Tag Archives: Technology

The F-35 At 20: How Its Successes, And Failures, Shaped The Aerospace Industry

The takeaway from the last 20 years, according to aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, might well be, “You succeeded, but please don’t try that again.”
By Valerie Insinna – On Friday, Oct. 26, 2001, executives and employees from the nation’s two biggest defense primes gathered in boardrooms and sprawling production facilities to watch a Pentagon press conference. At stake: the Joint Strike Fighter competition, which would decide who would dominate the next 40 years of the defense aerospace industry — and rake in hundreds of billions in profits.

It was a moment five years in the making. The Pentagon wanted to buy a single stealth aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps capable of three distinct operational requirements: conventional landings on a runway, landing on aircraft carriers, and performing short takeoffs and vertical landings.

It awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin and Boeing in 1996 to build competing prototypes, known as the X-35 and X-32. By July 2001, Lockheed’s X-35 had proven it could execute a short, 500-foot takeoff, fly at supersonic speeds and then vertically land in a single flight. While Boeing’s X-32 also demonstrated supersonic flight and vertical landings, it did not accomplish them in the same flight.

For the engineers that had designed and developed the two planes, emotions were running high as a group of white-haired defense acquisition officials approached the podium of the Pentagon press briefing room.

And just like that, the competition was over. more>

Meet General Electric’s flexible power transformer

By Ben Geman – A Mississippi utility is installing what’s being billed as “the world’s first large flexible transformer” — an Energy Department-backed project aimed at boosting grid resilience and smoothing integration of renewables.

Driving the news: GE Research and Prolec GE, working with the Mississippi power company Cooperative Energy, this morning are announcing the launch of a six-month field demonstration at a big substation in Columbia, Mississippi.

Why it matters: The “flexible” transformer has advantages over traditional models customized to specific voltage levels and other conditions, the companies and DOE said.

The big picture: The companies, which released this video promo, said it can better withstand extreme weather and is also an easier and faster replacement when extreme weather has damaged a traditional transformer. more>

Updates from McKinsey

The 2021 McKinsey Global Payments Report
By Alessio Botta, Philip Bruno and Jeff Galvin – Last October, when we published McKinsey’s 2020 Global Payments Report, it was already clear that the pandemic’s economic impact would lead to the first decline in global payments revenues in 11 years.

One year later, the picture is unexpectedly positive—on the payments front—despite challenges. Payments revenue did indeed decline—to $1.9 trillion globally—but by less than we anticipated last fall. Indicators point to a nominal but geographically uneven rebound in 2021, bringing revenue back into the range of 2019’s record high. From there, McKinsey projects a return to historical mid-single-digit growth rates, generating 2025 global payments revenue of roughly $2.5 trillion.

The relatively muted 2020 topline numbers mask some important countervailing effects, however, which are poised to reset the scale of opportunity for payments players for years to come. The pandemic accelerated ongoing declines in cash usage and adoption of electronic and e-commerce transaction methods. Revenue gains in these areas were offset by tightening of net interest margins earned on deposit balances. All these trends are expected to outlast the pandemic. The contraction of net interest income—combined with technology breakthroughs and the impact of open banking and fintech innovation—has spurred the creation of revenue models that within five years will offer adjacent opportunities as large as the core payments revenue pool. more>

Car Makers Reap What’s Sown During Chip Shortage

By George Leopold – Despite optimistic predictions that auto makers have seen the worst of ongoing semiconductor shortages, sources closer to the technology supply chain maintain things will get worse before they get any better.

Industry consultant Semiconductor Intelligence downplayed auto industry assertions about the second quarter representing the “trough” of IC supply chain disruptions. Citing a growing list of auto production cutbacks stemming from the chip shortage, the market tracker countered in recent weeks that “the shortage of semiconductors for automotive applications is getting worse.”

It cited production cuts at Ford, GM, Hyundai, Toyota, the merged Fiat-Chrysler-Peugeot group called Stellantis and Volkswagen. more>

Five Ways to Build a New Macroeconomics

What is taught in today’s graduate programs as macroeconomics is entirely useless for the kinds of questions we are interested in.
(evonomics.com)By J.W. Mason –  Jón Steinsson wrote up some thoughts for this panel about the current state of macroeconomics. He begins:

There is a narrative within our field that macroeconomics has lost its way. While I have some sympathy with this narrative, I think it is a better description of the field 10 years ago than of the field today. Today, macroeconomics is in the process of regaining its footing. Because of this, in my view, the state of macroeconomics is actually better than it has been for quite some time.

I can’t help but be reminded of Olivier Blanchard’s 2008 article on the state of macroeconomics, which opened with a flat assertion that “the state of macro is good.” I am not convinced today’s positive assessment is going to hold up better than that one.

Where I do agree with Jón is that empirical work in macro is in better shape than theory. But I think theory is in much worse shape than he thinks. The problem is not some particular assumptions. It is the fundamental approach.

We need to be brutally honest: What is taught in today’s graduate programs as macroeconomics is entirely useless for the kinds of questions we are interested in.

I have in front of me the macro comprehensive exam from a well-regarded mainstream economics PhD program. The comp starts with the familiar Euler equation with a representative agent maximizing their utility from consumption over an infinite future. Then we introduce various complications — instead of a single good we have a final and intermediate good, we allow firms to have some market power, we introduce random variation in the production technology or markup. The problem at each stage is to find what is the optimal path chosen by the representative household under the new set of constraints.

This is what macroeconomics education looks like in 2021. I submit that it provides no preparation whatsoever for thinking about the substantive questions we are interested in. It’s not that this or that assumption is unrealistic. It is that there is no point of contact between the world of these models and the real economies that we live in. more>

Updates from McKinsey

An on-demand revolution in customer-experience operations?
Whether relying mainly on in-house or external talent, gig-style staffing models—when managed carefully—could give customer care the horsepower and flexibility it needs for today’s increasingly volatile markets.
By Vinay Gupta, Raelyn Jacobson, Paul Kline, Manu Mehndiratta, and Julian Raabe – When businesses across the globe were forced to shutter in 2020, the leaders at one regional North American bank shifted to virtual mode. Anticipating that customer-call volumes would remain elevated through the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, bank leaders created a streamlined training module to cross-train sidelined branch workers. The extra support from branch colleagues helped the bank to manage the high volume of calls. Better still, because the supporting workers were branch personnel, their knowledge of the bank’s processes, products, and culture helped maintain the high level of customer satisfaction that the bank had worked so hard to achieve. Leaders learned that this internal “gig worker” approach could be a solution for managing future spikes in demand, whether from unforeseen events or seasonally based capacity increases. And, during a time of great uncertainty, it gave employees new opportunities—to work flexibly, learn new skills, and even find new career paths. That flexibility may give companies an edge now that many are fighting a “Great Attrition.” 

The COVID-19 lockdowns sparked a major scramble to move business to online and phone-based channels. Not every company, however, was prepared to handle the ensuing digital deluge; at this point, there are little data on how effectively companies coped. But the experiences of companies to date show that many organizations are now rethinking how they staff customer-care operations.

Flexible staffing—the use of external talent from outsourcing providers or independent freelancers—has been a staple of customer service for decades. But the pandemic may well be the first time that the redeployment of in-house talent from other departments has occurred on a relatively large scale.

Both approaches, externally and internally sourced, constitute the core of what we call “gig customer-experience operations,” or Gig CX. And it behooves companies from across the industry spectrum to consider making this strategy a part of their regular operations. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of Gig CX and identify four essential elements that must be in place to make it work. more>

Want to Try a New Ride Into Space? Fly a 3D Printed Rocket

3D printing may offer a way of building a rocket with a fast manufacturing turnaround and less cost than traditional manufacturing.
By Rob Spiegel – 3D printing may offer a way of building a rocket with a fast manufacturing turnaround and less cost than traditional manufacturing.

Soon, the quickest and cheapest ride into space may not be in the hands of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or Blue Origin. It may be in the hands of a 3D printing company.

3D printing may offer a way of building a rocket with a fast manufacturing turnaround and less cost than traditional manufacturing.

Soon, the quickest and cheapest ride into space may not be in the hands of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or Blue Origin. It may be in the hands of a 3D printing company.

Relativity Space is an L.A.-based American aerospace manufacturer founded in 2015 by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone. Relativity Space is developing manufacturing technologies, launch vehicles, and rocket engines for commercial orbital launch services using 3D printing. more>

Master Bond

militaryaerospace.com – With a product line of over 3,000 formulations, Master Bond has been supplying aerospace and defense manufacturers with custom formulated compounds for structural bonding and a variety of electronic applications. Master Bond’s mission is to develop cutting edge adhesives, sealants, coatings and potting/encapsulation systems utilizing advanced technology for challenging applications.

Our expansive line of epoxies, silicones, UV curable and LED curable systems feature superior performance properties even in extreme conditions including:

  • High/low temperature resistance
  • Electrical conductivity/insulation
  • Thermal conductivity
  • High/low viscosity
  • Flexibility and toughness
  • Chemical resistance
  • Optical clarity

Our products feature superior long-term durability. They are used in a variety of industries and are designed to meet stringent industry standards and are certified for:

  • NASA low outgassing
  • Federal Aviation Regulations 25.853(a) for flame retardancy
  • UL 94V-0 and UL94V-1
  • U.S. MIL-STD 883J (Section 3.5.3) for thermal stability
  • U.S. MIL-STD 810G (Method 508.7) for fungus resistance.
  • Airbus testing for flame retardancy, smoke emission and toxicity
  • Boeing standards for low smoke and toxicity

more>

As Consumer Mood Sours, Are Investors Overlay Optimistic?

Why U.S. stock markets may reflect too much optimism about consumer spending, heading into what could be a subdued year-end shopping season.
By Lisa Shalett –  U.S. consumers have a lot on their minds recently, weighed down by the coronavirus Delta variant, a more-sluggish-than-expected jobs recovery, inflation worries and the spectacle of political wrangling in Washington, D.C. At the same time, financial markets seem to be “climbing a wall of worry,” confident that these growing anxieties about inflation, supply-chain disruptions and the economic drag from the pandemic will soon pass.

We believe the consumer perspective warrants attention. Negative sentiment, especially heading into the year-end holiday season, could presage market weakness, catalyzed by lower-than-expected spending and disappointing corporate earnings.

Let’s first consider that consumer confidence and stock market moves have historically been well correlated; any notable divergences tend to be short-lived. But today, the gap between the two remains uncharacteristically wide. On the consumer side, the Conference Board’s confidence index fell in September for the third straight month, with the gauges of current and future conditions at 5- and 10-month lows, amid lingering concerns over higher prices and a slow job-market recovery. Note that job growth stalled again in September, missing estimates and signaling that the forces holding back hiring or returning to the workforce may persist.

At the same time, investors’ “buy the dip” mentality, anchored by a belief that inflation is transitory and corporate margins will be sustainable, has bolstered the stock market. U.S. equities did hit a rough patch in the third quarter, but the downturn was contained to within 5% of the pre-Labor Day highs, and advances so far in October suggest that the third-quarter speedbumps may now be behind us. more>

Why Europe needs a climate-forward innovation policy

By Lee Beck and Eve Tamme – Orca, the largest direct air capture and storage facility to date, recently commenced operations in Iceland and is expected to suck some 4000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere annually. With increasing climate ambition and the new climate neutrality target, the role of technological carbon removal is emerging as one of the critical points of debate in the European Union. On the one hand, it is evident from mid-century net-zero pathways that steep and transformational emission reductions must be prioritized over carbon removals. On the other hand, it is also becoming clear that carbon removal technologies will likely be needed to balance out residual emissions and reduce the stock of CO2 already in the atmosphere. This begs the question – how can we get this technology to Gigaton scale, so it is available as a decarbonization option? History has taught us that scaling technologies takes decades – time we do not have as the clock is ticking while the climate crisis rages. We need to get the policy framework right today, and there are two significant gaps to fill: commercialization and accounting.

The EU is already a climate leader and policy pioneer. However, the current EU sectoral policies will likely drive investment in advanced decarbonization tech only once technology-specific innovation policy has commercialized them. Considering that it has taken on average more than 20 years for technologies to reach crucial inflection points in deployment, we do not have time to test current, widely adopted decarbonization technologies as the main mitigation strategies before deploying technologies that are not commercially available.

With increasing climate ambition and our emissions reduction timelines shortened, carbon removal technologies will also need to be available sooner. Having multiple available technology options also increases our chances for success and provides countries and regions with the opportunity to design decarbonization technology portfolios tailored to their social, economic and resource circumstances. Hence, it’s time for Europe to embrace an innovation-forward approach to climate. more>