For some while I’ve been meaning to write about Professor John Draper’s last lecture as a Dassault employee. Given that it was in June last year I’d better get on with it.
So it’s probably quite well known that John Draper was the founder of Safe Technologies, and that after many years as an independent company fe-safe relatively recently became a part of the SIMULIA family. As time moves inexorably on, Science in the Age of Experience in Boston last year was the event chosen to mark the Professor’s retirement. There was the usual on stage presentation, but more importantly for me, a general lecture on fatigue and durability was also on the agenda.
Some little while before the stated kick-off the room started to fill up, and by the time the lecture started even standing room was at something of a premium. Eventually two small crowds formed in the corridors around the still open doors. This, ladies and gentlemen, was a lecture on fatigue theory, and I probably don’t have to say that this specialist form of entertainment isn’t generally known as a crowd puller.
Anyone who has seen one of my much less vaunted talks knows that for me historical context is very important when it comes to understanding a technology, its development, and what drove that development. Draper didn’t disappoint; lots of historical information on the development of fatigue theories, which obviously, given the speaker and the event, culminated in an explanation of the theoretical basis of fe-safe. And in addition to the fatigue theory and historical context there was a good deal of data on the cost of premature component failure.
Very early in their technical careers most engineers learn that the big cause of component failure isn’t catastrophic collapse or permanent deformation; its fatigue, but it’s all too easy to lose a grip on the actual scale of the issue. The talk highlighted just how significant a problem premature fracture is.
I wish there was a video of the talk. I’d make it compulsory viewing on all entry level FEA courses, possibly for all engineering students as well. Not surprising, then, that the valedictory delivery of it drew something of a crowd. I’m just glad I was there – sometimes it takes a real expert in a field to explain the basics properly. And needless to say without the basics in place building the bridge between researchers and designers will always be a work in progress.
It is fair to say that this bridge is heading towards completion, and if it’s not completed already, products like fe-safe are certainly helping the project along. The issue, as with so many other simulation technologies, isn’t so much the lack of a bridge, it’s the lack of traffic.