This issue is a lot of fun for us editors toputtogether because it features our annual technology forecast. It's an opportunity for us to peer into our crystal ball and tell readers about the "don't-miss trends" of the year—trends that we've identified based on our extensive reporting and travels over the past year that will have the most significant impact on engineering in the coming year.
This year, our top picks include a wide range of technologies—check out the full story on page 55. For example, contributing Editor Randy Frank predicts a coming-out party for micro fuel cells this year, citing two companies that are taking a unique approach in their product development efforts. He also forecasts strong interest this year in pseudo servo technology—essentially stepper motors equipped with feedback devices that help improve their resolution and position accuracy. Though not new, Randy predicts the technology will gain traction this year, particularly in markets such as packaging.
Senior Editor Joseph Ogando reports on some new developments in polymer chemistry that promise significant improvements in plastic parts. For example, he describes a class of photoaddressable polymers that could make holographic data storage a reality.
Contributing Editor Jon Titus describes an emerging standard that uses Ethernet LANS to simplify the design and configuration of test and measurement systems.
And National Editor Paul Teague takes a look at new enhancements in CAD that are targeted at making the software easier for engineers to use. Who hasn't heard that before? In fact, our tech forecast 10 years ago predicted that software would become "more accessible and easier for design engineers." But with developers rolling out new features like built-in knowledge-capture and rich collaboration tools, 2005 looks to be the year where ease-of-use will take a big leap forward.
In fact, it's interesting to revisit 1994 to see what other trends we predicted would be hot.
The advent of lighter, tougher plastics
Increased adoption of electronic controls for fluid
Growing use of software in motion control
Multimedia on the engineer's desktop (but bandwidth
was a concern!)
Greater use of electronics in consumer products
Last but not least, we predicted that composite materials would make their way from primarily defense and aerospace applications to the commercial world. Were we right? Just check out our cover story on the Trek carbon fiber composite frames that Lance Armstrong rode to victory in six consecutive Tour de France races.
It's good to be right sometimes!