Nineteen-ninety-seven was another good year for engineering. Salaries were up, according to the latest Design News salary survey (see "Engineers on a wild ride," June 7, 1997), and so was job satisfaction. And, thanks to some spectacular technical feats and the publicity they garnered, respect for the engineering profession was up too.
One of the highest-profile engineering achievements of the decade was the mission to Mars. It was engineers who took the nation there, and the fuel for the trip was their knowledge of components, materials, and design tools.
Here on Earth, several developments caught the attention of Design News readers. We ask readers to tell us which stories in each issue are the most useful to them. Among the stories readers say they found most useful this year were:
A description of SatCon's Reaction Mass Actuator, which senses noise and vibration in helicopters. The heart of the device is a cylinder of Terfenol-D, a magnetostrictive material, developed by the former Naval Ordinance Laboratory. (January 6, 1997)
"Barnstormer of the deep," the profile of the work of engineer Graham Hawkes, a pioneer in advanced submersibles. Hawkes won the 1997 Design News Special Achievement Award for his work. (March 3, 1997)
The explanation of technology in Porsche's new Boxster. Instead of air cooling, it employs water cooling. The Boxster uses a Bosch Motronic M5.2 electronic engine management system, variable camshaft timing, and a four-valve-per-cylinder design. (March 24, 1997)
A report on a pump that replaces the chain in a bicycle drive. It could also be used in IC engines and air motors. (June 23, 1997)
The Fastener Productivity Kit, with reports on innovative products to solve fastening problems. (July 21, 1997)
Overall, these stories show the wide range of interests of our readers and their need for the latest technical information in a variety of fields. Which was the story most useful to you in '97?
Are they robots or androids? We're not exactly sure. Each talking, gesturing Geminoid looks exactly like a real individual, starting with their creator, professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University in Japan.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.