Activities not involving creation of new knowledge or technologies should
be excluded from budgets for federal science and technology (FS&T). So
concludes a study by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences and
Engineering. The group concedes, however, that the line between basic and
applied science is fuzzy. The report also calls for international collaboration
in large, costly science projects. Uncle Sam, it adds, should encourage but not
directly fund development of private-sector technology. The committee makes two
exceptions: 1) When the project is in pursuit of the government's own missions,
such as weapons development or space flight, and 2) When it is essential for
development of "new enabling, or broadly applicable, technologies." The report
says the FS&T budget should be considered as a whole at the start of the
congressional budget process before dividing it among subcommittees. Robert S.
Walker (R-PA), chairman of the House Science Committee, told Design News that he
agrees that the FS&T budget must be looked at in total, "not simply as a
line item here and there in the federal budget."
CD-ROM contains eight decades of federal aviation research
Ten thousand pages of government information about aviation is packed onto a single CD-ROM. The disk holds full text images and bibliographic descriptions of 179 reports from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The reports, which date from 1923 to 1987, cover a wide swath of technical topics, including airfoils, aircraft stability and control, and propulsion. You can search the disk, called "Legacy," by subject, title, author, report number, publication date, or key words in abstracts. Legacy operates on Windows, DOS, or Mac systems. You can get one for $70 from the National Technical Information Services of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Phone (703) 487-4650. Ask for order number PB95-503439KZA.
Study seeks ceramic prototypes directly from 3-D CAD files
Designers of ceramic parts having complex shapes could soon get prototypes in minutes. No longer would they have to wait days for parts to be machined. That is the hope of the U.S. Department of Energy, which is funding research into fused deposition modeling (FDM). Argonne National Laboratory and industrial partners are developing ceramic feedstock for the process. Their aim is to come up with materials that will enable engineers to fabricate ceramic designs directly from 3-D CAD files. Researchers have made some simple shapes from thermoplastics compounded with ceramic powders. They also are making rapid prototyping parts by reverse engineering. With further development, the process could make parts and molds that defy very high temperatures. Until now, FDM has been confined to prototypes of wax, nylon, and other plastics.
Here's how to use the Web to get details on alternative fuels
You can now tap the government's Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) through the Internet's World Wide Web. Information available concerns biofuels, clean cities, refueling sites, and various uses of alternative fuels. By typing http:// www.afdc.doe.gov, you also can link to related home pages, including those for the Renewable Energy Network, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and FedWorld. For more on how to get data from AFDC, request the document "Accessing the Alternative Fuels Data Center" by phoning (800) 423-1363.
Uncle Sam sets up lab to test 'parallel' machine tools
Government research- ers are studying what they call "the first major departure in machine tool design in nearly a century." For that purpose, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has set up a new manufacturing-research facility in Gaithersburg, MD. Inside is one of two "octahedral hexapods" built by Ingersoll Milling Machine Co. The hexapod is one of a small, but growing class of what are called "parallel" machine tools. The cutting tool suspends from a platform attached to the ends of six telescoping struts within an eight-sided support frame. The machine's controller extends some struts and shortens others, adroitly maneuvering the cutting tool over and around the workpiece. Parallel machines promise a remarkable combination of accuracy, stiffness, and speed for contouring large surfaces and for machining dies for precision sheet-metal forming. Because of their versatility, parallel machines could reduce the need for machines dedicated to only a few tasks. These advantages, NIST officials say, could revamp precision manufacturing and stimulate new ap- proaches to designing parts, molds, and dies. NIST will work with firms to standardize performance evaluation.