Respect the working man
I enjoyed the editorial about engineering careers, but I would like to add a technician’s viewpoint: We fix and repair what engineers design and make it useful in the real world. Many of us have nearly as much electronics knowledge and hands-on mechanical ability as entry-level engineers, and quite often more. Many of the “old school” company leaders either recognize this or are extremely closed-minded and won’t leave their offices. In turn, younger engineers seem to follow one of these paths, depending on the corporate attitude towards production and the skilled and unskilled employees necessary to actually accomplish any of the tasks engineers require. I’ve been in situations at either extreme. I have also worked as a supervisor and it becomes frustrating when those at the higher pay scales really look down on (or don’t even notice) those below. I hope your article is an expression of a newer attitude toward communication, as the manufacturing sector requires everyone to work as a team. Many highly skilled technicians are leaving in frustration, and this experience is very hard to replace.
Optimism with a chance of rain
I just read the “Engineering Optimism” editorial and even though I know you are referencing statistics, I don’t think we engineers are earning quite as much as the report states. Employers are still cheap and, of course, it depends on the industry. However, there is a feeling of optimism and calls from headhunters are coming in big time. These calls come in waves with recruiters attacking those of us that have jobs. It gets to be annoying. In addition, there seems to be an attitude in the employment industry that says, “Those presently not employed need not apply.” This is pitiful. Plenty of good engineers without jobs would kill for a phone call. People were downsized for many reasons, but a large group was laid off due to cost-saving measures. This does not make them bad prospective employees. So even with this new optimism, I still see a cloudy lining. Hopefully we can put more people back to work in the future, and I don’t mean working at Target or Walmart, or even in the gambling industry. I am talking about manufacturing.
Saved by servopneumatics
After considering both closed-loop stepper and servo rotary actuators to replace a basic pneumatic rotary actuator, we were not able to find a suitable option. The area to house the actuator was size-limited and the electric motors that would fit could not handle the load and its inertia characteristics. We needed to replace the existing pneumatic rotary actuator for many reasons, so we looked into servopneumatics, which we had heard of but hadn’t investigated. After consulting with a Festo representative, we determined that their smallest rotary SP actuator would easily handle the load and give us the load and inertia improvements we were seeking. The system took a day or so to become familiar with and to optimize with our system’s motion profile, but it is now working so well that we can hardly believe the improvement over the old method. We will definitely look for other areas where we can include servopneumatic actuators where servo or stepper systems are not good options.
Bryan H., via Disqus