Happy Friday, everyone! We’ve got an eclectic mix of interesting engineering technology news articles from this week. A few aerospace and defense pieces that will leave you wondering what will they think of next and a candid Q&A with one of the most wealthy and innovative CEOs today, Elon Musk, who was just given Popular Mechanic’s Breakthrough Award. Oh, and one of my favorites, a piece around simulation going mainstream and what that means for the market. Enjoy!
- Snakes On A Plane…Really
- Waterloo, Ontario, Morphs Into Tech Start-Up Magnet
- Simulation Heads for Mainstream Makeover
- Elon Musk Will Save The Planet – And Then Leave it Behind
- The Fledgling Flight of a Plane Which Goes From London to NY in One Hour
Snakes On A Plane…Really
I’ll spare you from the corny Samuel L. Jackson jokes that are swimming around my head right now – but just this once.
Rolls-Royce is developing snake-like robots that slither into aircraft engines and make repairs. These snakes would essentially automate the traditional way of completing aircraft maintenance checks, which currently require a trained specialist and expensive fiber optic cables called borescopes.
By conducting inspections and other general repairs, these robots could potentially save millions upon millions of dollars a year in maintenance costs.
However, an interesting engineering challenge is going to be making sure the cameras mounted on the snakes can survive the high temperatures inside the engines!
I’m challenging our faithful blog readers to send us some simulations of how YOU would keep these snake-robots cool.
The Wall Street Journal
Waterloo, Ontario, Morphs Into Tech Start-Up Magnet
This one hits close to home — ANSYS actually has an office in Waterloo, Ontario (which is 90 miles northwest of Toronto).
Maybe it’s the town’s world-class engineering-focused University or the attractive tax incentives that’s turning Waterloo into this generations Silicon Valley? Ontario offers a number of tax benefits for technology companies, including tax credits for research and development expenses and investment opportunities that stem from government funds.
RIM (the Blackberry maker) also calls Waterloo home. And oddly enough, the company’s recent layoffs aren’t viewed entirely as a bad thing — some experts say that the layoffs are essentially freeing up a big chunk of talent in the area who are now available to do other things, like work for a new start up.
In August, the government of Ontario, in partnership with RIM and Communitech, launched an effort to help those laid off at RIM find jobs and stay in the Waterloo area. They’re helping with job placement, skills training and expanding entrepreneur-focused programs at local universities.
Sounds like this city sees the value of its huge amount engineering talent and aren’t prepared to let them go.
Simulation Heads for Mainstream Makeover
Organizations are under intense pressure to do more with their existing resources. At the same time, product life cycles are shrinking, global competition is increasing and customer expectations are higher than ever.
This specific piece looks at the concept of pushing engineering technology, specifically simulation analysis, further up in the development cycle and making it easier to use for mainstream engineering (essentially, amplifying its use across a wider group).
In some cases, the people who actually design the product (let’s say bicycles) aren’t necessarily the same group of engineers analyzing the bicycle design to make sure it will work properly..
Experts are saying that putting simulation analysis capabilities in the hands of mainstream engineers will not only encourage a deeper exploration of designs, but will shrink the development cycle because there will be fewer back-and-forths between the designers and the simulation analysts.
However, without a solid understanding of the fundamental engineering principles that govern the simulation software tools they’re using, the results are prone to errors and miscalculations. Its like giving a first grader, who is learning the fundamentals of math, a calculator and asking them to multiply big numbers.
Making simulation tools easier to use is something that many vendors in this industry are focused on. But what I think this piece is missing is the fact that it doesn’t address all of the challenges of democratizing engineering resources. There are a number of best practices that we have seen emerging from our customer base that both small and large companies can benefit from:
- Documenting simulation best practices for specific points in the design process (and for specific products)
- Automating simulation workflow – either with off the shelf tools, or through customization to include these best practices
- Implementing internal certification and training programs specific to these best practices
- Capturing and reusing design knowledge from past designs
What do you think?
Elon Musk Will Save The Planet – And Then Leave it Behind
This guy created and sold the popular internet payment system PayPal. He founded the electric car company Tesla Motors and he’s the man behind private spaceflight company SpaceX. He does it all — which is probably why Popular Mechanics gave him one of their 2012 Breakthrough Awards this week.
Each year, a panel of the magazine’s editors honor people and products that are seen to be leading the world of science and commerce.
In this interesting Q&A, Musk talks about why he wanted to help humanity become a “multiplanetary species”, how SpaceX will help restore Americans’ dream of space travel and how he’d like to one day retire on Mars.
Musk confesses that if his children were grown and he was confident that his company could survive without him, he’d like to be on the fist manned trip to Mars (whenever that may be).
This piece wasn’t really from this week, but someone sent it to me this yesterday and it needed to be shared! The U.S. military is working on developing a plane that can fly from London to New York in just one hour – that means the aircraft is travelling at speeds over 4,500 mph! That makes the Concorde’s 1,350 mph look … well, slow. While the X-51A WaveRider (aka Scramjet) wasn’t designed specifically as a commercial aircraft, I feel like this is one step in the right direction!
The key to its top speeds is its hypersonic combustion engine – it carries hydrogen instead of fuel and oxygen. Basically, when the engine needs oxygen, it pulls it in from outside and when it mixes with the hydrogen, the gas compresses and causes ignition and HUGE amounts of thrust.
Back in August of this summer, the Scramjet was attached to the wing of a B-52 bomber for its first test flight. The plan was for the Scramjet to be released from the bomber’s wings and after free-falling for a few seconds, its custom booster engine was supposed to ignite and propel the plane to Mach 4.5.
Sadly, that didn’t happen as planned. While the plane was launched successfully from the B-52, a fault was spotted with one of the cruiser control fins that ultimately lead to the cruiser loosing complete control just 31 seconds after separating from the bomber.
Wow. Hopefully, these guys are taking advantage of the insight that engineering technology provides earlier in the development cycle to improve their design the next time around.
That it’s for this week. Have a lovely weekend, everyone!