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.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.