Faxing Pipelines

11th September 2008

An interesting article here. Arizona Mulls New Water Source: Ocean

According to the article:

The water for Arizona’s future needs may lie off the coast of a popular Mexican resort, in the Gulf of California.

State officials are studying the idea of importing filtered ocean water from an as yet unbuilt desalination plant in Puerto Peñasco, 60 miles south of the U.S. border.

Such a project would raise a host of political, economic and environmental issues, and it’s not clear who would pay the construction costs, which could top $250 billion.

Did you read that: 250 billion. That’s with a B. I figure that has to be a typo. But I don’t know.

The New York Times discusses Alaska Governor Palin’s gas pipline from the North Slope. The cost is 40 billion for a 1700 mile pipeline. Its a long way from being built.

Gallon for gallon — gas is more valuable than water. So water pipelines need to be cheaper than gas pipelines. How to do that?

Recently I posted a piece about the importance of cheaply researching (by way of computer modeling)a new kind of energy efficient, easy to manufacture, easy to repair kind of pipeline   for shipping water inland 1000 miles and more at little extra cost –beyond the cost of desalination.

There’s another step to the process. So what would happen once you had several different material and design specs for a pipeline in the computer… what then. Well the way to get down costs for a big project is to do a 3D fax of the pipeline–maybe changing the material and design specs as the pipeline snaked its way up through the inland desert.

This technology is already in fast forward.

USC’s ‘print-a-house’ construction technology

Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, is starting to support research on the “Contour Crafting” automated construction system that its creator believes will one day be able to build full-scale houses in hours.

This technology would easily adapt to the creation of pipelines by way of this extrusion mechanism.

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, says the system is a scale-up of the rapid prototyping machines now widely used in industry to “print out” three-dimensional objects designed with CAD/CAM software, usually by building up successive layers of plastic.

They want to move from plastic to concrete.

“Instead of plastic, Contour Crafting will use concrete,” said Khoshnevis. More specifically, the material is a special concrete formulation provided by USG, the multi-national construction materials company that has been contributing to Khoshnevis’ research for some years as a member of an industry coalition backing the USC Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT), home of the initiative.

The feasibility of the Contour Crafting process has been established by a recent research effort which has resulted in automated fabrication of six-foot concrete walls.

Consider if they can go from plastic to concrete–it won’t be long before they can do just about any material. Not just any material. Any design as well. They can already extrude walls.

The feasibility of the Contour Crafting process has been established by a recent research effort which has resulted in automated fabrication of six-foot concrete walls.

The project has major backing:

Caterpillar will be a major contributor to upcoming work on the project, according to Everett Brandt, an engineer in Caterpillar’s Technology & Solutions Division, who will work with Khoshnevis. Another Caterpillar engineer, Brian Howson, will also participate in the effort.

The goals for the project are really everything needed to develop pipeline extrusion machines.

Goals for this phase of the project are process and material engineering research to relate various process parameters and material characteristics to the performance of the specimens to be produced. Various experimental and analytical methods will be employed in the course of the research.

Future phases of the project are expected to include geometric design issues, research in deployable robotics and material delivery methods, automated plumbing and electrical network installation, and automated inspection and quality control.

Somebody needs to be developing a pipeline script to be ready when these machines are ready to read the instruction set.