Richard Smith's blog

Turbulence to Skydiving: The 2007 Blog Review

2007 was quite a ride. Looking through my posts you'll find a veritable mystery tour from Turbulence to Skydiving Without a Parachute. Various themes emerged without warning - there was no master plan - I just went where the wind blew and the water ran.

Skydiving Without a Parachute

Jump out of an aircraft without a parachute - are you mad? Probably. What if you could have a reserve parachute and wear a wingsuit? OK, keep talking...

MicroISV Rising

The rise of the MicroISV - small (sometimes a single person) independent software vendor - might be the jolt that the Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) analysis industry needs to break free of the current trend of ever more expensive tools offered by established CAE vendors. Just as the Google Lunar XPrize attempts to jumpstart a new outer space industry, MicroISVs have the potential to forge a brave new software frontier.

Personal Air Vehicle Challenge

Rather than a personal jetpack that is limited to flights (or more accurately hops) of 30-50 seconds duration, how about a Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) with a range of 700 miles? Now you are talking – welcome to NASA's vision for a versatile vehicle to alleviate congestion on roads.

Wind Belt: Wind Power Minus the Spin

Spinning wind turbines in various configurations – horizontal or vertical axis, massive or micro, even flying – dominate the environmentally friendly electricity generation scene. However, what if you wanted an electricity source to power a small light? Spinning wind turbines are too costly. A second option is batteries (recharged by solar panels maybe). But now there is a third – the Wind Belt can convert wind energy into electricity, without spinning components, suitable for low-power appliances such as small lights.

Kites: History, Aerodynamics and Uses

As with paper airplanes, we have Chinese inventiveness to thank for another wildly popular aerodynamic device – the kite. Kites have evolved over millennia to the extent that they can now provide useful motive forces to aid ships to cross oceans. However, their ability to thrill children (and those young at heart) with their grace and aerobatics remains intact.

Solar-Powered Airplanes

Steady progress in zero emissions, solar-powered airplanes recently culminated in an unofficial endurance record of 54 hours by a remote-controlled airplane called Zephyr, built by Qinetiq. Another solar-powered airplane, the Solar Impulse, hit the headlines recently when the team building the airplane announced the launch of their prototype that will, they hope, carry a pilot around the globe in a series of flights.

Fab it Yourself

3D printers and other types of rapid prototyping machines are the latest innovation in manufacturing where components are built by depositing material (usually plastic) layer by layer. Until recently the cheapest machines were still expensive (in the $10,000s range). Not anymore – now there are freely available plans for fabricators (fabs or fabbers as they are known) that are well within the price range and capabilities (assembly required) of hobbyists.

Texture Mapping

Texture mapping is a simple technique to make a 3D model more realistic. It is also a great way to brand either a 3D model or an image with a logo. It is even useful for arranging multiple images within a 3D composite image.

Simulation for Illustration

Sometimes an accurate simulation of a realistic scenario such as the aerodynamics of a racecar, is too much. Sometimes all that is needed is a simulation that highlights a simple concept or idea – welcome to simulation for illustration.

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