Novel technologies have long been a disruptive force within the world of engineering.
Historically, the profession has been eager to adopt any new tool, material, concept, or device that enabled them to create structures and systems that were previously impossible, or at the very least, impractical to build.
But, in the last two decades, the emergence of digital technologies has had a particularly transformative impact, fundamentally changing the ways engineers design, build, and test new products, and structures.
And, today, we’ll discuss five technologies that have contributed to this industry sea change.
#1 CAD Technology
Traditionally, drafting was conducted manually. Hand drawing renderings was painstaking work that required intensive training and left little flexibility for alterations, especially in regards to late-stage changes.
But the development of Computer-aided design (CAD) and digital simulation tools have enabled engineers to create highly detailed digital models of a structure in a fraction of the time. This has optimized the design process, making it more efficient and accurate.
With CAD, engineers can:
Visualize their designs in 3D – This makes it easier to spot potential problems or incorporate changes into the design before it’s built.
Collaborate – CAD files can be instantly shared between team members and stakeholders and worked on or edited simultaneously in real-time.
Test – Engineers can test designs using simulation tools that allow them to gauge how the structure would behave under different loads, conditions, and forces.
Reusable models – CAD allows you to save designs or reuse standard elements in concepts across various engineering projects.
Overall, CAD technology has enhanced the design process for structural engineers, making it more accurate, efficient, and agile. As a result, it has become an indispensable tool engineers can leverage to design safe, reliable, and cost-effective structures.
You need the right tool for the right job. And, increasingly, drones have made their mark as the tool for surveying, inspection, and data collection.
These technologically sophisticated, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are equipped with powerful sensors and cameras that can capture data and high-resolution video and images—all of which can prove invaluable to engineers working on the project. Also, it reduces the risk of injury to workers who might otherwise have to hazard such locations themselves.
To that end, drones are especially useful for reaching remote spots, such as wetlands, swamps, forests, or mountainous areas, as well as monitoring hazardous environments like an oil and gas facility.
Types of engineering projects that drones can enhance include:
Building & Roof Inspection
Culvert & Bridge Inspections
Park and Open Space Aerial Imagery
Streambank & Steep Slope Access
Water Tank & Standpipe Inspection
#3 Advanced Materials
Engineers are constantly on the lookout for materials that are stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more durable than existing ones. And, over the last three decades, researchers have developed and discovered advanced materials (AdMs)—new types of steel, concrete, and composites—that exhibit novel or enhanced capabilities, which can be used to develop more capable structures.
For instance, high-strength steel alloys can be used for a bridge that spans longer distances. Such alloys can withstand higher loads and stresses than their traditional steel counterparts, allowing engineers to design and build more efficient and resilient structures.
#4 AI and Big Data
Artificial intelligence can be applied to dozens of civil engineering applications, ranging from construction management to hydraulic optimization.
For instance, with enough data and the assistance of AI and machine learning, engineers can identify patterns, make predictions, or discover unknown correlations especially as it pertains to structural risk and safety. Equipped with these tools, civil engineers are better prepared to assess the impact of a storm, major disaster, or freak accident.
Common uses for AI in civil engineering include:
Better building design
Overcome costs/schedule overrun
On-site smart construction
Risk identification and mitigation
The usage of sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices is also transforming the engineering industry.
Sensors can be strategically placed to collect data from structures and equipment in real time. This enables engineers to remotely monitor performance and flag potential issues before they can pose a serious risk.
IoT technologies are invaluable data-gathering tools that empower engineers to analyze and optimize a structure’s performance, making it easier and cheaper to operate and maintain.
Embracing Technology with MFS Engineering
The impact of technology on the field of engineering is significant and far-reaching, completely altering the way engineers work and the objects they design.
And we have only barely scratched the surface of their potential applications and capabilities. As technology keeps evolving, there’s little doubt digitalism will continue to shape the engineering industry.
At MFS Engineers and Surveyors, we have fully embraced the technological revolution. We seek to implement novel technologies in everything we do so that our projects are safer, greener, and more cost-effective and resilient than ever before.
To discover more about our modern engineering services, contact our team today.