Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

Start Up Plans and Revisions for the Hyperloop Design

Hello everyone! I hope y’all are doing well.  It’s the same old stuff for me.  Looking forward to Halloween though– it’s always my favorite holiday.  And I want to go to a haunted house since I haven’t been to one in a long time.  Today, I want to talk about updates on the hyperloop concept since Elon Musk has made the proposal.

JumpStartFund has recruited two people, Marco Villa (former director of operations missions at SpaceX) and Patricia Galloway (first female president of ASCE) to coordinate the month long fund raising process.  Dirk Ahlborn, CEO and co-founder of JumpStartFund, has said “a lot of people talk about why this project will never work and how difficult it is to realize,…We are honored to have Dr. Villa and Dr. Galloway on board to lead our community, and their involvement goes a long way to proving that our platform’s processes, along with our community, can actually bring mega projects to life, such as Hyperloop.”  This fundraising is unique in that JumpStartFund will apply concepts of crowd space design used in the design of open-source software.  Galloway is interested in the project because it offers some unique challenges.  According to her, the challenge in this stage of the project is to verify its viability and prove that it can be practically designed and constructed.  They will have to bring people into the project that can not only bring in useful expertise but some much needed equity as well.  Galloway said “I believe this project will revolutionize how transportation will be viewed for future travel to and from major cities similar to the way the Concorde almost changed air travel,…What is different today is the opportunities that crowdsourcing and crowdfunding offers in getting dreams and innovations off the ground to allow the Concordes of the future become reality today.”

The Technology Futurist of AutoDesk, Jordan Brandt, has also added some significant input as well.  He says “Elon Musk put a lot of this energy into designing the pod capsule, and the power requirements, and things like that,…but not so much into the infrastructure, which by the way is the most expensive aspect of the project.”  Using 3-D modeling software, Brandt has redesigned the tubes such that they are stacked in a vertical figure 8 design.  According to his calculations, this should reduce land area requirements and the quantity of pylons needed to support the tubes.  Along with other engineers at AutoDesk, he also devised a system, called a mobile braiding system, which would use carbon nanofibers to create the tubes as it moves along the planned route.  With a refinement in the carbon nanofiber manufacturing process the material could be cheaper and the transportation for the construction costs could be greatly reduced as well.  In his final estimate, he believes this will save billions of dollars on the project.

In my opinion, these are the types of innovations I was hoping would be made on the design.  In my previous blog post (http://goo.gl/X1UgIK, second to last paragraph), I cited construction costs as one of the critical issues to address and this is an innovative idea.  I worry that the refinements in manufacturing the carbon nanofiber might not be as effective as thought and I also worry about the need to create yet another untested machine to complete the project.  However, these are the types of creative ideas that I think are needed in transportation design going forward.

What are your thoughts on these new developments?  Do they help or hurt the viability and the implementation of the project?  Thanks for your time and have a good week!

Sources:

Rogowski, Mark, “With Engineers On Board, A Startup Is Driving The Hyperloop Idea Forward”, Forbes Online, 9/26/2013, http://goo.gl/uMjgGH

Jessica Leber, “What Will It Take to Actually Build the Hyperloop?”, Co.exist, 10/10/2013, http://goo.gl/j3ESai

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