Airship photo collage

Design Insights: Look! Up in the Sky!; An Enhanced, Connected Production Line

June 15, 2021
A review of the day’s top trending stories from Machine Design editors.

Look! Up in the Sky!

The recent reports of unexplained sightings of what are purported to be extraterrestrial craft hovering around our atmosphere has reignited a basic human question: Are we alone in the universe?

That’s a topic for a different audience, but as we have contemplated such aircraft in real life and in science fiction, we have generally imagined them in the same way—rounded spaceships with narrow edges. That’s where the phrase “flying saucer” comes from.

That shape also is the prototype for a different type of aircraft that may be of use here on good old Earth. As a Machine Design story notes, designs for a lighter-than-air craft for cargo transport offers several logistical advantages.

The carbon-and-alloy frame would be propelled by turboprop jet engines and kept aloft by a combination of helium and hot air. But this is no zeppelin—the largest of the proposed vehicles would be 807 ft in diameter, which would allow for a much larger payload than commercially available today. By comparison, the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans is 680 ft in diameter.

Despite its size, the other advantage to the craft is that it can land almost anywhere that’s big enough, such as construction sites, and could be used to transport materials and people to emergency sites.

An Enhanced, Connected Production Line

A connected and dynamic production line will, under the best of circumstances, deliver actionable data to operators and even allow analytics to adjust itself within operational parameters. The challenge remains getting everything connected.

As a recent Machine Design article notes, achieving what author Vibhoosh Gupta called “enhanced connectivity” requires an enhanced process network as well.

Modern edge computing platforms are the key to progressing production line intelligence to higher levels,” Gupta writes. “Enhanced connectivity not only provides decision-making information but can yield predictive results so plant personnel can work proactively. At this stage operators can discover not only where it happened but, more importantly, where else it can happen and when. Taken to the highest level of the edge maturity model, operational insights can be developed and fed back into the automation for true adaptive functionality.”

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