Saturday, September 24, 2016

Do we still need engineers?

I use gut instinct and math when I design things.  I use tables when I need them, equations where I can.  Good old traditional engineering -- standing on the shoulders of giants and moving with baby steps.  However, so many programs take a CAD file and do magic upon them in such a way that I feel like a Fiat at a top fuel drag race.

We are awash in AI driven knowledge embedded programs that take basic layouts or full blown parametric models and give fascinating results.  My jaw has dropped more than a few times and I am left with phrases like:

     “But do you know what is really going on?”
     “Do you really trust these results?”
     “Are you sure it’s not just a pretty picture?”
      And finally, “garbage in, garbage out.”  The words of all             middle aged know it alls.

However, there is a lot of meat on these analysis programs. 

Engineering is no longer math – it is deep, textured insight into a design.  In the mechanical world, it is understanding how loads, temperatures and flows affect things.  It is knowing how something can be used and misused.  Human insight is the spark we bring to analysis.  Engineers and others in the design professions also bring creativity and beauty to design in a way that these smarty pants programs can only dream of.

Whenever the next dazzling revision of engineering (or rendering) software comes out, pick up your jaw and put your pencil to the napkin.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Makerspace Roundtable Discussion

Here is a roundtable discussion on the makerspace movement.  I talked too much but I was excited.

Apple's Design Patents

Businesses can be built on utility patents – we would pack as many independent claims as possible into them.  Design patents are desperate measures to create legal hurdles.  The US Supreme Court is getting involved with a court decision that originally won Apple $1 billion in claims against Samsung.  Easier than working I suppose.  While the settlement got reduced to nearly half this amount, it still represents a lot of money.
As a sometimes visual artist, I appreciate the protections afforded to works of art and design.  However, if someone buys your painting – they own it.  If they decide to cut a notch out of it so it fits around a window frame that is there business, although I think the artist should have the right to have his or her name removed from the work.  However, industrial design is not art, it is a commercial enterprise that creates alluring products and environments for consumers.  While the talents expressed can include aesthetics and manifest themselves with intriguing form factors and color palettes – these are subtle element and do not deserve the same protection as the technology that operates behind them.
The US Supreme Court will now look at who owns “rounded corners” and boxy forms.  This slippery assault will always be a losing battle.  The 1987 Braun ET66 calculator looks a lot like the Apple iPhone and so do some of the rocks I find in nearby creeks.
Minimalism is in vogue now but it is a difficult design attribute to protect.  So move on and keep designing.