Next-Generation Manufacturing & Prefabrication

The past three decades have seen incredible breakthroughs in several critical industries.

Information technology has been revolutionized by the advent of high-performance computing at low cost,[1] which alongside similar advances in networking has ushered in an unprecedented capability to collaborate on state-of-the-art initiatives with sophisticated virtual modeling.[2] It's further enabled to-the-second global logistics and a degree of operational reliability that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.[3] Polymer and material sciences have been transformed through the creation of synthetic substances that rival hardened steel in strength at a fraction of its mass, yet also present revolutionary benefits in terms of conductivity and flexibility of form.[4]

Due to these achievements, large-scale manufacturing can now rapidly build complex machinery on assembly lines at a level of precision that would have been nigh-impossible until the latest decades of our modern era.

Combined, this enables us to engineer and build solutions to problems on much larger scales than we ever could before. Just as importantly, we can build such solutions in a capacity that is modular, standardized and indefinitely scalable.

  • Automated manufacturing electronics
  • Automated manufacturing robots
  • Mass production of commercial aircraft

If you recall from the prior section, modularity is the idea of designing a system to be flexible in deployment, ideally in a standardized capacity. A great example of this is Legos™: each Lego can fasten to another Lego using the same standardized method, but everything from simple structures to architectural masterpieces[5] can built from the pieces that modularly connect using that same standard. An AC power cable, USB port, or Bluetooth pairing are all extensions of this idea.

Modularity and standardization reduce complications to building things - especially complex systems. Beyond significantly reducing research and development costs as a side benefit, they also allow systems to be rapidly scaled in size or sophistication.

For these reasons, standardization, modularity and scalability are driving principles when manufacturing sophisticated products. This is why, for example, modern motor vehicles are all identical products of mass-produced models.

But these principles have only been taken so far.

We saw last section how most power plants are built as unique entities – they might standardize a doorway, railing or stairwell, but the system as a whole is essentially made to order. The same is true with most of our social infrastructure today. With few exceptions, every bridge built, tunnel dug, road laid or building constructed was done so as a custom entity – made to order, each and every time.

This is because we are presently living in a world with technical limitations that would make it difficult to build something like a skyscraper or bridge on an assembly line. A core function of Universal Energy is to remove this limitation not only within energy generation and resource production - but through most any social sector that involves complex and resource-intensive manufacturing processes.

With an effectively unlimited supply of all critical resources – especially energy, fuel and materials – we have the building blocks to build as much as we want, however we want. As we further have sophisticated computing and virtual modeling, as well as the capability to manufacture systems with advanced synthetics at extremely precise tolerances, we can automate the construction of sophisticated systems on a far larger scale than we can today.

The application of this idea involves a concept commonly known as "prefabrication" – building something in a factory and assembling it at a final location instead of constructing it from scratch with basic building materials.[6] It’s an approach we’ve been improving for years, but advances in manufacturing have enabled us to increase its scale, sophistication and potential applications.

Take housing for example.

  • Prefab house one
  • Prefab house two
  • Prefab house three

This house was not constructed at this location, it was assembled here. There were no workers on-site cutting wood for framing or nailing in sub-floors. Pieces of this house were built on a factory assembly line, just like we build vehicles. They were delivered by a truck to a construction site, and this house was assembled in a matter of days.

Practically anything can be built this way: integrated renewables, small modular power plants, seawater desalination and National Aqueduct facilities, hydrogen production systems, even skyscrapers, megabridges and mass-transit systems.

The images below display the Boeing Corporation's Everett, Washington facility that can fully assemble a 787 Dreamliner aircraft every nineteen days.[7]

  • Boeing Everett construction one
  • Boeing Everett construction two
  • Boeing Everett construction three
These images show a 57-story prefabricated structure built by the Broad Sustainable Buildings corporation in Changsha, China, that was assembled on-site in 19 days.[8] That's three stories of a building, per-day.
  • Broad sustainable buildings one
  • Broad sustainable buildings two
  • Broad sustainable buildings three
Our capabilities to prefabricate advanced systems in factories are made possible not just through breakthroughs in computing and automated manufacturing. The other key is a far more granular capability to rapidly build sophisticated components to highly precise specifications.

The images below, for example, display metal components printed with Selective Laser Melting - a method of 3D-printing metal objects out of a metal powder that reflect the highest strengths and material performance we currently have available.[9]

Not twenty years ago, it cost millions of dollars to build components of any material to this degree of precision. Today, we can build them from titanium through the push of a button.[10]

  • Selective laser melting one
  • Selective laser melting two
  • Selective laser melting three

Of these examples, themselves only limited selections from a longer list, they are nonetheless limited by today's energy costs and material limitations. If this is what we can do today, what could we do tomorrow if we invested in a means to dramatically increase our capabilities within energy generation and resource production - all at a fraction of its current cost? This project's purpose is to find out.

Click the button below to see how Universal Energy uses next-generation manufacturing to help build a clean energy future: