Rich's recent flight showed that it's not just the Dreamliner that's having difficulties. And have you heard of the car that was manufactured with a 3D printer? Well, not exactly, but it's an interesting story nonetheless.
Yikes, that sounds a bit scary. In all my travels I've been lucky enough (so far--knock on wood!) not to deal with anything like that, but you're right, it's far different to hear about it hypothetically than to experience it. Good to hear the flight ended up being a safe one.
I think the metaphoric pendulum needs to swing back towards center. 3D printing is new, exciting and interesting. It's good to try out new things but I think some of the applications go a step too far.
I spent many years in the military and flew very often. Obviously the military has a different set of priorities than civilian airlines and they fly their aircraft closer to the outer limits of their performance envelopes. They also have a tendancy to have "mishaps" more often: I survived two. Smoke coming from an engine on the ground was not an uncommon occurance and usually the "extra" fuel would burn off and everything would be fine. As far as 3D printing of cars goes, several years ago General Motors announced it had introduced a brand new V-8 engine in less than 6 months having started from nothing and through the use of CAD been able to analyze all parts to demonstrate possible interference and other issues, all within a computer program. This six month turn-around was after decades of 3 and 4 year development periods for previous engines. Using 3D printers to allow a complete new design of a transmission and proving that it can actually be assembled is a remarkable feat. Imagine what they'll be doing next year.
I agree, Bob from Maine. The use of 3D printers to build GM engine is remarkable. As I understand it, some automakers are also now building functional prototype parts that can be used to prove out the design, not only for assembly, but for test. The editor of Wired recently said 3D printing will be bigger than the Internet. I think he may be on to something.
Not sure why you find 1 million visitors to the NY auto show hard to believe. The 2013 auto show in Detroit saw over 795,000 ticketed attendees (http://www.naias.com/01-27-2013.aspx). Given Detroit's being under 1 million residents, that's an equivalent of over 80% of the host city population showing up. I'd say the NY show is a slacker with a head count of only 12% of the host city population expected.
Some additive manufacturing technologies, such as Sciaky's, are being used in real aircraft production environments, not for prototypes. For some OEMs, the ability to make parts this big in one pass at a reasonable rate of speed outweighs the value of making much smaller parts at a faster speed and bolting them together. Direct manufacturing is another term for actual parts, not prototypes. The wing box in this article http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=258652 is not a prototype: it's an actual part built for Lockheed. Sciaky says it's working with Lockheed to develop this technology further, and more direct-manufactured parts will be built for the F-35: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2012/april/120412ae_lockheed-martin-sciaky-partner.html http://www.sciaky.com/documents/Fabricator_May2012_GameChanger-Sciaky.pdf And they're net/near-net parts, not those that create 30-50% waste. For more, check out the links at the end of the DN article.
It's funny - the rapid prototyping aspect of the video seems to have captured most of the commentary, but it was Rich's reaction to being put back onto a plane with a smoking engine that caught my attention.
I have flown on commercial airplanes regularly since I was 6 years old. On one flight about 8 years ago, we pulled away from the gate and started taxiing and the the landing gear started intermittently shuddering, moaning and squeaking.
I rang for the flight attendant who came back, visibly annoyed. I raised my concern and pointed out the offending noises. She argued with me about being disruptive and loudly asked if I wanted to delay all the passengers by having us go back to the terminal.
The peer pressure worked against her as 5-6 other passengers chimed in that the noise was very unusual and worrisome. The co-pilot came back, sat with us to listen to the noise, and gave us a description of what was happening down there to cause the noise. He said that the crew had no concern about the noises, but to his credit, he gave us the option to turn back or go forward.
It was a strange position to be in, much like the one that Rich described. As engineers and designers, we notice things that others miss.
How often in our lives are we in the position that has someone else determining for us whether a questionable situation is safe or not ? How many times does their authority or opinion outweigh our judgment? And when should we let it?
An airplane is a special case as the crews' judgment is the law, but when does one draw a line? It's a tough position to be in...