Boeing’s recent decision to buy a contractor’s plant in South Carolina is kicking up a lot of dust in the Seattle area. Some mavens see it as a potential “Southern strategy” to avoid balky unions. The result, says one, could turn Seattle into a “Detroit with pine trees”. The issue is a hot one because Boeing is trying to determine where to locate its next Dreamliner factory. Another columnist states: “Boeing risks overplaying its hand. We survived the loss of its headquarters. We’ll survive without the second 787 assembly line and hopefully be prodded to reinvent ourselves for the 21st-century economy.”
The Dreamliner is one of the most exciting materials’ technology stories of the past 100 years. And as for as business stories go, it seems to rival to just about anything I’ve written about since my career began in 1969 at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Everything is news: fastener shortages, composites, engine technologies, supply chain outsourcing, delays, and now the mirage of Southern competition. From a business perspective, it’s become Michael Jackson, Jennifer Aniston and Bono all rolled into one.
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.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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