Countless objects surround us in our everyday lives. From the moment we get up in the morning to when we go to bed at night, we interact with and rely on various items. But have you ever looked closely at the things you use regularly and thought about what makes them work? When you understand the anatomy or inner workings of common objects, you gain an appreciation for the engineering, materials, and fasteners that hold our manufactured world together.
The furniture we use daily represents a triumph of design, material selection, and joinery. Take a standard wooden dining chair, for example. The legs need to be thick and strong enough to support weight, so we often construct them from hardwoods like oak, maple, or ash. The joints where the legs meet the seat frame must allow weight transfer while remaining rigid, so time-tested mortise and tenon joints secured with adhesives and screws maintain stability. The seat itself might feature a sheet of plywood bonded to a supporting framework along with comfy foam and fabric upholstery layers. And according to the good folk over at SPAX, the entire chair is likely held together with wood glue and furniture screws discreetly hidden from view.
The appliances found in our kitchens and laundry rooms represent complex assemblies of metals, plastics, electrical components, and hardware. For example, a top-loading clothes washing machine consists of a tub and basket made from stamped metal affixed to a sheet metal frame. The rear exterior features a molded plastic case concealing the motor, drive mechanism, control electronics, and wiring. The tub spins by way of a belt drive connected to the motor. An array of screws and bolts of various sizes holds all the internal components in alignment even during vigorous wash cycles. While we just toss in our dirty clothes without a second thought, the inner workings of our machines represent remarkable design efforts.
The laptops, phones, tablets, and other electronics we now take for granted derive from highly advanced manufacturing processes. Take a smartphone, for example. The sleek exterior belies the intricate interior components. The body features a metal or plastic frame housing the glass display, while the rear case is typically plastic or glass. Tiny screws secure these sections together to provide water resistance. Inside, the printed circuit board or PCB acts as the brains of the device with an incredibly complex set of densely packed chips and circuitry. And a compact, powerful lithium ion battery provides power. Miniaturization and robust interfacing between dozens of components makes these pocket computers possible.
Few machines equal the complexity of the modern automobile. Just peering under the hood reveals an overwhelming array of parts and components. Key elements include a steel frame to provide structural integrity. The engine and transmission contain thousands of pieces that work together to generate propulsion. The body comprises welded and stamped steel, aluminum, or composites arranged over the frame. Doors, hoods, trunk lids, and interior trim use special hinges, latches, and fasteners for easy access and smooth operation. Threaded fasteners like studs, bolts, screws, and nuts of all types hold the thousands of components together. Gaskets, O-rings, seals adhesives, and fittings join disparate materials to form a cohesive whole. When you consider everything happening under the sheet metal, it’s amazing your car gets you where you need to go!
We often take for granted the items surrounding us each day. But behind the scenes, even the most mundane objects represent minor miracles of engineering and construction. Our modern world is made possible by bringing together purpose-driven design and solid construction techniques to produce functional and lasting everyday items.