When the term “wind turbine” comes to mind, you usually think of hulking goliaths that dominate the landscape. And in fact, as I wrote about last November, there is a dramatic trend toward large wine turbines that generate more electricity. At the same time though, turbines with seven-feet-long blades are popping up on the tops of office and apartment buildings in Michigan, and elsewhere. Tom Huff, an urban developer, put one of the mini turbines on top of a 10-story building he was renovating in Kalamazoo, MI. The turbine needs winds of at least 8 mph to generate electricity, and under optimal conditions, could generate 2,000 kilowatt-hours a year. Huff figure he will recover the cost of the turbine in five years with the help of a significant federal tax credit. The average installed cost of the Swift Turbine is $10,000 to $12,000.
Huff’s turbine was manufactured in nearby Grand Rapids by Cascade Engineering, which invested in a business that developed the turbine called Renewable Devices Swift Turbines Ltd. of Edinburgh, Scotland. Cascade made the investment after discovering it could reduce the cost by injection molding a rotor, which previously had been manufactured with a labor intensive process using expensive carbon fiber. Cascade now makes the rotors and distributes the turbines.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.