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Petroski on Engineering: Design Begets Design

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William K.
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design begets design
William K.   12/5/2012 9:16:33 PM
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An interesting title, although my experience is that designs build on designs. It is often easier to imagine an improvement of some kind when looking at a design then when looking at a blank sheet. Even an unworkable dsign can serve as a basis for ides to produce a much better design. At least that is often what I see. Of course, sometimes we can only guess about what the main goal of a design was. Some designs seek to minimize the required accuracy of components, others strive for the maximum robustness, and it is obvious that many designs are optimized for minimum initial cost, with little attention given to other variables.

So every design can serve as a basis for additional designs, optimized for some particular variable parameter.

Tim
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Re: design begets design
Tim   12/6/2012 5:28:09 AM
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Design does beget design.  In the article, the design of the demo was a result of the design of the bridge.  That is the circle of life of engineering.  If you design an end item, there are many other designs that are necessary to make your assembly a reality.  If the component requires plastic parts, someone has to design the molds for the part.  Someone else handles the design of the molding mahcine to run the molds.  This goes on up and down the chain keeping engineers in business.

Dave Palmer
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Re: design begets design
Dave Palmer   12/7/2012 12:00:16 PM
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@Tim: When I read your comment about the "circle of life of engineering," I can't help but think about The Lion King.

William K.
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Re: design begets design
William K.   12/7/2012 4:57:34 PM
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The comment about secondary required designs brings out the old comment "Nothing is ever simple". The truth is that usually an over-all design does require a lot of little designs, such as nuts and bolts. The good news is thgat we don't need to design those parts new each time.

bobjengr
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DESIGN BEGETS DESIGN
bobjengr   12/22/2012 11:16:05 AM
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Dr. Petroski--absolutely fascinating article.   I love these stories that give background and weave into the narrative personal history regarding the engineer(s) doing the work.  We sometimes forget that many many great engineering designs were accomplished with slide rules, pencils and erasers.  (Big erasers at that.)  Really demonstrates how far we have progressed with technology.  I wonder where we will be fifty years from now.  Again, many thanks. 

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