Aircruise Design Innovation Muse

By Kate

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When I watched the Aircruise concept video, I got all musical.  Van Morrison’s “Moondance” came to mind, as well as “Up Up and Away

You see Aircruise is not a hot air balloon, nor a cruise ship, nor hotel.  It’s kind of a combination of all.  An air-floating vessel for folks who like the luxury of slow.

Nick TalbotHoping it’ll get you musical as well, I’d like to show you the video and then share my interview with Nick Talbot, design director at Seymourpowell (the design and innovation company behind Aircruise).

Here’s what I asked Nick:

  1. I’ve read the Aircruise is a “visionary approach to the future.”  Your design certainly inspires, but how feasible would it be to build today given existing materials?  What must we invent to permit the production of Aircruise?
  2. Aircruise is designed to be powered by natural energy.  How would this work?
  3. How important was 3D software to your design concept, and at what stage did you integrate it to the process?
  4. What is the relationship between 3D, creative ideation and innovation?
  5. When can I spend the night in the Aircruise?
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Interview with Nick Talbot:

Q:  I’ve read that Aircruise is a “visionary approach to the future.”  Your design certainly inspires, but how feasible would it be to build today given existing materials?  What must we invent to permit the production of Aircruise?

Many of the materials required are already in use on airliners and increasingly on luxury yachts to minimise weight . For example carbon composites or carbon/carbon honeycomb, or aluminium honeycombs faced with the appropriate aesthetic finish.  We are also interested in exploring new forms of woven and ‘constructed’ fabrics for partitions and facades – again in pursuit of minimum weight. For the primary structure, we foresee an all composite lattice, with the gas systems integrated into the structural frame. Our underlying idea is to apply aerospace materials and assembly technologies and techniques to a vehicle at the scale of the Tour Eiffel. Probably assembled top down or hung like a ‘seed’ so the primary structure is in tension before the lifting bags are introduced.

Q:  Aircruise is designed to be powered by natural energy.  How would this work?

Flexible photovoltaic (solar panel) cells cover the upper part of the envelope, augmenting the primary power generation, in this case from fuel cells. Large surface area PEM fuel cells generate the primary power for on board systems and turn low speed compressors located in the mid section of the ship. This compressed gas is ducted to provide directional thrust and auto stabilisation. Compressed hydrogen stored in parts of the main structure provides fuel for longer ranges and by venting to the envelope or re-compressing these volumes, altitude stability is achieved.

Q:  How important was 3D software to your design concept, and at what stage did you integrate it to your process?

Generating the concept or indeed any concept is still done with brains and pencils! So the conceptual jump to a luxury hotel that floats was a thought exercise. Very rapidly however, we developed a series of layouts and configurations for the structure, accommodation floors, systems and overall volume of the lifting volume. So 3D systems rapidly help us validate early weight and lifting volume calculations, even at the most basic level.

Q:  What is the relationship between 3D, creative ideation and innovation?

For our studio the relationship is very close and entirely iterative. We establish an idea or ‘hypothesis’ and use 3D systems to validate at the first round, then re-evaluate the outcome, generate refined or modified ideas and take them back into 3D. We never commit time and resource to 3D models until we have a clear idea of the concept, however. The idea must be conceptually robust before we take it to the 3D phase. In fact, ‘old fashioned’ as it sounds we still often use simple 2D systems to establish the basic proportions and layouts before importing that for surface and volume building.

Q:  When can I spend the night in the Aircruise?

Watch this space! It is possible – in a sense that’s key the point of the project, to encourage people to think about a positive brighter future, to think about new possibilities. But of course such a project would require huge investment in R+D, new materials, structures, guidance and control systems etc. It is unlikely that an individual company or consortium could afford this undertaking on a commercial basis at present. But who knows – as land values increase or the sea levels rise, we might have to look at how and where we live in a whole new way. What’s really needed is some seed funding to undertake a proper feasibility study –not just from an engineering viewpoint, but potential market and business case. Never say never!

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Many thanks Nick for your answers and to Tim Duncan for putting us in touch!

I’d certainly like to fly in [your] beautiful balloon hotel!

What do you readers think about Aircruise?

Best,

Kate

That’s MY Cloud, Not Yours!

By Kate

Greeneyes
I was reading an interesting post the other day on the blog Architecture+.  JeanRicard served up the topic of Private Clouds and their relation to the future of the AEC industry and BIMs.

Would you rather put your CAD and 3D product design data on a public, private or hybrid Cloud?

It seems that people have no problem putting highly sensitive Sales data on salesforce.com, so you wouldn’t mind putting your highly sensitive product data on a hybrid or public Cloud, right?

Or, are people going to start getting possessive about Clouds, going with the private option?

According to Chris France, CIO of Little Diversified Architectural Consulting:

A private cloud differs from the public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services or Google by the fact that the cloud computing infrastructure and resources are controlled by the individual business that deploys it.

The full article argues the economical benefits gained by opting for a private cloud.

I can’t help thinking that a public cloud would be more economically efficient for smaller businesses but I haven’t crunched any numbers. ;-)

Show your preference in the below poll and see what other’s think!

Best,

Kate

Related posts:

Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plain…

By Tim
Farming The Wind in Iowa

Harvesting the Iowa Wind

If you thought I was talking about Oklahoma, think again. In my last 3D Perspectives blog post, I wrote about Keokuk, Iowa leading the world in renewable hydroelectric power, way back in 1913. Today, according to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa ranks second in the United State in wind power installations (by megawatts). Go Cyclones! Iowa State University’s sports team’s name seems to be a good nickname for Iowa’s efforts to harness the wind for clean, renewable energy production – Cyclone Power!

While from a distance, windmills look elegantly simple, they really are complex-and extremely large-systems – consisting of the foundation, the tower, the blades, and the turbine (see animation at U.S. Department of Energy website). To meet the multidisciplinary design and engineering challenges, wind power manufacturers are leveraging Product Lifecycle Management solutions from Dassault Systèmes, including 3D design, composites modeling, manufacturing automation, finite element analysis, multiphysics simulation, design optimization, as well as process and data management. Check out the coverage on DS solutions for wind energy at Eureka Magazine.

The wind energy industry also has plans to accelerate innovation through cross-industry collaboration. Check out this announcement between Boeing and Vestas discussing the benefits their respective companies plan to achieve by sharing research on light-weight materials and aerodynamics.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both companies use PLM solutions from DS.

China research on using offshore platforms

China prototype using offshore platforms

The wind energy industry is also leveraging the experience and infrastructure developed for offshore oil exploration. Research is underway in China to evaluate the viability of using abandoned offshore oil platforms as the foundation for wind power turbines, with the help of Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA.

If you’re not already benefiting from wind power, it seems you will be in the near future. In fact, with the steady wind blowing across the lake in my backyard, I am seriously considering building a small-scale windmill of my own. I guess that idea – should it become a reality – will really take me back to my ‘renewable energy’ Iowa roots.

What do you think of Wind Energy? Will it continue to grow or do you think the industry has reached a plateau?

Go Cyclones!

Tim

Related post:

20% Wind Power by 2020



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