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Commentator

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Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/12/2006 10:21 AM

I'd be interested in hearing discussions from the engineering community about creativity in engineering. Have you ever come up with a creative solution to an engineering problem? Have you ever made use of some technology in an unusual way, or tested a personal theory and found that it worked? Do you draw on your engineering instincts often?


I'm fascinated by the creative process, where ideas come from. How can one cultivate this ability to think outside the proverbial box?

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#1

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/12/2006 11:56 PM

In the company I work for we are encouraged to "think outside the box" and frequently come up with creative ideas, mainly in the electrical engineering field as that is our field of consultancy. Unfortunately, many of our industry associates are still crammed into the mould of government trained "one way only" thinkers. This makes for difficulty in having some of our innovative alternative solutions getting accepted by others in the industry, even when our customers are very keen on the methodology, (usually saving them money).

Our recently produced device which we are taking into Australia in the next 2 months and in the next year into the US & Canada, (hence the vaqueness), is the result of finding the solution to a problem that very few have woken up to. It was a case of the problem being there but the majority of users not being aware the problem existed. The concept and the results are simple but the users have been looking for complexity in the results. Once we show them how to use the results most can't believe the wealth of information the system produces for them and in such an incredibly short time, (& thus, very economically).

The answers are not obvious to the social types yarning around the fire, but are found by the "socially challenged". Think about it!!

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Commentator

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#2

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/13/2006 1:50 AM

The answer is yes on all counts. You have described the invention challenge. There is nothing more rewarding than finishing your prototype; observing it in every way for the first time, an experience [high] I would not trade for anything else in this world.

Amazing!

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#3

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/13/2006 2:43 AM

I had a neat appp when working with Coulter cell counters - Sicle cell trait is linked to MSG sensitivity (MSG induces sicling in red blood cells). Easy app - 5% MSG solution to the diluent used in measuring the mean cell volume. Dirt simple. I was told that the idea was great, but no-one had the cash to go through the ten year, ~$50 million process to get the method approved

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#4

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/13/2006 6:13 AM

The short answer is YES!!

I've always thought that to be a good engineer you had to be creative...

Even when I'm laying out a PCB I take time to make sure that components are placed in the optimum position, not just for the tracks but for external wiring, for temperature effects, high voltage, for ease of testing/calibration/servicing .... the list is endless..

Just one of the reasons I hate and detest computer aided design, where the computer plonks a component in the wrong place, or it simulates a design and you just know its totally wrong!!

I take most pride from the simple things.... such as I was about to throw away a plastic thing, worthless, but suddenly I think "Hold on that could be used to hold...xyz!!"...

Now they have to be the best moments, when you find a bit of rubbish and think of a totally new application that it can be used to solve!!

John.

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/13/2006 1:31 PM

I am inspired by the word "Can't" and "Impossible" to the point where I often annoy others.

I have had numerous times solving problems considered too huge to solve within our current budget, with simple technologies, that 'couldn't be done'... it is such a thrill.

Chris

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/14/2006 6:42 AM

Ohhh yes Chris, those are the words which attract me also....

As soon as I hear it <b>can't be solved</b> its <b>impossible, can't</b> be done etc.. That's the moment I like to step in and have alook for a solution..... Its a CHALLENGE!!! I'm not saying I have solved the problem but sometimes I have and the feeling of satisfaction is overwhelming.

And you don't need someone to pat you on the back or to say well done, you know within yourself that you've done something others had given up on...

That's reward enough.... I guess that's why I love being an engineer!

John.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/14/2006 6:44 AM

Ooops so html code doesn't work in here then?

<b>this isn't bold is it?</b>

John

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#8

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/18/2006 6:02 AM

Strangely, nearly all of my best ideas come when I am just idly fiddling around with something or thinking of something else completely unrelated to the task at hand. Right now I have seven patents waiting in the wings for a number of toys, consumer and industrial products, and one related to aviation safety. I'm currently writing a patent disclosure for my employer covering an invention barely three weeks old that solves a twenty-year-old problem. What amazes me so much about this particular invention is that it is so elegantly simple and straightforward - and obvious - and yet no one seems to have thought of it before. After reading over 1500 patent abstracts looking for examples of prior art, only two patents even came close. One of these came "within inches" of solving this problem, but still, it might as well have been 100 light years. Their focus was too specific and they completely missed the boat. (Kind of like the railroad companies thinking of themselves as Railroad companies - not as Transportation companies.)

(BTW, Anyone noticing any bizarre behavior lately in CR4's New Comment editor? Like a disappearing cursor? Disappearing text? Inability to italicize certain text until you delete and re-type it?)

--Europium

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Ever Come Up with a Creative Solution to an Engineering Problem?

10/18/2006 10:21 AM

Ideas are wonderful things to work with. Idea development is surely one of the most important aspects of any design process. There are many approaches to idea generation. I've found, like you, that they often come to mind when I'm thinking or doing something unrelated to the project.

Being constantly observant, and having the ability to analyze things from many different angles has helped me in the quest for good ideas.

I especially love simple ideas adapted from nature. I really wish I'd thought to invent velcro back when I was a kid removing burrs from my dogs fur coat. I only remember this as being an unpleasant chore. If I'd tried to discover a use for a thing to cling to a surface the way burrs did, I might be a millionaire now.

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