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Mechanical Engineering. 2005;127(11):26-31. doi:10.1115/1.2005-NOV-1.
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This article focuses on the engineering profession that is currently facing an unprecedented array of pressures to change. Economic and environmental problems facing industry and society are increasingly global and intractable. The skills that must be brought to bear on their solution go well beyond the historical scope of engineering practice. The profession is becoming more complex, with the boundaries established in the 19th and 20th centuries between the traditional engineering and science disciplines blurring or disappearing. The pace of technological change continues to accelerate. Technological advances are fueling more technological advances and are providing exciting opportunities as well as challenges to the engineering profession. New knowledge is created at a faster rate than anyone can learn it. A number of disruptive technologies emerging from the biology, nanotechnology, and information fields are likely to cause radical changes in the way products and systems are developed, as well as in the way engineering work are performed.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2005;127(11):32-34. doi:10.1115/1.2005-NOV-2.
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This article highlights Boeing that is making a big investment to get engineers and manufacturers speaking face-to-face. Design engineers communicated mainly with the manufacturing side, including mechanics, builders, and manufacturing engineers, bye-mail and fax. When e-mails bounced back and forth, much was lost in translation. Mechanical engineers did not have hands-on access to parts they had designed. Change orders cropped up more than managers liked. Manufacturers had difficulty picking engineers’ brains, or asking them why they had designed a certain part just so. Boeing executives decided that the workspace should make interaction as easy as possible. Engineers did not have to lose the private cubicles where they felt most comfortable, but the cubes are now located a short stroll from the plant floor, in buildings that flank the assembly line. Boeing’s communication plan included posting updates on the company intra-net and posting fliers in prominent locations. Having managers speak to employees both in teams and one-on-one helped alleviate some of that anxiety.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2005;127(11):36-37. doi:10.1115/1.2005-NOV-3.
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This article reviews a system that lays down tools for creative problem-solving and product-design. Altshuller identified a number of inventive principles and also discerned patterns of technological evolution. He regarded these ideas as generic principles that could be used not only to solve problems in product design, but also to forecast and plan product and business development. As people have continued to study the patent literature, they do not find much in the way of any new inventive principles, and the ratio of really breakthrough patents continues at less than 5 percent. Theory of Solving Inventive Problems (TRIZ) began to migrate to the West after perestroika, partly because many of its proponents in the Soviet Union were frustrated at not being able to implement their technology in the private sector. Systems and products become more dynamic over time. Systems evolve by the matching and mismatching of components and properties.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2005;127(11):38-42. doi:10.1115/1.2005-NOV-4.
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This article discusses future of virtual engineering. Not only will the plant of the future be different from the current one, but also the design tools that engineers use will be different. To reduce cost and shorten development time for the future plants, the DOE is developing virtual engineering as an enabling technology. To integrate all the parts in an intuitive manner will require a software framework, which is being developed by the Virtual Engineering Research Group at Iowa State University. The software is a virtual engineering toolkit called YE-Suite. It is composed of three main software engines—VE-CE, VE-Xplorer, and VE-Conductor—that coordinate the flow of data from the engineer to the virtual components being designed. YE-CE is responsible for the synchronization of the data among the various analysis and process models and the engineer. VE-Xplorer is the decision-making environment that allows the engineer to interact with the equipment models in a visual manner. YE-Conductor is the engineer’s mechanism to control models and other information.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2005;127(11):44-46. doi:10.1115/1.2005-NOV-5.
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This article focuses on the last century that brought unleaded gasoline, the catalytic converter, and new technologies for cleaning the smokestack emissions and effluents of industrial plants. Engineers designed and refined those technologies, which helped industry adhere to government regulations, and which went a long way toward improving the quality of air and streams. Since 1993, money has been found to equip a few hundreds of the isolated homes with solar power systems or, more recently, with installations of solar panels supplemented by wind turbines or gas generators. Investing in the technology of environmental protection and sustainability has made slow progress in general. Today, most actions to protect and preserve the environment have been forced on industry by government. The question of industry’s compliance, or non-compliance, with regulations is a political and legal issue, not a matter of engineering. Engineers have created solutions. Controls cost money, of course. So far, no one has found a way to make the investment in environmental protection technology profitable for industry.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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