Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Know the environment you are designing for

An engineer I work with recounts a story from when he was a new engineer. “R” was asked to design a bracket to hold a thermocouple in a process tank. He quickly designed it out of sheet metal and submitted it for approval. His supervisor told him to redesign it using quarter inch steel plate and .375 diameter bolts to hold it to the tank.

He was puzzled and asked why a bracket holding an item weighing only a few ounces had to be so stout. His supervisor replied “Because someday a 250 pound pipefitter will use that bracket as a handhold and then a step to climb up on the tank.”

R’s supervisor understood that items need to be designed not only for their narrowly defined intended use but also for its conceivable unintended uses.

What are the environmental extremes that your item could see? What are unintended applications the end user could put your product to?

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