoughts on that? Well,

Ed Kernick 44:47
I think you don’t, don’t always look at well, first of all, when someone says we try that 20 years ago, it’s not going to work. Well. There’s a couple there’s new technologies and trying that may have been something so they may have tried something totally different. So you may want to always challenge these, these tribal knowledges, that may not be even the same problem. So look, you’re looking you’re out, but what are your desired output? And how do you want to get there. And if you got all these constraints, are they real constraints with a tangible strings are these, these this box that you’re thinking outside, it may not even be a box, right? So really, just try to find your end goal. And don’t use Genesis sort of ignore some of these other things, and try to figure out a way to do it, and then try to put it back together and see how it would fit in that box or reserve box, you know, so you always want to maybe start at the, at the problem, and not really go after, you know, these these things that we’ve always done it that way. You say, Well, you know, there’s, you know, look at, look at the best ways to do things and brainstorm, you know,

Aaron Moncur 45:49
yeah, I love that you highlighted defining the boundaries, right? Because the boundaries that were given for problem might not really be the boundaries, right? Someone, somewhere may have come up with these boundaries, these project requirements and pass them down the chain, and we get them. And we have the tendency to look at them as gospel and say, Okay, these are the requirements, we have to be within this box. But oftentimes, if you question those, well, why does it have to be this temperature? Specifically? Why does it have to be that material specifically, oftentimes, you ask these questions, and whoever handed those requirements down are like, well, I don’t know. I saw someone else do it that way.

Ed Kernick 46:26
Exactly. Yeah. So and if you know enough about it, so learn your process, you know, and when you take these black belt, Six Sigma classes, walk the process, learn the process, no matter what it is, whether you’re making refrigerators, or contact lenses, or instruments, right. So know the process and say, Wow, really, that temperature really is not. That’s that was feel like you said, someone just sort of made it up. But that really is not where what’s needed here. So you can and that, and they may give you some leeway. And also now you got to keep was the other thing, keep it simple. So you may have design around a bunch of these requirements, you may be able to make things a lot more simple, and have much better success. If you don’t have as many requirements.

Aaron Moncur 47:06
Yeah, that’s a great tactic define understand the boundaries, and then question them why why is this boundary really a boundary? One, one that I’ll share, is I really like making lists, I’ve just I’ve always been a list maker, I think part of it is because I don’t have a great memory, I just, I can’t recall things that well. So I write them down. So I can reference the list later. But in terms of brainstorming has been really helpful for me. And as opposed to typing a list, I find that using my hand with, okay, I don’t use a pencil and paper, I use an apple pen and a tablet, but you know, I’m using my hand to actually write these out. And when I’m brainstorming like that, the first five or six or seven or 10 Ideas are usually kind of the obvious ones. But I find that the ones that are really creative tend to be you know, idea number 17. Idea number 19. Idea number 20. It’s once you get past that first dozen or so that the really kind of creative out of the box ideas start to start flying at least that’s what I found for me personally,

Ed Kernick 48:07
no, I agree. And then you write them down, you can see him too. And then you can if you just start if you just brainstorm in a room and you don’t write all the stuff down, you lose all that knowledge. So I think definitely write it down and and then you can elaborate and break it down even into pieces and figure out you know, the what are your boundaries, your true values?

Aaron Moncur 48:23
Exactly, exactly. All right, that’s gonna good and part of the title for this podcast define the boundaries. Yeah, I like it. All right. Well, Ed, thank you so much for your time. I know you’re a busy guy. I really appreciate you take this time out to sit down and just to talk with me share some of your wisdom and your background. So this has been excellent. Thank you very much.

Ed Kernick 48:45
Appreciate it. Nice to meet you. And thanks for having me on.

Aaron Moncur 48:51
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a positive review. It really helps other people find the show. To learn how your engineering team can leverage our team’s expertise in developing turnkey custom test fixtures, automated equipment and product design, visit us at test fixture design.com Thanks for listening

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