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 slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
At the JEC Europe 2015 composites show in Paris last month, makers of composite materials, software, and process equipment showed off their latest innovations. This year's show saw some announcements related to automotive applications, but many of the improvements came in the world of aerospace.
The DuPont-sponsored Plastics Industry Trends survey shows engineers want improved performance in a broad range of plastics and better recycling technology. These concerns top even processing enhancements that improve productivity.
Plastics leader SABIC recently announced a global initiative to help its customers take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) and also advance 3D printing (3DP) technologies in several application areas. The company's plans go way beyond materials, and also include design, processing, and part performance.
A theme that was reflected in several ways at NPE 2015 was the use of 3D printing to assist in, or improve on, injection molding, as well as improvements in 3D printing materials and processes that are making better functional prototypes and end-use parts.
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