That was the mantra of my Technology and Society professor in college. And in many cases, I have to agree with him. While we like to romanticize the “good old days,” when things were simpler and more straightforward, how many of us would really want to go back and work in the era of slide rules and punch cards? (And wear a suit to work every day?)
With that in mind, and since many of us take time in November to reflect on what we’re thankful for in our personal lives, I decided to reach out to some of our engineering peers to find out what things they’re thankful for in their professional lives that have changed over the past 15-20 years. Take a look at their responses. I’m sure you’ll agree with them, and you’ll probably come up with a few ideas of your own.
Jose Barreto | Rollon
One thing I am thankful for is that the overall size of components (in motion control) has decreased significantly. Take Motion Box for example. The hardware power that resides in that small cabinet, 10 years ago would have required a cabinet 10 times that size and would have been much more difficult to implement.
I’m also thankful for the emergence of 3D printing, as it has helped to simplify and streamline the prototyping process.
Brian Burke | Bishop-Wisecarver
I’m thankful for the work of those who create educational video content with a focus on engineering, manufacturing and science. Occasionally some mainstream network television programs fall with this category. For example, shows like How It’s Made, which provides in-depth examinations of production processes to tell the stories of how everyday products come into existence, and MythBusters, where Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman work to test urban myths using sound logic and scientific approaches in full scale testing scenarios.
I’m also thankful for the work of other media contributors such as the YouTube channel called Vsauce by Michael Stevens, where scientific-based lectures are presented in an entertaining video format. Edge Factor, with host Jeremy Bout, is a show and educational program for schools that provides insightful case stories of American manufacturing using state-of-the-art machinery and production methods. Titans of CNC is another show that is working to enlighten the public about advanced CNC manufacturing in America.
Nathan Davis | Bosch Rexroth
First, I’m thankful for quad-ruled graph paper, because sometimes making a sketch or doing calculations by hand is still faster than drawing or typing on a computer.
Second, associative dimensioning. You realize how useful this AutoCAD feature is while trying to change an old drawing where it has been turned off.
Third, stackoverflow.com. This is a free Q&A site that covers programming. If you’re stuck on a problem, you can almost always find a detailed solution that will prevent code rage and the associated mouse and keyboard damage.
Aaron Dietrich | Tolomatic
I’m thankful for Google for a variety of reasons. First, you can find anything you want or need to very quickly, which is especially helpful for comparing products and solutions. Also, it allows medium-sized companies such as ours to reach a wide audience without a huge investment.
Richard Vaughn | Bosch Rexroth
I’m thankful that servo motors have evolved to have auto-tuning and tweaking via software. Commissioning an electromechanical actuator 20+ years ago by tuning a servo motor via a potentiometer was NOT FUN!
Another wonderful invention in motion control is the absolute motor encoder! In many applications, absolute encoders eliminate the need for additional wiring of limit or overtravel sensors. Since moving wires are always subject to potential damage, this not only allows a reduction in components but also gives a “peace of mind,” which is definitely something to be thankful for.
Danielle Collins | Editor
I’m thankful for cloud-based storage and sharing. (DropBox, for example.) Being able to share large files, especially with people outside your company, in a secure format is a huge advantage for engineering collaboration. In my conversation with Nathan of Bosch Rexroth, he reminded me of the “bad old days” when the best way to transfer DXF files was to save them to a 3.5” disc and mail them to the other person! Now, we can share files electronically within seconds.
Also, to reiterate Aaron’s point, I’m thankful for Google. Some readers have grown up with it (and other search engines) and can’t imagine a world where you don’t have virtually infinite information at your fingertips. But those of us who worked in the pre-Google era remember rooms full of engineering textbooks, vendor catalogs, design guides, and other paper-based resources. Some companies even had librarians just to keep all their reference material organized and up-to-date!
Now it’s your turn. Let me know in the comments, what changes or technological developments have made your job easier, more productive, or more enjoyable over the past few decades.
Feature image credit: University of Iowa, Department of Computer Science