Looking for inspiration to jumpstart eco-friendly engineering designs? Why not let nature be your muse. Many companies, including flooring company Interface Inc., have embraced biomimicry R&D practices–in other words, taking their innovation and product design cues from Mother Nature.
Now there’s a new biomimicry database, called AskNature.org, which can help. Sponsored by 3-D design leader Autodesk, AskNature.org is a project of the Biomimicry Institute founded by author Janine Benyus. The experts at the Institute explain biomimicry as a science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems. The free, online public-domain library–which founders describe as part search engine, part manifesto and part social network–features biology-inspired design strategies organized by function and explained with illustrations and in language that is relevant to designers.
So for example, if an engineer was trying to solve the challenge of how to glue to surfaces in moist environments, they might study information about barnacles, geckos and other organisms that have solved this problem within their own ecosystem.
Autodesk officials said they were interested in sponsoring the site because they view biomimicry as a revolutionary design concept that can help influence better design decisions. To that end, Autodesk product teams are currently investigating where Autodesk software can support such practices. One current example is Autodesk Seek, launched in May, which lets designers and engineers search for products based on specific performance criteria, now including biomimetic as an attribute.
According to a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the factors in the collapse of the original World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, was the reduction in the yield strength of the steel reinforcement as a result of the high temperatures of the fire and the loss of thermal insulation.
Robots are getting more agile and automation systems are becoming more complex. Yet the most impressive development in robotics and automation is increased intelligence. Machines in automation are increasingly able to analyze huge amounts of data. They are often able to see, speak, even imitate patterns of human thinking. Researchers at European Automation
call this deep learning.
The promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that devices, gadgets, and appliances we use every day will be able to communicate with one another. This potential is not limited to household items or smartphones, but also things we find in our yard and garden, as evidenced by a recent challenge from the element14 design community.
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