Monday, January 5, 2015

Waterjetting 29a - Looking Backward and Forward

The great advantage in teaching the same academic course each year for a relatively long period of time was that, after a while, it became easier to look at the contents of each individual lecture, and then adjust the material to fit the changes in what we knew since the lecture had last been given. In many fields of study the basic knowledge has been around for many years, and so there is not that much change in the content each year, rather one tries to find better ways of getting the information from one side of the lectern to the other.

Over the period that I was an active academic this latter case was never really true for the class I taught in Waterjet Technology and Use. Each year, as I prepared the material some of the information in almost every lecture had changed or been added to, and so the material was largely redone. This was particularly true when students wanted to take the course through distance learning – where the lectures were pre-taped ahead of time, and then sent out on disc, or downloaded from the campus servers.

The changed information came from a number of places, some came from research that was being carried out in our laboratories, or from colleagues we were working with. But the majority of the new material came from conferences that were run every year, the papers given there and also those articles and papers that appeared in the technical journals and magazines. And, not to be completely neglected, it was often possible to get quite a bit of new information from just wandering around the trade shows and chatting to those in the booths and their visitors. Technical papers themselves only tell part of the story. The information has typically to be compressed into a paper that has to be presented in about 20 minutes, and must fit within a very restricted page limit (typically 10) in the conference proceedings. Getting to ask questions in the presentation, and then chatting with the folks that did the work afterwards (particularly in a more convivial place) meant that a much better idea could be grasped as to the real meaning and usefulness of the work.

The results of those meetings would often only change one or two slides in a class presentation that typically contained about 40, but the class itself could, as with this site, only cover topics with relatively broad brush strokes, because only one or two of those in the class (or current readers) might, for example, be interested in the use of waterjets in spinal surgery. Time for greater discussion was/is therefore limited. Further the information in the papers was of only limited availability to students since in many cases my library held the only copy of the information within a couple of hundred miles or more.

However the great advantage that is increasingly here today is that different organizations are not only putting their current conference proceedings on the Internet, but are also going back and publishing the earlier conference proceedings through the same channels. For example the entire set of proceedings of the biennial U.S. Waterjet Conferences are available for download. The older ones can be found on the WJTA site while the last three (since this year’s conference is not until November) can be found at the WJTA-IMCA site.

This means that, for example, those of us who may, back in 2007, not been that interested in the removal of rust and the use of high-pressure waterjets to clean surfaces for recoating, can now go back and read the excellent review and discussion paper that Dr. Lydia Frenzel gave back then. This then provides a background for the paper that she gave on "How to Inspect for Flash Rust" in 2009, as well as the description of a Chinese technique for rust removal given in the same venue. This was followed by an update in 2011 and then an explanation in 2013 as to why it has been so difficult to write standards for the use of waterjetting in the coatings removal and surface preparation industry.

This relatively simple illustration tries to show how, with access through the web, it is now easier to track developments of technology, and through the insights provided in those papers, to understand some of the underlying reasons why technology has evolved the way that it has.

The older conferences on the technology are those run, also on a two-year schedule, by the BHR Group with meetings being held mainly, although not exclusively, in Europe. These alternate with the American Meetings, so that the last BHR Conference was held in September 2014 in Haarlem in the Netherlands. These proceedings, although available on CD for over a decade, are not available on the web, and some of the earlier proceedings have gone out of print. Papers are thus somewhat more difficult to find, although I do retain copies of all of these up to 2010.

It is possible, in some cases, to find those earlier papers, where the authors are known. Unfortunately many of the earlier papers, which provided more of the basic reasons why certain steps were taken (and some approaches that did not work) are not that simple to find where the authors (who often worked on this as part of a program of graduate study) moved on into other fields.

I make mention of this in part to encourage folk to attend these professional technical meetings, since it provides one of the few places where one can meet other folk working in the field, and share experiences and knowledge. But also to indicate that there will be a slight change in emphasis in some of the posts from now on, to recognize that there is now a way that one can trace (as I tried to show with the very short example of Dr. Franzel’s work) how some aspects of the technology evolved and why. Thus some of the posts that will follow, over the course of this year, will try and link sequential papers showing how some of the ideas in the technology have evolved over the years.

And may I wish everyone a Happy, Prosperous and Successful Year!

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