Friday, June 1, 2012

Eureka CNC: A Microfactory for Airplane Parts, Among Other Things

Eureka CNC is a microfactory that uses a CNC hot wire foam cutter to produce specialty aircraft parts, among other things. According to the Eureka CNC website, the owner, Stephen James, has a (very impressive) day job in the USAF, a family to provide for, and an awesome mental problem called project ADD...and he has still managed to single-handedly produce a wide variety of useful and cost-effective products and build a few airplanes of his own.

Exciting features of Eureka CNC:
  • The ability to rapidly and precisely turn a 3-D CAD file into a foam airfoil core ready for the next step in the airplane build project (covering it in fiberglass)
  • Extreme versatility and efficiency: products include custom crown molding, race car fairings optimized for structure and Reynolds number, and (most exciting of all) wing cores for a wide variety of home-built composite aircraft including the Long-EZ, Cozy MK III, Cozy MK IV, Berkut, E-Racer, Quickie Q2/Q200 with LS1,
  • Although building it did not sound easy, the Eureka CNC hot wire foam cutter does sound like it's based on technology that is well within the reach of the open source community
  •  Now that there are open source aircraft design projects in the works (click here and scroll down for a list), we will probably soon see rapid prototyping processes like Eureka CNC's make new aircraft design ideas a reality in record time.
  • This technology could be applied to designing, creating, and selling some awesome fiberglass kit car bodies
I would love to see a higher level of integration between the outputs from conceptual design and mesh creation software like this, computational fluid dynamics optimization codes like this, 3D geometry output files, and affordable CNC rapid prototyping technology like the Eureka CNC hot wire cutter. Anything to shrink the currently huge amount of time between having an aircraft design idea and seeing it in prototype...

On a side note, I am a happy customer of Eureka CNC. My husband and I bought wing cores from Eureka CNC for our airplane build project, the Cozy MK IV. The average build time for Cozy MK IV projects is around 3000 hours, which amounts to a year and a half of 40-hour work weeks. Today, we are in the neighborhood of 10% done. Stephen James' microfactory-built CNC wing cores saved us a big chunk of time by completing several steps of the build project for us, so maybe that figure is more like 12-15%.

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