ChatGPT Tech Article

Case Study:  ChatGPT vs. Experienced Advice

How well can available AI write a technical-ish article?  With all the Buzz lately about AI writing papers for students, that question keeps popping through my head.  I see AI written articles around on the web and I wonder just how complete they are.  How well can ChatGPT write a tech article?  So, as I was writing an article for our sister site, Mechanical Elements, I decided to try an experiment.

The Article, "Bolting vs Welding for Trailer Frames" was nearly written.  (I often dabble with articles for months before they are ready to post.)  Anyway, I thought this topic has a lot of available information publicly available, so a good test.  How will a ChatGPT tech article on this trailer design topic stand up compared to experience?  Will all the information be correct?  How complete will it be?

That is how this experiment started.

The "AI versus Experience" Experiment

June 8, 2023.  Using ChatGPT, here is the question to start our experiment with a tech article.

ChatGPT Tech Article Test 1.

ChatGPT Test Question 1

Welding Versus Bolting: Choosing the Right Method for Building a Trailer Frame

When it comes to building a trailer frame, one of the crucial decisions you'll face is choosing the method of joining the structural components. Two commonly used techniques are welding and bolting, each with its distinct advantages and considerations. Let's explore the differences between welding and bolting to help you make an informed choice for your trailer construction.

Welding, the process of permanently fusing metal pieces together, offers several benefits. Welded joints are exceptionally strong, durable, and resistant to vibration, making them ideal for heavy-duty applications. Welding creates a continuous bond along the joint, enhancing the structural integrity of the trailer frame. It also eliminates the need for additional fasteners, reducing the risk of loosening or failure over time. Furthermore, welded connections are typically more compact and aesthetically pleasing, providing a sleeker appearance for the trailer.

On the other hand, bolting, the method of using nuts, bolts, and washers to secure components, has its own advantages. Bolting allows for easier disassembly and reassembly, making maintenance and repairs more convenient. It also provides greater flexibility during construction, enabling adjustments or modifications without the need for specialized tools or equipment. Bolting can be a preferred choice when designing modular trailer frames, allowing for easy component replacement or upgrade.

The decision between welding and bolting depends on various factors. If you're constructing a heavy-duty trailer that will endure constant stress and demands, welding is often the recommended choice due to its superior strength and rigidity. Welding is commonly used in commercial trailers, where the highest level of durability is required. Conversely, if you anticipate the need for future modifications or expect frequent disassembly, bolting offers greater flexibility.

It's worth noting that some hybrid approaches exist, combining both welding and bolting techniques. These methods leverage the benefits of each approach, utilizing welding for critical joints that demand strength and rigidity, while relying on bolting for areas that may require future adjustments.

Ultimately, the decision between welding and bolting when building a trailer frame depends on your specific needs, budget, and long-term considerations. Consulting with a professional trailer builder or engineer can provide valuable guidance tailored to your project requirements. By carefully evaluating the pros and cons of each method, you can make an informed choice that ensures a sturdy and reliable trailer frame for years to come.

That's pretty good, but have I given ChatGPT enough information?  Or too much information?

To see if more words and a more compressed format (bullets) would yield a more complete response, I requested this change, and got the following:

ChatGPT Tech Article Test 2.

ChatGPT Tech Article Question 2

Welding Versus Bolting: Choosing the Right Method for Building a Trailer Frame

When it comes to building a trailer frame, one of the crucial decisions you'll face is choosing the method of joining the structural components. Two commonly used techniques are welding and bolting, each with its distinct advantages and considerations. Let's explore the differences between welding and bolting to help you make an informed choice for your trailer construction.

Welding:

Advantages:

Exceptional strength and durability: Welded joints are known for their high strength, making them ideal for heavy-duty applications.
Vibration resistance: Welded connections offer excellent resistance to vibrations, ensuring the structural integrity of the trailer frame over time.
Compact and sleek: Welding creates a continuous bond along the joint, resulting in a more compact and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Elimination of additional fasteners: Welding eliminates the need for additional fasteners, reducing the risk of loosening or failure.

Disadvantages:

Permanent bond: Once welded, the joint becomes permanent, making it challenging to disassemble or make adjustments without specialized tools or equipment.
Time-consuming process: Welding requires careful preparation, including cleaning and preheating, and may involve multiple passes to ensure a strong and reliable joint.
Skilled labor required: Welding requires expertise and experience to ensure proper technique, which may increase labor costs.
Potential for distortion: The heat generated during welding can cause metal distortion or warping, requiring additional measures to maintain the desired shape and alignment.

Bolting:

Advantages:

Easy disassembly and reassembly: Bolting allows for straightforward disassembly and reassembly, making maintenance, repairs, or modifications more convenient.
Flexibility in construction: Bolting provides greater flexibility during the construction process, allowing for adjustments or modifications without the need for specialized tools.
Modular design possibilities: Bolting is suitable for designing modular trailer frames, enabling easy component replacement or upgrades.
Cost-effective: Bolting typically requires less specialized labor and equipment, which can result in cost savings during construction.

Disadvantages:

Reduced strength compared to welding: Bolted connections may not provide the same level of strength and rigidity as welded joints, which could be a concern for heavy-duty applications.
Potential for loosening: Over time, bolts may loosen due to vibrations or repeated stress, necessitating periodic checks and tightening.
More visible fasteners: Bolting involves the use of visible nuts, bolts, and washers, which may not provide the same sleek appearance as welded joints.
Increased risk of corrosion: Bolts and their corresponding holes can create areas where moisture can accumulate, leading to a higher risk of corrosion if proper measures are not taken.

Hybrid Approaches:

In some cases, hybrid approaches that combine both welding and bolting techniques can be utilized, leveraging the benefits of each method for specific joints or areas of the trailer frame.

Ultimately, the decision between welding and bolting when building a trailer frame depends on your specific needs, budget, and long-term considerations. Consulting with a professional trailer builder or engineer can provide valuable guidance tailored to your project requirements. By carefully evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each method, you can make an informed choice that ensures a sturdy and reliable trailer frame for years to come.

So what do you think?  How well do you think it did with the above 2 articles?

On first read, I was kind of impressed.  It has a fair amount of good information, and it's pretty diverse in the considerations it brings up.  It needs some formatting for the bullets, but that's a bit superfluous.

Also, the smoothness of the writing from ChatGPT is quite nice.  The flow through the concepts is just like my English teacher tried so hard to hammer into us.  Yeah, technical people do not normally have great writing skills, so chalk one up for AI in communicating.

I had to smile at the reference to "Consulting . . an Engineer" for guidance.  (In the second article.)  I agree.

Fact Checking the ChatGPT Tech Article

The ChatGPT tech article got a lot right.  Actually, I did not see anything it wrote that I felt was wrong.  So that's good.  (That means it would pass muster on a political fact checking barrage. - Which is a pretty low bar, but that's a soapbox for another time.)

There are, however, 2 points that tip toward the misleading side:

  1. I find it interesting that the ChatGPT tech article has some emphasis on "heavy-duty applications" for welding.  While the reasons given are true, and I totally agree it does work well for "heavy-duty", experience says light applications have the same advantages.  Also, in the presentation, there is an insinuation that bolting is for "light-duty applications" which is also slightly misleading.
  2. In the second article version, in the disadvantages for welding, ChatGPT discusses the "Time-consuming process".  While there is some truth to this, especially with certain metals like aluminum and titanium, most trailers are steel, and the time to make a good weld is significantly less than the time to fabricate brackets and drill holes in preparation for a good bolt assembly.  So, starting from scratch, does it take more time to build a trailer frame via welding or via bolting?

Overall, in terms of correct information, ChatGPT got it right.  That, is only half of it, however.  In terms of correct information, it is important to be right about what is said, AND to be as complete as possible.  (I think the readers on Mechanical Elements want something with a little more meat.)

What Is Missing?

There were several details I felt the AI missed.  In the first attempt, I decided it might have something to do with the length of the article I requested.  So, to give it a better chance, for the second version I asked for increased length and bullet points.  (Bullets in writing allow more information in a more condensed format.)  However, as you can see in the comparison, the second ChatGPT tech article expanded mostly on the ideas already in the 300 word first version.

Some important ideas the ChatGPT tech article did not include:

  • Material profiles that work well with bolting and those that don't.  For instance, trailer frames are often made using tube, and tube does not do so well with bolting because you can't get the bolts really tight without crushing, at least in part, the tube.  That means we must include brackets or spacers of some sort when bolting tube.  That means material choice is important when comparing welding versus bolting.
  • The ChatGPT did mention "more compact and aesthetically pleasing, providing a sleeker appearance" but did not expand on the idea from a technical standpoint.  The reader may think about bolt heads and such sticking out.  However, a technical reason for "less compact" is the need for multiple bolts, brackets, material overlap, and those kinds of things.
  • Neither of the AI articles mentioned material type - Steel, or Aluminum, or Wood, or Plastic - and the limitations of welding when it comes to dissimilar materials.  From experience, we know Aluminum requires more "connectivity" (like overlap plates and/or gussets) to support welded joints in a vibration environment.  More is involved than with steel.  We know that we can't attach wood or plastic to metal by welding.  That may seem obvious, but we also can't join aluminum and steel by welding.  Even welding high-er carbon steels in a DIY environment is not a good idea.
  • I like how the ChatGPT tech article mentions the potential for distortion with welding.  That is important, but probably more important is the change in material due to the heat effects of welding.  When working with structural metals, distortion is typically less of an issue than localized stress risers due to welding effects.  That might be a niggly difference, but it is super important when considering welds on structural members.  Where you weld is a big deal for high stress beams.
  • Finally, ChatGPT did not mention anything about effort with respect to the number of pieces.  Things like brackets and such are more pieces to make and are part of the process for bolting.  And, of course, the bolts themselves.

It might sound like I'm picking on the ChatGPT output, but that is not the point.  Again, this is a fun little experiment of comparing the AI of ChatGPT with the experience of a person knowledgeable in the field.  The AI has not built a trailer, or run a welder, or drilled a hole.  I get that.  And to that point, my grandfather used to say there are some things you can only learn by experience.  I don't suppose that's totally true with AI, but there is probably truth here too.  I think that shows up in the ChatGPT tech article pretty well.

Is Our ChatGPT Tech Article Experiment Complete?

After writing most of this current article, I began thinking a little more about context.  What if I told ChatGPT about the audience?  Would it write differently?  Would it include more detail?

I think that is important in this kind of experiment.  So, I also did not give it a length restriction.  Here is the result:

ChatGPT Tech Article Test 3.

ChatGPT Test Question 1

Welding Versus Bolting: Choosing the Right Method for Building Your DIY Trailer

If you're a shop enthusiast planning to build your own trailer in your garage, one of the critical decisions you'll face is choosing the method of joining the structural components. Welding and bolting are two commonly used techniques, each with its own pros and cons. Let's delve into the differences between welding and bolting to help you make an informed choice for your DIY trailer project.

Welding:

Welding involves permanently fusing metal pieces together using heat. Here are some key points to consider:

Advantages:

Exceptional strength and durability: Welded joints are known for their high strength, making them suitable for heavy-duty applications.
Vibration resistance: Welded connections offer excellent resistance to vibrations, ensuring the structural integrity of the trailer frame over time.
Compact and sleek: Welding creates a continuous bond along the joint, resulting in a more compact and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Elimination of additional fasteners: Welding eliminates the need for additional fasteners, reducing the risk of loosening or failure.

Disadvantages:

Permanent bond: Once welded, the joint becomes permanent, making it challenging to disassemble or make adjustments without specialized tools or equipment.
Time-consuming process: Welding requires careful preparation, including cleaning and preheating, and may involve multiple passes to ensure a strong and reliable joint.
Skill and experience required: Welding demands expertise to ensure proper technique, which may require additional training or practice if you're a beginner.
Potential for distortion: The heat generated during welding can cause metal distortion or warping, requiring additional measures to maintain the desired shape and alignment.

Bolting:

Bolting involves using nuts, bolts, and washers to secure components together. Consider the following points when considering bolting for your trailer construction:

Advantages:

Easy disassembly and reassembly: Bolting allows for straightforward disassembly and reassembly, making maintenance, repairs, or modifications more convenient.
Flexibility in construction: Bolting provides greater flexibility during the construction process, allowing for adjustments or modifications without the need for specialized tools.
Modular design possibilities: Bolting is suitable for designing modular trailer frames, enabling easy component replacement or upgrades.
Cost-effective: Bolting typically requires less specialized labor and equipment, which can result in cost savings during construction.

Disadvantages:

Reduced strength compared to welding: Bolted connections may not provide the same level of strength and rigidity as welded joints, which could be a concern for heavy-duty applications.
Potential for loosening: Over time, bolts may loosen due to vibrations or repeated stress, necessitating periodic checks and tightening.
Visible fasteners: Bolting involves the use of visible nuts, bolts, and washers, which may not provide the same sleek appearance as welded joints.
Increased risk of corrosion: Bolts and their corresponding holes can create areas where moisture can accumulate, leading to a higher risk of corrosion if proper measures are not taken.

Making Your Choice:

As a DIY enthusiast, the choice between welding and bolting for your trailer construction depends on your specific preferences, skills, and resources. Here are some additional considerations to guide you:

Skill level: If you have prior experience and confidence in welding, it can be an excellent choice for its strength and durability. However, if you're new to welding, bolting may offer a more accessible and forgiving approach.
Time and budget: Welding may require more time and investment in equipment, whereas bolting can be a cost-effective and time-efficient option.
Trailer purpose: Consider the anticipated load capacity and usage of your trailer. If you plan to transport heavy items regularly, welding might be the preferred option for its superior strength.

It's essential to gather information and consult with experts if needed. Reach out to experienced welders, trailer builders, or online communities to gather insights and guidance. Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer, and finding the method that aligns with your skills, resources, and desired outcome will ensure a successful DIY trailer construction project in your garage.

Well, there are some differences in test 3, but it really didn't add much in terms of new or different content.  It includes some words that I put in the question like "shop", "DIY", and "Garage".  I think it took the length constraint from the previous request anyway, as well as the bullet points.  Anyway, I think this is the best output of the 3.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to ping us with your comments on the ChatGPT tech article(s).  Now you know the test, try the whole article.

You can read our final article on "Bolting vs Welding for Trailer Frames" on the Mechanical Elements website.  The writing is not as polished, but I think the content is more complete.  That is not to disparage the ChatGPT AI at all.  I was quite impressed at the 3 articles it spit out in just a few seconds each.

By the way, if you are looking for good information about Trailer design, or about building your own trailer, MechanicalElements.com has a substantial library of articles on that and more.  Check out all the Plans too.  If you need Engineering Consulting or Design, or something with Trailer Design, we are here to help.  Oh, and we do it with people, creativity, and years of first-hand experience that AI does not have - Yet.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to visit.

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