Research & development
Research and development (R&D, R+D, or R’n’D), also known in Europe as research and technological development (RTD), refers to innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in developing new services or products, or improving existing services or products. Research and development constitutes the first stage of development of a potential new service or the production process.
R&D activities differ from institution to institution, with two primary models of an R&D department and tasked with directly developing new products, or staffed with industrial scientists and tasked with applied research in scientific or technological fields, which may facilitate future product development. R&D differs from the vast majority of corporate activities in that it is not intended to yield immediate profit, and generally carries greater risk and an uncertain return on investment. However R&D is crucial for acquiring larger shares of the market through the marketisation of new products.
New product design and development is often a crucial factor in the survival of a company. In a global industrial landscape that is changing fast, firms must continually revise their design and range of products. This is necessary as well due to the fierce competition and the evolving preferences of consumers. Without an R&D program, a firm must rely on strategic alliances, acquisitions, and networks to tap into the innovations of others.
A system driven by marketing is one that puts the customer needs first, and produces goods that are known to sell. Market research is carried out, which establishes the needs of consumers and the potential niche market of a new product. If the development is technology driven, R&D is directed toward developing products to meet the unmet needs.
In general, research and development activities are conducted by specialized units or centers belonging to a company, or can be out-sourced to a contract research organization, universities, or state agencies. In the context of commerce, “research and development” normally refers to future-oriented, longer-term activities in science or technology, using similar techniques to scientific research but directed toward desired outcomes and with broad forecasts of commercial yield.
Statistics on organizations devoted to “R&D” may express the state of an industry, the degree of competition or the lure of progress. Some common measures include: budgets, numbers of patents or on rates of peer-reviewed publications. Bank ratios are one of the best measures, because they are continuously maintained, public and reflect risk.
Research and development are very difficult to manage, since the defining feature of research is that the researchers do not know in advance exactly how to accomplish the desired result. As a result, “higher R&D spending does not guarantee more creativity, higher profit or a greater market share”.
Research is the most risky financing area because both the development of an invention and its successful realization carries uncertainty including the profitability of the invention. One way entrepreneurs can reduce these uncertainties is to buy the licence for a franchise, so that the know-how is already incorporated in the licence.
Robotics is a combination of mechanics and electronics. It is an interdisciplinary branch of mechanical design, electrical design and software design that is concerned with integrating electrical and mechanical components to create hybrid systems. In this way, machines can be automated through the use of electric motors, servo-mechanisms, and other electrical systems in conjunction with special software. A common example of a system is a CD-ROM drive. Mechanical systems open and close the drive, spin the CD and move the laser, while an optical system reads the data on the CD and converts it to bits. Integrated software controls the process and communicates the contents of the CD to the computer.
Robotics is the application to create robots, which are often used in industry to perform tasks that are dangerous, unpleasant, or repetitive. These robots may be of any shape and size, but all are preprogrammed and interact physically with the world. To create a robot, an engineer typically employs kinematics (to determine the robot’s range of motion) and mechanics (to determine the stresses within the robot).
Robots are used extensively in industrial design and manufacturing. They allow businesses to save money on labor, perform tasks that are either too dangerous or too precise for humans to perform them economically, and to ensure better quality. Many companies employ assembly lines of robots, especially in Automotive Industries and some factories are so robotized that they can run by themselves. Outside the factory, robots have been employed in bomb disposal, space exploration, and many other fields. Robots are also sold for various residential applications, from recreation to domestic applications.
Structural analysis is the branch devoted to examining why and how objects fail and to fix the objects and their performance. Structural failures occur in two general modes: static failure, and fatigue failure. Static structural failure occurs when, upon being loaded (having a force applied) the object being analyzed either breaks or is deformed plastically, depending on the criterion for failure. Fatigue failure occurs when an object fails after a number of repeated loading and unloading cycles. Fatigue failure occurs because of imperfections in the object: a microscopic crack on the surface of the object, for instance, will grow slightly with each cycle (propagation) until the crack is large enough to cause ultimate failure.
Failure is not simply defined as when a part breaks, however; it is defined as when a part does not operate as intended. Some systems, such as the perforated top sections of some plastic bags, are designed to break. If these systems do not break, failure analysis might be employed to determine the cause.
Structural analysis is often used by mechanical designers after a failure has occurred, or when designing to prevent failure. Designers often use online documents and books such as those published by ASM to aid them in determining the type of failure and possible causes.
Once theory is applied to a mechanical design, physical testing is often performed to verify calculated results. Structural analysis may be used in an office when designing parts, in the field to analyze failed parts, or in laboratories where parts might undergo controlled failure tests.
Thermodynamics and thermo-science
Thermodynamics is an applied science. At its simplest, thermodynamics is the study of energy, its use and transformation through a system. Typically, thermodynamics is the discipline of changing energy from one form to another. As an example, automotive engines convert chemical energy (enthalpy) from the fuel into heat, and then into mechanical work that eventually turns the wheels.
Thermodynamics principles are used by designers in the fields of heat transfer, thermofluids, and energy conversion. Mechanical dsigners use thermo-science to design engines and power plants, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, heat exchangers, heat sinks, radiators, refrigeration, insulation, and others.
Design and drafting
Drafting or technical drawing is the means by which mechanical technologists design products and create instructions for manufacturing parts. A technical drawing can be a computer model or hand-drawn schematic showing all the dimensions necessary to manufacture a part, as well as assembly notes, a list of required materials, and other pertinent information. A designer or skilled worker who creates technical drawings may be referred to as a drafter or draftsman. Drafting has historically been a two-dimensional process, but computer-aided design (CAD) programs now allow the designer to create in three dimensions.
Instructions for manufacturing a part must be fed to the necessary machinery, either manually, through programmed instructions, or through the use of a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) or combined CAD/CAM program. Optionally, an engineer may also manually manufacture a part using the technical drawings. However, with the advent of computer numerically controlled (CNC) manufacturing, parts can now be fabricated without the need for constant technician input. Manually manufactured parts generally consist spray coatings, surface finishes, and other processes that cannot economically or practically be done by a machine.
Drafting is used in nearly every subdiscipline of mechanical design services, and by many other branches of engineering and architecture. Three-dimensional models created using CAD software are also commonly used in finite element analysis (FEA) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD).
Many companies, especially those in industrialized nations, have begun to incorporate computer-aided machining (CAM) programs into their existing design and analysis processes, including 2D and 3D solid modeling computer-aided design (CAD). This method has many benefits, including easier and more exhaustive visualization of products, the ability to create virtual assemblies of parts, and the ease of use in designing mating interfaces and tolerances.
Other CAD programs commonly used by mechanical designers include product lifecycle management (PLM) tools and analysis tools used to perform complex simulations. Analysis tools may be used to predict product response to expected loads, including fatigue life and manufacturability. These tools include finite element analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).
Using CAD/CAM programs, a mechanical design team can quickly and cheaply iterate the design process to develop a product that better meets cost, performance, and other constraints. No physical prototype need be created until the design nears completion, allowing hundreds or thousands of designs to be evaluated, instead of a relative few. In addition, FEA analysis programs can model complicated physical phenomena which cannot be solved by hand, such as viscoelasticity, complex contact between mating parts, or non-Newtonian flows.
As mechanical Design begins to merge with other disciplines, multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) is being used with other CAD programs to automate and improve the iterative design process. MDO tools wrap around existing CAD/CAM processes, allowing product evaluation to continue even after the analyst goes home for the day. They also utilize sophisticated optimization algorithms to more intelligently explore possible designs, often finding better, innovative solutions to difficult multidisciplinary design problems.
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