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 make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
LeMond Composites, founded by three-time Tour de France cycling champion Greg LeMond, is the first to license a new carbon fiber production method invented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that's faster, cheaper, and greener.
This month will mark the launch of the SpeedFoiler, a super-fast, ultra-lightweight foiling catamaran that can fly short distances over water faster than other foiling designs, in part because of its carbon composite materials.
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