Design Engineering’s top 10 stories of 2014
DE’s most popular engineering news items of the year reflect readers’ fascination with 3D printing, material science and warp drive.
Year’s end always invites a certain amount of retrospection and we at Design Engineering magazine are no different. Looking back at 2014’s most popular stories gives some insight into what stirred readers’ imaginations and, therefore, sheds light on things to come in 2015. The following lists DE’s most read news items of the past year in reverse order:
10. UK inventor to blast France with world’s largest fart machine
UK plumber, Colin Furze, drew his share of notoriety in July for pointing his purposely “rude” pulse engine mounted in a large set of metallic buttocks toward England’s nearest neighbor. One wonders, however, if the story would have gotten as much traction if the adolescent contraption had been unleashed in Belgium’s or Holland’s general direction.
9. Bike manufacturer 3D-prints first metal mountain bike frame
Empire Cycles and its 3D-printed titanium mountain bike frame was the first of many popular additive manufacturing stories this year. Using a Renishaw AM250 laser sintering system, the UK-based manufacturer was able to make not only a stronger version of its aluminium mountain bike frame but also shave approximately 33 percent from its weight.
8. Material scientists double TWIP steel’s strength without loss of ductility
Any process that purports to increase the strength of steel will grab attention. This story, however, about a process developed by engineers at Brown University that doubles the strength of TWIP steel without making it more brittle, was irresistible to many DE readers.
7. Canadian super-glass bends but doesn’t break
Cell phone and mobile device owners are a clumsy people so electronics manufacturers are always looking for a better way to prevent screen from cracking. With that and other applications in mind, mechanical engineering researchers at McGill University announced a process last January for increasing the strength of glass by 200 times by mimicking the structure of mollusk shells.
6. U.S. Navy successfully tests jet fuel from seawater process
Why stow jet fuel on aircraft carriers when you can just make it from seawater? U.S. Navy researchers answered that question this year by developing a way to extract CO2 and H2 from seawater and liquefy the gases into a hydrocarbon jet fuel for around $3-5 per gallon.
5. World’s smallest 3D printing pen primed for Kickstarter launch
Since the 3D Doodler lit Kickstarter on fire last year, 3D printing pens have become an enticing and artistic off-shoot of additive manufacturing. The Lix 3D Pen promises to make the tech more stylish and easier to use. It should be noted that pre-orders were due to ship in September 2014 but, as yet, the 3D pen is still “in development.”
4. 3D printed humanoid robot goes open source
Open source is typically associated with software and operating systems but a group of robotics researchers at the Inria Flowers Lab in Bordeaux-France made headlines over the summer by releasing the patent-free 3D STL files, BOM and schematics for with a small, child-like robot called Poppy.
3. Canadian single-wheel electric skateboard shreds Kickstarter campaign
Forward Motion’s OneWheel, an all-electric skateboard invented by Calgary-native and mechanical engineer, Kyle Doerksen, brought the dream of a true hover-board one step closer to reality this year. Speeding along at 12 mph on the OneWheel’s single gokart tire is like snowboarding in Canadian Rockies except on pavement, its creator says.
2. JPL develops gradient, multi-metal 3D printing process
As 3D printing with one or even two polymer materials has become almost pedestrian, researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced, in July, a way to additively manufacture usable gradient-metal parts from two or more alloys.
1. NASA scientist unveils warp drive spaceship concept
Everyone loves dreaming about sci-fi technology, but NASA mechanical engineer, Harold White, spends his days trying to make one such concept, warp drive, a reality. It’s no surprise then that this story about Mr. White’s theoretically feasible warp drive concept topped Design Engineering’s most popular engineering story for 2014.