It makes imminent sense to design cars or other products in Asia for cars that are sold in Asia. GM did that with Buick and ended up with a different look and feel that was a huge hit in China. It doesn’t make so much sense, however, to offshore significant amounts of design work to low-cost countries like Vietnam, which lack skilled and experienced design engineers. Nissan has put together a team of 700 Vietnamese engineers in Hanoi to design basic auto parts. According to a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “The Vietnamese engineers, many of whom have never driven a car before, earn about $200 a month—about a tenth of what their counterparts bring home in Japan.” Sure new software programs are a help, but there’s no replacing years of hard-earned knowledge on materials’ and other technology. Even experienced engineers sometime stub their toes because of poor knowledge of how a part design can affect tool costs, to say nothing of how a poor design can cause partial or total tool failure. Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn gets a lot of props on Wall Street, but his approach to low-cost engineering is naïve and foolhardy.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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