As a boy, I could never figure out why my father kept tape around for use on ducks. It was years before I discovered my error. But then again, who ever uses it on ductwork?
I recently returned from a two week holiday down under, in beautiful Australia. And fortunately for me I packed a roll of duct tape—purple in this case—which I ended up having to use on two different occasions to repair luggage. Also saw a bloke with a t-shirt that read, “I can fix anything with duct tape.” Them Aussies are smart ducks.
We’ve used duct tape on prototypes as well in the lab, as strange as that may sound. For one project, a proof of concept design that involved an antenna, we cut a hole in the back of the metal enclosure; inserted the antenna mounted to a piece of fiberboard; then used duct tape (white, to match the painted metal) to both hold the antenna and hide our craftsmanship, or lack thereof. On another occasion we helped a customer mock up a flexible product using a loose spring wrapped in duct tape (gray in this instance). For more on creative prototyping see our blog on the topic.
The electronics analog to duct tape is copper foil, which is used in prototypes in a surprising percentage of all new product designs for EMI or low noise circuits. It is (almost) always designed out before true volume production, but an all too large percentage of new products use it in low volumes and during ramps. I’ve even used it for optical blocking—it’s cheap, reliable, readily available and hey, it blocks light.
In either case a useful tool in an engineer’s toolbox, not to be misused but indispensable at the right point and time. Good for fixing luggage too.