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.
During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill., an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
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