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Many of us get well rewarded for solving problems. In fact; arguably that is one of the top paying tasks in engineering. A good example - in the field of aviation - is that of Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger who saved hundreds of lives by bringing a passenger airliner down safely into the Hudson River after both engines had catastrophically failed - probably involving seconds in his entire career, or Red Adair putting out horrendous oil fires, or the astronauts bringing Apollo 13 back safely...

As I looked down our street and saw the rows of rubbish (or garbage) bins neatly parked with military precision waiting for them to be taken away, I wondered at the millions of other examples of rubbish throughout the world. I am also acutely aware of the massive increase in packaging used from groceries to plastic bottles for everything. In the old days (yes!); we used to use paper bags for groceries. I insist on carrying groceries and items from the local corner side shop (where...

REGISTRATIONS NOW OPEN!
 
This 18 month Advanced Diploma is conducted by live, interactive e-Learning. The course is presented by a team of professional, industry experts, and includes hands on practical exercises using simulation software, remote labs, case studies and more!
 
Places are limited so BOOK TODAY!
 
For more details on the course please visit our website:
http://www.eit.edu.au/advanced-diploma-electrical-and-instrumentation-e-i-engineering-oil-and-gas-facilities
 
OR to download...

The EIT has secured research funding from the Australian national government to help enhance remote laboratory practicals for selected students. Ultimately this will be expanded so that greater numbers of EIT students have even better access to an outstanding online experience. Gone are the days when online training meant a “book on the web”.
 
We aim to enrich distance training by offering access to remote bench-based equipment. Students will be able to go online to experiment with “real”...

Many of us tolerate unbelievably bad ‘broadband’ in remote locations with so-called DSL. Very high speed fiber-to-the-kerb is only a dream. There is thus much animated discussion about the possibilities with the relatively new Long-Term Evolution (LTE) Wireless standard that is going to be the solution to all our problems. This particular standard promises download speeds of 100 Megabits/second and peak rates of up to 300Megabits/second. It is reckoned that this will challenge copper...

I watch my 14yo son with some bemusement when he expertly uses Google to search for information for school projects or simply to find out about something that intrigues him. He is reluctant to use my favourite source of information – books. There is a massive paradigm shift that is occurring at present where people are using search engines from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to secure the knowledge, information and data they require by simply typing a request into a search engine. Know-how...

Yesterday I was slumped listening to a highly experienced engineer doing a rather mediocre presentation for motivating the development of a new product. He received a rather cool response although I know his product concept was excellent. He would have got far better results if he had followed some simple rules as far as presentations.

What was wrong?
The presentation which lacked lustre used a plethora of power points and words, often delivered in a monotone and all tightly compressed...

Many of us work in manufacturing and probably wonder where this sector is headed. I am not an economist and I would be the last to confidently predict the future. But a few thoughts here.

As engineering professionals we are all acutely aware of how rapidly changing technology continues to shape how goods are manufactured. Probably, at an increasing rate, change in technology is even more profound with growing influences from previously ‘technology followers’ such as China and India; who...

First of all – best wishes for the Christmas festive break. I hope 2012 is a fearsomely good year for you and the world economy starts to grow strongly again.

Whether you are a brickie, fitter or chief electronics design engineer you will have undoubtedly heard of ‘apps’. There is now a huge growth in demand for app writers. A skill and job that wasn’t around even five years ago. When ever one thinks of an app; one would think of flashy (mobile) games running on a smart phone. However...

Many of us work in manufacturing and probably wonder where this sector is headed. I am not an economist and I would be the last to confidently predict the future. But a few thoughts here.

As engineering professionals we are all acutely aware of how rapidly changing technology continues to shape how goods are manufactured. Probably, at an increasing rate, change in technology is even more profound with growing influences from previously ‘technology followers’ such as China and India; who...

Jay Leno, the ubiquitous and entertaining but abrasive (?) talk-show host uses his ‘Big Dog Garage Team’ to maintain his fleet of very old cars and motorbikes. Recently his team had to fabricate a feedwater heater for his 1907 White Steamer. An innovative approach was done using a 3D scanner to create a detailed digital model of the part; this was then fed to a 3D printer which made an exact copy in plastic (over 30 odd hours) which was then machined from solid metal.

A Rapid Drop in...

Have you been working for a number of years as an engineering professional and have steadily moved into interdisciplinary practice? Where you examine the total system rather than simply one element of it. Further to this; are you proactive, demonstrate leadership & initiative, can communicate well, think laterally and outside the box and are solutions oriented? If so; perhaps you should consider that you are indeed a systems engineer. Or are rapidly on your way to becoming one.

The...

Recently, there have been some rather twitchy concerns that the current high levels of unemployment in many countries such as the USA and Europe are here to stay. And there has been much discussion that the high levels of automation of tasks (from IT to industrial automation) are the main cause of the collapse in the need for as many workers as in the past.

The Luddites
This is often referred to as the Luddite Fallacy, where improving productivity would mean that we are all out of work...

I must confess that I was always faintly disparaging of motor sport as a ‘real’ sport but driving with forces of more than 4.5g, heart rates exceeding 180 beats per minute, dehydration an ongoing threat and gigantic leaps in blood pressure (~50%) must surely mean that as a rally driver you have to be superbly fit. Coupled with the ongoing threat to your life (remember these horrific crashes over the past few weeks) and the need to be utterly focussed on your driving and the variation...

have always maintained that we don’t sell ourselves enough. And let’s face it; selling yourself isn’t about simply flogging a product or service or trying to schmooze yourself on a disbelieving recipient. But about being adept on promoting ourselves in terms of one’s skills/a pet project or simply one’s abilities to perform a job. Engineering professionals tend to avoid any hint of salesmanship as it is considered demeaning and we think that at the end of the day technical excellence will...

The first patent was granted in Florence in 1421; a few years later King Henry VI of England granted the first modern patent for making coloured glass for cathedral windows.  And recently, one of the most sweeping changes to United States Patent Law was signed into law by Barack Obama on September 16th. But there are huge problems with patents – especially software ones, that as an engineering professional you need to be aware of.

A patent has three main requirements: that it is for a...

A few weeks ago, an al Qaeda operative sitting on his pick-up truck deep in Yemeni desert was taken out by a missile from an American drone. There has been a rapid escalation in the use of drones which are also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Typically with a support crew of almost 200 people to keep them flying, they each cost millions of dollars apiece and have a virtual pilot located up to ten thousand kms away operating at their controls and another officer reading the...

I never realised how protracted and complex the litigation would be when I was approached by a contractor to support them as an expert witness in securing payment for a massive installation they had done for a so-called 'smart bridge'. The client felt the bridge wasn't smart enough (and was susceptible to undetectable dangerous conditions such as high winds).

Smart bridges (including other smart structures) are where all the different areas in engineering neatly converge – mechanical...

It happened in a flash, a few months ago. A colleague and I were vigorously debating some engineering issue in a little café on the sidewalk, and there was a commotion next to our table. He turned to refer to his laptop computer to and it was gone. Stolen and never to be retrieved. Actually, the computer itself was fairly worthless but the data on it – gathered laboriously over weeks on soil resistivity measurements - was very valuable and was gone forever. There was no one lurking behind...

It is often refreshing to rip out old technology and replace it with a state of the art system when the bean counters (unwittingly, perhaps) sign off on a new project. As we know, it is often a frustratingly slow business interfacing new equipment to an existing system; so starting fresh is often an exhilarating prospect. However there is a significant amount of older automation equipment still around from the 1990’s (and indeed, even earlier when you look at some oil and gas and mining...

The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) and IDC Technologies have been running a successful series of complimentary 45 minute Engineering webinars. So far we have run 12 sessions which have had hundreds of registrations for each session.


 

Upcoming topics include:


 

  • Troubleshooting PLCs - A toolbox of suggestions to look for in troubleshooting your PLC ranging from CPU, I/O Modules to communications
  • 10 Tips for Tuning of PID Loops - A quick toolbox of tips...

Two particularly contentious topics in these economically challenging times are outsourcing and offshoring. There has been a boom in these areas over the past decade but there are signs of significant problems. I am sure we can all think of factories and services which have been moved to countries far away. Most of the outsourcing (subcontracting out the work) and offshoring (to foreign countries) occurs due to the  perceived massive savings. As we know, this is a simplistic view and it is not...

Most of our planet comprises seawater and with a salt content of 3.5% this needs to be reduced to <0.05% (or less) to make it drinkable. Some of the older processes used distillation which requires about 10 kWh of energy per m3 of seawater. The seawater is heated up and the resulting water vapour is condensed into drinkable form.

The other popular approach is reverse osmosis with semi-permeable membranes which sieve out the sodium and chloride ions (constituents of salt) and only pass...

People learn 70% of what they know about their jobs through informal means (US Bureau of Labor Stats – 1996). So stop pouring your money into formal training without pausing to consider these other more powerful options. Not through formal courses. Or training workshops.

Formal training accounts for only 20% of what people learn at work (from Jay Cross). Was it wisely spent? In many cases, I doubt it. Our experience leads us to believe that a two day short course is great. The instructor...

Last week's announcement by HP that it would stop making tablet computers – not particularly long after it had launched them - was a shock for many of us. In their early days, HP were always a company strongly focussed on engineering professionals. In the past year, mainly in response to the overwhelming success of the iPad launched by Apple led by the inimitable Steve Jobs, HP and a few others had launched Tablets based on the WebOS and Google's Android operating system.
 
Apple has over...

Conflict is a key part of our lives as engineering professionals. Especially these days with so much change occurring. Conflict is a verbal (or indeed non-verbal) expressed disagreement between individuals or groups. It may occur, for example, between an engineering supervisor and employee, or manager and supervisor. And, as you all know, conflict can even exist within an individual – for example, when one part of you wants to stay at home and rest while another part of you knows you...

Thanks for the great response last week on basic skills for engineering professionals - many of the responses listed at the end.

Virtual Engineering Groups
In varying degrees, most of us are working virtually in groups undertaking our engineering work. From use of email to skype and sometimes, web and video conferencing; we are all moving to working together with colleagues and friends at far flung locations connected only over the internet. You might be working in a virtual group building a...

There is a technology that touches all of us – no matter what area of engineering you are active in and that is of course – good old Ethernet. And one of the biggest and dare, I say useful changes has been Power over Ethernet (PoE) and this note is to clarify what it is and to show you how you can take advantage of it. Being engineering, there is inevitably a twist in the tale of using PoE though, as discussed later.

One of the big frustrations today is having to provide a deluge of...

A relative newcomer on the education scene, the Engineering Institute of Technology (the EIT) plans to host a free breakfast meeting in mid-September to examine trends in engineering employment, specifically the oft-quoted skills shortage. The purpose of the meeting will be to offer engineers, technicians, tradespeople, and employers some perspectives on the where the gaps are and “how to convert shortages into an opportunities” says Foundation Dean Dr. Steve Mackay.
 
It has been only 4...

Dear Colleagues

One of the best investments I ever made in my basic skills
was learning to touch type thirty years ago (yes - on a typewriter). Admittedly,
being the only (geeky) boy in the class, I was somewhat intimidated by the dozen
girls in the class; but a mere 20 hours investment, has been worth tens of
thousands in terms of a real payback. There are many other basic skills which
we tend to neglect but are critical to our engineering careers and personal
lives. Obviously, you do need...

Dear Colleagues

I used to jo-ke (mistakenly) that the only secure way of protection of your control system from cyber att-acks is having an ‘airgap’ (i.e. your industrial control system has no connection to the internet or the ‘outside world’).

As we all know, one of the enduring myths of control systems has been that the highest level of se-curity is in ensuring no physical connection between the industrial automation network and the firm’s business network (and thence probably the...

As far as I am concerned, the 'Cloud' everyone is talking about these days, is potentially some used car operator next door to your premises offering you rental of his computer system so that he can make a quick buck. Perhaps an unfair accusation.

No matter whether you are a fitter or technical director of a multinational company you will be touched by cloud computing. With many new openings and threats arising from the movement of your computing requirements to the cloud.

What exactly...

Dear colleagues

Are we reaching the end of the road with the relentless continuous drop in computer prices and surge in performance? There are some interesting changes lurching into view. Intel has been the forerunner in CPU chip design (with 80% of the market for PC CPUs) but the ending of Moore’s Law and incredible growth in mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers are going to have an impact on your life shortly.

Why do you need to bother about this stuff? Well –...

<p>Congratulations to the June 2011 graduating class.  We wish you all of the very best in your future endeavours.</p>

We have just released this exciting new course in conjunction with Asia Pacific International College!

The course is due to commence in October, for more information see the course page: http://www.eit.edu.au/master-business-and-project-management-industrial-automation

 

 

Dear Colleagues

 

Many of us have the natural impulse to acquire ‘new stuff’. Whether it be a state-of-the-art computer / mobile phone / programmable logic controller or indeed, circuit breaker. However, older technologies are often better.

 

No where better to illustrate this, than a big problem in bioengineering currently playing out in the USA for tens of thousands of people (some estimates are up to half a million in the USA alone) who received metal-on-metal artificial hips which have...

Dear Colleagues

Even as long ago as the 1970's, our engineering school saw massively declining enrolments in power systems engineering. Everyone wanted to undertake the high tech type electronics courses. Students were unexcited by power engineering as they perceived it to be old, inflexible and industrial ‘smoke stack’ type engineering. As students we were rather daunted by working with gigantic pieces of switchgear and generating sets (can anyone remember ‘Ward Leonard’ generation ?)...

As we know – engineering professionals hugely underestimate their contribution and role in industry and the community. An interesting commentary from Albert (‘Al’) Koenig, past-statutory head of the Office of EnergySafety Western Australia (who now mixes diverse consulting interests with time on his beloved Bertram35). He feels strongly about safety in the workplace and the public domain, especially when it comes to electricity. An extract on the age old topic of earthing/ground practice...

Dear Colleagues

Why do some engineering professionals rise rapidly to the top of their organisations? Admittedly some of you will remark grimly that it is due to their superior politicking abilities. Probably very true on occasion. But for engineers and technicians to be successful, you do need something more. And sadly for the traditional engineer and technician - technical skills are not enough today. Probably somewhat distressing for a new engineering graduate to hear this. As we have all...

How mature-age students are getting back to study without “going to school”

 
With employees at work on shifts and based in many different locations, how can an employer help them gain the qualifications they need to add value to the business?  The power utility Essential Energy (formerly Country Energy) has a solution.  Essential Energy is the state-owned corporation responsible for providing essential electricity services for regional (non-metro) areas in the state of NSW, which encompasses...

I become quite motivated and energised when I meet people passionate about their work. I have always believed one of the main keys to success in engineering is simply being passionate about what you do. Whether it is in business or your personal life; passion is the driving force. This is undoubtedly challenging with the shifting demands made on an engineering professional today.

An ex U-boat commander was passionate

I have come across many engineering professionals who are absolutely...

I am currently on a roadshow presenting on a variety of subjects from industrial data comms and process control to electrical arc flash protection, which makes me think faintly of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ but there you go. Thanks for the hundreds of participants for rocking up. Bela Farbas of Australia made some comments on one of my earlier notes and these brought a wry smile. He has gracefully allowed me to reproduce all his comments below.

Bela Farbas says: I would like to...

If you are a true engineering professional, never let your age be of the slightest interest to you. It is completely irrelevant. You only need to look at the vast army of older highly experienced engineering professionals adding enormous value to seek inspiration.

Physically fit and lean, Vernon is one of our 'youngest' engineering instructors (but aged 68yo), constantly studying new technologies and presenting a superb course on Gas Turbines. In this respect, he has solid experience ranging...

In the late seventies, medical electronics was a pretty tough business. I remember doubtfully fingering a huge rather primitive heart pacemaker for some (presumably) live patient, designed at our engineering school, while Christiaan Barnard, the heart surgeon, gave a brief (we were but mere engineering students) but passionate lecture on the importance of medicine and technology in improving the quality of life (but not prolonging it unnecessarily).

The number one growth job
The New York...

We are almost half way through the year. Hopefully you are one of the 14% who keep your New Year's resolutions especially in terms of your engineering career ? Some suggestions below from those who have achieved success in their career. Peter Drucker, the famous management guru, remarked that first of all one has to set one's vision of one’s career to higher sights and then commit to achieving this.

Some suggestions to boost your engineering career today:

  • Make sure you have a business...

Dear Colleagues,

Electrical and mechanical engineering professionals often lose track of important issues in each other’s field. Mechatronics is an excellent example of multidisciplinary engineering often combining state-of-the-art mechanical and electrical engineering with control and instrumentation thrown in.

Some tips follow for the mechanical guys in creating the best design taking consideration of the electrical issues (adjusted from Dan Throne’s note). This will help optimise the...

Dear Colleagues

The process of capturing and retaining the attention of other people has such simple rules but is nevertheless often ignored by engineering professionals. I freely admit that I am not a particularly good presenter; but these rules help me enormously in getting good results in my presentations.

Naturally, before you do your actual presentation, a golden rule is to practise practise till you are blue in the face until you have it flawlessly executed. Preferably present to...

'Until the first electrician picks up a screwdriver to implement your clever engineering design, all your theory is meaningless, my lad' was a remark my dad used to not infrequently make to me.

When I was a young engineer, I trained under a number of cra-ftsmen – who taught me all about fitting and turning, boilermaking, cabinet making, welding and electrical work (and it was surely an exasperating experience for them). A team of engineering technicians in a nearby electronics workshop...

Wednesday 18th May 2011 - 2 Sessions

 

Conveyers and chutes are a key part of every company's material transport strategy. Attend this complimentary session for a few tips and tricks with;

 

  • Troubleshooting conveyer problems
  • Capacity, sizing and power of equipment

 

Session 1: 9am GMT on Wednesday 18th May 2011 Link to time converter for Session 1
Session 2: 11pm GMT on Wednesday 18th May 2011 Link to time converter for Session 2

 

Your presenter will be Dr Steve Mackay, the...

Dear Colleagues

One of the workhorses in industry – no matter whether you are in industrial automation, electrical or mechanical engineering, you are likely to be confronted with one of these little fellahs - a Programmable Logic Controller or PLC (or indeed, Programmable Automation Controller – PAC).  A critical cheap building block for all automated systems. Effectively, an industrially hardened digital electronic device in which a sequence of instructions are stored, which enable the...

EIT's Technical Director, Steve Mackay, enjoys keeping his blog up-to-date with useful tips and current industry matters for his fellow colleagues. He has a loyal and expanding following base reaching over 300,000 people around the world.

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The latest innovation and inventions from the world of engineering can be found here. Learn about advances in technology and how they can make a real difference within your industry. 

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