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 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.