This Week’s Top 5 Engineering Technology News Articles

Happy Friday, folks!  I’m back for this week’s roundup of interesting engineering technology news articles. Some of the highlights include how simulation is helping create more efficient and budget-friendly defense technology, a camera that functions similar to our retinas and the auto industry going up against the Silicon Valley for the best and brightest engineering talent!

Running short on time today?  No problem:

 Reuters
Special Report: China’s Car Makers Cut Corners to Success 

This article has a TON of interesting viewpoints and information on the whole process and what this company is doing in terms of safety and I’m really only scratching the surface. I would highly recommend reading the whole piece and forming your own opinion.

Ten years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Chinese consumer willing to buy cars designed in China. Why? Because most of the vehicles produced in China were either:

A) counterfit / illegal or
B) poorly built and unsafe

That said, China has recently been stepping up their game and is getting better and better at making cars. And Reuters says it’s because they’re relying more on engineering technology and computer simulation. Enter – The era of “The Good Enough Car.”

Typically, a car maker will conduct anywhere from 125-150 crash tests for each new model that it turns out. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, one of China’s largest car makers, is using simulation to cut that number down to 20-25. This fundamental switch alone saved at LEAST $31.574 million in addition to two years development time on their popular Panda model.

What would normally take four to five years, Chinese manufacturers can now do in two and half years by implementing an abbreviated design process.The big fear is that China’s new model of creating “good enough” cars poses a serious challenge to the way the international auto industry operates.

But the bottom line is, would you feel safe in one of these cars?

Science Daily
New Tool Gives Structural Strength to 3-D Printed Works

I’ve never had the opportunity to print anything from a 3-D printer, but judging by this article, it seems to be common knowledge that the durability of 3-D printed objects leaves much to be desired.

Some of you might be wondering, why would you want to print something from a 3-D printer? For example: a vintage train might have trouble finding parts for their model because they’re no longer being manufactured. But, with the help of a 3-D printer, they can download the specifications and make it themselves!

A new program from researchers at Purdue and Adobe’s Advanced Technology Labs automatically strengthens the objects before they are printed! Basically, they take advantage of engineering technology and computer simulation to find the weakest part of the object – and then the software will suggest three possible solutions to increase its strength.

The three options vary, but increasing the thickness of key structural elements, adding struts or hollowing out parts of the object that are too heavy usually work.

This process not only makes these objects more sturdy, it also makes them less expensive – WINNING!

EE Times
Why the Best-In-Class Will Thrive in the New Defense-Spending Environment

Recent statements around U.S. defense budget cuts are taking over the media and somewhat concealing (what I think) are more interesting trends in this aerospace and defense industry.

We recently tweeted a great article by ANSYS’ own Robert Harwood (aerospace and defense industry director) and Apache’s Dian Yang (senior vice president of product management) that looks at simulation’s role in this new era of aerospace and defense.

There’s a shift in the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) priorities to design components and technology that meet current/future threats – which are very different from the Cold War-era threats that initiated a number of DOD programs.

As defense spending goes from traditional hardware (F22s and helicopters) to smart weapons (drones), electronics plays a critical role as the “brain” of these weapons. However, a higher number of electronic components within a system means a higher chance of reliability risks, such as electromagnetic interference. These risks are pretty severe, placing the need for tighter controls on the quality, cost and timeliness of the proposed design at the top of the list.

Enter simulation. By deploying engineering simulation tools in such a systematic way, when compared with the industry average, best-in-class companies were able to achieve 12 percent improvements in product quality, 10 percent improvements in achieving cost targets and 17 percent improvements in on-time product launch.

Companies who use simulation, 1 – Those who don’t, 0

Scientific American
The Eye Camera (Video)

This is cool – scientists from Institute for Neuroinformatics at the University of Zurich have created a camera that captures images similar to the way the eye’s retina functions.

They call it the “dynamic vision sensor” – or DVS. Instead of capturing an entire scene 24 times a second, like a normal video camera, the DVS only picks up parts of a scene that are different, making it much faster and efficient.

One more step in extending the limits of photography!

Detroit Free Press
After a Hiring Lull, Auto Industry Battling Silicon Valley for Best College Engineering Talent

I’ve blogged a lot recently about the lack of engineering talent coming out of universities — the professional need for engineers far outweighs the number of graduating students in this field.

The auto industry is in a full court press and going up against companies like SpaceX, Amazon and Facebook for the top software engineering talent. (Read another interesting article on why a GM official says the U.S. is trailing the world on engineering education)

Why? The auto industry wants students who can help invent the next generation of software that pushes the envelope on MPG, clean emissions and crash avoidance technologies. And those people are typically drawn to the entrepreneurial environment found in Silicon Valley, not Detroit. Or they’re scared because they know someone who lost their job in the auto industry during its 2008-09 crisis. (Both valid points, by the way)

But, the auto industry’s strategy is paying off: At MSU, about 11 percent of 2011-12 grads went to the auto industry, up from 5 percent a few years ago.

The fact of the matter is this: students graduating with engineering degrees are having a MUCH different job searching experience than their non-engineering peers. They’re being overwhelmed with offers from prospective employers who trying everything under the sun to get their attention: they’re boosting the entry-level salary for an engineer, extending internship programs and even offering jobs to some students earlier in their senior year.