3D model adds a touch of reality to plans for Hyperloop

Hyperloop Model

After months of anticipation, inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk has finally unveiled the designs for his ambitious Hyperloop transportation system. And bringing the plans to life is a 3D model, produced in just 24 hours by 3D printing specialist, WhiteClouds. After reading the story of the hypothetical Hyperloop, WhiteClouds’ CEO, Jerry Ropelato challenged his team to create a scale model in a day, using cutting edge 3D printing techniques. He says, “As a company we’re really interested in technology, and I thought it would be fun and interesting to take what we do every day and make the Hyperloop concept into something real.”

Getting back to the rather larger Hyperloop, according to New Scientist magazine, this is how the technology would work: “The basic idea is half-monorail, half-pneumatic delivery system of the kind used to move mail or packages at high speed within buildings. Musk envisages a ‘pod’ with metal skis, enclosed within a tube where the air is at reduced pressure. A linear induction motor similar to those used on some modern roller coasters accelerates the pod up to speed.” The pod would then glide through the tube on a cushion of air at speeds of up to 1,200 k/hr.

fig 6

Musk claims the Hyperloop could transport passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles via an over-ground tube in only 30 minutes, and would be solar-powered 24/7. He estimates construction costs at $7.5 billion, a fraction of the proposed high-speed train link between the two cities. However, some experts are sceptical, saying that the real costs would inevitably be much higher. Others say that the Hyperlink would have to be made earthquake-proof, which though possible would be very expensive.

Musk has said publicly that he is too busy with his Tesla Motors and SpaceX businesses to spearhead the Hyperloop personally. However, at some point he intends to build a prototype that would take several years to complete, which may help convince government and investors that the idea is viable one.

Although the plans look and sound highly futuristic, the idea of using compressed air for transportation was first explored in 1799 by British engineer, George Medhurst who patented an air-propelled system to move carriages though underground tunnels. Although his plans never got further than the drawing board, forty years later the legendary Isambard Kingdom Brunel took up the baton and actually built ‘The Atmospheric Railway’ between Exeter and Newton Abbot in the UK. The physics worked, and the line was a success until salt air and rats destroyed the leather contraption that the air was sealed into. In 1909, Robert Goddard, dubbed “the father of modern rocket propulsion” designed a vacuum system he claimed could suck passengers from Boston to New York at 1,200 mph. It was never built.

atmospheric railway

Perhaps now, with the world desperately in need of less fuel-hungry means of transport, Elon Musk may be the one to finally make an old idea work for the 21st Century.

Gail Taylor

Written By admin 
August 21, 2013 13:54 pm