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Petroski on Engineering: Armchair Design & Analysis

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Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: reasonably expected misuse
Rob Spiegel   2/3/2012 3:32:29 PM
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That's a great song, TJ. He really nailed a lot of truths in the song. I saw him a couple of years ago at a festival. He still does "Alice's Restaurant." I guess he's stuck with it. I saw him sing it a couple times in the 1970s. That was understandable. But I was surprised he was still singing it 40 years later.

Charles Murray
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Re: No Room for Improvement
Charles Murray   2/3/2012 7:16:27 PM
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I agree, Chaschas. There's very little froom for improvement, which says a lot about the innovativeness of the original design.

Russell Faulkner
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Iron
Re: What about design for practical use case?
Russell Faulkner   2/3/2012 8:13:59 PM
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Why not just make the tray from a sturdy piece of corrugated cardbord coated with plastic.  Advertise a ski resort on one side and a Maui hotel on the other.  Clipped securely to BOTH armrests it would hold more weight than a cantilevered tray, weigh about an ounce, cost 97 cents, and stow in a pocket on the seatback in front of you.  A tray with no hinge is harder to break, but if somebody breaks it anyway, the airline gets to sell more advertising.

kenish
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Platinum
Re: No Room for Improvement
kenish   2/3/2012 11:12:42 PM
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The lowly fold-out tray table is a pretty amazing piece of design.  Besides the basic function, there's numerous secondary requirements.  It must be lightweight, strong,  and meet flammability requirements.  It has to support a certain amount of weight but break away if someone hits it hard without leaving sharp pieces and remain able to be stowed after being broken.  It can't have any pinch or "guillotine" hazards and can't fly out of the bin in a 15g foward-aft impact.

The cardboard tray idea is great!!

Jack Rupert, PE
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Platinum
Re: What about design for practical use case?
Jack Rupert, PE   2/4/2012 4:11:33 PM
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I think the airlines' issue with your suggestion, Russell, is that if I'm reading it right, your design would be loose.  Yes, it's connected to both armrests when the passenger wants it to be, but if the passenger is putting it back, or doesnt' secure it properly, or whatever, it becomes the airlines responsibility if it goes flying in turbulance.

Mexjewel
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Iron
Historic commentary
Mexjewel   2/4/2012 4:35:20 PM
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I had to check the date of this commentary - 2012, not 1965! In the '70s I worked in aircraft seating design. Those First Class seats were a wonder of engineering. Their weight-saving, weight-supporting design were worthy of awards. I'd think the present-day comments would have been unwarranted, even back then. Surely engineering has progressed since...or has it?

Russell Faulkner
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Iron
Re: What about design for practical use case?
Russell Faulkner   2/6/2012 8:53:36 AM
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The cardboard tray wouldn't weight much more than the plastic plate sitting on it, and unlike the plate, the tray would normally be secured.  Even if left unsecured the tray wouldn't be much of a projectile, but adding foam-rubber edging would limit the damage when kids play with the trays.  In normal use the edging would also keep cups and plates from sliding off.

vimalkumarp
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Gold
Petroski on Engineering: Armchair Design & Analysis
vimalkumarp   2/6/2012 10:37:19 PM
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This article by Mr.Petroski is a guiding for the young engineer by showing how to clearly express the design functionality. Many a times innovators fail to express the "need" in their statements.

Henry Petroski
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Blogger
Re: That IS a Bad design?
Henry Petroski   2/10/2012 2:36:00 PM
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The story of the mechanic pounding the broken table into submission is great! It shows how the human element can be the ultimate enemy of designs of all kinds. I wonder how long it took that tray table to finally be fixed so it could be both gotten out of and put back into the seat arm? Poor maintenance can be worse than no maintenance at all. 

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Historic commentary
Rob Spiegel   2/10/2012 3:27:20 PM
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I haven't seen significant design improvements in the seating area of airline jets since the mid-1970s. Am I missing something? If anything, the seating area has become more cramped.

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