Engineering companies that pay inadequate attention to customers’ needs often, if not usually, hit bumps in the roads. A former engineer named Ralph E. Grabowski has developed a marketing-to-engineering investment ratio that can indicate if adequate marketing effort is involved. He contends that the most successful new product developments had at least equal investment of marketing tio engineering. Dell, for example, generally rings in at 1.5. The kings of the minicomputer era (Digial Equipment Corp. and Wang) had ratios of 0.004 and 0.001. They were totally blindsided by the PC revolution. I’m sure all of us knows one, if not many people, who had great inventions that didn’t become commercial. There are many barriers besides consumer acceptance, of course.
An article on Grabowski carried on the Web version of the Boston Globe illustrates an example with the world’s first microwave, developed by Raytheon after World War II. The project was a commercial outlet for the company’s radar developments. The original RadarRange was huge. It was a stainless steel behemoth that looked like a commercial laundry unit. The microwaves obviously become a huge success, but it took a few years to get all of the issues ironed out.
A side note: My father-in-law was one of four engineers who developed the original microwave right after World War II. There was no knowledge then of the potential damage of the microwave energy. Members of the development team would sometimes put one hand in the oven and hold a fluorescent light in the other. Current would be applied, illuminating the light. My father-in-law wisely chose not to play the game. He lived to be 96.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Design News, it should also be noted that he loved to tell me how excited he was when he got the first-ever edition of Design News, about the time he was working on the RadarRange.
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
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.