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Adhesives + Welding + Joining
The themes for this issue are ‘‘Adhesives + welding + joining’’ and I am very pleased with the breadth and depth of our contributions. It is evident from these articles and papers, and in particular from the contributions of our Guest Specialist, Dr Robert W. Messler, that we live in interesting times. Every issue that we publish is intended to provide useful information that can be of real commercial and practical benefit to our readers. This issue is no exception; however, the depth of content impresses on me that an additional very important aim of the journal is to make engineers question the way that they are currently doing things. If you have a new problem to solve then the way ahead is clear. You research the possibilities that are open to you; try a few out, and then (hopefully) arrive at a solution. But what should you do if basically you have not got a problem in the first place? Why spend time and money looking into alternatives if existing methods are tried and trusted? Old adages such as ‘‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’’ and ‘‘But we have always done it this way’’, spring to mind. The answer, of course, is that it is only by exploring new methods that we can improve our products and steal a lead on our competitors. The ball point pen would never been invented if the pen manufacturers had only concerned themselves with better ways of sharpening quills.
One of the most significant advances over the last few decades has been in the area of new materials. These includes metals and plastics, high strength fibres and those used in nanotechnology. This in turn has opened up a door into a whole new area of design that we earlier had probably never imagined we would want to open, let alone be able to. There is now a very common trend towards making products that mimic nature. Not just because we can, or for academic interest, but because for many applications it provides the best solution. For example, in the field of robotics many mechanisms now use tendon like materials and actuators rather than gears and motors. Robert Messler describes nanotechnology parts that will self-assemble, and there are lots of materials that are designed to selfheal. All attributes without which we would not have a leg to stand on. It is interesting that this trend is in direct opposition to the mechanisation that led to the industrial revolution and mass production. Then manual labour was ruthlessly discarded in favour of cast iron machines that mindlessly produced previous unprecedented quantities of goods. The machines are here to stay, but they are changing. They will never look like us but they are likely to incorporate many of our design features.
Previously published in: Assembly Automation, Volume 23, Number 2, 2003
102 pages; ISBN 9781845444464
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