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I was ruminating over A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. In the book, a trained American engineer goes back in time and creates guns. The book itself predates tanks, but one could imagine shoddy homemade technicals rolling around in medieval England.

Question is: is that possible? Let's imagine we have the full support of an entire kingdom, and we're working purely from memory. We still have bad quality steel, primitive tools, and no CAD. Can we make an engine at all, even a terribly leaky one?

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  • $\begingroup$ CAD only became available in the 1980s. Until then, everything was drawn on paper - that's do big deal. All the space craft for the US Mercury, Gemini & Apollo programs were design using pencil & paper & they still managed to get six craft, with their human occupants, to land safely on the Moon! Besides, the ancient Egyptian built the pyramids without CAD, likewise the ancient Greeks & Romans with their magnificent buildings. CAD is not a requirement for an imagination & the ability the envisage something. You just need the ability to think in 3D. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Aug 26 '18 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ Bearing materials were a major problem until mid 20th century. So your tank would have 100% exposed moving parts and require small infantry detachment whose job would be to walk along beside the thing an grease it with lard continuously. Perhaps a better use would be retrofitting mills. King Henry VIII tasked the newly-formed Royal Society to fix the country's windmills so he could better provision an invasion army. Several hundred patents ensued. A motor would have suited this endeavor very well. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 26 '18 at 15:30
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Yes. The principle of the steam engine was known already in the 16th century. Their problem was that they had a terrible efficiency, thus they were weak. James Watt's invention was not the steam engine, but that he used first the condensating water steam to convert heat to mechanical energy.

CAD significantly improves the engineering work, but it is not really needed for building engines (consider, for example, the cathedrals - they were built purely on experimental knowledge).

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    $\begingroup$ CAD mostly makes it cheaper to do changes and today also analysis. But change speed is critical. I work with a person who used to be a draftsman for a train company and he basically said that his day was draw a part, cross it over with a red pen and then start over. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Aug 26 '18 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ Hero's steam engine (aeolipile) was around before the 16th C... But it is the knowledge of HOW to transport / convert / employ the energy that sometimes takes generations... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 26 '18 at 10:21
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The casting and forging are two ancient technics to deform metals. Even these days, manufacturers still make use of casting to form engine blocks. For other parts, usually smaller than engine blocks and for large series man invented (3000 B.C in southwest Asai) the 'Investment casting' which was a high precision method to manufacture parts (metals). As peterh pointed, CAD gives us an insight into more complex mechanical structures.

More than 4000 B.C man found out, how to form gold into desire forms by striking on its surface, so the forging born.

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