CoolIP index           

- Best Use of Automation in AWE

Some of this is review for those new to the topic-

The most promoted use of automation in AWE is to try to fly unstable systems of expensive finely handcrafted composite construction in a chaotic unstructured hostile outdoor environment. Flight-automation is being asked for far too much way too soon & will for a long time fail to deliver the required safety & reliability. By contrast, factory-automation is a mature practical way to manufacture vast amounts of cheap AWE goods, if the product design allows. Such AWE devices would quickest pay for themselves.

From the first time I met Wayne German, his top focus has been design-for-manufacturability AWE concepts. He correctly foresaw that good kite wings can be made cheaply at high speed by automated production;  and he has conceived methods for blow-molding bundled membrane tubes into inflatable wings. Dave Culp of KiteShip taught me his own version of design-for-manufacturability of vast single-skin kites of minimal complexity. His brilliant OL kite is a good case of subtle "pattern complexity" enabling simple manual construction to perform amazingly.

KiteLab takes design-for-manufacturability AWE study to even more radical extremes; of a high-speed automated production line able to produce hundreds of kilometers of megawatt-class (~3 m x 100 m) membrane wings a day. A gigawatt or so of capacity a day would add up to terawatts in a few years. COTS UHMWPE and COTS generator production would keep pace. A factory is a well-structured low-chaos environment. Super high-speed wing production is possible because "flat-kite" wingmills are not three-dimensionally tailored like Wayne & daveC's wings (but act as "curved plate" thin airfoils). They would consist of a thin-film membrane faces with loadpath fibers & battens sandwiched together along a fast moving line in the blink of an eye. Within manufacturing constraints, lots of design freedom would exist to add vary porosity, elasticity, add turbulators, eddy flaps, etc.. Transformation from COTS roll-stock to final wing planforms could be done with zero scrap, the odd bits of reinforcement using up all cuts. Unlike composite construction, low-skilled labor could repair wings in the field with tapes. A small scale production line of small wingmills would be a nice start.

Humanitarian Note- Putting AWE automation investment into manufacture rather than flight-automation promotes the earliest significant energy harvest & shifts jobs from toxic ugly indoor composite work to glorious outdoor kite-pilot jobs.

CoolIP                       ~Dave Santos             , 2010        M2840


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