There seems to be a rush to judgment to find the flaws that caused the I-35W bridge to collapse in Minneapolis. The new theory—faulty steel gusset plates—strikes me as grasping at straws. Why after 40 years would faulty plates suddenly result in a catastrophic failure? Why has this never been raised before as a potential flaw in this type of bridge? As MIT metallurgist Ken Russell pointed out here recently, steel is made in huge batches, and its chemistry is carefully tested. Suddenly we discovered that this ancient batch was a bad one? Or that the designer used a wrong gauge or grade of steel?
It probably will take months for a meaningful analysis of the bridge failure to emerge. Undoubtedly, the investigators will find a frightening list of contributors to the collapse, starting with the corroded steel roller bearings already reported as deficient in 1990.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived.
So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.