- Virtual reality has taken design to a whole new level. Now designers can walk through their structures digitally before they start building.
- Lasers have made measurements more accurate than ever before. This means that there is less cost spent on mistakes, and our structures can get more complicated as our accuracy improves.
- Open Source Data trends have made knowledge and software readily available to all online. This means that innovation is constantly taking place in the tech world.
An engineer is someone with a remarkably unique thinking process. They look at a need and figure out a tool. They can also look at a tool and figure out an adaptation to make it better or use it in another setting. Engineers can also create great ideas from nothing. The power of putting ideas into visible form has long been a critical form of engineering, but the display has changed.
The Drawing Board is Now a Helmet
When an engineer or a designer had a good idea that wasn’t quite as effective as they expected, they went back to the drawing board and either started over or started again a few steps back. Virtual reality tools mean that engineers can now just put on a helmet, bring up their most recent creation and start making changes.
For a linear creator like an engineer, this rapid ability to make changes to a former design greatly reduces the time it takes for a mental reset. Virtual reality offers options, instead of having to review what went wrong or just dumping the last series of design steps. The ability to design in virtual reality means the chance to expand and look for problems, to stretch to correct shortfalls, or to pare down components that no longer serve.
Digitization Through Lasers
Like Archimedes in the tub, engineers often find that there are surfaces they really can’t measure easily and/or safely. If they need to make an addition or a repair to a building, for example, and the façade is not flat, then material costs, design time, and labor safety will all be suspect without exact measurements.
Luckily, the ability to buy lithium tri-borate (LBO) crystals and focus light multiple times over to create a laser that can read dimensions with extreme accuracy means that those measurements can be taken safely. From HVAC systems to get an accurate measure on sealant for a marble façade, digital measuring tools and access to laser technology reduces the risk of a design challenge.
Options for Monitoring Product in the Marketplace
Often, great ideas for new or upgraded products can come from customers. To be the first provider of these improvements, the ability to track customer use and satisfaction can be critical. For example, if you create a technology that functions on a rocker switch, how often does the switch get bumped or reset? What’s considered “easy reach” in a vehicle, and where should you put the button to allow a bicyclist to answer their phone in their helmet? Happy customers are great marketing tools. Unhappy customers can turn a product into a cultural joke.
For example, at one point the automatic shoulder belt appeared to be an ideal design choice. It reduced the need of the driver to consider if they needed to wear their seat belt. However, in practice, this seemingly useful tool was not popular, and in some cases was downright dangerous. Had automotive designers and engineers known just how many drivers got choked, tangled up, or bumped hard enough to have their fast food drinks knocked to the floor because of the automatic belt, they’d have been phased out a lot faster.
Open Source Data Trends
The power of the cloud should not be discounted in the world of engineering. From the time we learned to stack nesting bowls from largest on the bottom to smallest at the top, humans have a desire to make things work. We also like to make things that work well in one setting work in another application. Thanks to the ability to share ideas around the globe via cloud computing, information sharing is an industry unto itself.
The ability to share data on the cloud makes open source engineering data an exciting industry to participate in. From growing food in apartment windows to colonizing Mars with hydroponic gardens, the contributors to open-source forums offer expertise from a variety of industries with an eye on one goal. By putting a focus on creation for the benefit of others, each of us can build our engineering muscles.
Too often, we view creative thinking as something that applies to painting or sculpture. However, the ability to make an item that makes creation easier is also creative power. Engineers make life simpler and safer and technology expands the reach of quality engineering.