Saturday, 1 December 2012

Tiger Stone - Brick Road Laying Machine
Road paving is one of those physically tasking work in which not much could be automated. Or is it? For brick laying in those brick roads though, a Dutch industrial company named Vanku introduced a machine which could save time and transform the back breaking task into one of relative ease.

In comes Tiger Stone, a road-wide brick laying machine that looked nothing like a tiger and more like a film laminating machine. A road as wide as 6 meters could have 400 m2 of the road completed within a day as opposed to the 75 - 100 m2 completed, assuming that the same amount of people are working on the task, namely 2 operators.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Semiconductor Technology: Moore's Law
Just look at that brick handphone. Does it seem like it was ages ago that telephones started to become mobile? The first hand-held mobile phone is, infact, not even 50 years old yet. First to be introduced in 1973 and commercially available by 1980's to customers who could afford to buy it (costs about USD 4000 back then, which is equivalent to USD 9300 today!) and don't mind carrying a 1 kg extra weight in their briefcase/handbag.

By contrast, today's mobile phones costs and weights only a small fraction of the earliest brick mobile phone and packs more computing power and has more fuctions and capabilities than one could ever imagine back then. All this thanks to Moore's Law.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Windows Shortcut Key that Helps
Computer applications are no longer just a high tech tool but a necessity in the life of an engineer. For those born past the 80's, using Windows is a breeze, but not so for the seniors who have to struggle with the sudden influx of computers into their work life.

Image from DeviantArt's Rehsup.

Bear in mind that although computers seem to be around forever, they were only popularly employed in our work space, especially those of the engineering community, around the turn of the century, and not everyone get the chance to be in front of one as well. Most of my seniors who started working in Malaysia around the turn of the century had to take turns using a workstation which had to be shared among a few engineers. When I was in secondary school, PC was something which not everybody could afford or willing to buy.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

What is the cost of...?
The Avengers had assembled, the Dark Knight is rising and Star Wars had ended, but all these doesn't have to be limited to the silver screen. Just as Titanic could be a lesson for an engineer, so could a few other big budget movies.

For one, if you are the project engineer in charge of estimating the cost of engineering such challenging items as those featured in the movie, how much would they cost? Interestingly, I stumbled into a couple of websites which considered those same questions and presented an estimation which was fun to read although their accuracy warrant further corroboration.

Image from Super-Team Family.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Gloss - Measurement of Gloss Part 1
As was established in the previous post, gloss is determined by the amount of light rays being reflected under specular reflection as opposed to diffuse reflection. The more rays reflected through the former method, the glossier the surface is. 

Taktik iPhone case designed by Minimal studio. The surface is described as glossy and although this image is (I suspect) a rendered image, the glossiness of the surface is still conveyed. For quality control, determining the item as meeting the expected gloss level is not acceptable through mere visual inspection (image taken from DesignBoom).

Gloss could be compared qualitatively by comparing reflection of an image off different surfaces. Surface exhibiting sharper reflection will be considered glossier. But this is only useful in a qualitative way, and only if both surface reflections are distinctly different. Different observant will have different sight and recognition capability as well, so this method is physiologically affected. This qualitative method will not suffice as a quality control method.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Gloss - A Perception of Surfaces Part 2
Unlike other physical measurements, gloss measurement is not as straightforward. But it isn't difficult either, once one understood how gloss is perceived and interpreted by the human eye.

Gloss is an aspect of visual perception of objects, and it is an attribute of surfaces. With this in mind, any material could be made to meet the requirement of any gloss level as long as the technology exists and the method economic. 

What in this picture makes you think that the car's exterior is "glossy"? What causes this term to come to mind? (image taken from Ziebart)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Gloss - A Perception of Surfaces Part 1
You take a look at the shiny metallic surface of a sleek sports car and you immediately thought of it as "glossy". You saw another car with a body which reflects none of the ambient lighting, absorbing everything like a black hole, and you think of it as "matte".

The glossy surface of an Audi TT (image taken from DeviantArt).

As easy as the word comes to your mind, how does one define "glossy"? This would be important to an engineer, since there has to be some way to control the quality of a surface, and control will not be possible without measurement, and no measurement without a solid definition.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Analog vs Digital
One might have easily heard this hundreds of times - "We are now entering the realm of the digital age" or something along that line. What does that mean, and how much did "digital" influence our life?

To put it simply, a digital system presents data by using discrete or discontinuous values. In other words, there are only yes and no, 0 and 1. Or it may be 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on, but nothing is envisioned or accepted between the numbers, so there is no such thing as 1.4 in a discrete system. If the system is 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and so on, then 1.27 is not accepted within the system as well. You get the picture.

On the other hand, its counterpart, an analog system, uses continuous values for data presentation. Within this system, the data could be divided down infinitesimally. Not satisfied by the data value of 1.2, feeling that it is not accurate enough? Drill deeper and you may get 1.26. Deeper more and you may get 1.257. And so forth the value goes.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Resin Identification Code
If you were to flip over most everyday items made of polymer, especially those which are disposable, you would have noticed the triangular sign with a number within and maybe some alphabets below. This is the Resin Identification Code, and unless you were working with a disposable consumer item and your company is committed to label their product accordingly, you may not have given it  a second's thought.

Image taken from Flickr (by holeymoon)

In order to address the recyclers' rising need for a clear indication of polymer used, Society of Plastics Industry, Inc (SPI) developed and introduced the identification code in 1988. This code is usually found in packaging and containers since these are the main targets of municipal recycling programs, seeing that they are one of common items encountered within residential waste.

The code is used solely to identify the plastic resin in a manufactured item. In fact, the triangular label with 3 twisting arrows along with the number within are commonly misinterpreted. The number within is an arbitrarily chosen number to represent the target plastics, and has nothing to do with ease of recycling. A higher number does not mean that the plastics is harder to recycle.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Folding Plug
Ever thought of the fact that however portable and sleek your laptop or latest gadget is, the huge rectangular plug with its 3 bronze pins sticking out totally diminishes the definition of "sleek"? No matter how innovation is done on every part of an electronic device, the plug is the one with almost nonexistent change as far back as anyone could recall.

Folding Plug can, as its name suggests, be folded and carried with greater mobility (image taken from The Guardian).

Saturday, 19 May 2012

IP Rating - Immersion vs Water Jet
Followers of this series of articles on IP rating will recall that a higher number on the 1st numeral will satisfy the requirements of a lower number (i.e. IP6X will mean that it passes all requirements from IP1X to IP6X, revisit here if the reader is interested). It would be prudent to note that such is not the case for the 2nd numeral.

An IPX4 test in progress. The semicircle apparatus sprays water through tiny nozzles lining the inner circumference. The apparatus is designed such that the water spray will reach the product from all directions. Notice that the spray is constrained to the top of the product, and the bottom is free from its direct effects (image taken from Qualilab).

The reason behind this is the difference in test requirement: 
  • IPX1 to IPX6K, and IPX9K requires the product to be subjected to a flow of water impacting on the product 
  • IPX7 and IPX8 requires the product to be immersed in a body of water.

In order to understand the test requirements, it is essential to first understand the application of the product in an environment prone to water ingress. Water ingress into the product could come in two different scenario - the product could be sprayed on by water jets, or it could be dropped into a body of water for a determinate period of time. It is possible to be subjected to both scenarios throughout the product's application lifetime as well.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

IP Rating - Waterproof
Just as it would be difficult to judge the level of protection of "dustproof" products, the same applies to the term "waterproof" - it gives no indication the level of protection the product affords apart from the fact that it is protected against water ingress.

A waterproof iPod Stereo Case - how would you judge the term? Will the casing be free from water ingress if submerged for more than 1 hour? How will an engineer judge the term "waterproof" for critical engineering equipment? (image taken from Marine Audio and Stereo)

The 2nd code element of the IP rating helps shed some light on the level of protection, which is listed in the below table. The technical term usually associated to this code element is "protection against liquid ingress".

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

What Engineers could learn from the movie "Titanic"
A couple of days ago, I went to see Titanic 3D. This is my second, or maybe third time seeing the movie since 1997/1998 (it’s true, I swear! I know some of you saw it 10 times back then, don’t lie to me ;P). Back then when I was a teenage girl, Titanic did not left any impact on me from the engineering point of view, all I saw was the tormenting love story between star-crossed young lovers, Jack and Rose. Of course, I was like any other teenage girl back then, all doe-eyed for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Image from IMDb also includes reviews

Alright, this post is not actually about all the gushy-mushy gooey dooey loveyy storeyyy or how cute Leo is, but rather it is about the engineering lessons we could all learn from Titanic (3D or 2D, likewise).

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Virtual Sky - Working under an Open Sky
Do you feel happy working under a clear blue sky as opposed to working in a stark office environment? Are your office employees shuffling around like zombies, or nodding off to a sleepy start in the conference room during meetings? Then fear not, for Virtual Sky will improve your employees productivity by providing them a chance to work under the infinite horizon of a clear blue sky! Or so that is how it goes...

This is how I work ever day (not the Party Rock way...)

Reading a recent news article from the technology section, I went in search for more information regarding this new innovation. Developed by Stuttgard-based Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering, or IAO in short (Institut fur Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation) and exhibited in CeBIT Trade Fair in Hannover in March 6-12, 2012 was a matrix of ceiling lighting panels simulating clouds moving across a clear sky.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

What I "think" do vs. What I "really" do
"Hello world"

That phrase is one of the memorable words I learned to program in Computer Programming class. And those exact words is what I would like to greet you all with in my first post here as a guest blogger. I am very much excited to share some of my thoughts and experiences here and I do hope we all could exchange ideas along the way.

In the past few weeks, we've seen these meme about "What others think I do vs What I actually do..." one too many times. Most of these reproductions are really funny, quite to an extent that it is a chilling truth that we hate to admit.

(My notes today will talk about electronic engineering in general, but maybe it could relate to other engineering fields.)

Friday, 2 March 2012

IP rating - IP5KX vs IP6KX
In the previous article, the first numeral code for an IP rating is mentioned as the protection level of a product against intrusion of foreign object, with IP5KX and IP6KX being the highest level. This article serves to elaborate on the latter requirements and how they differ from each other.

Dust test performed on a laptop within the dust chamber (photo taken from Espec website).

Saturday, 25 February 2012

IP rating - Dustproof

Instead of claiming a product is 'dustproof', a better way of stating it is 'protection against foreign object intrusion', as is mentioned within IEC60529. There is a reason to it, as a product is not only in danger of being harmed by intrusion of dust or sand. One look at the grills of a table fan and it is not difficult to understand that its purpose is to prevent accidental and intentional (in the case of innocent infants) access to the dangerous rotating blades of the product. 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

IP rating - Protection against Ingress
Sony Cybershot TX-5 (image taken
from Sony website).
Ever use products that failed because of water seeping into the interior? Or maybe sand jamming the moving parts? It is quite usual for products to be designed to be 'waterproof' or 'dustproof', but as an engineer, how do you know if they really are as they claimed, or what to look out for to know how 'waterproof' it is?

Engineered items are usually labeled as sealed against dust or water through a system known as IP rating. The IP code labeled on products and claimed in technical datasheet will provide users and buyers the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and enclosures of electrical equipment against the following:

  • protection against foreign objects (e.g. sand and dust)
  • protection against effects due to ingress of water
  • protection against access (accidental or intentional) by persons to hazardous parts inside the enclosure

Friday, 10 February 2012

Uni-signal - Traffic Light for Color Blind
If you think that there would not be any new designs that will surprise you the way i-whatever did, think again. Especially when you were rushing the red light. Surfing across the web in a lazy evening brought to my attention the design of Uni-signal, a traffic light with a slight variation from the norm. 

Uni-signal light - a new idea for the color blind (image taken from Yanko Design website).

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Courier Services
You are working as a Design Engineer in ABC company in Penang, and urgently need to send your latest part for testing in a test lab in Singapore. You rush to your company's person in charge for delivery, be it your clerk or your in-house logistics/delivery department, and the auntie/uncle in charge lazily tells you that you need to fill in certain forms to provide certain information before delivery can be made. You bite down your curses and find the relevant information, all the while wondering how this job falls upon your shoulder when you have more important things to do.

Let's face it: in the real world, us third world engineers handle everything, and that included logistics. So arming yourself with basic knowledge of how the logistics system of a courier service works will be crucial to your work, especially so when you are the engineer, technician and office boy all combined in one.

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