The Handy Engineering Answer Book

The Handy Engineering Answer Book

The Handy Engineering Answer Book

The Handy Engineering Answer Book


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A handy resource on the fundamental facts about engineering for both engineers and non-engineers alike, whether you are exploring engineering for the first time, already have a strong background, or fall anywhere in between.

Engineering impacts every aspect of our lives. Bridges, buildings, buses, electrical grids, computers, televisions, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and virtually any everyday household item needs to be engineered to function properly. Fundamentally, engineering is about identifying a need and developing solutions that meet that need. Throughout history, engineering ideas and innovative feats have provided solutions to many challenges faced by civilizations. From the Great Wall of China to NASA's space program, The Handy Engineering Answer Book covers the history of the field, details the lives of key figures, introduces the tools engineers use to solve problems, and provides fun facts and answers to a thousand important and interesting questions, such as …

  • What is the difference between science and engineering?
  • What do engineers do?
  • What are some famous engineering mistakes or failures?
  • What is reverse engineering?
  • What is a prototype?
  • What types of jobs do electrical engineers do?
  • How does a car battery work?
  • What are the major job responsibilities of a HVAC engineer?
  • What is a Powertrain?
  • What is Bernoulli’s principle?
  • What are the Laws of Thermodynamics?
  • What’s the difference between 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines?
  • What is stress and strain?
  • What is the difference between torque and power?
  • What is automation?
  • What is quality assurance?
  • What is meant by outsourcing?
  • What are the responsibilities of a construction manager?
  • What are the types of road construction that are both durable and cost-effective?
  • Which materials are used to build a cruise ship?
  • What are some design elements that help structures withstand earthquakes?
  • How does a civil engineer design water slides for theme parks?
  • Who was W. Edwards Deming?
  • What is ergonomics?
  • What is biomedical engineering?
  • Who is Grace Hopper?
  • What is debugging?
  • What is the difference between a web developer and a website designer?
  • Was Leonardo da Vinci an aerospace engineer?
  • Where do chemical engineers work?
  • How much energy does the world use?
  • What are the major challenges addressed by environmental engineers?
  • What is humanitarian engineering?
  • What is acoustical engineering?
  • What are the required skills for fire engineers?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of nanotechnology?

With more than 140 photos and graphics, this fascinating tome is richly illustrated. Its helpful bibliography and extensive index add to its usefulness. Whether using science and math or building prototypes for testing or the development of various subdisciplines, The Handy Engineering Answer Book looks at how fundamental engineering is to modern life and society!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781578597703
Publisher: Visible Ink Press
Publication date: 10/04/2022
Series: The Handy Answer Book Series
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 1,047,718
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

DeLean Tolbert Smith, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering department at the Universityof Michigan–Dearborn. She earned her Ph.D. in engineering education from Purdue University, and her research led to a National Science Foundation CAREER award. She is a Detroit native and resides there with her husband.

Aishwary Pawar is a doctoral candidate in industrial & systems engineering at the Universityof Michigan–Dearborn. His research is focused on investigating the factors that influence undergraduate enrollment, retention, graduation, and dropout. For his Ph.D., he plans to incorporate human-centered design and data analytics to promote student success in undergraduate engineering programs and to support higher education professionals in recognizing minoritized students' diverse needs. A graduate student instructor at the Universityof Michigan–Dearborn, he teaches lab sessions in engineering and engineering design and resides in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Nicole P. Pitterson, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She has a Ph.D. in engineering education from Purdue University. She researches how curriculum design, testing, and teaching can boost students’ understanding. She currently resides in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Debra-Ann C. Butler, Ph.D., received her bachelor of arts from the Universityof Miami and her Ph.D. in educational policy, planning, and leadership with a focus on higher education from William and Mary. Dr. Butler's career span over 20 years in higher education working in student services, academic affairs, and program administration. She currently resides in Michigan with her husband and two beautiful daughters.

Read an Excerpt

What do engineers do?

Engineers work in a variety of contexts using their knowledge of mathematics and science to develop safe, economically sound and context specific solutions to everyday problems. These problems might be of various scales - small, medium, or large, and complexity. Engineering work is not always about creating new solutions as sometimes engineers work to improve and maintain existing systems and or processes. 

Engineering practice falls into three broad categories: 

  • Problem-solving incorporates the systematic process that engineers use to scope, define, and solve problems of varying nature.
  • The knowledge that is specific to each discipline and is necessary to engage in the problem-solving process.
  • The integration of engineering problem-solving processes and knowledge.

What is Advanced Manufacturing?

Advanced manufacturing is the integration of new innovative technology and techniques to improve both product design and production processes, with the relevant/ advanced technology to facilitate, cost-effective and competitive products. These production processes highly depend on automation, networking, computation, and information. Thus, advanced manufacturing integrates the most up-to-date machinery with processes to add value and create highly differentiated products.

What is Agile Manufacturing?

Agile manufacturing is a strategy that focuses on responding quickly to the needs of the customer. The goal is to provide personalized products at unprecedented speeds while controlling the overall costs and maintaining high-quality standards. Industries that use agile manufacturing develop platforms for the designers, the marketers, and the production workforce to share information and updates about parts and products, production capacities, and problems particularly concerning the quality of a product to ensure that customers' needs are met.

What are the key elements of Agile Manufacturing? 

The key elements of agile manufacturing include:

  • Modular Product Design: Products are broken up into small sub-assemblies (modules) that can be built independently and used in diverse ways. 
  • Information Technology: With advancements in manufacturing processes and increased automation and technology there is more and more information (data) generated about the needs of the customers, the current state of the markets, and the materials/products. In order for industries to be agile, they must quickly analyze the information and disseminate it around the company in order to ensure that they have a fast response to changes in the customer and market needs. 
  • Corporate Partners: Agile industries must create partnerships with other organizations and industries that will help them acquire materials and resources quickly to meet changing customer needs. 
  • Knowledge Culture: An Agile industry or organization must create an internal culture with their employees that resembles flexibility and adaptability. These organizations typically invest in ongoing employee training. 

Why would an industry change from traditional manufacturing to agile manufacturing? 

The rapidly evolving environment, constant technological development, more access to information, workforce transformation led to major shifts in the manufacturing industry and the adoption of agile manufacturing. Nowadays, companies are working in a highly competitive environment, where the small decline in performance, product quality, or product delivery can have a huge effect on a company's survival and reputation among consumers. Through agile manufacturing, companies take a competitive advantage while focusing on rapid response to customers and making fast changes based on customer demand.

What is automation?

Automation is the technology that helps to perform a procedure with minimal or no human assistance. People often think about robots when the concept of automating comes up in conversation. It is used in various control systems for operating applications ranging from simple on-off control such as a household thermostat controlling a boiler to a multi-variable high-level algorithm such as a large industrial control system. There are four different types of automation: 

  • Basic Automation: This is typically the use of software to manage business practices. For example, companies may use software that creates, sends, and processes invoices and send them to the right person at the right time. The tasks that the software completes are usually repetitive and tasks that would be done on a daily basis.
  • Process Automation: A robotic process automation system can log into software or application, move files, fill in forms, perform basic internet searches, make calculations, and even open emails. This will typically reduce the number of employees needed to complete some tasks and can lead companies to save money. Ideally, some employees can be moved to higher-level positions. 
  • Integration automation: At this level, humans define the machine function, the boundaries within which it will operate, and the tasks it will complete. The machine will be able to mimic human tasks. Through intelligent automation, the industry can increase the speed and scale of work completion. Can do more work than if it were just humans performing the work. The company/organization would examine their process and identify the ways to best use the human worker’s support and high levels of thinking. If the task can be done without a human, then it will, otherwise, it will just include the human when necessary. 
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Automation:  This is the most complex level of automation. At this level, the machines can learn and make decisions. Basically, they keep track of all the previous situations, analyze the actions and results, and then they apply the old to the new situation. An example of this are the virtual assistant/virtual chats that companies employ as customer service agents on their websites. 

What are the manufacturing applications of automation and robotics?

Manufacturing and production are the most important applications for automation. Automated production systems are classified as Fixed automation, Programmable automation, and flexible automation. In the industrial workplace, automation helps in improving productivity and quality, reducing errors and waste, making the manufacturing process flexible, and thus increasing safety, reliability, and profitability. Automation can be achieved by various means including mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, electronic devices and computers, etc. The benefit of automation includes labor savings with lower operating costs, faster return on investment (ROI), Increased production output, improvements to quality, accuracy, and precision and reduced factory lead time.

  • Fixed Automation: fixed automation in a production environment that is sequenced and comments are pre-programmed in machines and is not easily changed from one product to another because the programming involves intricate aspects of the machinery like gears, wiring, and electronics. This can be seen in large volume manufacturing industries such as the automotive industry. 
  • Programmable Automation: Programmable Automation is best suited for batch production because for each batch the machines are reprogrammed. This means that there are periods of non-productivity. An example of programmable automation are industrial robots that can be reprogrammed to perform different tasks in between tasks.
  • Flexible Automation: Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. a limited product variety allows for the reprogramming to occur more quickly and even off the production line. This allows for other technologies to be put to use during “down time” of the machines being reprogrammed. This allows for a mixture of products and processes used on the same production lines. 

What is benchmarking?

Benchmarking is a continuous process in which organizations continually seek to improve their practices. In this process, the performance of a company’s products, services, or procedures is measured against those of another business viewed as the best in the business, otherwise known as "top tier."

What is the purpose of benchmarking in engineering? 

The purpose of benchmarking is to recognize internal opportunities for development. By considering organizations with superior performance, separating what makes such prevalent performance possible, and after that comparing those procedures with how your business works, you can implement changes that will yield significant improvements. Benchmarking can enable companies to gain an independent view about how well they perform contrasted with different organizations, it helps to recognize zones for continuous improvement, develop a standardized set of procedures, monitor organization performance and set performance expectations. It is typically performed because of requirements that emerge inside an organization.

Why would a manufacturing engineer benchmark?

Benchmarking is the practice of contrasting business procedures and performance metrics with industry bests and best practices from different organizations using a specific indicator bringing about a metric of performance which is then contrasted with others. Thus, Benchmarking enables you to concentrate on best practices from your rivals. It enables you to get point-by-point comparisons between organizations. The manufacturing engineering can use this information to make improvements on the production line (which type of automation is appropriate) that could save time and money. 

How does an engineer benchmark?

Benchmarking is a straightforward but detailed process that involves the following steps:

  • Choosing an item, service, or internal department to benchmark
  • Then determine which top-tier organizations you should benchmark against – which organizations you'll compare your business with. 
  • Gather data on their internal performance.
  • Compare the information from the two associations to recognize holes in your organization's performance
  • Adopt the procedures and approaches set up inside the top-tier performers.

What is a Bottleneck?

The term "bottleneck" typically refers to the neck or mouth of a bottle, and the fact that it is the narrowest point in a bottle, and the most likely place for the blockage to occur, slowing down the flow of liquid from the bottle. Manufacturing engineers define a bottleneck as a point of congestion/blockage that emerges when workloads arrive at a given machine/operation quicker than that machine/operation can handle them. Or more plainly, it is the step in the manufacturing process that takes the longest time to complete. This step, like the bottleneck in a bottle, slows down the flow of materials. 

How does a bottleneck impact Manufacturing?

A bottleneck significantly impacts the flow of manufacturing, can create major delays and increase the expense of production. Organizations are more in danger of bottlenecks when they start the production procedure for new items in light of the fact that there might be imperfections in the process that must be recognized and adjusted; this circumstance requires more investigation and tweaking. Bottlenecks may likewise emerge when demand spikes unexpectedly and surpasses the production limit of a company's industrial facilities or suppliers. 

What is an example of a bottleneck? 

For example, recently Tesla confronted another bottleneck with its Model 3 pre-orders creating a backlog in production time. In 2017, Tesla’s CEO set a goal of producing 20,000 Tesla Model 3 vehicles each month. There were 500,000 people who reserved the vehicle. When the company was unable to produce the vehicles at this rate, it was discovered that the bottleneck in production was the battery quality and Tesla’s ability to produce enough batteries without defects. 

Are there different types of bottlenecks? 

There are two typical types of Bottlenecks in manufacturing: short and long-term. Short-term bottlenecks are temporary and are not typically a significant issue. A case of a short-term bottleneck would be a skilled worker taking a couple of days off. Long-term bottlenecks happen constantly and can significantly hinder production. A case of a long-term bottleneck is the point at which a machine isn't effective enough and thus has a long line. Thus, identifying bottlenecks is basic for improving the manufacturing production process since it enables you to decide and correct where accumulation happens.

Table of Contents

About the Authors



  1.  Introduction to Engineering and History
  2. Engineering Design Process and Innovation
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Mechanical Engineering
  5. Manufacturing Engineering
  6. Civil and Architectural
  7. Industrial Engineering
  8. Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering
  9. Computer Engineering and Computer Science
  10. Aerospace Engineering
  11. Chemical Engineering
  12. Interdisciplinary Engineering and Engineering Grand Challenges
  13. Engineering Pathways


Engineering Organizations

Summer Programs and Camps

Programs for elementary school students

Programs for college students

Engineering Equations

National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Conduct

Further Reading


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