As objects in our environment (like cars, ATMs, and phones) have grown lighter and quieter scientists have been carefully engineering their sounds so that they continue to sound like we expect them to. Read on to see how.
At the design blog Humans Invent they share five interesting ways that the world around us is being engineered so it sounds the way we expect it to. They start with the example of the car door. Years ago cars were almost entirely steel, the doors were weighty, and when you slammed them it sounded like one big hunk of steel locking into another big hunk of steel (which, in fact, it was). Newer cars are lighter but people still crave that substantial clunk. Humans Invent highlights the effect of consumer desire:
A car door is essentially a hollow shell with parts placed inside it. Without careful design the door frame amplifies the rattling of mechanisms inside. Car companies know that if buyers don’t get a satisfying thud when they close the door, it dents their confidence in the entire vehicle.
To produce the ideal clunk, car doors are designed to minimise the amount of high frequencies produced (we associate them with fragility and weakness) and emphasise low, bass-heavy frequencies that suggest solidity.
The effect is achieved in a range of different ways – car companies have piled up hundreds of patents on the subject – but usually involves some form of dampener fitted in the door cavity. Locking mechanisms are also tailored to produce the right sort of click and the way seals make contact is precisely controlled.
On average it takes 1.8 seconds to close a car door but in that time you’re witnessing a strange kind of symphony composed by engineers and designers whose goal is to reassure you that its rock solid.
They mention lock mechanisms, something you may never have thought about. A friend of mine had a Ford Focus some years ago and that particular model had electric locks that, instead of giving a satisfying thunk or solid click, made this horrible gates-of-the-prison-buzzing sound that was completely unnerving.
Hit up the link below to see how sounds are engineered for car doors, electric motors, ATM machines, and more.
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 06/21/11