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.
The Dutch are known for their love of bicycling, and they’ve also long been early adopters of green-energy and smart-city technologies. So it seems fitting that a town in which painter Vincent van Gogh once lived has given him a very Dutch-like tribute -- a bike path lit by a special smart paint in the style of the artist's “Starry Night” painting.
For decades, engineers have worked to combat erosion by developing high-strength alloys, composites, and surface coatings. However, in a new paper, a team at Jilin University in China turned to one of the most deadly animals in the world for inspiration -- the yellow fat-backed scorpion.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.