Mechanical Systems

Shaft Drive

In a modern factory, nearly all of the machinery is powered by electric motors. It’s a clean* and almost silent way to make the machines run.** All well and good, but this is a post-1900 phenomenon. How did factories run in the nineteenth century? Shaft drive connected to steam engines. Steam engines, unlike electric motors, cannot be …

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Creeping Systemization

Broadway and 38th Street, cut open for construction of the BMT Broadway line. Note the collection of pipes and conduits. This New York Times article on the condition of our streets and our under-street infrastructure, Why Are New York’s Streets Always Under Construction?, is a good basic explanation of the topic. There’s an interesting sidelight …

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Clocks Now and Then

First, a truly amazing thesis project from a design student: a wooden clock that writes the time. Bad jokes aside, the big difference between structural engineering and mechanical engineering is that structural engineers working on buildings assume the objects they study are not moving (static) or move slowly enough that the effects of movement can be …

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Not Just Structure: The String Section

We occasionally deal with steel cable in our repair designs, and we deal with steel wire as slab reinforcing in various archaic floor systems. This is neither of those: That’s what a grid looks like in a  working theater. Some more-or-less obscure terminology: a flyloft is the volume of space above a theater stage (and hidden …

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Not Just Structure

The vast majority of these posts have focussed on structural details and failures, and most of the rest have been about architecture. There are other pieces of buildings, of course: That’s the front of an abandoned boiler Mona came across during a site visit. A cast-iron front and doors, and full of pipe…these things tend …

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