"We basically start with a tube and wrap the materials on the outside," Ehsani said. "A couple of layers of carbon fabric, then we put on the honeycomb and then a couple of layers of carbon or glass fiber on the outside. This becomes the pipe."
After testing this manufacturing method, Ehsani had a "eureka" moment when he realized that the finished pipe could be partially slid off the mandrel, and more pipe could be added to the section of pipe remaining on the mandrel. "I thought, why don't we just slip this off of the mandrel and continue making this pipe?" Ehsani said. "Never stop."
Carbon fiber, resin and aerospace honeycomb are all very light materials that can be transported at a fraction of the cost of conventional prefabricated steel and concrete pipe, and Ehsani said he is looking for partners to develop an automated mobile unit to make the pipes onsite.
"Imagine having a truck with a mandrel in the back," Ehsani said. "You start making the pipe on, say, a 20-foot mandrel, and pull off 18 feet so you have two feet left on the mandrel," he said. "Then you just move the truck forward and drop the pipe in the ground, and keep adding pipe."
As if virtually eliminating transportation costs, slashing manufacturing costs, and reducing environmental impact weren't enough, Ehsani sees this pipe technology creating jobs and boosting local economies.
"Suppose you have a pipeline project in a developing nation," Ehsani said. "You could ship the raw materials to the workers there and they could make this pipe in their own village. No matter what size or shape they want, all they need to do is build a mandrel and make the pipe on the spot. We would b
|Contact: Pete Brown|
University of Arizona College of Engineering