The Minds Behind the Machines

I came into this first meeting with intentions of locating the compromise that I was sure would be necessary between our aspirations and the realistic limits that we needed to recognize based on Dan and Dave’s expertise and the facilities limitations. We were met however, with open minds and a “we’ll try anything once” mentality, effectively eliminating the potential framework I anticipated having to work within.

While meandering the facility with Dave, my quickly spoken thoughts about what may and what may not work were met with a cautious responses that told me everything I needed to know about the coming months; there is no need to jump to conclusions when we have the capability to prove it through testing. This research and testing laboratory that has become such an important addition to Rigidized Metals will provide the platform to make or break an idea’s viability depending on how well it performs in precise testing. Of the most interest to me was one machines ability to recreate the solar energy that a potential envelope system would encounter.

Dan’s expertise in the area of all things lamination became a focus of discussion as the questions about glue and material needed to be resolved before moving onto bigger ideas. It was at this point that I wished I had met Dan many months ago as he gave us a detailed explanation of what a DYNE was. A dyne is a unit of measurement associate with surface tension, more precisely the amount of force to accelerate a mass of one gram at a rate of one centimeter per second squared. After showing us some simple yet remarkable tests I was left regretting the unconscious choice to work harder, not smarter when it came to the arduous manual lamination process I completed so many times. Dan taught me in a matter of minutes that simply exposing the surface to a small amount of heat causes a molecular redistribution, effectively making the surface more “porous” and able to accept glue during lamination; a technique that would have saved me endless hours if not days of scoring and sanding each surface to make the over 240 bi-material panels of my thesis installation.

Following this demonstration, Dan told a fascinating anecdote that continued to strengthen my belief in the concept we are pursuing. He spoke of encountering some railroad cars whose roofs were made of the same style rigid panels that he is continuing to develop at Rigidized Metals. These panels consist of a hollow core hex-comb extrusion that is laminated between two sheet materials; and in the case of the rail road cars, the manufacturers made the “mistake” of using two different materials, metal for the surface exposed to the exterior and a vinyl plastic for the interior surface. When the employees peered into the railroad cars that were sitting in the sun, they were shocked to see the roof panels warped and wavy. While deformation beyond the moment of elasticity (permanent deformation) is not of much use to this research, Dan continued the story in which one of the railroad cars was then pulled into the garage, cooled down with forced air and the roof panels receded back to their original flat position.

 To hear of such a transformation happen to a panel specifically developed for its rigidity based purely on its material composition is fascinating, and certainly adds momentum to the viability of this research. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Dan and Dave, and after leaving some sample thesis materials to be patterned we have begun the process of developing specific strategies for moving forward.

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