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Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):26-29. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-1.
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This article focuses on developing a pen-like device that is expected to soon take the place of the computer mouse. John Hirschtick of SolidWorks expects to see touchscreens and other means of communicating with computers—now familiar in ATM machines, iPhones, and Wii game systems—make their way into more computer interfaces, including those for CAD. Engineers might draw on the screen with a pen-based input or might use a haptic device to feel as though they are grabbing the model to manipulate it. The Internet has spawned companies like Quickparts.com and MFG.com, which have changed the way manufacturers can buy parts. Under the model envisioned by Jakiela, independent mechanical engineers would band together to work on a project through an Internet site. Jakiela is also looking at how to best build a prototype when all design-team members are part of an ad hoc team.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):30-33. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-2.
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This article highlights about the fact that many speculate on the outcomes of design, but how many consider the process by which designs are executed. The seed for many of these emerging interdisciplinary programs in design is not new either—cutting-edge research and advancements invariably lie at the boundaries of departmental silos. The product-architecture program at Stevens has successfully integrated architecture, engineering, computation, and product development, attracting students with wide-ranging interests and diverse backgrounds in architecture, visual arts, industrial design, mathematics, computer science, and mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering. By focusing on the product or system being designed, the program is dissolving boundaries in design education and launching students along trajectories of design leadership and social entrepreneurialism. As globalization moves engineering, business, and design closer together, many argued that interdisciplinary graduate design programs are the future for the United States to maintain its position in product leadership.

Topics: Design
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):34-37. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-3.
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This article reviews a concept borrowed from psychology that has given perspectives on product development. Much progress has been made in new areas opened by the systems-level approach to engineering design. Among them are advancements in our understanding of decision-making, ideation, collaboration, modularity, requirements modeling, lifecycle considerations, robust design, green design, and various other "design for x" strategies. The rethinking of design that is needed now is a conceptual basis that allows engineers to better describe and solve problems at the system level, problems that involve user interaction. The concept we propose to deal with these problems is affordance, a term borrowed from perceptual psychology and popularized by the psychologist Donald Norman is his book The Design of Everyday Things. As the theoretical tenets of design are brought up to date with the increasing demands of systems-level design, systems integration, global marketplaces, new materials, new processes, and other recent demands, we anticipate continued growth and advancement in the field of design theory that will benefit all engineers and designers.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):39-42. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-4.
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This article discusses that visualizing the load path in a design can uncover areas open to improvement. Planning the force transmission path during mechanical design is hardly dazzling engineering analysis, but explicitly doing so will improve your designs. By visualizing the transmission of forces, one can eliminate unnecessary parts, strengthen the design, and identify potential problems for further analysis or correction. Visualizing the path of transmitted forces for cables is pretty easy; forces follow the tension cables. But it is only slightly more complex with compression and shear involved. Although design is never a strictly linear progression, reviewing and refining the load path should be a formal part of the design process. Troubles with the load path in user-centered device design may become obvious with testing, but thinking about load paths as a human factor design issue can save time and effort. It is not a highly analytical design tool, but visualizing and refining load paths in structures and mechanisms is extraordinarily useful for designers, and it’s simple.

Topics: Stress , Design
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):45-47. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-5.
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This article focuses on that fact that the part of developing a successful product requires an understanding of what features in the product concept may be proprietary. Once understood, the proprietary features may be purposefully designed into or emphasized in the commercialized product. Successful product development basically involves research related to a product and potential markets, analysis of the research, and planning based on the research analysis. Research respecting the proprietary features of a product concept derives from or focuses on information regarding what can be protected in a product. Whether or not a product meets all the appropriate design criteria, driving product development with IP intelligence to emphasize features that can command market exclusivity and high demand will help ensure its success. IP intelligence also can reveal opportunities in applications and fields that may not have been considered. Successful product development is IP and market-driven.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):48-50. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-6.
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This article highlights that today, however, American factories are in decline; their products cannot compete internationally, and they are being overtaken by global competitors. US manufacturers not only face very real challenges, but they also have their share of success when compared with many of their counterparts in other countries around the globe. Economists spend a lot of time arguing about the trends behind the data. Yet the debate takes place against a changing background. The US economy has grown more international and more globally integrated than anyone could have imagined 30 years ago. Federal Reserve economists use marketplace feedback to place a value on such added capability, and that is the number that shows up in the IP Index for computer and electronic products. Subtract computers from the index for the manufacturing sector, and the numbers look very different. Hence, manufacturing output should include computers and electronics, but subtracting them from the total provides a very different picture of the rest of the manufacturing economy.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):52-55. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-7.
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This article focuses on a US motor manufacturer who keeps its products out of the commodities competition. Motors consist of a variety of stock parts, like cast metal housings, shafts, bearings, end plates, rotors, and stators. The size of the components and the winding of the stator determine specifications. Most manufacturers keep an inventory of parts on hand. For most companies, it is not efficient to set up tools to make only one or two motors at a time and then switch to another set of parts and tools. To keep plants operating efficiently, manufacturers essentially stockpile orders for similar motors until they reach an economical order quantity. Flex Flow makes extensive use of information technology. Each factory work cell has its own computer. As parts move through the system, the computer provides each operator with a list of materials and instructions for the component that will be built next. Baldor invests heavily in training, and this is where it really pays off, since workers can shift effortlessly from one type of motor to another.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(09):56-58. doi:10.1115/1.2008-SEP-8.
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This article discusses that a small-scale generator uses a catch-and-release strategy that can turn a casual stroll into useful electric energy. Many devices now require fractions of a watt continuously, often with occasional bursts of 1 to 10 W during peak activity. However, batteries occupy device volume and have limited life. Even rechargeable batteries can withstand only a finite number of charge cycles and, perhaps most important, recharging them can be inconvenient or expensive. Engineers must develop strategies to harness the abundant energy in low-frequency, time-varying motion before energy harvesting can achieve its greatest potential. Water waves, swaying and bouncing structures, and biomechanics are potential environmental energy sources that are largely out of the reach of the current vibration-inspired, motion harvesting technologies. Being able to economically convert low-speed motion to electricity will be a key to realizing practical long-term power generation for distributed devices. The Veryst energy-harvesting concept is one approach that intends to do just that. As with other energy harvesting projects, much work remains, but initial research and development suggest strong potential.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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