Category Archives: Aerospace Engineering

In this post, I’ll talk a little bit about what it was like procuring parts at my old job, a mid-sized R&D lab. (Or maybe I should say an R&D lab working on a number of aerospace projects and particularly concerned with part traceability). To my childlike eyes, it was a strange sort of magic. I’ll try to elaborate.  You see, as a mechanical engineer, I like concrete, tangible, physical things. The process of going to a store, giving someone money, and getting something in return makes sense to me. There’s been a fair exchange of goods. The procurement process at work, however, seemed like voodoo in comparison. The way procurement would work at my old job was that I would fill out a piece of paper with a list of the parts I wanted (yes, paper! although at some point we switch to an electronic version of the paper, which…

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Editors note: I (Chris) gave up my usual weekend slot to Seb because he had an intriguing article about a touchy and recurring subject within the field of engineering. This post will discuss working in the defense industry (possibly on deadly weapons), a topic which we know can set off some emotions. We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section, but we won’t hesitate to squash any hateful or unduly harsh words. Engineer Blogs has maintained civil discourse and we hope to continue doing so. Enjoy Seb’s article! One think leads to another, as they say. This particular though journey started whilst I was drafting my post about the SULSA 3D printed aircraft. The process of writing about the subject gave me pause. I had to stop staring at the keyboard as I did my usual hunt-and-peck routine; I gazed thoughtfully out the window at the forest hills around Heidelberg. A memory…

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A little while ago I posted about drawings.  You may have noticed that although I can extol their virtues, I’m not one of life’s great drawing enthusiasts. The less I have to force myself to sit down and work on them the better. Actively put, I seek drawing avoidance. One way to avoid having to deal with drawings excessively is, of course, to design less stuff. A good way of doing that is to cut down on the number of components you have to design in the first place. In order to achieve that, you’ll probably need new design and production methods. Enter additive manufacturing, stage left. 3D printers have started their seemingly unstoppable march towards the mainstream. Whilst true mass production with additive manufacturing remains a long way off, it is starting to enter the consciousness of businessmen as well as engineers (The Economist has carried articles on them like this of late). Proofs…

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Sebastian Abbott is a British automotive engineer living and working in Germany. He regularly writes as the Canny Engineer. Baffled, amazed and in awe would also be appropriate terms to describe his outlook on this engineering life. It is almost impossible to be an engineer much of the time. There are the days when you’re doing nothing but administration, getting tied up in repetitive or irrelevant meetings, when you’re yet again explaining the same thing to the same purchasing agent. There are the days when you’re being pulled in fifteen different directions at once, and you think, “Why am I doing this to myself?” One answer is, of course, the money. A decent salary doesn’t hurt, but studies have shown that a higher salary often does not lead to better productivity. To achieve that, to really get you up with a smile in the morning, you need motivation. I like the word,…

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I recently read an opinion piece by G Pascal Zachary in the IEEE Spectrum basically saying that NASA is an obsolete dinosaur whose time has come.  We need to get rid of it and put all of that money into funding private ventures. Uh…no. Let me begin by saying I don’t completely disagree that NASA needs an overhaul.  NASA suffers from the same bureaucratic mess that is inherent in any large organization, whether it is a corporation or government entity.  Large organizations suffer from bloat and tend toward a certain amount of activity that is a waste of time.  On the other hand, a good amount of that ‘waste of time’ has been deemed by taxpayers as necessary: people also want accountability.  If you put an emphasis on accountability, then you have to expect that people are going to spend a significant amount of time doing things to show that…

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Images of an airship might evoke some long past 1920s phenomenon deemed too dangerous or too impractical and brushed aside for different flight technologies. But no technology should ever be considered down and out. The distinctive spire on the Empire State Building, originally intended as a mooring mast for dirigibles, is now copied on many other skyscrapers as a matter of course and style. It was only a year and a half ago that I talked about an Army request for proposals for an airship drone. Lockheed Martin just flew their HALE-D (that’s high altitude long endurance) a little earlier this week on July 27th, 2011. It only flew to 32,000 ft before coming down in Pennsylvania unexpectedly but should be capable of achieving 60,000 ft altitude. I talked about Boeing’s Phantom Eye UAV which supposedly can hang out at 65,000 ft. Neither aircraft is making any major promises on…

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