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So far andre has created 226 blog entries.
31 03, 2015

The Next Best Thing To Aluminum 3D Printing

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 March 31st, 2015|

We recently showed you how aluminum-based 3D printing is bringing customized objects to space. For those of us that can’t afford a 3D printer but enjoy a bit of DIY craftsmanship, here’s the next best thing. The self-proclaimed King Of Random recently put together a how-to video offering a technique that involves styrofoam, aluminum cans, and sand. The result is something pretty close to a 3D printed object, though the process is a little more dangerous than uploading to a 3D printer. From Gizmodo:

If you’re looking for a fun, high-risk weekend project, look no further: Grant Thompson, the self-styled “King of Random”, has decided to shared his method for transforming styrofoam into metal. (Spoiler: don’t try this one around your kids.)

To start, you’ll need to cut a model of your soon-t0-be metal creation out of foam. Thompson suggests using foam board from the dollar store, but foam housing insulation or craft blocks will work just as well. Once assembled, attach a thick foam riser to the top of your model, and bury it in a 5-gallon bucket filled with sand.

Next you’ll have to fire up your homemade metal foundry (if you’ve never made one before, Thompson’s got you covered). Now melt down some aluminum cans and pour the molten metal over your buried foam cast, taking care not to splash anything on yourself. The foam, Thompson explains, will vaporize instantly as liquid aluminum rushes in to take its place. Within a few minutes, your sculpture should be cool enough to remove. Do so carefully, using pliers. You can then polish up your new creation and place it prominently on display.

Click here to go to the full article, including a complete video demonstration by the King of Random. Just remember to use gloves and pliers when you try this yourself.

24 03, 2015

Aluminum F-150 Maintains Insurance Rates From Previous Year

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00 March 24th, 2015|

With any major change in a car’s design, one often overlooked aspect is the vehicle’s insurance costs. Design changes come with inherent risks simply because they’re new and have limited real world feedback, so it’s not unusual for new-model cars with significant hardware changes to have higher insurance costs.

However, data has shown that insurance rates for the aluminum-based Ford F-150 have NOT increased compared to the previous year. From Automotive News:

For now, motorists’ yearly insurance premiums for the 2015 aluminum-bodied F-150 are about the same as for the 2014 steel model — good news for Ford.

But premiums could change once insurance companies study accident repair data for the redesigned pickup.

To set rates for 2015 models, insurance companies use the latest data they have — from 2014 model claims. It could take about a year or more to get repair and other data useful to set rates for the 2015 model, insurers say.

“The cost to insure the F-150 may go up, or it may go down,” said Progressive Corp. spokesman Jeff Sibel. “We won’t have

[enough] data until we have claims experiences.”

Insurance premiums won’t make or break sales of Ford’s highly profitable full-size pickup. They are about 10 percent of an owner’s operating costs in the first five years of ownership, Consumer Reports says. Ford is confident that insurance premiums for the new pickup will be similar to those for the steel model, even though some parts costs are higher, aluminum repair techs require special training and special repair equipment is needed.

This is all subject to change over time as repair data comes in. However, it’s always better to have a good start, and it’s a testament to the integrity of the F-150’s design and manufacturing teams that the insurance companies haven’t raised rates yet.

22 03, 2015

3D Printed Aluminum Makes It Into Space

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 March 22nd, 2015|

3D printing is one of the most exciting advances in technology over the past few years. For life in space, 3D printers simply receive designs and print out necessary tools to help astronauts perform quick fixes. Until now, 3D printing in space has always used composite material. However, a UK company has announced the first space-qualified 3D printing material using aluminum. From 3DPrint.com:

Now Airbus Defence and Space in the UK says they’re producing their first space-qualified 3D printed components from aluminum. The parts are the result of a two-year-long research and development program undertaken by the UK National Space Technology Programme via Innovate UK and the UK Space Agency.

The UK team say these new 3D printed components cannot be manufactured using conventional manufacturing methods, and they include a structural bracket built using aerospace-grade aluminum alloy. The Airbus Group has started using ALM (additive layering manufacturing) for tooling and prototyping parts for test flights and for parts that will fly on commercial aircraft. The company says components produced with ALM are beginning to appear on the A350 XWB the jetliners in the A300 and A310 line.

Eurostar E3000 Copyright Airbus Defence and Space Ltd 2015 renderingThe first flight-qualified ALM part — a titanium alloy bracket from Airbus Defence and Space — is already flying aboard the Atlantic Bird 7 telecom satellite, and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle “Atlante” features a 3D printed air intake.

The space-qualified part in question, made as a single piece via laser melting, weighs 35% less than the previous bracket. The part it replaces was made up of four separate pieces and included 44 rivets. In comparison, the additively-manufactured piece which replaces it is now 40% stiffer and no waste results from the process as would be were it created by conventional machining.

3D printing with aluminum opens the door to many manufacturing possibilities, from aerospace and beyond. 3D printing can also go to DIY makers too, and aluminum also creates many opportunities for start-ups, garage engineers, and artists for structurally sound items. If it works in space, it can certainly work on the ground!

12 03, 2015

Secrets Of Designing Aluminum Cans

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00 March 12th, 2015|

The aluminum can — it’s a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. It holds everything from beer to soda to energy drinks. It’s sold in vending machines, at grocery stores, at food trucks, and even your local big box store. For many people, collecting them is a nice piece of extra change by turning them in at recycling centers.

And yet, how many of us actually stop to think about the engineering and manufacturing of such a vital cog in today’s society? Probably not much. However, writer Jonathan Waldman decided to take a closer look at the life of an aluminum can — and the results may surprise you. From his book Rusted: The Longest War via Wired.com:

When was the last time you paused between sips of your favorite soda and wondered about that can in your hand? If you’re like most people, the answer is likely never. But that seemingly unremarkable object is actually a marvel of modern manufacturing. It is, in fact, a glorious thing.

A few years ago, I finagled my way into Can School, a small industry-only event hosted annually by the Ball Corporation, the world’s largest canmaker. There, in a conference room just north of Denver, engineers chatted about “improved pour rates” and “recloseability” and the “opening performance” of cans. One guy handed me a business card that said “Can Whisperer.” Another wore a shirt that said “Can Solo.” It was a scene of intense devotion, and as such, it was only fitting that the first thing I learned there was that manufacturing aluminum cans is so challenging, and requires such a vast amount of study, design, and precise machining, that many consider cans the most engineered products in the world.

If you drink beer, or soda, or juice, or sports drinks, or if you have ever preserved fruits or vegetables in glass jars, the name Ball probably sounds familiar. The people of the world go through 180 billion aluminum beverage cans a year; enough to build dozens of towers to the moon. Ball makes about a quarter of them. Yet even with that much practice, making perfect 12-ounce cans remains a battle. Throughout the process, the aluminum behaves begrudgingly. It tries to jam the machines. Once filled, it wants to interact with the product inside and change its taste. But mostly, cans yearn to corrode (thereby leaking onto other cans, and causing more corrosion). Rust, it turns out, is a can’s number one enemy—and a can’s only defense is an invisible epoxy shield, just microns thick. (Without that shield, a can of Coke would corrode in three days.) At Can School, I got a hint of what goes into that coating.

Click on through to Wired to learn more about aluminum cans. And if you want to learn even more, Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman was just released on March 10.

 

6 03, 2015

Ford’s F-150 Winning Over Public Opinion

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 March 6th, 2015|

The aluminum-based F-150 landed to strong reviews from the automotive press, but what really matters is how the public receives it. What’s the opinion so far? Based on both sales data and anecdotal vendor evidence, people are quite pleased with what aluminum can do. From Louisville Business First:

The company said retail sales of its F-Series pickup trucks were up 7 percent. It said the F-150, which features a standard new aluminum body this model year, was the fastest-turning vehicle on dealer lots.

To get some perspective on this, I had a conversation with Greg Howell, sales consultant at Carriage Ford in Clarksville. He said customers he’s spoke to about the aluminum truck are both knowledgeable and excited about them.

Many Carriage customers have owned Fords previously and are familiar with the changes to the body. He said if they do have questions, it’s usually about body work — as some are wondering whether getting an aluminum body will increase the cost of repairs. Ford has done a pretty good job with explaining to customers that the aluminum is more dent resistant, he said. He also said repairs do not cost more because Ford has sent plenty of military grade aluminum to dealerships and provided training on working with it.

Of course, sales data really only matters over the long haul but you’d definitely rather start strong to build buzz and word of mouth. It looks like the F-150 is doing its part there, and we’ll know more in a few months when Ford evaluates the first half of the fiscal year.

26 02, 2015

Rolls-Royce Selects Aluminum For Not-Quite-SUV Announcement

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 February 26th, 2015|

European automakers must be impressed with how durable the aluminum-based Ford F-150 is doing. Rolls-Royce, the legendary British luxury car company, is designing a new vehicle capable of handling any terrain. While they haven’t explicitly used the term SUV, you can kind of see where this is going. Most importantly, Rolls-Royce has already declared that it will have an aluminum body. From MLive.com:

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is building the first SUV in the British luxury automotive company’s 111-year history, though the company is calling the forthcoming vehicle about everything but an SUV.

Company Chairman Peter Schwarzenbauer and CEO Torsten Mueller-Ortvoes said in an open letter Wednesday that the new model will be “a high-bodied car, with an all-new aluminium architecture” and one that “offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce in a vehicle that can cross any terrain.”

It is not immediately clear when or where the company, a division of BMW Group, plans to give the public a first look at the yet-to-be-named off-roader. But the announcement that it plans to move forward with the new car comes shortly after rival luxury automaker Bentley announced a name for an SUV it too is building: the Bentley Bentayga.

Between the F-150 and Rolls-Royce’s not-quite-SUV vehicle, it’s clear that aluminum can handle even the most rugged of circumstances. And we’re pretty sure that Rolls-Royce won’t have to use buzzwords like Ford’s “military-grade aluminum” to sell this car.

19 02, 2015

Carstar Sees Revenue Spike Powered By Aluminum Vehicles

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 February 19th, 2015|

While aluminum is masking inroads — pun intended — in the automotive industry, it’s easy to forget that this all flows downstream. If aluminum bodied cars are going to flood the market, then repair shops will have to know how to handle repairs. At least that’s what Carstar anticipated when it instituted an aluminum certification program for its employees — and now the company is reaping the benefits. From the Kansas City Star:

 

The road ahead for Carstar could be paved in aluminum.

 

The Leawood-based auto body repair company said it finished 2014 with record North American revenue of $712 million, up about 10 percent from the previous year.

 

And business this year is already getting a boost from aluminum repair work on vehicles in some of the company’s key markets, particularly those areas “with higher ownership of the Ford F-150 and more exotic cars like the Tesla,” said David Byers, chief executive officer at Carstar Auto Body Repair Experts.

 

The new F-150 pickup truck, for example, is being touted for its innovative aluminum body, which is lighter than steel and should improve fuel efficiency. The truck has been in dealer showrooms only a few months.

 

Tesla’s Model S is already becoming the go-to luxury sedan and the Ford F-150 had a strong first sales month, so aluminum-ready body shops will only see more and more business. The lesson here? Adapt to the times, especially if that means working with aluminum.

12 02, 2015

The Not-So-Safe Aluminum Treatment For iPhones

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00 February 12th, 2015|

Aluminum has been part of smartphone chassis design for some time now. However, there’s another form of aluminum that has recently been tested for smartphones. This form, though, isn’t necessarily about protection or weight or anything beneficial like that. No, this involved simple wanton destruction for curiosity’s sake: pouring molten aluminum on an iPhone 6. From Tech Times:

The aluminum glows orange in the mini kiln as TechRax demonstrates that the iPhone he will be using for the video is indeed an authentic, in perfectly good working condition, iPhone 6.

He lays the iPhone 6 down on a table and handles the melted aluminum carefully with a pair of tongs as he shakes it a bit to pour some of the hot metal onto the face of the phone.

A few blobs of aluminum fall onto the front of the smartphone and set a flame immediately. The iPhone 6 screen still displays the icons, however, even as feathery veins start to extend from the aluminum blobs and out.

At some point the screen even switches to World Clock settings and, although obviously dimmer and vertical lines beginning to appear, the iPhone is still working.

Click through to the original post to see the full destructive video. And remember, if you’ve got a stockpile of aluminum cans, DON’T melt them down to pour on your expensive gadgets; just bring them to your local recycling center for a few extra dollars.

6 02, 2015

New Aluminum Alloy May Be Titanium’s Biggest Competitor

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00 February 6th, 2015|

Titanium is often regarded in the manufacturing industry for its strength and weight. However, cost is always an issue when it comes to titanium, so material scientists looked to aluminum for a comparable alternative. Their solution? An iron-aluminum alloy capable of performing just as well as titanium. The only difference is that this new alloy comes at just 10% of titanium’s cost. From Gizmodo:

A team from Pohang University of Science and Technology, in South Korea have manipulated the structure of an iron-aluminum alloy to create a new kind of material that could find application in everything from bicycles to airplanes.

Steel is renowned for its strength and low price, but is very heavy. To make use of it in scenarios that demand light weight—without resorting to buying titanium—material scientists often alloy it with aluminum, which is light and also mercifully cheap. The mixture of aluminum and steel also usually includes a sprinkling of manganese to make it less brittle, but even then, the material is still usually too brittle for use in vehicles.

Now, the team from South Korea has added nickel to the mixture. The addition of this metal brings about a reaction with some of the contained aluminum, forming what are known as B2 crystals. Sitting both within the grains of steel in the alloy and at their boundaries too, the crystals—just a few nanometres in size—resist shear forces in the material. Because, ultimately, all materials fail by shear, where one layer of atoms slides across the other, taking microscopic cracks with it, increasing the resistance to shear forces increases the strength and stops the material failing by cracking.

Enough, in fact, to provide the new alloy with the same strength as titanium. The mix of steel and aluminium also provides a density similarly to that of the more expensive metal, too. The raw materials and (proposed) processing techniques also mean that the material could, when made at scale, cost just a tenth of what titanium does, too.

This new material is beginning to see mass production. If its early tests hold up, it could be one of the biggest manufacturing revolutions the metal industry has seen. Stay tuned on this one…

29 01, 2015

Are Aluminum-Air Batteries The Next Big Thing In Power?

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 January 29th, 2015|

Tesla pushed the use of aluminum in cars forward with its groundbreaking (and award-winning) Model-S. However, it still used traditional lithium-ion technology to power its batteries. Aluminum may pave the way for a new advancement in electric car technology, but this time it’s in the area of power, not structure. Can a mix of aluminum and water become the battery of the near-future? From Extreme Tech:

On the one hand, breakthroughs in Li-ion designs and construction are responsible for the Tesla Model S, new installations, green energy research, and the modern smartphone. On the other hand, lithium-ion limitations are the reason why most EVs have a range of 40-60 miles, the Model S costs upwards of $80,000, and why your smartphone can’t last all day on a single charge. For all its promise and capability, lithium-ion has limited long-term utility — which is why a new announcement from Fuji Pigment is so interesting. The company is claiming that its new aluminum-air batteries can run for up to two weeks and be refilled with normal water.

That said, there are question, too. The hydrated aluminum oxide solution produced during the battery’s normal operation would need to be recycled in some fashion, it’s not clear that fresh water is as effective an aqueous solution as saltwater (meaning there might be specific need for one particular kind of solution). The final price is also unknown, though previous estimations had put the cost of an Al-air system at roughly $1.1 per kg of aluminum anode. This was not given in precise terms relative to the cost of gasoline (and the weight of the aluminum anode in these batteries is unknown), but the team that performed that analysis noted that proper recycling would put Al-air in the same cost range as conventional internal combustion engines.

Fuji Pigment has stated that it intends to commercialize this technology as early as this year, which means we could see test demonstrations and proof of concepts by 2016. Whether auto manufacturers will jump for the technology remains to be seen — car companies tend to be conservative and Tesla has already thrown its weight behind the further use of lithium-ion technology.

For a deeper look at just how this battery works on a technical level, head over to Extreme Tech and read the full article.

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