Global competition altering lives of American engineers
Like it or not, U.S. engineers are deeply involved in a worldwide scramble for technological advantages. That was the prevailing opinion at a symposium on "The Global Agenda for American Engineering" held by the National Academy of Engineering. Although international competition continues to heat up, participants reported, technological information is flowing more freely than ever across borders. "You have teams of engineers working on computers all around the world interacting every few moments without ever coming in direct contact," noted Norman R. Augustine, chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin. Barriers previously established to keep defense information from moving outside U.S. borders are "no longer leakproof," he added. Cutbacks in defense spending have forced many engineering enterprises into the unfamiliar task of designing products for global commercial markets. Symposium members warned of the danger of dismantling military design and prototyping teams at a time when U.S. policy is shifting toward a new multifaceted defense system that calls for a new set of technologies.
Three major trends influence 1997 product design
Three converging trends are dominating decisions in product design this year. They are consumerism, technological innovation, and the continual drive for cost containment. So contend several U.S. designers who participated in a forum on trends in product design and development. Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), headquartered in Great Falls, VA., sponsored the forum. The trends, forum members say, equally affect product design engineers and industrial designers. Consumerism today is seen as a demand for simpler, safer, and more aesthetic goods. Technology innovations result in shorter life cycles for products. Price concerns are strongest in international and mass markets. Balancing the trends will be "the real test of a designer's genius," claims Craig Vogel, incoming president of IDSA.
'Smart' tools for surgeons will include voice controls
Doctors and engineers are dreaming up an array of sophisticated surgical tools for early in the twenty-first century. A report from the National Science Foundation (NSF) describes future surgical simulations, image-guided therapies, robotics, and "teleinterventions." The report summarizes findings of the Second International Workshop on Robotics and Computer Assisted Medical Interventions, held in England. The workshop convened 52 engineering, computer science, and medical researchers from seven nations. Participants envisioned voice-controlled surgical instruments, computerized systems that guide surgical tools, and three-dimensional images with cross hairs projected onto patients in the operating room. Physicians thousands of miles apart will participate in live surgeries. Support for the workshop came from NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and commercial partners. NSF plans a follow-up workshop for 1999. "We're encouraging close collaboration between engineers and surgeons," says Gilbert Devey, program director in biomedical engineering at NSF.
Future general aviation engines to be developed by two firms
Two companies will develop revolutionary engines that could make future light aircraft safer, smoother, quieter, and more affordable. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration sponsors the project. Williams International Co. of Walled Lake, MI, and Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) of Mobile, AL, will develop technologies for a turbine and intermittent combustion engine, respectively. Williams International plans to continue R&D on its FJX-2 Turbofan engine. It is intended for aircraft having six or fewer seats and cruising airspeeds above 200 knots. TCM plans to develop a two-cycle, direct-injected, compression-ignition piston engine that uses Jet A fuel. It will be used on four-seat planes with cruising speeds under 200 knots.
Facility simulates auto exhaust to help refine flow meters
Auto engineers soon will have more accurate meters for analyzing tailpipe exhausts. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has opened a facility that simulates car exhaust. Automakers will use the facility to calibrate a new type of flow meter that can directly measure exhaust from a tailpipe. The laboratory, located in Gaithersburg, MD, simulates exhaust by mixing nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon, and water vapor. NIST engineers can also include low levels of gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. Called the Exhaust Meter Calibration Facility, the lab can measure the combined flow with less than 1% uncertainty. It also can duplicate flows of 1 to 100l/sec, the range of interest to vehicle manufacturers. Technicians can vary the ratio of gases and the temperature from 290 to 700K.