- 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
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.
~Dave Santos , 2010
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