What about 3D Printing?
Civil Engineering hasn’t changed much over the past few millennia, sure, now we use heavy machinery to excavate out the thousand cubic metres of ground for foundations, and structures are much taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza, but the principles have always been the same, we are just getting better and better at executing them.
So, what is the next big step, every new structure aims to be more efficient than the last, but are these just incremental steps? Could the real next big step in Civil Engineering be the utilisation of Automation? Over the past few decades, much of our design has actually been automated, you throw in a design and out comes the columns and beams you need, the sizes of them, and how exactly they perform under load, think about AutoCAD or even something a lot more basic like Wolfram Alpha, they are incredible tools to an Engineers kit, and if you haven’t seen them yet, you must check them out – links at the bottom.
Many Universities right now are starting to include this this new age of Engineering, that is not to say that Engineering principles don’t need to be understood, as we need to understand what a fancy computer outputs, we need to know if that’s actually what we need, to know when something just doesn’t look right.
Stainless steel reinforcement has its place in design, think about structures where magnetism is an issue (hint: hospitals) but do we really need it for a 5-storey apartment?
What about 3D Printing?
And of course, there is construction too, with 3D printers becoming ever more advanced they are starting to show up on site. Many Contractors are beginning to ‘print’ components such as pipe bends, and yes, this can be very expensive, but sometimes, it works out to be a lot more economical.
It is much easier to print a bend that fits a 32.3mm pipe, than to make a 30mm bend fit that pipe. An Engineer could measure and survey a room to calculate all the dimensions for the components, instead of trying to make these fabricated components fit a room.
Just think how the Pyramids of Giza were made, with no heavy machinery like we have today!
This is what entrepreneurs are looking at right now, long algebraic equations are solved by the fastest computers in the office, out on site we are beginning to see brick walls laying themselves. This is where the future is, using our knowledge of computing and technology to move us forward in the world of Civil Engineering, being able to watch a steel frame for a building erected by a machine or even machines that could ensure that concrete cures properly, the question you may be thinking is where you would fit in?
Computers can only do so much, and most of the issues area ultimately solved by an Engineer, I mean –
- Who is going to speak with the public to understand exactly what we need, do we need another railway, an airport, a new motorway? That’s Engineers.
- Who is going to actually work out ways to pouring concrete to new heights? That’s Engineers.
- Who will figure out solutions on site to when machines have incorrectly constructed something? That’s Engineers.
You see, computers are here for us, to aid us and make our lives easier, but they are not replacing Engineers, we are still the ones that figure out the solutions to these problems, they just allow us to do what we want faster and more economical.
Wolfram Alpha – Ask about Engineering, test its knowledge
AutoCAD – Grab a student copy and see what you can design