Questions, questions, questions
Recently readers have been chock-full of questions. They want to know if daytime running lights consume too much gas and if an all-metal electric guitar presents a shock hazard. They also are curious as to why some older cars get better gas mileage than some brand-spanking new ones.

We’re here to help?
Your editorial (“How legislators discourage manufacturing,” Dec. 11) is a continuation of the discussions on the loss of manufacturing in the U.S. Unfortunately many believe the U.S. will be all right if we morph into a service-based economy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A comprehensive plan to rejuvenate manufacturing in the U.S. is needed and, in fact, is long overdue. Unfortunately I can’t think of what entity would or could lead such an undertaking. Our legislators and politicians would be the last on my list to be involved. Just look at what has been done with the bailout of the financial institutions. They’ve essentially thrown money at firms with the best connections and lobbyists with no accountability attached.

Bruce B. Meyers

Turn off the lights?
I’ve been reading letters in your magazine regarding alternative energy sources, and it brings to mind my failed attempts to estimate what has to be a monumental waste of fuel. Some years ago, we were all encouraged to drive with our headlights on for safety, probably an offshoot of the headlights-on policy in highway work zones. Now many cars are made that immediately turn on the headlights and you have to intentionally turn them off — if you can. It seems that if all cars are operated with headlights on, no one will pay attention to them unless they are the über-bright halogens that blind oncoming drivers. How much fuel economy is sacrificed to burn these lights, and how many gallons of fuel a day are wasted by generating the power for this?

Jim Grolemund

Are engineers still in demand?
This question was posed to MACHINE DESIGN group members on Linkedin. All readers are invited to join that group and participate in future discussions. Here are some replies:

I cannot comment on all industries and market segments, but I do know that finding mechanical and electrical engineers experienced in heavy-machinery design is becoming increasingly difficult because that industry has moved almost entirely overseas. When we do hire now, we look for new engineering graduates and train them from the ground up.

Nicholas Grebe

For one to give a valid opinion, you must look at what is happening worldwide. Despite financial problems in developed nations, emerging countries are still building their infrastructure and now have some cash to spend. Therefore, the center points of demand for new engineers may have changed to those places — Asia, Africa, and possibly Latin America.

Vincent Marini

A shocking guitar?
While I applaud new attempts at rethinking conventional items, the aluminum guitar seems like a dead end (“Manufacturing is a high note for aluminum guitar maker,” Nov. 20). First, an archtop guitar requires the resonance of wood to generate the proper timbre (tone). Even laminated-wood guitar tops sacrifice tone. And second, the metal body could be a safety hazard. It could make any guitar surface the musician touches an exposed electr i - cal conductor. Few guitars have grounded strings for that reason. And most older guitar amps were never grounded. Many do not even have a polarized two-prong plug.

Every ungrounded electrical outlet is a liability. An incorrectly wired electrical outlet almost got me many years ago and since then I check every outlet I plug into with a portable ground tester. The general public or user does not understand these issues. I believe this is an accident waiting to happen.

From the Web

The Rickenbacker musical instrument company made the first “electric guitar” almost 100 years ago. It was actually a “lap-steel” guitar commonly used today in country-western music and was made out of solid aluminum. Over the years. I believe they have sold many hundreds of these. With that in mind, and the fact that no electrical- shock accidents have ever been reported from people playing aluminum guitars, leads me to believe there is no potential danger in playing one these instruments.

However, Normandy Aluminum guitars should be treated like any other electrical appliance with respect to possible shock hazards in wet environments. More information on electrical hazards and safety precautions relevant to guitars in general can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/6wzkz. — Normandy Guitars

You call this fuel economy?
I find the rated fuel efficiency of the newest hybrids quite disappointing. I get 38 to 42 mpg out of my ‘87 Honda Civic and 23 to 25 mpg from my ‘94 Olds van, both without regenerative braking, superlight materials, or expensive battery packs. I use a light touch during acceleration, avoid passing, try to anticipate red and green lights to avoid braking, inflate tires to 32 or 36 psi, avoid using air conditioning (even in Texas), keep speeds below 66 mph even on freeways, and have no ego tied to being first or fast.

And I’m still waiting for microprocessor- controlled traffic lights that minimize unneeded braking and idling if there’s no cross traffic.

Arthur Port

I hear what you’re saying. My ‘89 Ford Probe routinely got 28 to 30 mpg. After 230,000+ miles, I replaced it with a 2005 Taurus that gets only 20 to 22 mpg. Yet it’s a smaller car with just a slightly larger size engine.

The difference between pre-2000 vehicles and those sold today are the environmental controls and safety features needed to meet federal and state antipollution and safety regulations. Modern antipollution equipment can easily rob 20% or more from gas mileage. When coupled with heavier vehicles with more metal for crash-safety zones, gas mileage suffers.

As an engineer, you know engineering is all about trade-offs. The demand for cleaner and safer cars apparently trumps gas mileage. That’s one of the reasons I like the new hybrids. They reduce emissions below legislative levels while still bettering pre-2000 gas mileage figures. — Bob Repas