Thanks, jhankwitz, for the enthusiasm and suggestions about how this might be implemented. When you say "managed by a few people" I assume you mean remotely, correct? One open question is just how autonomous the SpiderFab robot will be.
This is a great idea. Creating a 3D manufacturing plant in space could certainly enable production of components that can't now be launched due to size and structure. Parts currently need to be able to withstand launch vibration and size restrictions. Having a manufacturing plant stabilized with gyros and flywheels, managed by a few people, and powered by sunlight would be a giant step forward.
One phrase in this story jumped out at me: "kilometer-scale systems." If you imagine a 1-km structure here on earth, it's mind-bloggling. I wonder how long it would take to build kilometer-scale systems with 3D printers.
Great questions, 78RPM. How the robot navigates and stabilizes itself was not described anywhere. I suspect that may not have been worked out yet, or that it's related to how the Tresselator functions. Such problems have already been worked out for the (attached-to-the-ISS) Canadarm, which we've written about here: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=267732
It would seem like the movement of the arms would create torque that would rotate or move the robot relative to the part it's printing. How does it stabilize itself when printing and fastening those thin parts? Does it have anything like jet packs? Does it have flywheels like an image-steady camera lens?
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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