A few years ago I performed a study for NASA on composite pressure vessel failure modes. Theoretical analyses tend to predict very long service lives for such vessels, lengthy to the point of absurdity. Key to the study was gathering actual failure data to determine failure modes and probabilities.
Three of my observations:
1. Private industry is extremely reticent to provide data on known failures of their products, even when the data is requested by a government agency such as NASA. The only companies willing to throw open their files were a few very small firms who said that they had suffered no failures. As a result any study has to be conducted more like an intelligence gathering operation than a normal engineering analysis.
2. Failures were often associated with environmental factors that cannot be taken into account in theoretical analyses, such as the presence of corrosive substances internal or external to the pressure vessel, or suspected impact damage.
3. Neither the Federal Government nor private industry, nor any other group (e.g., ASME) has collected the empirical data and made it available in a usable form. In fact, data from some noteworthy analyses appears to have been lost, disposed of, or even discredited.
For entrepreneurs and inventors, 3D digital designs of ideas and inventions save both time and resources, since 3D CAD can be used to initially test product design theories and understand all of their aspects without the need for building actual prototypes.
We are entering a new era of manufacturing -- one in which mass production is giving way to mass customization. A global marketplace, built on rich e-commerce platforms and make-to-order product configurations, is making “now” a great time to be a consumer -- but a challenging one to be a manufacturer.
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