The Impact Of Engineering On Modern Life

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Impact Of Engineering On Modern Life

It’s easy to underestimate the impact that engineers have had on modern life, yet their contributions are everywhere. Engineering helped to develop the products we use, buildings we live in and transport we rely on. It has led to advancements in healthcare and the creation of new technologies that integrate seamlessly into daily life. 

While engineering can be seen in all facets of life, some of the greatest areas of focus are industry, communication, transportation, medicine, and construction. The products and services of these five sectors interact with our lives on a daily basis, so a deeper look at them can reveal some of the positive impacts engineering has on our contemporary lifestyles.

Industry

Within the industrial sector, engineers are tasked with designing and developing new products and procedures that solve a problem and meet economic and functionality criteria. In the past century, they have developed new manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, created new materials such as polycarbonate plastic and developed new ways of harnessing renewable energies including geothermal plants and flexible solar panels.

Industrial automation

Since the early 1900’s industrial automation has evolved from simple hydraulic or pneumatic machinery to the robots used in factories and manufacturing plants today. These robots are designed to complete tasks to a high level of precision and efficiency, with little to no intervention from humans. By developing these machines engineers have enabled humans to mass produce goods from food and household items to cars and aircraft components, all to a consistent standard.

Communication

The way we communicate has drastically changed over the past 100 years and that is largely due to technologies developed by engineers. Back in the 1920’s communication relied on radio, fixed telephones, and broadcast television. Today, the internet is one of the most common ways information is transmitted and communicated, often using smartphones, streaming platforms, and social media. 

Satellite internet

One of the most exciting recent developments in communication is the launch of the SpaceX Starlink. Using a satellite internet constellation, Starlink is able to provide high speed satellite internet to users across the world, including boats in the middle of oceans and homes in remote island nations such as Tonga. Moving forward engineers will continue to develop the systems and products used for this type of communication, as rivals such as Amazon Project Kuiper, OneWeb and Telestat look to launch their own satellite internet constellations.

Transportation

Transport has become an essential part of modern life, from the movement of individual people around their local area to the transfer of goods around the globe and the launch of outer space vehicles.

Travelling by land

On land there’s a considerable effort to make transport more sustainable by developing electric vehicles. There are many different engineering challenges that are being worked on in this area, including how to make batteries more efficient or smaller, how to make electric vehicles faster and how electric vehicles can be made more affordable for the average consumer. Remote and automated driving technology is already being used in the agricultural and mining industries, and self-driving cars are continuing to become more sophisticated with the aim of having them on the road in future.

Travelling by sea

Engineers in the marine industry are always looking to make ships, yachts and cruiseliners more efficient and streamlined for greater performance and comfort. There is a push towards developing inboard and outboard electric motors for pleasurecraft, which would make vessels more environmentally friendly by reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Challenges engineers face with this include mitigating the effects of the saltwater environment, improving battery life, decreasing charge time and for long range cruisers such as yachts, making sure the boat has a self-sustaining power system capable of supporting the motors.

Air travel

Aerospace engineers work on projects relating to aircraft, spacecraft, and satellites. They are part of the reason why we can safely jump on a plane for our next holiday, communicate through satellite systems like Starlink and tune into the news for the latest weather forecast. Something many people dream about is going into outer space and in the near future engineers might be able to make that dream a reality for the average person, with the development of spacecraft for commercial space tourism.

Medicine and Healthcare

Biomedical engineers work in parallel with doctors to develop technologies that can assist with improving patient outcomes in a range of healthcare areas including surgery, diagnostics, and prosthetics. They develop live saving and quality of life improving devices with some modern examples being surgery robots, bionic exoskeletons, medical imaging machines (e.g. MRI), transdermal patches and wearable medical devices such as insulin pumps, biosensors and ECG machines.

Nanotechnology

Another technology that biomedical engineers are working on, which may seem like it is straight out of the realms of science fiction, is nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is an area of science and engineering that involves using technology to manipulate objects that are less than 100 nanometres in size, including atoms and molecules. For some perspective, 1 nanometre is equivalent to 1 billionth of a metre, which is around 3-5 atoms wide. 100 nanometres is approximately the size of a virus. 

Bioengineers have been working on how to use nanotechnology to improve the way people are diagnosed and treated. Smart pills with nanotechnology, such as the Abilify MyCite, are used to monitor patients drug intake, stats, and symptoms. Arizona State University has developed a nanorobot that’s designed to deliver cancer medication directly into the tumour, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue unharmed. Nanofibers are being developed for use in a range of contexts, from wound care and surgical materials to artificial organs.

Construction

Engineers have played an essential part in the technological evolution of the construction industry, including the development of new materials, methods, machinery, and processes. They help to ensure humanities infrastructure is safe and economical while also addressing environmental concerns.

Use of modelling software

One development that has revolutionised the industry is the development and widespread implementation of Building Information Modelling (BIM). This software is used to create a digital representation of a construction project by inputting and managing data. This is then used during the engineering design process to make decisions about the construction of physical infrastructure projects, such as buildings, bridges, ports, tunnels, and utilities (e.g., gas or electricity). Using BIM became mainstream during the 2000’s and in 2013 it was included as an official international standard, ISO 16739.

Sustainability

With the global increase in concern for the environment has come a focus on sustainable building practices in the construction industry. Engineers have been tasked with finding new ways to make materials environmentally friendly, making buildings more energy efficient, designing ways to incorporate renewable energy technologies into designs, developing water recycling systems, and doing all this while keeping the build cost effective. Some of the most sustainable buildings from the last 20 years are Shanghai Tower (China), One Central Park (Australia), Suzlon One Earth (India), The Edge (Netherlands) and The Crystal (United Kingdom).

It should be evident by now that engineers have made invaluable contributions to our modern way of life. Looking forward to the future it will be interesting to see what advancements they make in the next decade, especially in the areas of space travel, medicine, robotics, sustainability, and artificial intelligence.

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