Civil Engineering


Crabontitanium

carbon

Carbon fiber and laser titanium printing fall into the category of Additive manufacturing. Where layers of a material are added one at a time until you have a product.  Regular manufacturing (also known as reductive manufacturing) generally starts with pieces of materials that are then cut down.

   The benefit of additive manufacturing is there is no limits on the engineering in the process. For example lets take a bicycle frame. In the normal reductive process the frame is made of multiple pieces of tubing that are cut into shape and the welded together. with additive manufacturing the entire frame would be printed out in one piece. In that process of printing there is no limitations on how complex the frame could be from an engineering point of view. The frame could be three dimensional latticework that has great flexibility and strength. Or it could be just a tube.It would be up to the engineer. 

    A small company called Local Motors has used carbon fiber printing to make the frame and body for an electric car. They did that in multiple pieces. The next one they plan to do it all in one piece. While a one piece manufacturing may be a technological achievement, I think it is a mistake. How will they repair damage in a one piece car frame?  Either way, this is an exciting development for manufacturing. Here is the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daioWlkH7ZI

    The second step in the revolution is Titanium Laser Printing. Titanium is hard to work with since it can catch fire during the manufacturing process. Generally it is created in a argon environment. Titanium is not a scarce material. Its high cost are due to the issues in manufacturing it. And its strength and corrosion resistant qualities instantly make it a “top tier” material. 

   I have worked in the aviation industry. I see there two technologies working together to make helicopters and  aircraft lighter, simpler, corrosion resistant, less labor intense and stronger. I foresee the frames of the crafts being titanium, while the skin being carbon fiber. Instead of thousands of pieces of aluminum being drilled and riveted, entire sections of craft will be make in single pieces. Here is a few videos showing the processes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRXymDoYoWQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daioWlkH7ZI

I see this technology transitioning into all aspects of our life. Mainly dealing with transportation to begin with and spreading from there as the technology becomes common and cheaper. 

I have thought a great deal about this technology. Not only will it help existing companies, but I also see it helping start-ups and individual engineers. Much like computer coding created an influx of new companies due to the low cost of entrance (all you need is a computer and a desire to code something people will by and you are in business. Think apps and early Facebook) this will allow smaller companies to design things and then have machine shops with this equipment make it for them. Eventually partnering up with the machine shop (with success) or buying their own equipment to continue growing…..

images   

 

I am a big believer in new processes. Processes created into efficient factory’s are the reason we have the modern cheap world we have today. Factories make the obscenely expensive into common.

   This new process is in its infancy. I hesitate to put it up until their new mini-factory is actually in production for a while. But it works in the lab so that means they should be able to scale it up into a factory, so I am posting it.

   

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21571847-exotic-useful-metals-such-tantalum-and-titanium-are-about-become-cheap

If this works as advertised it will have a huge effect on our society.

    I am not a huge fan of solar power. But I am a fan.

On the positive side the fuel (sunlight) is free; the power is generated close to where it will be used; their peak generating time is peak usage time; there are no moving parts to a solar panel; after 20 years solar panels are still generating about 80% of that they did originally.

    On the negative side they are only 50% efficient due to the fact of nighttime; even though the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically most people put them on their roof which is expensive due to union electricians who must be certified to work on roofs; the panels are only one part of the system, you also have to buy an inverter, wire the system and connect it to the grid; if your state does not have net metering you may need to have batteries to store power and not be connected directly to the grid.

Well things have just gotten interesting. They seem to have figured out a way to make solar panels much easier with less expensive materials.

http://www.gizmag.com/screening-engineered-field-effect-photovoltaics-solar-cell/23539/

Granted this is still in the lab so I do not want to get too excited about it.

But if this simplified method can be integrated into today’s production lines with cheaper materials (or even with the materials we are using today) it could lead to a rapid decrease in cost for solar panels.

Solar panels have already come down in price quite a bit in the last few years.   This may be the tipping point technology where solar panels become a common sight. Lets hope.

-StoneMaster Dennis

This is still in the lab, but the preliminary results are very encouraging. So I decided to post it:

http://www.gizmag.com/nanocrystalline-silicon-nanoshell-photovoltaics/21391/

Less material, easier to make and a lot more efficient. This could change everything…..

Lets hope!

-StoneMad Member Dennis

http://thestonefoundation.ning.com/

While this technology could just keep getting better, they have hit a milestone. The cables they make now are as good as copper.

 http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/38615/?p1=MstRcnt

This is very exciting. For the aviation industry this could be a boon. Airbus is using aluminum wiring in some of their aircraft for weight reasons, even though aluminum does not transmit electricity as well as copper. If the cost is even in the ballpark, we could see the aviation industry switching quite rapidly.

Obviously there are cost, longevity and maintenance issues that will have to be resolved. Production issues as well.

But the benefits are so obvious, I see a lot of money being thrown at this to get it into production and into vehicles.

Update 1/8/13: 

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/509766/nanotubes-turned-into-super-fibers/

Steel has been around for a while. With all the people who have worked on it over the centuries and the large institutions who have focused on it, you would not expect a breakthrough right now.

Well you would be wrong. A small mill in Detroit,  SFP Works, has found a way to make the strongest steel 7% stronger. That may not sound like a lot, but it is. Here are the links:

 

http://www.gizmag.com/stronger-steel-in-a-flash/18882/

http://www.bainitesteel.com/default.asp

I find it fascinating that they claim it would do the job of aluminum (same strength) and be lighter. This is going to change things. Really fast. 

Hold on!

-Lover of small modified work trucks Dennis

Once again we see a new process that will make a known material a real player.  The article is well written, so I will let it speak for itself:

http://media.caltech.edu/press_releases/13415

This could have wide ranging implications. Just the fact that it brings light weight with great strength without corrosion problems is just amazing.

Hopefully this new process will bring the cost of the material, and it ease of manufacture, into the realm of making it an everyday item.

I can think of many uses right off the top of my head. Artificial knees, hip’s?  Engine blocks? Golf Clubs? Train wheels? The list is endless….

It may take time, but this may be transformational technology. I guess we shall see.

-Tech Dennis

Next Page »