Real-World Engineering: A Guide to Achieving Career Success / Edition 1

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Overview

In whatever field of engineering you practice, "Real-World Engineering" will help you cultivate your natural abilities, adapt to on-the-job pressure, cope with people problems, broaden your knowledge base, and, above all, plan a genuinely rewarding--and successful--engineering career.

The development of qualitative skills necessary for surviving, and excelling, in the world of engineering is the focus of this book. Throughout the book, real-world examples, taken from the author's own career, depict both the best and worst in on-the-job decision making.

Drawing on more than 45 years' experience as a professional engineer and entrepreneur, Lawrence J. Kamm shows aspiring and practicing engineers how to be successful by: producing the best designs possible; causing proposed designs to be accepted and used; becoming well rewarded in money, position, and job security; and achieving career fulfillment.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Reprint of the McGraw-Hill title Successful engineering, 1989. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780879422790
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/15/1991
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Real-World Engineering


By Lawrence J. Kamm

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-8794-2279-3


Chapter One

Quantitative Design and Qualitative Design

Engineering Education

Engineering education deals primarily with calculating the quantitative performance of known engineering objects and with designing conventional variations in those objects. (By "engineering objects" I mean machines, circuits, dams, or any other things designed by engineers.)

In science courses we learn to compute the behavior of nature in a series of established experiments and phenomena. In engineering courses we learn to compute currents and voltages in amplifiers and motors, forces and power in linkages and engines, reaction rates in chemical systems, earth transfer in road building, and the like. This is good educational policy; learning applied mathematics is difficult for most of us and is best done in the disciplined operation of a school rather than left to be picked up on the job.

The ability to compute separates the engineer from the technician. An education in engineering mathematics generates an insight (i.e., an intuitive understanding) into the behavior of physical things which cannot be attained in any other way and which is essential for inventive thinking, that is, the generation of new qualitative ideas which will work. If you have really learned what calculus means, you have a gut feel for the behavior of billiard balls, automobiles, electric currents, servomechanisms, space vehicles, and all the other objects of engineering which no amount of practical experience alone can provide. On the other hand, quantitative design can be used only on an engineering object which originated as a qualitative idea.

To be successful, engineers need a large body of knowledge and skills that is not subject to mathematical computation; this body of knowledge and skills is the subject of this book. It deals with a variety of nonquantitative design information, ideas, and techniques which will help you to devise new and advanced engineering objects in your field.

The book also presents ideas and suggestions for dealing with other people and organizations with which you must work so that your technical engineering efforts produce designs which get developed, built, and sold. If you succeed in causing your designs to be so used, you will be personally better off for having done so.

Real-World Design Process

This process iterates around three elements:

1. Qualitative design. The generation of ideas, structures, concepts, combinations, configurations, and patterns. The results are expressed in sketches, layouts, schematics, and diagrams.

2. Quantitative design. The computation of the magnitude of the elements in a qualitative design. The results are expressed in numbers, usually with physical units (e.g., length, voltage, temperature).

3. Experimental design. The use of physical models and tests to compensate for both qualitative and quantitative uncertainty.

Designers start with some qualitative ideas, then calculate approximate quantitative magnitude, then revise the qualitative ideas as a result of deeper understanding produced by their calculations, then iterate between the two processes until they are satisfied with both ideas and magnitudes. The calculations may be quite approximate in the first few cycles and become as exact as desired (and possible) at the end. Physical experiments along the way compensate for both qualitative and quantitative uncertainties and sometimes may replace a more costly quantitative study with a less costly physical test.

Quantitative understanding, not just passing examinations, of science and mathematics gives you insight into the behavior of nature (including your own qualitative ideas) and helps you to generate workable qualitative designs.

Qualitative design is sometimes called synthesis; quantitative design is sometimes called analysis.

Uses and Limits of the Computer in Design

The computer is the greatest tool ever developed for computational engineering and, perhaps, for design drafting (but see the discussion on do-it-yourself CAD in Chap. 23). Efforts are under way by academic theoreticians, under the names of expert systems and artificial intelligence, to computerize qualitative design (see Chap. 28). This book deals with your use of insight, judgment, persuasion, will, prediction of human behavior, and ingenuity and with a number of principles of design to produce qualitative designs and get them used. Perhaps these capabilities and activities will be reduced to computer programs someday, but this design practitioner is not holding his breath.

Role of Human Judgment

The role of human judgment in design appears in predicting the acceptability of the design to other people and in predicting the performance of the design long before it is reduced to mathematical computation. For any problem there are many bad designs possible and only a few good ones. Human judgment is the first filter in selecting the good ones.

Challenger Fiasco

A glaring example of a lack of qualitative understanding of an engineering component in the presence of enormous quantitative capability was the Challenger disaster in 1986.

The Challenger blew up because the hot gases in a solid-fuel booster rocket burned through an O-ring seal. The plume of 6000°F gas then burned through the wall of the orbiter liquid-hydrogen tank. Escaping hydrogen reduced tank pressure, which permitted the adjacent oxygen tank wall to collapse. Then 160 tons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen mixed, adjacent to the flames from the rocket engines, with the consequent white flash on our TV screens and national disgrace.

Figure 1.1 shows how an O ring works. An O ring is a skinny rubber doughnut squeezed into a groove between parts which are to be sealed. Pressure from the sealed fluid pushes the O ring ahead of it into the gap between the body parts so that the 0 ring obstructs passage of the gas. This is called a self-energizing seal. The gas must exert pressure on the entire left side of the O ring or, instead of pushing it forward and upward to block the escape route, the gas will push it down, out of the way of the escape route, and the gas will escape. (See Fig. 1.2.) Therefore the O-ring groove must be wider than the compressed O ring; otherwise, the 0 ring will touch all four sides of its enclosure and will not seal.

Standard dimensions for O rings and their grooves have been established for at least 30 years, are common handbook data, and are available in free handbooks from O-ring manufacturers.

With the aid of finite element analysis the President's Commission to investigate the disaster demonstrated that, with the groove dimensions designed, if the metal-to-metal gap got as small as 0.004 in, there would be four-point contact, the pressure would not apply to the entire side, and self-energizing would not occur.

The two parts sealed were rocket body segments 12 ft in diameter and ½ in thick. It would be obvious to any competent junior engineer that, because of imperfect roundness, there must have been points where the gap was 0.000 in, not 0.004 in. Furthermore, there is no recognition in the report that this was not the first O-ring seal ever built and that the design should have been an elementary-handbook exercise.

Figure 1.3 shows a nominal O-ring diameter of 0.28 in which is approximately the same as the standard diameter of 0.275 in. It shows a groove width of 0.310 in, but the handbook width is 0.375 to 0.380 in, or more than 0.065 in wider!

Thus a lack of qualitative understanding of what they were doing caused the seal designers to kill seven people and wreck a multibillion-dollar program.

Furthermore, the lack of elementary qualitative knowledge of common O-ring practice by the investigators on the commission made them go through the exercise of reinventing O-ring theory with a computer finite element analysis and never recognizing that the Challenger designers had violated an old-established principle of design.

I will have more to say about this low point in the history of American technology in Chap. 15, "Simplicity."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Real-World Engineering by Lawrence J. Kamm Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface.

Introduction.INNOVATION AND CONCEPTUAL DESIGN.

Quantitative Design and Qualitative Design.

Inventing.

PEOPLE PROBLEMS.

The Politics of Design.

Persuasion: The Golden Art.

Your Ethics.

Your Career.

Efficient Use of Your Time.

Coexisting with Accountants.

YOUR KNOWLEDGE BASE.

Technical Knowledge.

Consultants.

Libraries and Museums.

Your Company.

Your Market.

Your Competition.

TOPICS IN DESIGN ENGINEERING.

Simplicity.

Iteration and Convergence to Final Design.

Some Short Essays in Engineering Philosophy.

Prediction as a Design Process.

Specifications, Codes, Standards, Contracts, Laws, and the Law.

The Pervasive Parameter: Money.

Quantity Effects on Design.

Reliability and Maintenance.

Models and Experiments.

Improving Existing Designs.

Design Objectives.

Entrepreneuring.

Designing for Automation.

The Theory of Design.

The Human Interface.

Approximations.

Minimum Constraint Design (MCD).

Design for Packaging and Shipping.

Nonengineering Design.

Index.

About the Author.

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