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Understanding the nature of design is essential to success in manufacturing. By looking at the evolution of some of the simplest engineered tools, one can gain insight into the process of how all devices, from eating utensils to complicated technologies such as supercomputers, change into forms well suited to their users' needs.(KACMAR,1991)

Consider the knife and fork. Well into the seventeenth century one pointed knife sufficed, but diners eventually became more refined: It is said that Cardinal Richelieu's disgust with a dinner guest's habit of picking his teeth with the point prompted the development of knives blunted at the tip (A). This presented a problem in spearing food, and so the two-tined fork evolved to complement the blunted knife. But this fork had shortcomings as tableware.(Galdo,1990) Small, loose pieces of food fell through the space between the tines, and the ease with which speared meat could be removed from two tines made its retention on the fork difficult. One answer was to make the knife tip bulbous and curved, so that food could be heaped onto it and delivered easily to the mouth (B). Another solution was to introduce more tines to the fork (C).


Of course, Oriental diners were no more pleased with sticky fingers than Europeans were before they started using knives. The development of chopsticks demonstrates different and culture-specific solutions to the same design problem. Form does not follow function; form follows the failure of existing things to function as well as an inventor can imagine. And imagination breeds diversity. Specialized tools of the crafts and trades have proliferated throughout history in part because different craftspeople have evolved various solutions while working with devices perceived to limit achievement or efficiency. For example, in De Re Metallica, a 1556 monograph on mining, Georgius Agricola systematically recorded the methods and tools of that trade.(Sutcliffe,1988) One illustration shows a silversmith at work on raw metal, and into a nearby stump is stuck what looks like a pair of shears, one of its handles bent into an L shape (D). The tool's modified form provided leverage and enabled the silversmith to easily cut a piece of metal without a helper.(Lansdale,1990)

Hammers have been a frequent focus in studies of technological form (Galdo,1990). The Hammer: The King of Tools, a 1989 book by Ron Baird and Dan Comerford, contains more than 100 pages of photographs, typically showing 10 or 12 styles per page, of odd and unusual hammers and hammer heads. While most hammer handles are as unremarkable as the one shown at the left of Fig.G, which depicts two hammers patented in 1898, some, such as the one on the right, have distinctive handles intended to perform specialized functions, such as chiseling or use as a crowbar.

Axe designs have also evolved in accord with various users. By 1700, some American-made axes looked modestly different from their European ancestors, in that they incorporated a poll--the blunt end of an axe head that projects from the back side of the handle ...
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