Engineering News (June 2018)

Large 3D objects are being constructed in Cellulose

Cellulose, is an abundant organic compound and can be used for a fascinating number of applications. The first 3D object to be completed using Cellulose is a turbine blade that measures 1.2m and has a weight of 5.2kg. Cellulose combined with a material called Chitosan was used to fabricate this. There are several variables that have stopped Cellulose being used in this manner previously, due to the difficulty in scaling down Cellulose, and the high cost to produce it are two of the main issues related to this as a 3D material.

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), think that they have resolved these problems. They believe that FLAM (Fungal-Like Adhesive Materials) have provided the answer to these problems. SUTD has said that their approach has been developed based on the wall of fungus-like Oomycetes, which have been produced by putting minimal amounts of Chitin in between the cellulose fibres. The production of the resulting FLAM has the properties that are needed  – strong, lightweight and inexpensive. It can also be transformed into the relevant shape using the appropriate techniques.

There are no organic solvents or synthetic plastics needed to produce the materials, which in turn makes them more pliable, and there is also no need to produce these in special facilities. FLAM can also be broken down safely and organically. These results have provided a unique selling point for applications in global manufacturing.

It is suggested that the cost of the material FLAM is now within the same price bracket as other plastics. It is also cheaper to produce than other common filaments that are used for 3D printing. The research team have developed an additive development technique directly for the manufacture of the material.

Professor Javier Gomez Fernandes, the project co-research lead believes that this is the first large scale additive manufacturing program to utilise the most universal natural polymers on earth. “This reproduction and manufacturing with the material composition found in the Oomycete wall, namely unmodified Cellulose, small amounts of Chitosan – the second most abundant organic molecule on earth – and low concentrated Acetic Acid, is probably one of the most successful technological achievements in the field of bioinspired materials.”

“We believe the results reported here represent a turning point for global manufacturing with broader impact on multiple areas ranging from material science, environmental engineering, automation and the economy,” added co-lead SUTD Assistant Professor Stylianos Dritsas.

Rockets that eat themselves

Scottish engineering teams from the University of Glasgow and Ukrainian Engineers from Oles Honchar Dnipro National University have developed, designed and are now testing a rocket that can lift satellites into more precise locations in orbit, then spontaneously combust by burning its own body as fuel, or, as described by the engineers, “autophage” – in other words, something that eats itself.

The engineers have recognised how wasteful the rocket industry can be, especially when it’s using most of its energy whilst lifting the body weight of the capsule into space, with the carried load being a minor fraction of the overall weight.
The newly designed self-eating rocket will burn a solid propellant rod, which will force itself into the rocket engine as it burns; the two components will separate, then vaporise, creating a thrust when mixed and burned.

Solid fuelled rockets mirror the workings of a firework. The new design however, adds an important feature, and allows for speed variation so that the fuel rod is forced to enter the engine – the thrust can then be varied like the design of liquid-fuelled rockets. To have the ability to ‘throttle’ the rocket engine means that the thrusts can be condensed when it reaches its “Max Q”, when the engine reaches its maximum aerodynamic pressure.

Senior Lecturer, Dr Patrick Harness from the University of Glasgow’s, School of Engineering has explained how the rocket will work by reducing its size as it climbs higher into space. Basically as the rocket climbs, the rocket will become smaller with the engine eating and vaporising the body of the rocket. Once the rocket has vapourised, the payload will be left in orbit, leaving fewer remnants of debris.

The design would also prove cost effective and cheaper than existing designs. The rockets can be scaled and built to accommodate smaller satellites such as Cubesats, small satellites that are built in mass but have to wait for larger rockets to act as their vessel to launch them into space onboard a high end launch system such as the Russian Soyuz.

EU funding has been applied for a launch pad, with many of the proposed launch pads in Scotland competing for Spaceport status.

A supersonic car? Not quite yet as trials are delayed.

Plans and schedules for Bloodhound, the supersonic land speed record attempt have been changed yet again for the chequered project.   In October last year, “slow speed” trials were carried out by the Bloodhound SSC team. Planned developments over the next 18 months will see progress stepped up. The car’s top speed will be 1,000mph. The aim was to have the car fully developed by late 2019 for the land speed record attempt. In order for this to be achieved, originally plans had been put in place for this year to try and get the car to hit the 500mph mark. these trials have now been moved to May next year, just 5 months before the planned record attempt.

Why have the time scales had to change? Part of the reason for the change is down to funding, however the engineers have also said that they are looking to have a more complete version of the car ready for when they test it, in order to ensure accuracy of results. Running the tests this year would have meant running them with some components missing from the design, such as the air-brakes and winglets.

Mark Chapman, the Chief Engineer for Bloodhound, said that from an engineering viewpoint the changing schedule makes complete sense and that delaying the trials means that the car they are running with is fully prepared and ready for the record attempt.

The current land speed record is set at 763mph. The aim for Bloodhound is to break that record not once, but twice; the first attempt to reach speeds of 800mph, with the second to surpass the 1000mph mark. The car, with its distinctive arrow shape, and its jet engines which are also used in the Eurofighter-Typhoon, will be used in tandem with a rocket to push the car through the sound barrier. The place for this attempt will be a specially prepared race track in Northern Cape, at a dried out lake bed call Hakskeen Pan.

Unfortunately, the project has turned out to be more complicated than anyone first anticipated. When it was first launched back in 2008, the initial aim was to set a new land speed record by 2011, but as it has turned out the size and cost of this project has dwarfed all previous efforts.

The director of Bloodhound is Richard Noble, himself a land speed record holder on the Thrust SSC. He remarked that the team have found themselves at a breakthrough point in terms of funding for the project, and that conversations with investors had taken place to ensure that the project is completed. It seems that recent conversations seemingly to have provided the funding to ensure the project can be completed.

Noble has recently admitted that the project came close to not being successful,  and that the team of directors behind the Bloodhound project did not want to do things half-heartedly, as they want to achieve their goals and not just fantasise about them.

Finances have not been the only thing to slow this process down. The loss of two suppliers as a result of going into receivership has not helped the team, especially as they were supplying major components. These were crucially the winglets and the air brakes.  The vehicle has already reached a speed of 200mph during tests based in Cornwall in October 2017. The tests next May will see the vehicle running with only its jet engines. When the car is finally sent to the Northern Cape, the team want to see speeds between 500/600mph. For this to be achieved the jet engine is needed to run alone, allowing the rocket motor to be developed further ready for the record attempt.

The initial test will use the power unit in what is known as a mono-propellant mode. It will provide the thrust through a decomposed concentration of hydrogen peroxide, allowing the car to reach at least 800mph and break the existing record. On the second attempt the hybrid will run on liquid hydrogen peroxide, which should be enough to push the car pass the 1000 mph barrier.

“We’re always looking to the future, and there are some very interesting electric technologies out there, and it is just a question of finding the right commercial partners who want to showcase it in Bloodhound.”

Photograph: Katie Chan

Scottish Engineering wants ‘quick’ progress on Brexit

Scottish Engineering Chief Executive, Paul Sheering has requested that a resolution to Brexit is made as quickly as possible for the benefit of export firms. The UK government have reiterated that they are making rapid progress towards a Brexit deal. Mr Sheering has described the process as a ‘shamble’. He believes that for the benefit of exporters in the UK, quick progress must be made.

The UK government have said that they would be looking to secure trade links around the world, and assured that they have a clear plan of how to do this and outlined two potential customs arrangements with the EU. A white paper will soon be published that will contain the details, outlining plans for future relations with the EU, built on the position set out by the Prime Minister.

The latest report published from Scottish Engineering’s quarterly review shows that in most sectors of engineering across the UK, export order levels have shown a positive return. Sheering added: “I am also heartened by the fact that we are seeing some positive signs from the oil and gas industry, with a cautious optimism apparent. We see companies traditionally serving that industry are successfully applying twin strategies of diversification and ongoing focus on a continuous improvement path.”

Rolls Royce launch a new engine

Pearl is a new member of the Rolls Royce engine family. Designed for business aviation, designed and manufactured to power the Bombardier Global 6000 series aircraft. The Pearl 15 engine is currently in early stage trials, and the first in the new series able to generate 15,125lb of thrust, 9% more than the previous engine. While producing extra thrust, it will also be nearly 2 decibels quieter, and will provide up to 7% improvement in fuel efficiency.

The Pearl is a combination of two previous engines, namely the BR700, the current top performer in the Rolls-Royce aviation range, and the second being the Advance 2 technology demonstrator, a twin spool engine. The design of the Pearl provides the high pressure compressors, and high pressure turbine blades that are mounted on a shaft and moves totally independently of the shaft.

The Trent Engine currently powers civil airliners, which utilise a triple spool, has a compressor and turbine which are also mounted on a concentric independent shaft. With this engine, the compressor takes the main load. When working, it forces the air directly into the combustion chamber, while the Advance 2 engine’s high pressure compressor performs a larger amount of the work.

Bombardier plan to use the new engine to power their long range global business jets, enabling them to complete long haul business flights. The jets will be capable of speeds up to Mach 0.9. David Coleal, President of Bombardier Business Aircraft explained that the two new aircraft, the Global 5500 and 6500 have the longest range, largest cabins and provide the smoothest ride. Coleal also expressed how proud he was with the fact that they will be powered by the advanced technology and efficiency of the Pearl engine, especially as it was purpose built for this reason.

President of Rolls-Royce’s Civil Aerospace Division, Chris Cholerton said that “The Pearl engine is a pioneering product, bringing together the most eco-friendly and efficient technologies available today. The combination of outstanding performance, economy, and reliability levels make it the perfect fit for Bombardier’s newest Global aircraft and, with the Pearl engine, we are extending our successful relationship with Bombardier, which started more than 20 years ago.”

Rolls-Royce has provided nearly 1700 engines to Bombardier. The engines have been designed in Dahlewitz, Germany at Rolls-Royce’s Centre of Excellence for Business Aviation. The engine also displays additional features including health monitoring systems, advanced vibration detection and remote engine diagnostic systems. In addition to these features, new technology enabling engine features to be monitored remotely and adjusted from the ground has also been incorporated into the design.

“These developments ensure that cloud-based analytics and Big Data continue to play an increasing role in delivering exceptional levels of availability and greater peace of mind for customers.” Rolls-Royce said.

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Engineering News – May 2018

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