Greatest Engineering Achievements

Can you imagine life without cars, television, or electricity?  I know I can’t, because I use these technologies everyday.  But just not too long ago some of these technologies weren’t even created yet.  The 20th century has brought us some of the greatest engineering achievements ever created.  There is a few specific inventions that I am going to talk about that I believe have had the greatest impact in the world today.

One of the greatest technological achievements of all time is the automobile.  Where would life be without this technology?  The automobile has made getting from point A to point B so much easier and faster.  It is a huge part of life today because everywhere you look you see people driving around.  One of the first cars that was actually affordable to people was produced by the Ford Company, and it was called the Model T.  It was produced in 1908 and inspired many of the cars that we are driving today.

Another great engineering achievement is computers.  Computers have gotten so much faster and more portable over the years.  They make doing research and finding information so much more easier and time efficient than going to a library and looking through books.  They are used all over the world by people everyday and that’s is a sign of a great invention.  Speaking of computers, the internet is another life-changing achievement.  Many of the things I mentioned above could not be done without the help of the internet.  Now-a-days computers are almost useless unless you use the internet.

As you can see, these are only 3 great achievements on a list that is a mile long.  I didn’t even mention airplanes, telephones, or space craft.  There are so many engineering marvels out there that have had such a great impact on our lives.  The crazy thing is technology just keeps getting better and better everyday and these achievements might not be around in years to come.

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Infrared Thermometer on Smart Phone

Parents around the world have all experienced the struggle of trying to take their kids temperature, but soon there could be an app for that.  “Fraden Corporation has been granted a patent that may in the future allow the smart phone to become an accurate medical diagnosing instrument that, without physical contact, can instantly measure someones temperature.”

The way this would work is the app on the phone would detect the intensity of the invisible infrared light.  The infrared sensor would be located next to the camera.  One must hold the phone about 1 inch away from the baby’s or patient’s temple.  The phone will then just take the temperature and the result is there within a second.

futuristic gadget, Smartphone, Jacob Fraden, smartphone thermometer, cell phone technology, future device, digital trends, future technology

Not only is this invention fast-resulting and very easy to use, it is also very convenient and hassle-free.  The best part about the infrared thermometer is that if you have your phone, you have your thermometer.  Also, there is no physical contact, which is probably the feature that parents appreciate the most, because no one likes to see their baby cry.

This product doesn’t just measure the temperature of people, it also can determine the temperature of a surface such as a stove, baby’s bath water, or even something in a science lab experiment.  The infrared thermometer has a wide range in which it can measure. Starting at -22 ºF, it can measure a max temperature of 400 ºF.  As you can see, the infrared thermometer is a breakthrough in not only technology but also health and safety, because it does have the potential to save lives.


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SketchUp vs. SolidWorks

SketchUp is a 3D computer aided design program that many professionals use.  The type of engineers that use this program the most are mechanical, architectural, and civil.  SketchUp is fairly similar to the CAD program SolidWorks; except I think that SolidWorks is easier to use.  This may be because I’m more familiar with SolidWorks, but I’ve been starting to dislike SketchUp more and more each time I use it.

One of the main reasons I like SolidWorks over SketchUp is because you don’t have to make groups.  If you forget to make a group in SketchUp and you want to go back and change something, it is very likely that you must delete everything you’ve done after that mistake in order to fix it.  In SolidWorks, you can just click on “edit sketch” or “edit part”, which makes it a lot easier to change a mistake

Another reason I prefer SolidWorks  is because of the features that it has.  All of the features are easy to use and there are so many to choose from.  For example, in SolidWorks, if I wanted to cut a hole in an object all I had to do was press “cut extrude.”  In SketchUp, it took me about a half hour to figure out how to cut a hole in the floor of the house I was building.  If SketchUp just added a few easy to use features, it would be just as good a program as SolidWorks.

Now, an aspect of SketchUp that I love is the 3D warehouse.  In the warehouse, you can find just about anything you want and download it into your sketch.  SolidWorks doesn’t have anything quite like this.  This is a great feature to make your project look fancier and better overall.

In my opinion, SolidWorks is easier to use and has a better selection of features.  On the other hand, SketchUp is very similar but could use a few adjustments in order to make the program easier to use and understand.


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Bad Design

Although there is some great technology and spectacular designs out there today, there is also some inventions and designs that just make you say, “who is the idiot that designed this?”  You can see these bad designs everywhere you go in everyday life.  For example, push doors that have handles.  Everyone knows that a handle means “pull”.  It just makes people look like idiots when trying to open these kind of doors, when the real idiot is the guy who designed it.

Like I said before, these designs are everywhere, even on your car.  Now don’t get me wrong, the car is one of the greatest inventions of all-time, but there are some stupid features on them.  First, the gas tank door is on different sides of the car depending on what car you drive.  So many people pull into get gas and realize they parked on the wrong side of the pump.  Here’s a thought, put the gas tank door on the drivers side of every vehicle, for two reasons.  One, so that everyone knows what side of the gas pump to park on, and two, so the driver doesn’t have to walk all the way around to the other side of his car to pump gas.  Another bad design in your car is the center console.  In some cars, the radio and the CD players are blocked by drinks sitting in cup holders.  Here’s a solution, move the cup holders behind the gear shifter so that the console can be easily reached.


Woman Fails At Using Petrol Pump

In my opinion, one of the stupidest designs is the USB and USB port.  It appears that the junk drive will fit into the port no matter how you put in, but upon further frustration, it only goes in one way.  Both sides of the USB look the same, and it is a perfect rectangle.  All you have to do is design a USB head with an uneven shape that will obviously only go in one way.

All these designs have easy solutions, unfortunately for most of these examples, designers don’t realize they are bad until the design has been released to the public.  It just seems like some of these people lack common sense because all of these bad designs are preventable.

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Google Glass

The idea of wearable technology is fast approaching; especially the invention of Google Glass.  This product has not yet been released, and won’t be sold to the public until 2014.  Google Glass is basically a wearable, hands free iPhone.  It is worn like a pair of glasses, just without lenses.

google glass 2014           





This cool new product “provides interaction via natural language voice commands, as well as eye-tracking technology.”  Where the lens would be is a small electronic screen, and on the side frame there is “a processor, a camera, speaker and microphone, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and a battery.”

Now that’s just the basics of the glasses; the most important part is what are the risks and rewards of buying this product, because it’s not going to come cheap.  In 2013, Google is offering the prototype to developers for $1,500; this is before it is released to the public in 2014.  A potential negative of this product is that they could break easily.  How many times do you hear, “Oh my gosh, I broke my glasses”?  Well those glasses didn’t have a processor, camera, and many other features to replace like Google Glass would.  So, the replacement costs could be high.  Also, like I said before the retail price of Google Glass could be high depending on how you value the product.  Another possible drawback depends on if Google plans on selling Google Glass as just a product vs. a product with a message/data plan.  The price could be different depending on which one they choose.

Now, there are many positives to Google Glass.  First and foremost, it is basically a hands-free smartphone.  This avoids the hassle of having to take your phone out of your pocket.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Next, it weighs less than most sunglasses and it is very slim.  And that is only the prototype.  Mr. Babak Parviz, a project leader at Google’s Project Glass, said,”This is the bulkiest version of Glass we’ll ever make.”  This means that this product is just going to keep getting smaller and lighter as technology advances.  Also, the speed of the processor and the clarity of the camera is phenomenal.   Like me, many people are probably wondering if the little screen in front of your eye is going to be annoying and get in the way when driving.  According to David Pogue, New York Times technology columnist, the screen is completely invisible when driving or reading.  You just forget about it.  A tradeoff of Google Glass is that you give up some apps that the iPhone has to offer; instead, you get the convenience of the Glass in return.

In my opinion, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs; this means that it should be a hot product that many people will buy in the coming years.  The convenience factor and the amazing features are a recipe for success.  Below are two videos that capture the incredible features that Google Glass has to offer.

Google unveils Google Glass Explorer Edition at I/O – CNET News

Project Glass: One day…


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Women Engineers

Throughout the ages, engineering has typically been considered a man’s job.  Now, little by little, more and more women are starting to engage themselves in engineering.  There are many notable women engineers that date back to the early 1900’s that helped to start this movement.  Some famous engineers include Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Edith Clarke, and Nora Stanton (seen below from left to right).


Lillian Moller Gilbreth a.k.a “America’s first lady of engineering” was a pioneer of ergonomics.  She worked for General Electric as an industrial engineer that improved kitchen designs.  “Some of her great patented inventions include the electric food mixer, shelves on refrigerator doors, and the trash can with foot pedal.”  Not only was she an industrial engineer, but she also wrote books and had a degree in industrial psychology.  She became the first woman elected into the National Academy of Engineers, and was the first member of the Society of Women Engineers.

Edith Clarke is the next famous woman engineer.  She received degrees in mathematics and astronomy from Vassar College and later became the first woman to earn a degree in electrical engineering from MIT which is what makes her famous.  She also worked for General Electric for many years.  In 1948 she taught electrical engineering at the University of Texas and was one of the first women to teach that subject at a collegiate level.

Nora Stanton was also a well recognized woman engineer.  She earned a civil engineering degree from Cornell and also became a junior member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  She later became the chief drafter for the Radley Steel Construction Company, and after that she worked for the Public Work Administration as an architect and structural steel designer.

These women brought hope for future women engineers.  There are many more famous women that accomplished just as much, if not more, than the ladies that were mentioned.  But if people like Lillian, Edith, and Nora had said to themselves, “We are women, we can’t be engineers”, then we would not have some of the great inventions that we see today.

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3D Printing

After all is said and done with 3D scanning, it is time to now move on to 3D printing.  “3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model.”  Or, basically printing a 3D model of the object that was scanned.

The process to print a 3D model is not all that complex; as long as the printer is set up right, the rest takes care of itself.  First, the object must be scanned into the computer.  Next, the nozzle must be just a little bit above the surface in which the model is going to be created.  Then you hit go, and the printer does the all the hard work.                      

The way the printer actually prints is through a technology called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).  The way this technology works is by “using a plastic filament which is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusionnozzle.”  The material is melted by the heated nozzle and can move on the X, Y, and Z axis, which is completely controlled by the computer program.  The model is created by forming one layer at a time, so the material hardens immediately after exiting the nozzle.

Of course there are positives and negatives to 3D printing.  Starting with the positives, 3D printing is one of the only ways to print a 3D model from a scanned image on a computer.  Secondly, the 3D printers at Penn State are used to make parts for other 3D printers.  So, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving.  Surprisingly, cost is also a positive.  They are reasonably cheap if you really want one or need one.  They are roughly sold for around $1,000-$3,000, which is very good compared to the price of the scanners.  A tradeoff of printing with a 3D printer is that the product could be less durable than if the item was produced on a normal machine.

Some negatives about 3D printing is that it is time consuming and it’s not 100% accurate.  It can take a while to print something depending on how big it is.  Also, it can mess up and get off track, which means you then have to start the whole process over again.  Fortunately, students are constantly trying to correct any bugs that the system has in order to make it more consistent and faster.


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3D Scanning

In EDESIGN right now we are learning about 3D scanning and 3D printing, which I will talk about in a later blog.  For now, I’m going to stick with 3D scanning.  “A 3D scanner is a device that analyzes a real-world object or environment to collect data on its shape and possibly its appearance.” In the end, the image is sent to a 3D printer where it will become an actual 3D model.

3D printing is a very tedious and time-consuming process.  In order to obtain the highest quality image, one will have to scan the image multiple times at many different angles.  This allows the scanner to retrieve all the measurements and dimensions of the item.  Typically, the object should be placed about 6 inches away from the scanner.  If it is too close, some of the object might not get scanned, and if it is too far away the dimensions could become inaccurate.

When we tried scanning in class we had some setbacks.  First we tried to scan a watch, but there were so many little dimensions and depths that it was difficult for the scanner to pick up everything.  So in order to get a better image, we increased the number of faces that the scanner would scan.   We went from 5 scans to 7 scans and the image definitely came up more clear but still not completely filled in.  Because of time purposes, we couldn’t finish scanning the watch completely.

As I mentioned before there are some negatives when it comes to 3D scanning.  One is the cost.  “The price can range anywhere from about $3,000-$300,000.”  Another drawback is time.  They take awhile to scan and to get all the dimensions of the objects.  Of course there are some positives as well.  One being, the ability to scan anything you want and have a CAD drawing of it.  This is a great feature because you can then edit the scan  to make it however you want.  A tradeoff for 3D scanning is that it takes away the time of having to draw out the object on SolidWorks or a similar drawing software.

There are many different designs of the 3D scanner.  Some are big and some can fit on a desk.  These scanners can basically scan anything from cars to iPods.  If it’s 3D, it can be scanned; some objects just will take a little longer than others.  The picture on the left is the scanner we used in class, and it comes with a turntable so the object can rotate and be scanned at the same time.  It costs about $2,500 which is pretty cheap in terms of 3D scanners.


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Design Study: Milk Frother

A few weeks ago, I had the option of going to a Design study.  I did not know what it was, but I went anyway.  When I arrived there we were given a milk frother that we had to take apart, analyze the design, and then think of our own designs of how to make frothing milk more efficient.

For those who do not know what a milk frother is, it aerates the milk by rapidly agitating it to introduce as much air as possible, thus creating the layer of bubbles that are seen on the top of coffee drinks.  The device itself comes in many different designs as shown below.

              Sensio Bella Professional™ Milk Frother and Warmer

The milk frothing device on the left (handheld device) is the one that we took apart and analyzed the design of how it was made.  Personally, I thought the design was very simple and did its job just fine, but we were required to think of new designs.  So we were given 15 minutes or so to come up with as many new ideas as possible.  Some of my ideas included the use of two rotating shafts instead of one, others had two or three whisk heads that all rotated.  Then, I also had some abstract ideas that were highly unlikely to be used, but still creative.

All in all, the Design study was a great experience because now I know what engineers go through when coming up with designs for different ideas.  It was a cool process and something that I can definitely see myself doing in the future.


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Injury Proof Car

Safety is a huge concern when it comes to cars and driving them.  “No car company knows safety better than Volvo, which has created the 3 point seat belt, crumple zones, and side-impact airbags.”  But, now they are promising to have an injury proof car by 2020!  Is it worth it?  Is it possible?

The answer to both those questions is yes.  To answer the first question more completely, think about this.  “In the U.S. alone, 40,000 people are killed in car crashes each year.  That is roughly 100+ people per day.”  With accidents, comes money.  Worldwide, $450 billion dollars is used to pay for accidents and everything that goes with it.  This car could easily decrease the death rate and the cost of an accident.

Is it possible?  Absolutely!  “A Swedish automaker is working on a system that uses sonar, radar, and other technologies that could help to prevent accidents.”  The car would realize you’re going to crash before you do, therefore braking and steering on its own to reduce the speed and impact of which you will crash and/or eliminate you from crashing period.

I can not think of a greater and more realistic, future invention than the injury proof car.  It saves money, saves lives, and is beneficial to society.  So, look out for this car in the future because it is very likely that it will be on the market within the next 10 years, if not sooner.,2933,146212,00.html

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