Hunters of technical data, engineers are on a constant prowl for information that will help them solve thorny design problems--information on new materials, new components, new design tools, new ideas. That's why you read engineering magazines.
At Design News, we're constantly hunting for feedback on how well our articles are meeting your information needs. That's why we ask you in every issue to rate the usefulness of the stories we publish. Examining those ratings gives us a pretty good idea of, among other things, the kinds of technology you're most interested in. In 1999, the top three articles you found most useful included two on materials and one on motion control. For those who may have missed them, here they are:
Number one is a story in our Annual Medical Issue, June 7, entitled "Surgical gloves will stop needle sticks," by Senior Editor Charles J. Murray. The focus of the article: SuperFabric, a technique developed by Higher Dimension Research for assembling materials into a hard entity. It involves the use of blocks of material connected by a mesh, and, says the company, it can be used with stainless steel, ceramics, composites, and plastics, among other materials. One graphic showed a hypodermic needle bending as it comes into contact with the gloves, a dramatic illustration of the fact that gloves made with this material process prevent needles from penetrating them and puncturing skin. The same process could also be used for industrial gloves and luggage, among other applications.
Next is "Metals that make a difference" (April 19, 1999), by Senior Editor Gary Chamberlain that describes, among other things, an electrolytic surface conversion and coating process developed by Almag Al Ltd. The hardness of the coating is in the same class as sapphire, claims the company, and the wear resistance is about four times that of hard, anodized aluminum.
Rounding out the top three is an article with the intriguing title, "Man moves 30,000 packages in 4 hours!!" (February 1, 1999), by International Editor David Bak. The report is about a package-handling operation that employs IR scanners from Omnix, motors and drives from Lenze, and PLCs from Mitsubishi. Bak follows a typical package through the system, noting that thanks to the technology it goes from receiving station to a final destination conveyor in 2.5 minutes.
Two researchers from Cornell University have won a $100,000 grant from NASA to continue work to develop an energy-harvesting robotic eel the space agency aims to use to explore oceans on one of the moons of Jupiter.
Is the factory smarter than it used to be? From recent buzzwords, you’d think we’ve entered a new dimension in industrial plants, where robots run all physical functions wirelessly and humans do little more than program ever more capable robotics. Some of that is actually true, but it’s been true for a while.
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