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.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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