Exported to death

Your editorial in the recent issue (“On Your Mark, Get Set, Export,” Feb. 15) was absolutely correct. America is rapidly becoming a stratified society. We have a few extremely wealthy people, but most folks are struggling and reducing their standard of living. The middle class is being pushed downward because we let manufacturing jobs be exported to countries with lower labor costs. It’s pretty simple to see what has happened as one travels through decaying, former manufacturing hubs such as Flint, Bridgeport, Springfield, Akron, Detroit, and others.

The jobs that helped people put their kids through college have gone to countries such as China and Mexico. Doing that might have created short-term profits for U. S. firms, but many of those companies found that they, too, had been hurt because whole industries have disappeared as we taught others to make the products we invented. American firms are now essentially out of business, although their proud names still show up on poor-quality Chinese and Mexican products.

Foreign competitors, such as China and Japan, keep our products out by requiring long “approval” or “registration” processes that can take nine months or more. Even with free-trade agreements, these nontariff barriers prevent equal access to their markets. Now our President is negotiating more free-trade agreements with low-labor-cost countries such as Columbia and South Korea. This makes no sense.

We need a government that includes enough experienced business and manufacturing people in leadership positions. Then Washington might realize that an America without manufacturing cannot create the jobs needed to nurture a middle class.

Edward J. Goldman

Get your threads straight

I just read the article on threads (“Stripped Your Threads? It’s Easier Than You Think,” Jan. 13). It had some useful information in it and I learned some things I didn’t know. However, I did notice an error or two and some somewhat vague terminology that might confuse readers who just have basic knowledge of taps.

First, ASTM 1026 steel has 0.26% carbon, not 26%. (A regrettable typo — Ed.) And the authors seem off base when describing plug and spirals. They say plugs have “little or no lead-in and are used primarily for tapping blind holes,” and spirals have angled lead-in flutes that direct chips up and out the mouth of the hole. I believe the authors used the two terms to describe straight-fluted and right-hand spiral-fluted taps, respectively. However, the term “plug,” when applied to taps, describes the length of imperfect thread chamfer on the front of the tap, not the flute configuration. Plug taps have chamfer lengths of three to five threads, can be made in straight or spiral flutes and, especially in the case of straight-thread versions, are used primarily for thru or blind holes with room in the bottom of the drilled hole for chips that might end up there.

Spiral-fluted taps are used primarily in blind holes because they do indeed pull chips up and out of the hole. It is always best to specify them as “spiral fluted” instead of just “spiral,” however, because there is also a type of taps called “spiral pointed.” These taps have a notch in the front of the flutes which drives chips ahead of the tap and, for all practical purposes, are only used in thru holes where chips pushed ahead can exit without problems. The applications for spiral-fluted taps and spiral-pointed taps are diametrically opposed, so it is important to use the full descriptions.

None of this has any influence on the primary message of the article. I did notice from the graph that parts machined with the “spiral” taps lost strength faster at the largest oversize drill conditions than the “plug” taps did. My initial thought is that flute shape should not have much effect on this, but perhaps some other details of tap geometry explain it.

Bob Seider

Engineering’s downside

Engineering died a long time ago. It has since decomposed and its ashes have been blown away by the recent economic crash. Engineering might have been rewarding once, but to me it is a dead-end career. Looking back, enrolling in a mechanical-engineering program back in fall of ‘99 was the greatest mistake of my life. I graduated in 2003 and have worked in machine and product design. I’ve been working since 2004 and I have yet to earn a $50K salary. It’s laughable to think that my parents thought lawyers, doctors, and engineers were on the same level professionally.

In engineering school we were trained in the fundamentals of engineering, but these laws are disregarded on a daily basis in the name of the bottom line. Moreover, the subservient foreign workers, who lack any assertiveness in the workplace, tend to appeal to incompetent middle managers whose only goal is self-preservation.

I kick myself when I think back to my undergraduate days of hard-core studying. And to think my friends who studied IT and did half the work are now managers.

My advice to anyone listening is: Don’t go into engineering. It might sound impressive but you will be miserable and you won’t make any money. If you like numbers, pursue a career in finance or accounting; if you like technology, try IT.

Tim Anderson

We have an acronym we use a lot in our engineering departments, and that is NTPMTD. It stands for Non-Technical People Making Technical Decisions. It has become much more prevalent now that the bean counters are running more and more companies. Managers no longer work their way up through engineering. Instead our leaders are MBAs who have never done any engineering work in their lives, but seem to think they can direct a group of engineers. So now we have become hollowed-out shells of what we once were, engineering companies run by engineers.

J. Benjamin

Engineering is a dead-end career. And the real problem is that we no longer manufacture anything in this country. Therefore, we have little need for engineers. Most people assume we design products here and then make them in low-cost countries. This is no longer true. For instance there is not one PC manufacturer in this country that designs its computers in the U. S. Instead, they hire engineers in Asia to develop, design, manufacture, and oversee quality.

Lou Gerstein

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.