Thursday, August 20, 2009

We Agree with Mythbusters’ Jamie

Diane here, to confess that I’ve been a fan of the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” for years. Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage, and the members of the Build Team demonstrate again and again how fascinating science and engineering can be.

I recently read a great piece written by Jamie for Popular Mechanics called "Is Computer Design a Substitute for Hands-on Experience?" Jamie’s contention is that in spite of all the amazing advancements in computer-aided design, CAD is only as good as the engineer using it. He points out the importance of looking at CAD as a tool, no different than a hammer, that augments skill but doesn’t guarantee perfection.

It’s true. Someone like Mike Holmes from "Holmes on Homes" is a lot better with a hammer than I am, and it’s not the hammer’s fault that I can’t get use it to get the same results as Mike. A hammer improperly used only causes damage. The same can be said for computer-aided design.

Now Jamie admits that CAD does better than "junk in, junk out"...what comes out of good CAD software will certainly be workable. However, it may well be impractical, overly complex, or otherwise a poor solution, if the tool hasn’t been utilized properly.

An example Jamie uses to illustrate this point is an experience with the unfortunate placement of a car battery he needed to remove. The car’s designer no doubt used CAD to make sure the battery would fit in the space allowed, but failed to use his own brain to consider the difficulty involved if one wanted to replace said battery. Jamie had to take off the front wheel and inner fender to do this basic piece of maintenance. Someone familiar with car maintenance and its importance (and honestly, who over 16 isn’t?) should not have made such a critical design mistake.

So no matter how sophisticated your design tools, nothing can take the place of understanding the intended purpose of a machine, performance and maintenance issues, and the properties and functions of the materials used. Sometimes the most efficient way to consider all those factors is simply to use the head of an expert, whether that be yourself or another human being.

J.W. Winco has free CAD files on our Web site, in all possible file formats, because we recognize the tools engineers use to do their work. We also provide as much technical information on our components as we can. However, unlike many of our competitors, we also recognize that good engineers depend upon human involvement when trying to do a job right. Our technical sales associates have great expertise, including years of experience advising designers on the best ways to use our parts. And what we don’t know, we know how to find out.

So we’re with Jamie on this one. Tools will only take you so far; the best machine designs depend upon the wisdom and experience of people. Call us at 800-877-8351 or email sales@jwwinco if you’d like our people to help.

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