Tag: design

True or not, this joke is attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

 

A farmer’s young son comes running into the house.

 

Out of breath he says: “Pa, Pa, the hired hand and Sis are in the hayloft. The hired hand has dropped his pants and Sis has pulled up her skirt! Pa, I think they are fixin’ to pee on the hay.”

 

The farmer says: “Son your facts are correct, but your conclusion is all wrong.”

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A Time magazine article by Leigh Gallagher highlights a problem that we deal with on a daily basis but that pretty much stays just below our awareness horizon. In the article Mr. Gallagher describes a professional epiphany of a town engineer with regard to town planning codes that exhibits itself as suburban sprawl.

 

The issue is simple; every piece of infrastructure that is built to support a community needs to be maintained. Infrastructure on a large flat scale, as is common in suburbs, inherently is larger per capita than in more compactly arranged communities and therefore more expensive to maintain. (Maritime, on the other hand, only incurs terminal infrastructure investment and maintenance costs. The maritime highway infrastructure is essentially free). The article describes how this sprawl results in unmanageable infrastructure maintenance costs, but the solution is all around us.

 

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The actual slogan is “Trenton Makes, the World Takes”, and even in that form it is still a pretty weird slogan. The slogan originated very early in the 20th century when Trenton, NJ just about made anything, and it is supposed to mean: “Trenton makes the stuff that the rest of the world buys”. I suppose at the time there was no budget for that many letters and it didn’t rhyme and therefore the shorter slogan was fitted in neon on the Lower Delaware River Bridge.

 

Still it was true, not just Trenton, but all of New Jersey was an incredible manufacturing hot bed starting with the country’s first industrial park at Paterson Falls, NJ in 1791. Towns such as Perth Amboy and many others in New Jersey were just as capable, but is New Jersey's manufacturing prowess gone forever?

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As a naval architect and marine engineer I have slowly drifted into a bizarre conundrum that actually may be an industry wide problem that is ripe for an industry wide solution.

 

What I am talking about is a loss of all those really great NAME engineering computer programs that were developed in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Yes, today we have much fancier NAME computer packages that are heavily integrated, but, in actual fact, they only serve a small market and have completely left out those engineers and designers (and hobbyists, and university students and even high schoolers) who do not sit in front of a particular computer design package all day, but who do want to get a relatively fast answer to a particular problem. read more »

The SNAME annual meeting is a high speed knowledge exchange fest and the last annual meeting in Seattle may quite possibly have been the best one yet.

 

I always get the printed version of the proceedings and leaf through the papers on the flight home. My proceedings need to be the printed versions because I read them with a pen and add comments in the margins to warn the next person in the office who gets to look through them. Most papers are quite good, although occasionally there is a paper that must have slipped through our peer review process, and contains untruths, is overly commercial, or is just a “duh” paper (and generally if it contains one of these flaws, it contains all three). But the best part is finding a paper that gets one’s engineering juices flowing.

 

In this year’s proceedings one of my favorites was “Zonal Distribution Cuts Cabling Cost” by John Hensler of STX Marine.

 

During the conference the paper did not catch my eye and therefore I did not attend the presentation, but reading it in the airplane it sure made a lot of sense to me. While the execution of the concept in the paper can very be complex, the application is something everybody should take a closer look at.

 

This is a representation of a conventional power distribution in a vessel. This is the way large commercial ships including large passenger ships have been wired for over one 100 years. (I quickly copied the figures from the paper, contact SNAME for the full paper.)

This arrangement is thought to be the least expensive way to wire a ship even if there are bulkheads through which the cables have to be pulled and potted, but that may not be true.

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The march of technology is not a straight line. It can take leaps (internet), occasionally stop completely (dark ages), depend on big project steps and raw power (Apollo), or occasionally it seems to do a jitterbug and move all over the place at the same time.

 

When it jitterbugs it seems the world belongs to the independent designers and experimenters with innovations driven by individuals who have new visions coming from all directions. This happened in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and is today celebrated as Steampunk.

 

Today we might be in the middle of another one of these waves. Unless I am deluding myself, it sure feels there is a lot of jitterbugging going on lately.

 

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Some people pondering five foot wide roads (or, at best, roads a little wider than 60 inches) populated with Maxi Taxis may think it would spell the end of driver excitement. Personally, having owned a Triumph Spitfire (57 inches wide) and always having coveted the original Mini Coopers  (55 inches wide), I doubt that is actually the case.  At the very least, the Maxi Taxi lanes provide sufficient width for motorcycles, and, remarkably, automated driving will make motor cycle riding safer since automated driving will be more effective at dealing with motor cycle traffic than human drivers (motor cycle accidents are often caused by car drivers who are not aware of the motorcycle presence).

 

But for more Maxi Taxi system compatible cars, which, at the same time, are more exciting than just about any car available today, an excellent example is the “Carver” car, developed by my Dutch boyhood friends, Peter and Chris van den Brink.

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In our office, we often discuss the pros and cons of new tech.  So when Elon Musk’s new Hyperloop preliminary design study came out on Monday, it was an obvious source of discussion.

 

While some of us (*cough* Rik) have some doubts about the Hyperloop concept, we can agree that a very attractive design could be reached by incorporating the Hyperloop and Maxi Taxi design concepts into one (see Rik’s blog entries about the Maxi Taxi concept on the M&O website – a summary can be found here).

 

With the Hyperloop’s potential advances in speed, and Maxi Taxi’s pillars of standardization and door-to-door public transportation, there is potential for a commuter’s dream.  In the joint concept, a standardized carpooling taxi design that is road-worthy and Hyperloop-worthy could enter the Hyperloop and be transported at high speeds to another city (the sweet zone is a city that is several hundred miles away by Musk’s estimates) where the taxi would disembark the Hyperloop and drop off passengers at their destinations within the city.

 

 

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On the way to a paddle wheeler passenger vessel project at Cape Girardeau, I passed Vicksburg and decided to stay the night. The next morning I took a quick drive through the Vicksburg battle field and came upon the USS Cairo, the remains of a Civil War era ironclad river gunboat that is now beautifully displayed at the battle field.

The vessel is part of the amazing story of the seven City Class river gunboats. With the Civil War looming, it became apparent that absolute naval dominance of the Mississippi river would be required.

 

The Union needed gunboats upriver quickly and the solution was provided by two unsung maritime greats; Samuel Pook and James Eads. Pook designed an excellent ironclad river paddle wheeler gunboat and Eads, a Mississippi salvor and brilliant self taught engineer, became the builder. read more »

Not too long ago only a small proportion of humanity had access to vast resources (which actually equates to access to energy). Although the very rich could travel by ocean liner between continents, poorer people’s action radii were very much smaller. For most of humanity’s existence a human might be tied to a very small patch of ground, which was accessed by walking. There were nomadic tribes, but even those tribes moved slowly and seasonally. Somewhat more recently, sailors started to move over vast distances, but they did so on a commercial level and not on a personal level.

 

Today, a much larger proportion of humanity travels much more, and over much longer distances. This is due to low cost and readily available energy. While this makes life interesting, it is also an efficiency trap and Maxi Taxi, instead of reducing energy use, may simply increase our mobility for the same energy dollar and not result in overall energy savings.

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