Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Twitterpated

I have had a twitter account for a while, and as of this post I still have yet to make one tweet. To me, LinkedIn is a site with professional interaction whereas Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are for social interaction. But the Twitter phenomena is not going anywhere considering that even LinkedIn has a place to tweet. I haven't used it, but I did notice one of my contacts use it to state that he was looking for a licensed mechanical engineer with HVAC experience. Now that has value. Telling me you are eating at a 5 & Diner and just had the best milk shake ever... not really worth my time.

But then I see that it worked for Shaq, and others as well in the engineering and CAD world. So I'm going to give it a shot. Don't expect too many tweets from me. My attendance is more of a social experiment. First matter of business, start following some people I know. Give me a shout if you are on twitter so I can follow you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

3D Human Modeling

I don't know if this is new, or just new to me. There are plenty of applications that allow a user to insert a human representation into their CAD design in order to visualize fit. But, most of those representations are just dumb models, inserted to get a picture of scale; they are not necessarily a usable functional check. Certainly, CATIA and other other high end CAD packages have had 3D Human Models for quite a while, and their manufacturing/processing applications even allow a certain degree of manipulation. The obvious one that comes to mind is the automotive industry and the use of 3D models to verify driver's view prior to fabricating prototypes.

But PTC also makes a Manikin Extension for Wildfire. This extension allows full manipulation of the human model within the CAD model to determine fit and interaction with the proposed design. I have no cost for the extension pack, but it certainly is nice to see a full-featured human modeling application within a mid-range CAD package. Hopefully we'll see more from the likes of Solid Edge and Solidworks - more than just downloading human approximate models from 3D Content Central.

PTC's website does not readily show how the manikins are defined (but I did get the image from them via a Google search). Do they follow MIL-HDBK-743? Does it only contain a 50th-percentile man and woman? What about 10% or 90%? And we can't forget about ADA compliant models. What about models with missing limbs or digits, or perhaps are wheelchair bound?

I think the next evolution in 3D Human Modeling is taking the manikin and have it interact with the CAD model in such a way as to verify Human Factors, like those published in MIL-HDKB-1908, MIL-HDBK-46855, and MIL-STD-1472. If we can have realistic looking humans in virtual worlds and video games interacting, why can't we have them for engineering designs?

Virtual Shaker

I'm not a proficient test and instrumentation engineer by any means. But, every engineer has to have some concept and understanding of what it takes to prove out a design before it reaches the market. As much as FEA, CFD, and other CAE technologies allow you to simulate the virtual world, finding vibration modes really was not sufficient to determine failure modes due to vibration. The only way was to put physical hardware on a shaker/vibration table like this Vibration and Slip table shown above. This physical test, usually following a standard or specification like MIL-STD-810, are time consuming and expensive. Hopefully, a well trained and experienced test facility (like my favorite - and shamelessly plugged - NTS) is overseeing the testing.

Due to the required shortening of development time, cost, and other associated inconveniences of physical testing, I'm always happy to hear about new virtual solutions. In a Nasa Tech Briefs article, a new Virtual Shaker test is highlighted. The article does not go into any detail on how the software works, who produces the software, what it integrates with, or anything at all. Still, I'm intriqued. You can get more information by visiting this link or email The article was written by Marc Marroquin of LMS North America. But I couldn't find anything specifically related to "Virtual Shaker" on their website, which the link takes you to.

Million Hours Campaign

Although Engineers Week has passed for this year, the Million Hours Campaign is continuing through December 2009. The goal of this campaign is to reach one million hours of outreach in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

Many engineers volunteer their time through a multitude of activities that inspire children and young adults to consider STEM careers. More so, engineers volunteer their time to help educate our youth. These activities often go unnoticed by the general population. To show the world how much engineers do, the National Engineers Week Foundation has put together a dedicated website for engineers to log their volunteer hours. The goal, 1 MILLION HOURS. Help do your part by registering with this website and logging your time.