On monday night I went to a lecture in a comfy cafe by a retired Professor, all about metals. I learnt some interesting and technical things about grain size, quenching and alloys. It all made perfect sense at the time - but unfortunately I can hardly recall a single reliable fact, at all.
Towards the end of the lecture I asked a simple question about welding and why it is that some people claim that a weld is stronger than the original metal. I got a great answer that detailed a myriad of variables that would influence the strength of the weld. Then an elderly guy near the front swung around and recommended I had a look at The Welding Institute website (TWI) and find out more. He stopped me as I was leaving and we had a chat. It turns out he is a lecturer himself, and he gave me a quick run through of a presentation he has given about Additive Layer Manufacturing. ALM seems to me to be the most exciting technology of the moment, and there are sites in Bristol that seem to be at the cutting edge. It was such a privellege to chat with a man who was obviously nearing the end of his engineering career, but was still so passionate to share in his wonder. He couldn't remember the last time so many technologies had converged with such rapid developments.
With ALM you can have an MRI scan of your hip bone and the ALM machine will print you an identical replacement. Or the ALM could render a 3D scan of your brain so your surgeon can practice removing that pesky tumour. They estimate they could design planes using 95% less material...
And why bother importing all that stuff from China - when you could print it here?