22 1933 Model 247 commercial transport The Boeing Model 247 is the world’s first modern airliner. the enterprise like never before, he said. Taking modeling one step further, Grandine said digital manufacturing might be a far more involved process in the future, both in customizing the airplane build and possibly replacing all tooling. He envisions more concentrated 3-D printing on the assembly line. “I suspect we’re still decades away from this, but imagine taking the design of an airplane to a factory-sized 3-D printer by which employees literally print the entire airplane in that spot, roll it out and fly it away,” he said. Lasers will become smaller and be more powerful as the technology continues to evolve over the next couple of decades, according to Harold Schall, Boeing Laser & Electro-Optical Systems chief engineer and Senior Technical Fellow in Albuquerque, N.M. Schall was part of the Star Wars program, which began in the 1980s and later led to tests of a laser anti-ballistic missile system on a modified 747. In the future, he said, Boeing’s unmanned aerial systems might rekindle this type of defense effort—with a much smaller laser. “You could put a laser on a Boeing unmanned vehicle and advances could be made where you will be able to get enough power in that laser to go back and do the Star Wars mission on that platform, only more efficiently and with smaller volume,” Schall said. “It could be a high-altitude vehicle that will stay up for days to protect the country.” Emily Howard is a human factors engineer and Senior Technical Fellow based in Huntington Beach, Calif., who specializes in human information processing. Her job is to help ensure that everything Boeing develops—products, tools and services—enables employees and customers to be effective, efficient and safe. “My work is not rocket science, but it is based on brain science, and the next century will see a tremendous change in how we understand, harness and amplify the power of the human brain,” she said. Almost everything being built these days has a sensor, a display, a network, Howard noted. Technology of all kinds revolves around the increasing hunger for information and machines are becoming more involved in everyday decision-making, in geometric modeling and numerical analysis and a Senior Technical Fellow in Seattle, also takes a page from Star Trek when talking about the future. He and his team members create virtual simulations that can make airplane production prototypes unnecessary and, in turn, save significant cost. The downside is modeling can take months, even years, to complete. Grandine also sees future modeling becoming more in tune with something featured in Star Trek, where new devices are created almost instantaneously using verbal commands to a computer. He also envisions Boeing someday having the ability to link all of its hundreds of thousands of laptops and computers into one data stream, using an automated process turned on by something as simple as a screen saver and scanning for ideas and designs. They would be filtered for compatibility, connecting everyone across 4 Difficult manufacturing tasks could be performed by a riveting robot. 5 This artist’s concept depicts a wiring robot.
Frontiers July 2016 Issue
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