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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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