A Forgotten Practice Can Save US Industry $500B a Year

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Forgotten Knowledge
williamlweaver   1/3/2013 11:31:34 AM
Kevin, this is not a tongue-in-cheek suggestion. Perhaps DesignNews or UBM itself would be a good flag bearer for a project like this. As we continue to witness the retirement of ca. 75 Million Baby Boomers, how simple would it be to ask folks to describe what they do professionally in front of a webcam that can be archived by Youtube? Given automated captioning now or in the future, it is conceivable that the collective on-the-job experience need not retire with the retirees and actually be archived, searched, and retrieved. I would love to see what best practices could be learned from an automated review of millions of videos...

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That much?
naperlou   1/3/2013 11:31:58 AM
Kevin, I agree with you that this is the type of thing that probably needs more attention in schools.  It might also be a good subject for CEUs for professional engineers.  I am not a mechanical engineer, but I am involved with the IEEE and we do many sessions a year to help engineers get their CEUs. 

On the other hand, the estimate of savings seems large.  I am prepared to accept it, but that is 1/30th of the largest economy in the world. 

Dave Palmer
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Tribology research
Dave Palmer   1/3/2013 2:00:59 PM
I'm not sure that it's quite right to call tribology a "forgotten practice." Nanotribology in particular seems to be a hot topic for university research these days.  That being said, traditional tribology doesn't get as much attention because it's no longer "sexy" (if rolling contact fatigue was ever sexy).

This is part of the disconnect between academia and industry; there are plenty of topics that have tremendous industrial significance, but seem to attract little academic interest.  Conversely, there are issues that seem to attract lots of academic interest, despite having little industrial significance.

I think Northwestern University offers a couple of undergraduate-level tribology classes, which are taught by Dr. Q. Jane Wang.  However, most universities don't do this.  I certainly didn't take any tribology classes as an undergraduate.

Because of this, I often find myself relying on bearing manufacturers to fill in the gaps in my tribology knowledge.  Most of the bearing manufacturers place a high priority on providing customers with engineering support.  Koyo (Torrington) even has a mobile classroom that they will bring to your location.

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Re: That much?
Mydesign   1/4/2013 4:41:11 AM
1 saves
Naperlou, you are right. Such topics have to introduce to schools and colleges and this will help them to understand the importance of such things from child hood days.  Conservation of energy is a major factor and I think every has to be tuned for optimal usage and to minimize wastage.

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"Trib-" what?
CLMcDade   1/4/2013 9:57:03 AM
Tribology - I do not remember hearing of this study in 27 years of product engineering or my 4 years of college.  Of course I know the concept of friction wear and know to look for ways to avoid or minimize it depending on the application, but I never stopped to think that there was a discipline dedicated to this phenomenon. 

It makes sense that there is an area of dedicated research and analysis for it, and considering how complex and varied friction generation and wear can be, the study must be equally complex.  So it is somewhat distressing that as a field, I have never heard of it. 

A discipline that it is not well publicized means few students can or will choose it as a pursuit.  And with the "experts" retiring and no new blood replacing them, the knowledge base may disappear but we all know that the natural phenomenon will not. 

One possibility is that as a society we will have to start learning the importance of this study again, not exactly from scratch, but from 10 steps back.  The other possibility is that as a society being fed products created with planned obsolescence, the knowledge or expectation that products can have longevity will disappear.

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Re: Tribology research
TunaFish#5   1/4/2013 10:02:01 AM

Dave Palmer wrote:  "(if rolling contact fatigue was ever sexy)."

I don't know where you went to school, but rolling contact always seemed to be the sexiest kind of fatigue!

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The Fundamental Nature of Friction
Photon   1/4/2013 12:07:03 PM

Temperature is an outsider in the laws of motion given by Newton and Einstein and this oversight is the source of the predictions of time-reversal-invariance made by these two great systems of motion. By taking into consideration Planck's law of blackbody radiation and the Doppler effect, in thinking about Maxwell's electromagnetic wave equation, I have shown that photons, in the environment through which any charged particle moves, act as a source of temperature-dependent friction on everything from elementary particles to galaxies. Because the optomechanical friction is universal and inevitable, no real systems are conservative, and temperature can no longer be an outsider in a fundamental and irreducible law of motion. I have defined the change of entropy  in irreversible systems at constant temperature in terms of the optomechanical friction. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is explained by electromagnetic interactions between charged particles and the Doppler-shifted photons through which they move as opposed to chance and statistics. Consequently, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is shown to be a fundamental law rather than a statistical law. This result is consistent with intuition and the routine experience of engineers (and botanists).

See: http://www.aphysrev.org/index.php/aphysrev/article/view/539/233




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$500 billion? That much! really?
Thinking_J   1/4/2013 12:52:34 PM
While I do recognize the value of engineers having a "well rounded" education and the value of not wasting energy...

I find the statement - "It has been estimated that the correct application of tribology throughout the US industry could save $500 billion annually."... to be very flawed (and contradictory to demonstrating a well rounded education).

As important as the subject is.. any arguments stating it's importance with vague and un-sourced numbers just devalues the argument.

$500 billion? really? assuming we can make all frictional losses 5% better (less)? 50% better? 95% better? at what cost to implement? Who did this estimate?

78% of all statistics are made up on the spot... to support an idea of questionable importance (you get my point).

Please include sources when ever making statements of this type.



William K.
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Re: $500 billion? That much! really?
William K.   1/4/2013 5:37:21 PM
I also question the origin of the $500 billion number. It appears to have been plucked out of the low-friction airstream, I would guess. 

In my Electrical engineering college days I don't recall much about friction except in a materials course and in statics. It was also discussed briefly in Physics.

But as a practicing engineer I was always aware of the need to assure that things did not wear, which meant always providing bearings of one form or another, since I never came up with a way to use the rollomite invention. ( I may have spelled it wrong). It always seemed intuitive to me that where surfaces were loaded against each other they had to either be anchored to each other or have a bearing of some sort. That is why bearing companies have catalogs full of useful information. I may possibly have spent a bit more than I had to on bearings at times, but the production machines that I designed never had wear-out problems. So perhaps it was money well spent.

Charles Murray
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Re: That much?
Charles Murray   1/4/2013 6:20:43 PM
When I graduated from college 37 years ago, my school had zero tribology classes that I was aware of. I agree, Kevin, that we need to hold onto this as an academic discipline. Seems to me the best place to start is in the schools -- practicing engineers tend to place high value on the knowledge they gained in engineering school. Schools (like mine) that didn't bother to offer those classes should be encouraged to explain why it's being neglected.

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