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Failure Analysis and Rotordynamics - About KnightHawk Engineering

KnightHawk Management

Cliff Knight

Cliff Knight

President & Chief Engineer

Kevin Sicking

Kevin Sicking

Chief Operations Officer & Sr. Controls Consultant, Head of Field Services

Erik Howard, PE.

Erik Howard, PE.

Vice President
Senior Mechanical Consultant

Carlos R. Corleto, Ph.D.

Carlos R. Corleto, Ph.D.

Materials Lab  

Steve Hester

Steve Hester

Senior Consultant, Electrical and Controls Technology

C. Chet Stroh

Chet Stroh

Sr. Mechanical Consultant  

Jim Salter

Jim Salter

Director Business Development

Shauna Askins

Shauna Askins

General Counsel



KnightHawk Engineering (KHE's) team are experts in solving problems. Our personnel have worked many years in plants solving real world problems with solutions that meet the needs of "For Profit" operating plants. KHE’s staff is made up of specialists from many backgrounds including Mechanical, Process, Process Control and Operations.

Our team uses their varied perspectives to view a problem through all its facets. They have the knowledge and expertise to consider all aspects of the situation: the mechanical, process, process control, material characteristics, operational, and maintenance, of the entire system.

KnightHawk Materials Lab Industries Served by KnightHawk

About KnightHawk global image

Kobus Stadler has been named the new President of KnightHawk Engineering, Inc. effective January 1, 2016. Kobus has an excellent track record of success spanning over 20 years from the early days of his career to becoming Chief Process Engineer of research in a major multinational oil company, SASOL. Kobus has a B.Eng (Mech.) degree from the University of Pretoria, 1995 with 20 years of experience as an engineer in the petrochemical industry. Besides his official responsibilities as President of the subsidiary company, KnightHawk Engineering South Africa (KHE-SA) in formation, Kobus will act as Chief Engineer for the SA Engineering Consulting Group and is a Senior Mechanical consultant for the Houston based Engineering Consulting group. Significant experience is referenced as the lead technical professional for major multidisciplinary investigations into industrial static and rotating equipment design, development, manufacturing, commissioning, and failure assessments. Kobus has extensive experience in computer aided applications as a simulation analyst, which include: CAD ( 2D & 3D ) , Finite Element Method (FEA), Numerical Modeling, Heat Transfer, Pipe Stress Analysis, Pressure vessel design, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Discrete Element Modelling (DEM) and Rapid prototyping (or 3D printing). Deliverables included development of proprietary tools and methods for performing analysis on cooling systems, cost engineering, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, filtration and gas distribution systems. Two US patents for static and rotating equipment designs were assigned. Before coming to KnightHawk Engineering, Kobus spent 18 years at Sasol Technology, South Africa, where he achieved the position of Chief Engineer, receiving two innovation Project-of-the-year company awards for his work. At Sasol, his group specialized in development of the next generation Sasol Slurry Phase Reactor for its Gas to Liquids projects, failure analysis, code and regulatory compliance, heat transfer, pipe stress, troubleshooting, and field support involving petrochemical facilities.

Sri Krishna is Director of Specialty Engineering and Senior Mechanical Consultant. Sri has over 9 years experiences in design and analysis on static and rotating equipment using simulation tools such as piping analysis, PV Elite and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software. Sri is familiar with ASME code, API code, and etc. and is Certified as a Category 2 Vibration Specialist by the Vibration Institute. Prior to joining KnightHawk Sri worked for Clover Industries as Sr. Mechanical Engineer. Sri earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Louisiana State University.

Carroll (Chet) Stroh is a Sr. Mechanical Consultant with KnightHawk Engineering. He has over 40 years experience in design, maintenance, troubleshooting and failure analysis of rotating equipment. Chet is a former member of the Turbo Advisory Committee for the Turbomachinery Laboratory at Texas A&M University. Chet held that position for 6 years. Prior to working for KnightHawk, Chet worked for Turbo Care in Houston, TX as their Engineering Manager. While with Turbo Care, Chet performed stress and deformation analysis, developed analysis tools, performed rotordynamic and fluid film bearing simulations using numerical modeling tools and provided engineering design and troubleshooting support. Prior to Turbo Care, Chet worked for E.I. DuPont in Beaumont TX and Wilmington Delaware where he was first a rotating equipment consultant in the plant and then a consultant's consultant at the corporate level. Chet started his career at Westinghouse, where he was a design engineer in the rotors and blades group for large steam turbines. Chet has authored and coauthored several papers on rotordynamic behavior. Chet earned a BA degree in Mathematics from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA, BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and has completed three years of post graduate work.

Erik is Vice President of KnightHawk Engineering Inc and our Senior Mechanical Consultant. He is a Professional Engineer with over 19 years of experience. Erik’s responsibilities as Vice President of KnightHawk Engineering directing the Specialty Engineering and Product Design Groups. Erik also serves as a technical lead for major multidiscipline investigations into industrial static and rotating equipment problems and failures. Erik has over 19 years of experience in utilizing computer applications, which include Finite Element Method, Numerical Modeling, Heat Transfer and Pipe Stress Analysis. Erik has received five US patents for specialized static equipment connections. Before coming to KnightHawk Engineering, Erik spent fourteen years at the Ameriforge Group, where he achieved the position of Vice President of Engineering and Sales for Taper-Lok Corporation. Erik directed the design, analysis and testing of mechanical connections, requiring extensive use of numerical analysis techniques including linear, elastic-plastic and limit-load to find static, dynamic and thermal solutions. Erik also led product development ,design and business development in domestic and international markets. Erik has a BSME from The University of Texas at Austin 1997; MBA Rice University, Houston 2004. Erik is a Licensed Professional Engineer, Texas No. 101110.

Cliff Knight is President of KnightHawk Engineering and a Professional Engineer with 34 years of experience. Besides his corporate responsibilities as President, Cliff is also Chief Engineer. Cliff specializes in design, failure analysis and troubleshooting in static and rotating equipment. Cliff has 33 years experience in utilizing computer applications, which include Finite Element Method, Numerical Modeling, Heat Transfer, Pipe Stress Analysis, and Computational Fluid Dynamics.

While with KnightHawk, Cliff has developed proprietary tools and methods for performing analysis on pelletizing dies, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, and centrifugal compressors. Cliff holds four patents related to this work. Before coming to KnightHawk, Cliff spent ten years at Dow Chemical, U.S.A., where he achieved the position of Sr. Mechanical Engineering Specialist and Group Leader. Cliff received his BSME degree from Louisiana State University. Cliff is a registered professional engineer in the states of Alabama, Alaska. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma. Pennsylvania and Texas

Kevin Sicking is Chief Operations Officer, and Sr. Controls Consultant with KnightHawk Engineering. He has 38 years experience in the design, analysis, and troubleshooting of process controls, instrumentation, and electrical systems. Kevin is Vibration Institute Certified Level II and is also the head of our Field Services. Prior to his current position, Kevin worked for Triconex Systems, Inc. in La Marque, Texas, where he specialized in the control of static and rotating equipment. Kevin lead the development of numerous custom control systems, designed to solve unique problems in the operation and maintenance of industrial plants throughout the world. He also led a Field Engineering team in Troubleshooting and Analyzing Control system problems. Prior to Triconex, Kevin worked for Dresser Industries in Houston, where he was a Senior Technical Services Engineer. Kevin was responsible for troubleshooting unique instrumentation and electrical problems as related to exploration, drilling, and production equipment. Kevin has a BSEET degree from the University of Houston.

Jim Salter is Director of Business Development for KnightHawk Engineering. Jim has represented and sold products and services in the Petrochemical and Refining industries for over 20 years. Prior to joining KnightHawk Engineering Jim worked for Texas Industrial Solutions where he was responsible for sales and marketing activities in the Gulf Coast refining and petrochemical industries.

Prior to Texas Industrial Solutions, Jim worked for Ohmstede United, Inc. and Furmanite America, Inc. for about ten years each, where he was responsible for selling repair services and heat exchangers. Other industries Jim has sold to include, Aero Space, Manufacturing, Production, Water Treatment and Fabrication. Jim Studied Marketing at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas.

Dr. Corleto is the Director of the KnightHawk Engineering Materials Lab. He has over 25 years experience in deformation and fracture mechanisms, fracture mechanics, finite element stress analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), materials science, process-structure-property relationships, failure analysis, modeling and materials testing at the micro and macroscopic scale. Prior to working for KnightHawk, Dr. Corleto held various positions in TOTAL Petrochemicals, USA, Inc. from 1999 to 2009. Technical work focused primarily in the Material Science area, FEA, CFD, failure analysis, fracture mechanics. While at Total, Dr. Corleto received “Best Analytical Development Innovation Award in 2007 amongst European and US company researchers”. Prior to working at TOTAL, Dr. Corleto taught Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University-Kingsville as an Assistant/Associate Professor (Tenured) of the Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering Department. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in static and dynamics, material science, finite elements, deformation and fracture mechanics, strength of materials, and freshmen engineering foundation courses. Dr. Corleto received his PhD (1990), MS (1986), and BS (1984) from Texas A&M University. Dr. Corleto conducted his Doctorate thesis on “Mode II Delamination Fracture Characterization of Fiber Reinforced Composite Materials” under committee Chair Dr. Walter Bradley. He is author/co-author of six patents, 14 publications and multiple presentations at technical conferences.

D. Lee Hill, Ph.D., is a Senior Mechanical Consultant for KnightHawk Engineering and also the Head of Rotating Equipment. He has over 25 years experience in design, troubleshooting and failure analysis of rotating equipment. Prior to working for KnightHawk, Lee worked for MechAssociates in Victoria, Texas where he specialized in failure analysis, design audits and design modifications using numerical simulation tools such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA).

Prior to MechAssociates, he worked for Dresser-Rand Corporation in Olean, New York, Emerson Ventilation Products in Lenexa, Kansas, The Mechanical Engineering Department of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in West Palm Beach, Florida and Hercules Aerospace, Inc. in McGregor, Texas. Some of Lee’s accomplishments include development of transient CFD technology for turbomachinery problems and noise reduction technology for centrifugal compressors, troubleshooting multi-phase flow problems, acoustic problems, turbine aerodynamic issues, particle erosion and deposition issues with hot gas expanders, combustion chamber issues, structural dynamic issues and thermal stress analysis issues. Lee is widely published on topics such as finite element analysis, bearing design, computational fluid dynamics, component interaction in rotating equipment, noise reduction, and machinery performance improvement. Lee holds 7 patents related to rotating equipment. Lee earned a B.S., M.S. and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas A&M.

Shauna Askins is General Counsel for KnightHawk Engineering. She advises management on overall corporate matters including liability exposure, risk assessment, employee matters, compliance, and many other related issues. Before joining KnightHawk, Shauna clerked for Federal Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy in United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Prior to her clerkship, Shauna worked for Seyfarth Shaw where she practiced employment law, handling a broad range of issues including discrimination, retaliation, workers compensation, wage and hour disputes, employer recordkeeping, EEOC compliance and many others. She received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center where she graduated with honors and also served as Research Editor for the Houston Law Review in which she is published.

Before pursuing her law degree, Shauna worked in the insurance industry for several years, for both State Farm and Progressive Insurance in the property and casualty divisions. She earned a BA in Psychology with a minor in Management from Texas A&M University where she graduated cum laude.

Erian A. Baskharone, Ph.D. is a Sr. Mechanical Consultant with KnightHawk Engineering. He has over 38 years of experience in a variety of engineering disciplines, such as Fluid-Induced Vibrations in turbomachinery applications, design of various-type turbine stages as well as exhaust diffusers, the Finite-Element technique (including non-orthodox formulation), the Three-Dimensional Time-Dependent Stator/Rotor Flow Interaction within a turbomachinery stage, cascade theory, internal and external cooling of gas turbine early stages. Prior to working for KnightHawk, Dr. Baskharone worked for 14 years as a professor of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University as well as served as a member of the ASME Turbomachinery Executive Committee. During his tenure there, he graduated 4 Ph.D. And 9 M.S. Students, with many of the dissertations and theses published in peer-reviewed journals. He also was the recipient of various awards for teaching excellence. His tenure at Texas A&M followed a six year assignment at Allied-Signal Aerospace Co. (Phoenix. AZ) as a senior engineer in the Aero-Thermo Component Design Unit. There he led a team of six engineers in the area of turbine (axial and radial) design. His work on the design of the TPE331-14 turboprop hot section (including a three-stage axial turbine and the engine exhaust diffuser) was particularly unique, with the engine now being rated as one of the top performers in this class of engines. His redesign effort on the turbine section of the two-stage turbine of the F109 engine (for a US Air Force subsonic trainer) resulted in a rise of five points in the turbine total-to-total efficiency. His responsibilities at Allied-Signal also included the development of turbine maps for the off-design turbine performance. . Dr. Baskharone PhD. And M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1979 and 1975 respectively. He received his B.S in Aeronautical Engineering and Mathematics from the University of Cairo.

Mark Williams is the Manager of the Product Design Group with KnightHawk Engineering. Mark is a Sr. Mechanical Designer with over 7 years experience in 3D parametric solid modeling and other various mechanical design platforms.

Prior to working for KnightHawk, Mark worked for Gulf Coast Downhole Technologies (GCDT) in Houston, TX. During his four years with GCDT, Mark was promoted to Design Supervisor and served an integral role in launching and growing a product line of downhole cable handling and protection devices, which also entailed the oversight of product manufacturing, QA and testing. Prior to GCDT, Mark worked for BEI Engineers in Pasadena, TX where he worked in technical sales and completed a design internship with the civil/structural department. Mark obtained his AAS Degree in Engineering Design Graphics from San Jacinto College where he currently sits on the academic advisory committee, and previously studied architecture at Texas A&M University.

Steven Hester is a Senior Consultant for Electrical and Controls Technology with KnightHawk Engineering. Steven provides expertise in project management, proposal development, electrical, electronic, and embedded control systems in support of KnightHawk Engineering projects. He has over 38 years of experience in the design, analysis, and troubleshooting of electrical, electronic, and embedded control systems. Steven holds an FCC amateur radio extra class license and general radiotelephone operator license. He has provided support for KnightHawk ETEC as a technology consultant in waste to energy systems and contributed to the development of KnightHawk’s proprietary technology. Steven’s experience prior to KnightHawk includes 8 years of project engineering and business development for BEI Engineers, and over 24 years with Lockheed Martin in support of NASA Johnson Space center. His NASA experience included designing, fabricating, and installation of ground control systems in JSC Mission Control, and avionics systems development, installation, and field support for NASA’s Shuttle Training Aircraft project, ultimately managing the hardware systems group that was responsible for all avionics, computer, networks and field support. Steven also worked for over 3 years with The Woodlands CATV on one of America’s first two-way cable TV system as a data systems and RF designer. Steven has an ASEET and BSEET degree from Oklahoma State University. He currently serves as a district staff officer for communications in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Education: Ph.D: Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Advanced Steel Processing and Products Research Center (ASPPRC), Molecular Theory Group (MTG), Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO. Bachelor of Science: Engineering Physics, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, IN, Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Passed.
Research Experience: Materials Advisor, KnightHawk Materials Lab (KML)

Serve as the technical lead for metallurgical and materials failure analysis for KML
Perform specialized testing and analysis as required by customers
Support Knighthawk Engineering on issues relating to metallurgical and materials engineering
Identify opportunities for new business growth and development

Advanced Steel Processing and Products Research Center (ASPPRC) Research Assistant Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

Developed a thesis research program to investigate solute drag on austenite grain boundaries in Fe using DFT and MD modeling to understand short-range atomic interactions
Prepared semi-annual technical research reports for industrial sponsors many of whom had no experience with atomistic modeling to convey an understanding of the results and the potential of modeling
Received input on the project from industrial mentors interested in industrial application of results
Performed both TA and class work involving physical metallurgy, heat treating, foundry work, and mechanical testing using both servo-hydraulic and screw driven mechanical test frames
Attended semi-annual research meetings and obtained wide exposure to modern research techniques
Used novel analysis of the charge density to gain an understanding of the sub-atomic structures leading to solute interaction with grain boundaries (Bader analysis, molecular orbital and DOS analysis)
Implemented multi-scale modeling using MD to generate grain boundary structures and DFT to determine solute interactions with grain boundaries
Compared simulation results to literature data to provide validation and industrial relevance to results
Worked with the Molecular Theory Group (MTG) to develop the Bondalyzer package for Tecplot360
Collaborated with students in both the ASPPRC and the MTG to develop a multidisciplinary project and expose students and industrial mentors to new techniques for studying materials

Visiting Summer Researcher Sandia National Labs, Albuquerque, NM

Developed an understanding of requirements for performing rigorous MD and DFT simulations
Performed initial investigations of solute energetic interaction with grain boundaries using VASP

National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network Summer REU University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Performed research on improving solar cell efficiency using photonic nanogrids
Used a scanning electron microscope for imaging and electron beam lithography

Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels Summer REU Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Performed research on the effect of vegetable oil on engine cylinder durability at the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory and prepared a final report

Relevant Software and Research Skills
Physical Metallurgy

ASTM Test procedures for Tensile, compression, fracture toughness
Investment Casting: Wax mold making, refractory coating, spin and vacuum casting
Aluminum and brass green sand casting
Programming and data collection from tensile test frames (tensile, compression, low cycle fatigue)
Heat treatment
Cryogenic and elevated temperature mechanical testing
Charpy impact testing, ductile to brittle transition, and fracture analysis
Metallographic sample preparation and analysis including grain size and phase composition
Fracture analysis using optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy

DFT Codes- Vienna ab-initio Simulation Package (VASP) and Amsterdam Density Functional (ADF)

Simulations of large crystalline systems with and without defects
Spin restricted and spin polarized configurations
System, single atom, and orbital resolved DOS and band analysis
Simulation verification: KPOINT, energy, force convergence, and functional testing
Nudged elastic band and Geometry Optimization simulations to determine activation energies
Single Point calculations of large Fe clusters with individual solute atoms
Bader energy analysis, DOS, molecular orbital interactions

Additional Software Skills

LAMMPS, Tecplot 360: Bondalyzer package, Microsoft Office, Bash scripting and HPC in Linux, R: Statistical Data Analysis, Mathematica, Matlab, COMSOL Multiphysics, Solid Edge, Python, Labview

Electronic Materials

Clean Room Procedures
Photo and Electron Beam Lithography
Chemical and Physical Vapor Deposition
Chemical Etching
Semiconductor Device Design and Fabrication
MEMS Device Design and Fabrication

Professional Publications

M. Hoerner, J. Speer, M. Eberhart, “Comparison of Ab-initio Solute-Boundary Binding Energies and Experimental Recrystallization Data in Austenite for Solute Nb and Other Elements,” ISIJ International, Vol. 57 (10), 2017.
M. Hoerner, M. Eberhart, J. Speer, “Ab-initio Calculation of Solute Effects on Austenite Grain Boundary Properties in Steel,” Proceedings of the 3rd World Congress on Integrated Computational Materials Engineering, May 31-June 4, 2015.
M. Hoerner, M. Eberhart, J. Speer, E. B. Damm, “The Structure Property Relationships Governing Solute-Boundary Binding Energies in Austenite,” Proceedings of the International Conference on Solid-Solid Phase Transformations in Inorganic Materials 2015, June 28-July 3, 2015.