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Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(12):20-23. doi:10.1115/1.2007-DEC-1.
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This article discusses the future of software that links engineering and manufacturing. Companies are seeking a natural link between engineering and manufacturing, even if some aspects of it may be restricted. According to experts, giving manufacturers direct access to that design information would help them isolate potential manufacturing problems earlier in the cycle, cut product development time by stepping up design-manufacturing communication, and ensure that products will comply with government regulations. The article also describes that by allowing for quick communication and updates to an already existing computer-aided design model, product lifecycle management (PLM) can help speed these products to market. Engineers are putting efforts to bring PLM information to the factory floor to cut production time. Though the day of easy integration has yet to arrive, many companies are using PLM to reduce cycle time. Pushing PLM to the factory floor would help, according to an engineer. However, that's not an option for many until integration software comes to the fore.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(12):24-29. doi:10.1115/1.2007-DEC-2.
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This article provides details of various smart prosthetics that have been developed in last few years. Behind smart prosthetics are many technologies powering consumer products-faster microprocessors, more powerful batteries, wireless technology and new control systems that use the body’s nerves and muscles. A new bionic hand enables users to move the thumb and index finger independently of the remaining three fingers, a significant advance in dexterity over prior claw-like mechanisms. The bionic ear transmits sound and power wirelessly to electrodes implanted deep in the ear, allowing the deaf to hear. The Rheo Knee uses force and position sensors that monitor speed and load more than 1000 times per second. This information goes to an artificial intelligence program that emulates the feedback a natural knee would receive from the body’s central nervous system. However, researchers believe that despite outstanding progress, the future holds more challenges; a second looming issue involves sensory input. At Brown University, neuroscience professor John Donaghue has teamed with Peckham to develop ways to activate nerves from within the brain itself. Their goal is to develop within five years a brain-controlled system that will let a tetraplegic take a glass of water, lift it, and bring it to his or her mouth.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(12):35-38. doi:10.1115/1.2007-DEC-3.
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The US Department of Transportation announced that it would go beyond active and passive safety systems to mandate the first use of a truly intelligent safety system. The new standard requires automakers to equip all vehicles with electronic stability control, which automatically brakes individual wheels during skids, by September 1, 2011. According to a senior staff member, electronic stability control is probably the most significant automotive safety technology since the seat belt. Electronic stability control combines sophisticated sensors and high-octane computing to take intelligent brake control to an entirely new level. Ford Motor Co. takes Electronic steering control (ESC) one step further with roll stability control, which senses when a van or SUV begins to tilt during a turn or emergency manoeuvre. It automatically takes countermeasures to prevent the vehicle from rolling over. Code-making organizations are currently developing broadcast and message standards for such systems, but it will take many vehicles with communications capacity to make them effective.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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