NASA Engineer Honored for Development of Data Matrix Compressed Symbology

Fred Schramm, an industrial engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has won national recognition for adapting a parts identification marking system to NASA's standards and introducing the technology into the private sector.

The marking system -- first known as compressed symbology and now by its commercial name Data Matrix -- works much like linear bar coding but the matrix symbols, resembling small checkerboards, are more efficient and reliable. Capable of storing up to 100 times more information in the same amount of space than traditional bar codes, the matrix codes are more permanent and smaller than the older, more familiar product marking code. They are also stackable, can be made invisible and won't fall off as sticky bar codes sometimes do. They can be read through six layers of paint or paper and are now being integrated with security technologies to prevent counterfeiting of commercial products.

In 1987, with Schramm as principal investigator, Marshall performed a study to determine if marking the two-dimensional symbol directly on part surfaces would be an effective way to track the millions of parts used in the Space Shuttle program. The Marshall Center has since led the way in direct part marking and worked with industry partners to enhance Data Matrix technology as part of NASA's effort to improve life on Earth through technology developed for the space program.

"This award is a prestigious honor in the technology transfer community," said Victor Chavez, Federal Laboratory Consortium Award committee chairman. Nominees must be employed by one of 700 consortium member federal laboratories and must have demonstrated not only a technology development but evidence that the technology was transferred into the private sector.

Schramm, a resident of Winchester, Tenn., will receive the award May 7 at the consortium's annual meeting in Tucson, Ariz. He is one of 22 winners chosen on the basis of innovation and potential for overwhelming positive impact on society. A panel of experts from industry, state and local government, academia and other Federal Laboratory Consortium members judged nominations for the coveted award. The organization promotes cooperation between government and private labs to exchange ideas and enhance the nation's economic growth.

"We're extremely proud that Fred is being recognized for his accomplishments," said Vernotto McMillan, manager of Marshall's Technology Transfer Department. "He is very deserving of this honor," McMillan said. The number of technologies selected for this honor are few. In recent years, the number and types of cutting-edge technologies developed and commercialized at Marshall have increased dramatically, he said.

A Marshall employee since 1981, Schramm has been a member of the Technology Transfer Department, formerly known as Technology Utilization Office, since 1993 and serves as program manager for development of the family of products and applications that has evolved from compressed symbology technology. He has submitted 15 invention disclosures and filed 13 patents -- four of which have issued with five pending.

His previous Marshall work includes assignments in the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle Project, Shuttle-C Project, Space Shuttle Main Engine Project and External Tank Project.

Schramm has written numerous articles for technical publications and presented NASA technical briefings at several conferences. He currently serves as chairman of the board of the Winchester, Tenn., Utility System.

Schramm is a 1974 graduate of Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn., with a bachelor's in industrial engineering. He earned a master's in engineering management from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1991.

To learn more about technology transfer managed by the Marshall Center please visit the Web site at:

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