Test tube transport: the Hyperloop nears reality

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar, in association with WSJ custom studios


Source: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Source: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Imagine traveling in capsules sucked through a tube using low air pressure and magnetic acceleration to achieve speeds of up to 760 miles (1,223 km) per hour. That’s the idea of the California Hyperloop, which could eventually cut the travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to a mere 30 minutes, compared with today’s one-hour flight or six-hour car journey.

As soon as next year, a full-scale test track will begin construction in Quay Valley, a proposed sustainable community located between California’s two major metropolises.

The Hyperloop is a system that not only makes sense because it’s cheaper to construct, but it’s also sustainable so it’s cheaper to run,” says Dirk Ahlborn, chief executive officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. “It changes the world.”

Tesla founder Elon Musk first laid out his Hyperloop vision in 2013 and invited others to take up the challenge. Turning the idea into a full-scale model in just three years may seem fast, but, as Mr. Ahlborn points out, it took a decade to get to the moon—“a way more difficult task,” he says. “The Hyperloop technology sounds like science fiction but, in the end, everything we’re doing already exists. The Quay Valley track is necessary to find out how to optimize the technology.”

The Hyperloop concept is similar to the pneumatic tubes used by banks to carry cash and documents, except that the passenger capsules would be sucked through the tube by controlled propulsion. A capsule (with large doors for speedy boarding) would enter a tightly sealed exterior shell. The tubes would probably be constructed from steel—although other materials, including fiberglass, are being considered—and covered with solar panels to supply the system’s energy. Low air pressure—of around 100 Pascals—would reduce air resistance inside the tube, while magnetic levitation and an air cushion would allow the capsule to hover above the tube’s surface. The straight track would further aid speed. As on a flight, passengers would sense how fast they are moving only when the capsule accelerates, slows or turns.


Hyperloop. Source: Forbes

Hyperloop. Source: Forbes

The Quay Valley track will allow engineers to work out optimum capsule size and boarding procedures. Each capsule is currently expected to seat 28 passengers and depart every 30 seconds during peak times, allowing a full-size Hyperloop to transport some 3,360 passengers an hour.

The Hyperloop would be elevated on pylons, making it possible to place the route above existing infrastructure such as highways, while also simplifying the process of obtaining right of way and minimizing the environmental impact.

More importantly, the pylons would be flexible enough to withstand earthquakes, in the way that pylons built in the 1970s to carry Alaska’s oil pipeline have proved resilient to such shocks, Mr. Ahlborn notes. As an enclosed system, the Hyperloop would also be impervious to harsh weather.

Perhaps more revolutionary than the technology is the way the Hyperloop team itself works. As well as partnering with companies and universities, more than 300 experts from 21 countries have been brought onto the team, working remotely online. Although they don’t get paid—most hold day jobs as engineers—they do get company stock options. “They’re driven by passion,” says Mr. Ahlborn.

The Hyperloop is groundbreaking in a commercial sense, too. It is expected to cost $16 billion to build, versus $68 billion for a comparable California high-speed rail line. Ticket prices for the Los Angeles-San Francisco stretch, at $20- $30, would be far cheaper than flying, and even that business model is open to disruption. “Do we need tickets?” asks Mr. Ahlborn. “Or are there other ways in which we can generate enough income.” Maybe the Hyperloop could “make more money having more people ride and we can say it’s free. Or maybe it’s free at certain times, and at peak times it costs a bit,” he adds.

The Hyperloop turns conventional infrastructure on its head, from its technology to its crowdsourcing. “Usually these things are done behind closed doors in a boardroom. We’re trying to be open. We’re using the community to do everything,” Mr. Ahlborn says. The Hyperloop “is a first for a lot of things.”

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

The Case for Industrialization of the Construction Industry

By Akio

This post is an excerpt from the paper, “Industrialization of the Construction Industry,” by Dr. Perry Daneshgari and  Dr. Heather Moore of  MCA Inc.

Like many other industries the construction industry is under constant pressure to improve productivity, reduce cost, and minimize waste in the operation.

While the productivity in the manufacturing industry has improved by four hundred percent (400%) over the last century, the construction industry’s productivity has, in the best case, stayed flat or turned negative.

Tweet: Problem: Over the last 100 yrs productivity in the #AEC industry has, in best case, stayed flat. Solution: http://ctt.ec/mf0SU+ @3DSAECClick to tweet: “Problem: over the 100 yrs productivity in the #AEC
industry has, in the best case, stayed flat. Solution: industrialization”

One main reason for the improvement of the manufacturing and other industries’ productivity is the “Industrialization” of those industries. Industrialization of any industry will rely on the following five factors:

  1. Management of Labor
  2. Management of work
  3. Lean Operations
  4. Modeling and Simulation
  5. Feedback from the source

The driver for establishing and applying industrialization in manufacturing was the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Currently no known association is leading this mission in the construction industry.

A marked result of the advancement in productivity of the manufacturing industry is the relative price of an automobile.  Whilst the cost of an automobile has gone from 140% in 1910 of the average national per capita income in the United States down to 33% in 2012, the cost of an average dwelling has gone up from 333% to 619% of per capita income during the same period.

Tweet: Since 1910 automobile production cost decreased 75%. The cost of a dwelling has doubled. Time to industrialize @3DSAEC http://ctt.ec/Urcfa+Click to tweet: “Since 1910 automobile production cost decreased
75%. Production cost of a dwelling has doubled. Time to industrialize”

This post is an excerpt from the white paper, “Industrialization of the Construction Industry,” by Dr. Perry Daneshgari and Dr. Heather Moore. Commissioned by Dassault Systemes and prepared by MCA Inc., this whitepaper focuses on industrialization of construction industry. It maps out the construction industry challenges, relates the history of industrialization in the manufacturing industry, and summarizes five critical aspects and approaches.

Download the whitepaper and start accelerating the “Industrialization of the Construction Industry” through lessons learned from manufacturing and other industries.

Tweet: The Case for Industrialization of the #Construction Industry @3DSAEC @Dassault3DS #AEC #BIM http://ctt.ec/Uz_OK+Click to tweet this article


Akio MoriwakiAkio Moriwaki
Dassault Systèmes’ head of global marketing for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry, Mr. Moriwaki led the launch of the groundbreaking Lean Construction Solution Experience and is a member of buildingSMART

Related resources:

Lean Construction Industry Solution Experience

Download Lean Construction Solution Brief

White Paper: Industrialization of the Construction Industry

MCA® Website

Who Will Lead the Prefabrication Movement?

By Patrick


This post is part of a series of articles found in “Prefabrication and Industrialized Construction,” a Dassault Systèmes whitepaper.


The shift toward prefabrication means embracing a new project delivery method. While the use of prefabrication offers clear advantages on many project types, the construction industry is notoriously slow to adapt to new business models.

Tweet: The shift toward #prefab means embracing a new project delivery method. @Dassault3DS @3DSAEC #BIM #AEC http://ctt.ec/eNHY2+

Click to tweet: “The shift toward #prefab
means embracing a new project delivery method.”

Widespread adoption of prefabrication is being seen from two drivers in particular: Building Product Manufacturers and Subcontractors.

Building Product Manufacturers

During the latest construction downturn, a handful of building product manufacturers flourished by consolidating with and/or acquiring a range of related building product companies.

Workers build a floor on a chassis at a factory. ©iStock.com/EdStock

The result is a handful of suppliers that are now able to deliver multiple building systems to a single project. This delivery system promotes a move toward prefabricated systems since it allows the supplier to move more product.

Take for example United Technologies, which manufactures both elevators and air conditioners. Such suppliers are more motivated to sell a complete system directly to the building owner, avoiding the battle to get each individual component specified by the designer or selected by the general contractor.


For some time, subcontractors seeking to secure bigger contracts have looked to become a resource to architect in the design phase. These design-build partners are able to advise architects on product selection, and consequently lock in their preferred products and services.

However, many of these companies are focusing on a new advantage of selling directly to the building owner. With today’s focus on sustainability, more building owners are taking a long-term view of new construction; the future operation of systems is now a greater part of design considerations.

Tweet: Sustainability means the future operations of systems is now a greater part of design. @Dassault3DS @3DSAEC #AEC #BIM http://ctt.ec/dsdSa+Click to tweet: “Sustainability means the future
operations of systems is now a greater part of design.”

The emergence of design-build-operate-maintain contracts means subcontractors earn not only installation work but also a contract to provide maintenance work over the life cycle of their system.

Take again the case of United Technologies: while the supplier may only earn a small profit margin for installing its elevators, its labor force can earn as much as three times that by managing the operation of that elevator for the duration of its existence.

That movement toward life cycle maintenance is a major motivator for installers to be part of the early specification process — although building owners win as well with a more efficiently delivered product.

Next Steps

Forward-thinking suppliers and subcontractors already are promoting this new method of project delivery. As more building owners buy into the benefits of prefabrication, more members of the construction industry may find themselves adapting to this new reality.

Tweet: Who Will Lead the #Prefabrication Movement? @Dassault3DS @3DSAEC #AEC #BIM http://ctt.ec/Y2g1a+Click to tweet this article.



Patrick Mays, AIA
With over 30 years of AEC experience, Mr. Mays is part of the core team driving the AEC industry strategy at Dassault Systèmes. He was  General Manager for North America at Graphisoft, and served as CIO at NBBJ Architects, where he led the firm’s transition to BIM in the 1990s.


Related Resources

Lean Construction Industry Solution Experience from Dassault Systèmes

Download the full whitepaper: Prefabrication and Industrialized Construction

Prefab and Industrialized Construction whitepaper

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