If you’re not a comic book or super hero fan, today might have seemed just like any other day. However, for those die hard fans of vigilantes, super heroes, protectors of the innocent; today marks a significant day in history; 75 years of Batman.
That’s right, Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, The Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight, The Batman, has been using his technician know-how and martial arts prowess since 1939. And you may be wondering, why are you reading about this on a SOLIDWORKS Blog Post? Let’s start with an easier question, one I think all engineers can relate to. Often within circles of geeky friends, the question inevitably rises, ‘who is your favorite super hero’. Personally, my immediate response is always, ‘either Batman or Ironman’. This is usually followed by odd looks from the person asking the question. Certainly, any other super hero has much greater powers than these two heroes? But do they? The interesting thing about Batman (and Ironman) is besides being extremely wealthy, they both are incredible engineers and industrialists. Think about that for a moment. Neither of these heroes have any supernatural abilities, just a desire to solve problems and use engineering as a solution. Once I explain myself, I usually like to followup and mention that both Wayne Enterprises (and Stark Industries) most likely use SOLIDWORKS as a result!
With that, I thought today it would be fun to look at few of my favorite gadgets that Batman uses in his crime fighting efforts. In doing so I spent some time looking over the last 75 years of tools, gadgets, and iconic vehicles used by Batman, and some of the complex engineering Wayne Enterprises incorporated into the designs.
Batarang: This device is one of the most iconic devices employed by the Caped Crusader. The Batarang has had many different forms from a simple yet effective boomerang, to remote controlled and GPS guided versions. Though the basics of the design are simple, the shape of the Batarang might make it less than ideal as a traditional boomerang. If you look at traditional Australian boomerangs, they follow the design of an airfoil, ultimately allowing for flight. However, the Batarang traditionally has a somewhat sharp leading edge for subduing foes. Once you start to consider some of the more modern variations of this device, which incorporate electronics for remote and GPS controlled guidance, this story changes. Today, aircraft such as the B2 Stealth Bomber and the F-117 Stealth Fighter would be unflyable by traditional human piloting skills. However, with the aid of fly-by-wire and computer controlled assistance, the computer makes 1,000’s of small adjustments a minute, constantly keeping the aircraft stable. So, it might be safe to assume that the Batarang has found a way to package all of these electronics into a very small form factor. I am going to assume that they used SOLIDWORKS Electrical and CircuitWorks to accomplish such a feat!
Grappling Gun: This practical device makes appearance throughout history as well, providing Batman with vertical ascension faster than any would be villain could catch him. The Grappling Gun is one of my all time favorite devices. In fact, an alternative design even makes an appearance in today’s Technical Blog post where I show how to use gear mates to build the gear-train in the device.
But as for the design of this device, it’s fairly straight forward, and many variants are actually employed today, albeit not in such a small form factor. The biggest challenges with this device is incorporating a motor capable of lifting not just Batman himself, but quite often rescuing Vicki Vale from danger. The torque requirements for this small motor would have to be pretty extreme, and in this case, I’m certain that they would have used SOLIDWORKS Simulation tools to calculate the loads and stresses to size and design this motor.
Utility Belt: The all purpose tool used by Batman over the years. Not so much a single tool itself, but a very compact storage device for my of Batman’s other gadgets, most notably a fan favorite being the infamous Shark Repellent from the 1966 Batman Movie! This device is actually quite a practical device used by nearly every law enforcement agency around the world, although, most don’t carry around Shark Repellent. Utility belts come in a variety of sizes and purposes, such as mentioned, law enforcement, construction workers, hiking enthusiasts and many more. Most today employ attachment mechanisms to allow for complete customization, and I would guess that the ‘hidden’ compartments within the Batman Utility belt are equally customizable. The challenge faced with this gadget is obviously packaging everything into such a small space. The perfect solution for this was most likely SOLIDWORKS design software, and heavy usage of Configurations for the many different varieties seen throughout the years.
Tumbler: There are nearly as many vehicles parked in the Batcave as there are movies about Batman. However, few get people as excited as the Tumbler which made it’s appearance in The Dark Knight. This vehicle could perform maneuvers reminiscent of a fighter jet, while being a complete land vehicle. The concept behind this has even had documentaries and behind the scenes series dedicated to it. So when determining if this vehicle could exists, I think the answer is, it almost does. SOLIDWORKS customer and Crowd Source Design project Local Motors developed the Rally Fighter years ago, which I would have to say comes pretty close.
Re-breather: This device featured in many of the older Batman films is actually quite a practice device employed today. As an aid to scuba divers, a re-breather, or a scrubber as they’re sometimes referred to, absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and is ‘recycled’. This gas then has any remaining oxygen extracted providing prolonged submersion over that of a typical SCUBA device. A good example of this is the Seaquest Air Source from Aqua Lung another SOLIDWORKS Customer.
But again, Batman with his engineering know-how, as managed to minimized the overall design of this device to be completely portable. To ensure he there is no lack of oxygen when pursuing villains underwater like in this iconic fight scene, you can be confident that he used SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation to ensure proper airflow and circulation through the device.
Eyes and Ears: Batman has always had the need to communicate with others. Whether this be with Boy Wonder Robin, his butler Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, or in recent years Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises. The method of his communication is integrated discretely into the hood that Batman wears to conceal his identity. Likewise, the hood also provides an array of optical enhancement capabilities that allow The Dark Knight to see in…well the dark of night. This incorporates an array of night vision, infrared and optical tracking.
Like many of the other gadgets discussed here, most of these capabilities can be found today, though in much larger and sometimes unwieldy variants. What’s makes Batman’s versions so unique, is it’s ability to track information from his surroundings and provide feedback based on these results. Batman can then even relay this information on to the Batcave’s super computer tended by one of his crime fighting assistants where the information can be further processed. This is ultimately a big buzz word today in the world of Engineering; The Internet of Things. Companies today are incorporating more ‘connected’ aspects into their designs. Take Nest for example, a SOLIDWORKS customer. They have developed a series of home devices that are are perpetually aware of their surroundings, constantly evaluating their environment and making efficient decisions. What makes Internet of Things devices so unique is their ability to both collect data from their surroundings, take that information and make decisions and provide useful feedback to the end user. In the case of Nest their thermostat monitors movement around the area, decisions the user makes about temperature, and ‘learns’ when people are home, when to turn the temperature down, and up, to save money on utility bills.
Batman’s device on the other hand has been used to gather audio and visual information and provide him with useful decision making feedback. For a design such as this, you would expect a wide range of SOLIDWORKS products to be used in its design. From SOLIDWORKS design tools to get the fit, form and function, tools like CircuitWorks and SOLIDWORKS Electrical to develop the complicated electronics and finally tools like SOLIDWORKS Simulation to ensure the design is rugged enough to take a ‘POW’ to the head.
We’ve only covered a handful of creative devices used by Batman and Boy Wonder over the years, and I’m sure many of you have your own favorites as well. Unfortunately there’s not enough time to cover all of them, but each and everyone of Batman’s tools could be considered an engineering marvel in its own right. So my question to you is, what is your favorite Batman gadget? Post your responses below!
If you happen to miss the link above, there’s another, more technical post I’ve created over here on the SOLIDWORKS Technical Blog. In this post I show how Batman, or rather ‘CADMAN’ in this case, might design the iconic Grapple Gun.