Free Lessons From Airbus A380 Video Essay Example
Watching the documentary for Airbus 380 (National Geographic, 2014), there are a lot of things to be learned.
The first lesson is the influence of engineers on the society. Engineers play a very critical role in the society. At any given time, people are in search of better ways of living. Be it traveling, communicating, or manufacturing, engineers are relied upon to offer solutions. Take for example a case of moving long distances. People need to travel using faster, safer, convenient, and affordable means. Even after coming up with an aircraft to offer tis solution, challenges still abound. For example, air volumes of passengers keep on increasing and the current planes may not be in a position to handle the enormous volumes. Engineers had to find a solution to help the society meet; to help move large number of people across continents safely, affordably, conveniently, comfortably, and faster. Such innovative dreams are only accomplished with the help of engineers.
Decisions made by engineers affect the environment in many ways. The materials they select for engineering, the fuel they choose to power engineers, the siting of manufacturing plants, the noise generated by the equipment they manufacture, and so forth. A choice to use harmful materials like asbestos can result in environmental pollution. Design of engines that are not efficient leads to consumption of excess fuel. If the fuel is fossil-based like oil, it leads to heavy consumption of oil and finally heavy emissions of carbon that has been associated with global warming and climate change. Engineers can choose sources of power such as biodiesel in favor of petroleum to help in conserving the environment. Siting of manufacturing plants in sensitive ecosystems can endanger rare species. Choice of manufacturing site of an infrastructure like an airport can affect the people living in the neighborhood. Heavy vehicles or aircrafts consume a lot of fuel. Engineers find a solution to this problem by designing lighter aircraft or vehicles. Building of lighter aircraft requires selection of lighter but stronger engineering materials.
Engineers work involved a lot of uncertainties. This is common for things that has never been done before. Like building the A380. Building the A380 required the use of larger parts like wings, engines, and fuselage and many other parts that were larger than that has been previously manufactured. The engineers relies on testing and analyzing error to learn about the behavior of components when failure occurs or when subjected to severe conditions of loading. Take for example the case of testing the Rolls Royce engine for blade failure to analyze likely impact. Once a plane is built, there is no room for error. It is therefore the work of engineers to perform thousands of trial and errors analysis and simulations in order to understand various phenomena.
In a typical engineering job like building of the airbus A380, there is more communication and collaboration involved among the engineers working on the project. There could be thousands of components to be supplied from various destinations across the globe involving many companies. Each company employs engineers to work on a particular component or part. Successful delivery of a product like the A380 requires collaboration and strong communication network for all engineers involved. Teamwork is the key element. No individual or group of engineers can afford to isolate themselves from the whole team. Everyone’s input is crucial to the overall success and therefore all must collaborate and communicate frequently.
Solving an emerging problem begins with search for a new knowledge. It requires commitment by researchers to find better ways of approaches. At times, it requires a multidisciplinary approach of research where many researchers are trying to find a solution to specific problem aimed at addressing a common or diverse but related problems. For example, the problem could be to transport more passengers, faster, safer, conveniently, and at an affordable cost. It can as well include a bit of luxury. To succeed in all this, it might require a new way of approach. Materials engineers would research high performance materials, some engineers would specialize in researching the best alternative fuels, others would research on improving engine efficiency while some would concentrate on aerodynamics. Still others would be involved in machine designs used to build the aircraft. No meaningful solution can be achieved without conducting research.
Innovation is one way of finding solutions to problems. However, there are challenges associated with engineering projects. The idea could be to reduce the time travelled between two destinations such as the case of Concorde where it reduced the time of travel from London to New York from 8 hours to just 3 hours. They flew at supersonic speed that generated a lot of noise. The innovation was good in that it resulted in saving time but people argued it was creating environmental pollution. Certain innovations are good, but sometimes it becomes very costly to implement them or the customers would not afford to pay the extra cost. Engineers can come up with innovate ideas but activists can claim such solutions are bad to the society. Such issues tend to suppress innovation.
One of the most powerful tools available to engineers are the modelling and simulation tools. They offer cost-effective approaches for studying many designs before they are actualized. Modeling and simulation tools include softwares such as AutoCAD/CAM, solidworks, Matlab and so forth. There are also tools built for simulation of phenomena like flight where flight simulators are used to train future pilots. It is cost-effective way since using a real aircraft like A380 proves to be very uneconomical especially in a case where many pilots have to be trained. On the other hand, softwares offer a cost-effective approach since rather than building a component and testing it, it is analyzed before it is build; otherwise it would prove time-consuming and costly to build components or complete parts for analysis.
One of the toughest challenges to engineers is management of uncertainty. The society might want a solution to a problem that has never been attempted before. In such a scenario, an engineer has challenge in trying to find out how parts, components, systems, and complete units would behave. To talk uncertainity, engineers do research and simulate events before they contemplate on building complete units. A typical software can contain hundreds of ways of simulating various circumstances that can happen to an airborne vehicle. It could be turbulence, engine failure, fire outbreak, storms, high temperatures, control error, and so forth. The construction of the A380 provided the best case example. So many uncertainties prevailed. This included the finding of an optimum aerodynamic design, construction of a very large wing, use of light weight components, lifting the heaviest weight ever, managing one of the most complex logistical network, and so forth. So many questions arising out of uncertainties are usually common to an engineer.
National Geographic. 2014. Airbus A380 - Mega Structures Documentary. [Online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyA1D3ouOxo [accessed 14 April 2015]